A fierce storm raged, and torrential rain beat down upon five odd figures as they forced their way through the dense tropical jungles of the Central American nation of Tropidor. A wildly confident blonde woman in a brief green and gold costume led them, hovering above the others, her lithe form glowing a bright blue-green. She had once been an astronaut trainee named Stacy Macklin, but now she was once again the mentally disturbed Lady Lunar, who seemed oblivious to the elements as she basked in the pale moonlight.
“We are truly favored this night,” she said with a breathy exultation. “The radiance of the Moon is emerging as the storm fades.”
The space cowboy named Terra-Man grinned as they watched the woman. The rugged cowboy, who was actually the second individual to use that name in this world, whispered to a gaunt man in black, “She’s loco. Still, she helped us hightail it out of Atlantis when ol’ Black Manta got nabbed!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Aquaman: Atlantis Attacked.]
The Shadow-Thief looked pained as he said, “That’s more than I can say about the rest of you. You shot me, and that rat Zond planned to leave me behind! He’ll pay!”
Terra-Man tilted his hat and said, “Look, pard, it was an accident. I told ya that. As for our resident wizard, he’s the dude who brung me to this here dance from my dimension, and I can’t get between the two of you and your feud.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: The Force of July: The Crime Champions.]
The Shadow-Thief frowned as he rubbed his bandaged arm. “Bah! Had I not been partially insubstantial, I might have died. As it is, I’ll remember my allies and my enemies when I get the upper hand.”
The next figure prowled the jungle nearly on all fours. She was a lovely brunette in a tight feline costume. Her name was Deborah Domaine, but now she was simply the mad Cheetah. The heiress-turned-environmentalist-turned-villain’s pawn had reformed, only to end up enslaved by this new band of rogues. Lady Lunar’s lunacy power had robbed her of her very identity and any heroic intentions found therein. She growled, ignoring the wet hair that swept across her face. Her eyes gleamed wildly, and she had no memory of the woman she had been.
The final member of the group was the wizard Zond. His greasy hair and beard were wildly disordered as he drew his robes around his body and stared into the night. His eyes were deep-set and cloaked with black mascara that gave him a haunted look. “I sense that something stirs here,” he said. “This part of the jungle is not the deserted hideaway you claimed it to be.”
“Probably the fleas in your beard,” joked Terra-Man.
“Jest now, my friend, but I detect a sensation from this jungle,” replied Zond. “Magic rests here — I feel it. Lady Lunar’s tidal waves may buy us respite from our flight, but it did not produce the isolation she predicted.”
Terra-Man shrugged. “You know I’m a magic-user on a small scale, or was back home in my dimension. Seems like spending so much time here has dulled my talents. I don’t feel nothin’ but wet and cold.”
Lady Lunar idly stroked the Cheetah’s hair and said, “I promised you safety, and that I have given you. I also may offer you wealth. This jungle is home to a fabled treasure. Lost jewels originally designed to pay homage to the Moon are said to be buried here. Thus, by serving my mistress, the Moon, you may also be enriched.”
Zond smirked coldly. “This treasure may be magical in nature. That could be the aura I detect.”
“Well, I reckon none of us have anything to lose by following the little lady,” said Terra-Man.
The Cheetah purred as Lady Lunar roughly rubbed her hair. “You have no objections, eh, my pet?”
“Lead on,” said the Shadow-Thief. “Carl Sands has never turned his back on jewels.”
Rachel Green had wasted no time after her battle with the Crime Champions. She knew that her friend Debbie Domaine was in peril, and that she had to take some action. She also felt strongly that she could not leave her former team, the Force of July, stranded in some limbo. The answer to both problems could be found on the island of Vumania, where the Forgotten Heroes were based. Mayflower, as she was known, was welcomed back by her old partners as she explained her dilemma. Dolphin listened intently, sincere concern written on her pretty face.
Nadir the Master of Magic frowned and turned to a radiant blonde in a brief pink costume; her name was June Moone, and she was also called the Enchantress. Although she was an accomplished mage herself, she was also his pupil as well as his lover. She was, in short, a woman in need of constant chances to redeem herself for a troubled past in which she was dominated by dark forces beyond her control.
“June and I shall locate the missing Force of July posthaste,” said Nadir, who was himself born a prince of a small kingdom in India. “Her powers are far more attuned to dimensional travel than mine, but I shall gladly lend her my strength, as ever!”
As Nadir joined hands with June, she nodded, concentrated, and began to chant a spell in words ancient in tongue, yet comprehensible to each listener. Lady Blackhawk shivered as she saw the intense woman work her magic. The blonde aviator had seen much in her epic life, but she still had a disbelief with the supernatural. As the Enchantress concentrated, light began to flash around her. Nadir remained a rock of strength as he whispered words of encouragement and added his own formidable willpower.
Rachel smiled widely as the members of the Force of July materialized before her eyes. She saw the handsome Will Vickers, the sultry Monique Renoir, Cal Coolidge, and the ever-boyish Barney Buchanan, who respectively were known as Major Victory, Lady Liberty, Silent Majority, and Sparkler. She rushed forward to hug the taciturn Silent Majority, who blinked once and smiled.
“What happened?” asked Lady Liberty. “One minute we were in combat, then we’re here?”
“It’s a long story,” said Rachel. “Sounds like you were in suspended animation.”
Nadir nodded. “My own opinion supports that theory.”
Major Victory scowled. “We owe those maniacs. They killed American Dreamer and made us look like losers. In fact, I question the validity of even continuing as a team. Maybe I should go it solo.”
They departed as Rachel offered her goodbyes. “I’m not coming back, either. I’m staying here — if I may? We have to save Debbie. She was one of us.”
Dolphin agreed. “We’ll find her. Poor old Carlyle is expected to recover. I think Captain Comet was able to smooth things over for Cheetah, but even his word can only buy her so much time.”
“If she was their victim, then we’ll free her,” vowed Major Victory. “If she was a willing accomplice, then she’ll pay for her actions. Are you with us, Mayflower?”
The girl in the Pilgrim costume frowned. “I won’t let you hurt her. You can be a hard one, Will.”
“Sorry, but when an American hero like Carlyle is clawed by a criminal like her, my blood boils!” he said.
Dolphin touched his arm. “Please, be calm. Anger won’t help you think clearly. It will take a cool head to stop the Crime Champions.”
“It ees questionable if we may even find them!” said Lady Liberty in her French accent.
Then a handsome figure in red and white appeared from out of a lab. It was Adam Blake, better known to the world as Captain Comet, the leader of the Forgotten Heroes. “I suggest we use this,” said Captain Comet, holding up a device. “It’s a new version of the device I made to track the kryptonite-like energy given off by Lady Lunar.”
Mayflower smiled ruefully. “Beautiful! Now, let’s get moving!”
“Hold it, Bloomers!” piped up Sparkler. “You got to decide if you’re one of us, or one of them!”
“I suggest we pool our resources,” said Captain Comet. “We both want to stop the Crime Champions and save Debbie.”
“I’ll do whatever the Major says!” said Sparkler.
Major Victory nodded. “Good lad. Captain, I may outrank you, but I can’t outthink you. We have had our differences before, but your patriotism is not in doubt. I’ll follow your lead for now.”
“I have the skimmer ready to go,” said Lady Blackhawk.
Captain Comet smiled. “Good. With Robotgirl on leave, we’ll just take Golden Glider. I’ll get her, and we’ll follow the tracker. The signal indicates that they’ve been out of its range for a time, but have recently returned to its scope. My theory is that Black Manta took them to the bottom of the sea. His plans usually revolve around the oceans. That means they’ve surfaced, and my device can track them.”
The Forgotten Heroes and the Force of July were not the only heroes searching for the Crime Champions.
In a government facility, a large, African-American woman named Amanda Waller scowled in her customary disdain as she assembled her own team informally known as Extreme Justice, the covert side of the intelligence umbrella known as Task Force X, under which the Rehab Squad also operated before Rick Flag shut it down a couple of months after Captain Comet left. The covert group was designed to employ criminals or misfits for secret and sometimes illegal missions. She knew Captain Comet’s principles had led him to resign from serving in any related capacity. Still, she wondered if her own band could ever become a unit free from strife. She really was unconcerned, since they performed well, and in the end, results were what counted.
She nodded as the Manhunter entered her office. He was very professional to the point of being driven, but he was skilled, capable, and reliable. Moving gracefully like the hunter he was, he spoke with a similarly efficient use of few words.
“You have a new mission for the team?” he said. “I’ll wager it’s related to the attack on the Force of July and Abe Carlyle.”
She nodded. “Right. I want you to take the team and bring in the Crime Champions. From what we’ve gathered, they can be traced. Carl Sands, AKA the Shadow-Thief, gives off an energy signature when he uses his powers. Got the frequency right here. The lab men put this together after talking to cops in Midway City. Be careful, be discreet, and bring them in.”
Manhunter stood up and said, “We’ll do it.”
Back in Tropidor, the Crime Champions were worn out. They had literally crossed the mountainous jungle in that war-torn Central American country from one border to another. Their journey had taken days, and they had encountered hostile terrain and bad weather, though they avoided encountering any members of the revolutionaries who had been waging a civil war for years now. Nevertheless, Lady Lunar’s excitement was unchanged. She was quieter and more subdued, but her fervor pushed her relentlessly. “The treasures of the Moon are near us!” she said. “Under those rocks!”
Zond smiled. “I agree. I feel the magic from that spot.”
Terra-Man nodded. “You know somethin’? I agree. I get a tingle from this locale. Maybe my own lost magical powers still respond to it.”
The Shadow-Thief frowned. He did not like Zond, but he knew that the wizard’s magic was needed more than ever if they were to unearth jewels that might possess some bizarre magical taint. “Can you get the jewels? Use your mighty powers to bring them forth!” he said coldly.
Zond scowled. “You doubt me? I’d like to settle that question once and for all, but I’ll wait. Even one such as I may employ hired help to carry the treasure.”
“I nearly defeated Hawkman!” said the Shadow-Thief. “Can you say as much?”
Zond smirked. “My foes were Supergirl and Wonder Woman. (*) Both are dead. I believe Hawkman is still among the living.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Now Comes Zond,” Adventure Comics #397 (September, 1970).]
The Shadow-Thief snorted and turned his back. Zond had nothing to do with the deaths of those heroines, he thought. That much I know. Little did either of them suspect that the Wonder Woman Zond had battled was still alive as an infant.
“My energy may blast through the rock, as so!” said Lady Lunar, who gestured, causing the hard earth to melt as her energy blazed across the surface.
Terra-Man grinned. “Right nice work. Now, mebbe we can get this here treasure.”
“Wait!” said Zond. “I see something coming!”
The Shadow-Thief cursed as the skimmer zoomed into view. “I know that craft from the news. Captain Comet is here. Now what, Zond?” he sneered.
The Cheetah’s eyes widened. Did she recall the ship and her old friends, or was she lost to Lady Lunar’s madness? Either way, the feline femme fatale gave no sign. She watched the Forgotten Heroes land their craft, and she prowled the rocky shore restlessly.
“Who is this hombre Comet?” asked Terra-Man. “My dimension can’t claim one of them!”
“He is nothing for us to worry about,” said Zond. “He does not kill, and we most assuredly do!”
Lady Lunar tossed her blonde hair and shouted, “Nothing must stop us! Hold them back while I claim the jewels!” She flew deeper within the opening, and the Cheetah followed rapidly.
Zond chanted, and energy shot out from his dark form to strike the skimmer. It erupted into flames, and the wizard smiled in satisfaction. “Now do you doubt me, Sands?” he gloated.
Major Victory suddenly slammed into him from behind and belted him in the jaw. “The Enchantress conjured an illusion of the skimmer to trick you. We landed on the other side of the hill and got the drop on you, you greasy worm!” he said.
As Terra-Man drew his six-shooter and fired its energy beam, Dolphin dodged and rolled under the beam to rise up and knock it from his hand. “Sorry, Tex, but you’re headed for the pokey!” she joked as she gripped his shirt tightly.
The outlaw scowled and wrestled with the shapely platinum blonde girl, but her strength was greater, and he was a bit startled by the sudden attack. His dismay grew as the Golden Glider jumped out of the jungle growth and spun around to kick him below the belt.
“Oops! Guess I won’t win any gold medals for that, huh?” she teased.
The Shadow-Thief yelped as Lady Liberty fired her energy from the torch she carried. “Eet ees time for you to slink back into the shadows, non?” she said grimly.
As he tried to do just that, another wave of fire blocked his path. The mocking face of Sparkler came into view as the boy flew nearby. “Cut you off from your rock, you loser!” mocked the boy.
Mayflower, Silent Majority, and Captain Comet started to rush into the open hole to find Lady Lunar and the Cheetah. Rachel Green was worried about her friend and hoped she could rescue her with mind, body, and freedom intact.
Cursing, Zond used his own magic to sidestep Major Victory as the blond man searched for him eagerly. He began to feel confident as he moved away until he faced the dapperly dressed Nadir. The East Indian magician from Earth-Two smiled and suavely waited in Zond’s path. He moved silently to the left, only to be struck by a swift left hook. “No use, old boy,” said Nadir. “I see you.”
Zond rubbed his chin and had started to rise when a pink boot kicked him in the face. It was worn by the Enchantress, who smiled down at him. “I see you, too,” she said. “It’s no treat, believe me!”
As Lady Lunar blasted out with her energy, Captain Comet shoved Mayflower and Silent Majority down. Lady Lunar flew toward them and shouted, “Feel my lunacy as you surrender to the siren song of Selene!”
Captain Comet looked grim, and his keen mind shielded them from her mental attack. “I don’t get mad easily,” he said slowly.
Mayflower noticed tiny spores on the walls of the shattered mountainside, and, with a thought, she sent them erupting into the snarling Cheetah’s face. Got to subdue Debbie so we can help her. She’s gone totally feral! thought the girl in the Pilgrim costume. The Cheetah gasped and rubbed at her eyes as the spores blinded her. She made no comment and seemed totally lost to an animal persona.
Silent Majority and three of his doubles surrounded Lady Lunar. They grabbed for her as she fought free with surprising strength. “I can’t lose now! Not with the jewel so near!” she cried. But as she desperately blasted the rocky roof down, Captain Comet leaped forward and held it up.
“Get her and get out!” ordered the Forgotten Heroes leader. Silent Majority nodded and helped wrestle the snarling Cheetah to the ground.
“Carry her out, Gabby!” whispered Mayflower, and Silent Majority obeyed his friend with his customary silence. Meanwhile, Lady Lunar caught Mayflower with a right hook that dropped the British lass to the ground.
Lady Lunar touched a half-buried object and smiled madly, then pulled free a shiny object. “I have it!” It was a gleaming black diamond. The night was dark; the shattered cavern only allowed a small amount of light to pierce the shell, but the diamond gave off a light all its own. As Stacy Macklin clutched it possessively, she changed before their eyes. She was not the astronaut or the criminal now. Her pretty face was now different. A weird, black coloration spread across half of her face as she removed her helmet.
“Eclipso lives!” she cried with a decidedly male voice.
“Great Scott!” said Captain Comet as he shoved off the burden of stone and carried Mayflower backward.