by Martin Maenza
In a small prison cell in upstate California, a black-haired man in a dingy gray uniform was having difficulty sleeping. Over and over in his head, as he was apt to do with so much thinking time on his hands now, Robert Coleman tried to figure out why his life had gone so wrong so fast in the past year.
When I first started out, it was all about getting revenge, destroying the results of those others who were damaging my reputation, the architect-turned-criminal thought to himself. And getting caught by the Batman was just an unfortunate turn of events. (*) Still, those exploits were enough to get me noticed.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “And the Town Came Tumbling Down,” DC Special #28 (June-July, 1977).]
It wasn’t long after that when Coleman was broken out of jail by other criminals, some who indeed even inspired him to don the green and purple costume he had worn on his first outing: Mirror Master, Chronos, Copperhead, the Killer Moth. When they asked him to do a job in exchange for his liberation, he wasn’t quite certain. When he was told he would also get paid well for his efforts, he reconsidered. With his reputation ruined, he needed a new way to support himself.
I should’ve known better, he continued to think to himself. When it turned into a plan for revenge, one that would pit a number of us against a number of heroes, I should have walked right then and there. But the money seemed too good to pass up.
Indeed, for a bit, it seemed like this new gathering of the Secret Society of Super-Villains would accomplish its goal: eliminating the refugee heroes known as the Freedom Fighters for their arch-foe, the Silver Ghost. But the plan went afoul, and most of the villains were apprehended and jailed once more. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Wizard’s War of the Worlds,” Secret Society of Super-Villains #15 (July, 1978), “Murder Times Seven,” Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2 (Fall, 1978), and “Death in Silver,” Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2 (Fall, 1978).]
I should’ve known better, Coleman repeated his thought. Now, for the last four months or so, the man had been cooling his heels in a low-security prison facility. Unlike other so-called super-villains, without his fancy weapons, Coleman was very little of a threat — just a man with a gimmick.
There was a rattling sound outside his cell door. The handle giggled once, then some keys rattled as they were fumbled toward the lock.
Robert Coleman sat up in his cot suddenly. What’s going on? he thought to himself. By his reckoning, it was still the middle of the night, perhaps about two A.M. — an odd time for the guards to be making a check.
The metal door opened. Dim light streamed in from the hallway. A figure in the shadows shoved a large crate across the door’s threshold; the box made a scraping sound as it was pushed all the way into the cell. Then, without a single word, the door was closed again and locked once more.
Robert Coleman sat silently for a moment, waiting. Nothing happened. There were no further sounds from outside the door or anything.
He eyed the box. It was about four feet long and two feet wide and high. What’s this all about? he wondered silently.
Coleman moved over to the box, figuring he couldn’t get into any trouble looking at what it was. The box was plain, no markings or anything. Using his hands, he tore into the thick cardboard top, opening the box. There was a plain envelope atop the packing materials with a simply typed READ ME FIRST on it.
“OK,” he said to himself, opening the envelope and pulling out the note. Like the outside, this was also typed. They were instructions. Coleman began to smile as he read them. He folded up the note and stuffed it and the envelope into his back pants pocket.
He then hurried through the packing material and felt cold, hard steel. Coleman would have known the item anywhere, even if the note hadn’t explained what he would find. He lifted up the metal device; it was a specialized jackhammer in perfect replication to the one he had used before.
He flipped the switch. Quakemaster was breaking out.
A week later, 22,300 miles in orbit above the Earth, a woman wearing a blonde wig dressed in a dark jacket, body suit, and fishnet stockings materialized in the transporter tube. Her boot heels clicked on the deck floor as she crossed the upper deck of the satellite headquarters. Black Canary let out a curious hmmm sound as she noticed that the Earth monitors were unattended. “That’s odd,” she said, heading over to them. A quick check of the readouts indicated no problems. I wonder where she…
“Hola, Dinah,” a voice called as the central elevator opened.
Black Canary turned to see a beautiful woman with flowing black hair held back by a golden tiara. Well built, the woman wore a red corset top with a golden eagle symbol, blue trunks with white stars, high red boots, and blue wrist bracelets. “There you are, Diana!” Canary chirped with a smile. “I was worried when I beamed up to relieve you and you were nowhere to be seen.”
“I was just getting some coffee from the pantry below,” the Amazon said. In her hands indeed was a steaming cup of black liquid. “Can I get you some?”
Black Canary shook her head. “No thanks, I’m good,” she said. “How have things been?” She took a seat at one of the consoles.
“Relatively quiet,” Wonder Woman said, taking a seat next to her. “Elongated Man caught some jewel thieves while vacationing in London earlier today. Aquaman aided a tanker caught in a sudden storm in the Pacific. And Zatanna dealt with a man dabbling in areas of arcane summoning. The usual, really. It did give me some time to record some information about our recent case with the Wizard and those other villains. Spending time in the Floronic Man’s body was quite bizarre, let me tell you.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Long Way Home,” Justice League of America #166 (May, 1979), “The League That Defeated Itself,” Justice League of America #167 (June, 1979), and “The Last Great Switcheroo,” Justice League of America #168 (July, 1979).]
Black Canary reached over and put a hand on Wonder Woman’s bare shoulder. “That’s not what I meant,” she said. “When I asked how have things been, I wanted to know how you were doing personally. I know you’ve been through a lot lately.”
“I’m fine,” Wonder Woman said absently as she sipped her drink.
Black Canary watched her carefully, recognizing the behavior. “Diana, listen, I hope I’m not overstepping the bounds of our friendship here.”
“Oh, Dinah, we’re more than friends!” Wonder Woman exclaimed. “You’re like one of my sisters back on Paradise Island.”
Black Canary smiled. “Glad to hear that. Then, please, take this as a little bit of sisterly wisdom, if you will. I know you’ve had it difficult lately. It’s not easy losing someone you love so very much. Believe me, I’ve been there. When I lost my husband Larry a few years ago, I took it very hard. I loved him so much, just as I know how much you loved Steve Trevor.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Quest for the Stolen Soul,” Adventure Comics #460 (November-December, 1978).]
“Although I wasn’t active as a member when you came over from Earth-Two, I heard about that from the others,” Wonder Woman said. “I wish I could have been there so you would have had someone to talk to. Beyond the male members of the team, I mean.”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying here, Diana! If you need someone to talk to, I’m here.”
Wonder Woman put down her cup on the console and reached over to give Black Canary a big hug. “Thank you, sister.”
Canary smiled. “What are friends for?” The two then sat back down.
Wonder Woman was quiet for a moment as she drank some more of her coffee. Black Canary busied herself going through a cycle of checking the usual hot spots on the Earth below. Only the sound of the humming satellite systems could be heard.
Then the Amazon finally spoke once more. “Dinah, perhaps there is something you can do for me.” She reached over to a small envelope near her and handed it to the blonde heroine. “Do you suppose you and Ollie could use these?“
Black Canary opened the envelope and removed two tickets. “Why, these are for the football game this Thursday,” she said. “I heard the game has been sold out for weeks now.”
“Yes,” Wonder Woman said. “I… I came across them when I was going through Steve’s things. He had asked me, as Diana Prince, to accompany him to the game. As a boy growing up, he always wanted to be at the big holiday game. He said he and his father would watch it on television on Thanksgiving Day. I guess he managed to use his connections to pull some strings and had the tickets in hand now for a while.” Her voice had a sad tone to it.
Canary glanced at the tickets and then at her friend. She slipped them back into the envelope and handed it back to Wonder Woman. “As much as a sports nut as Ollie is, we can’t take them,” she said. “The Star City Stags are playing the Chicago Bears that day, and I know I won’t be able to pry Ollie away from watching that one on TV. It’s sort of a tradition with us — I fuss in the kitchen while he watches the ballgames. But it’s not so bad. The next day, he puts on a pot of turkey chili to slow cook while I drag him out to all the shopping sales. It’s a fair exchange.”
“Oh,” Wonder Woman said, taking the tickets back. “Well, since these are for the Coast City Sharks’ game, you don’t suppose Hal would want them, do you? Maybe he and his new bride could…”
“Didn’t you hear?” Canary said. “Kari called the wedding off. (*) Given how quick their courtship was, I’m really not surprised by it. Shortly after that, though, Hal took off on a mission to Qward.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “With These Rings,” Green Lantern #122 (November, 1979) and “Death Quest to Qward,” Green Lantern #125 (February, 1980).]
“Oh,” Wonder Woman said again. “I hadn’t heard. I guess I’ve been so into my own little world of late that I haven’t kept up with the others.”
“It’s all right,” Canary replied. “If anything, it just goes to show that perhaps you do need a break of your own. Why don’t you keep the tickets and use them yourself? I think Steve would have wanted you to do that.”
“I don’t know,” Wonder Woman started to say.
“I know it’s short notice, but maybe you can find someone to go with you. Someone at your job, perhaps.”
“Perhaps.” But Wonder Woman doubted that. As Diana Prince, she had just returned, not too long ago, back to working at the United Nations after a brief stint at NASA. (*) She really hadn’t had a lot of opportunities to make anything more than acquaintances given her time as a super-heroine and her mourning for Steve Trevor.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Return of the Royal Flush Gang,” Wonder Woman #256 (June, 1979).]
“I’m sure you’ll come up with someone to go with you,” Black Canary said. “Why not go sleep on it? No sense in hanging out here. You’ve finished your duty period.”
Wonder Woman nodded. “You’re right, Dinah.” She started to rise from her seat, the tickets in one hand and her cup in the other. “I appreciate the talk.”
“Any time,” said Black Canary. “Any time.”