The library contained numerous volumes ranging from science to science fiction. The furniture was a bit worn but of good quality. The laboratory was the largest feature of the room. Various gleaming metal objects rested on shelves that lined two walls. Still, in spite of her keen eye for detail, all Joan Carter really cared about was the gentle touch of Bob Crane’s hand as he caressed her flowing auburn hair. His pleasant aftershave filled her senses as he held her. She idly noticed a run in her own hosiery as she danced slowly with her fiancé.
“Joan, being here with you like this makes me want to move up our wedding, since the security system indicates that someone is flying here from due east,” he said.
Joan sighed as her daydream faded to reveal the main laboratory at the island base of the Forgotten Heroes. She saw the computer as its electronic voice repeated the message that the tropical isle of Vumania was receiving a visitor.
Elongating one metal arm to hit the switch that stopped the alert voice, she stood up and crossed the room to scan the skies above through the portals overhead. Unlike her image in the daydream, she had no auburn curls for any man to caress, nor was she wearing pantyhose, high heels, or anything. She didn’t need clothing, since her entire body was made of metal. Oh, her femininity was certainly not in doubt. The artificial form Dr. Will Magnus had created for her after she was brought against her will to this world from Earth-Two was attractive, even sexy in its silvery perfection. (*) She even had platinum hair and a flawless metallic face, but it did not make her a woman. She felt as if she was no longer truly human. Her brain rested in the altered robotic body that could indeed perform wonders. Still, that same mind recalled the years in which she was a stunning socialite with a flirtatious manner and a love for looking pretty.
“Bob’s not even Bob anymore,” she said sadly. Her voice actually sounded sultry; Dr. Magnus could work miracles with his lab. Still, what could it matter if she spoke like a Southern belle if she looked more like the liberty bell?
She noticed the approach of a flying woman who was young, pretty, and powerful. Her light brown hair was long, and the breeze of her flight made it sweep back behind her as she flew. She flew by her own natural — or rather alien — power and wore a purple cape and a white costume. The birth-name of this hero from the planet Torma was Ren Uoxon, but her friends on Earth called her by the more feminine name of Rena. Her heroic name was Volar, which was Torman for Champion, and she had indeed been the super-heroic defender of that rigidly paternalistic planet until her life had taken a drastic change. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Forgotten Heroes: Passions.]
“Robotgirl, nice to see you,” she said as she landed near Joan and looked around the complex. “Where are the others?” she asked.
“Captain Comet is out saving the world again,” replied Robotgirl, “while Dolphin is on a date with Starman. I think the Golden Glider is doing a benefit ice show, and Mayflower is visiting her mother.” Joan reported on her team’s status, but her mind was preoccupied by other thoughts. She could not forget the feel of Bob Crane’s hand as he led her over the dance floor.
“I was stopping a flood on an island miles from here,” said Volar. “It’s nice that these magna-powers of mine can still make me useful, even exiled here on Earth. I’m sure you feel much the same.”
Robotgirl nodded absently. “Certainly. Our powers do make us perfect for protecting normal men and women.”
Volar frowned, and her brown eyes grew wide. “Robotgirl, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to suggest that you were anything but a heroine and a friend.”
“Forgive me, I’m not myself lately,” said Joan, who suddenly rushed off toward another part of the compound, leaving Volar alone.
Volar sighed and brought her fist down hard on a table. It shattered to dust, and she reluctantly swept it aside. Temper tantrums with my level of magna-power could bring down this whole building, she thought. I’ve got to keep my emotions in check. How I miss Daddy.
Her father Danon had been both her mentor and her teacher back on Torma. She had followed his guidance as he had formulated the plan for her Volar career. She had obeyed him unquestioningly, because daughters always listened to their fathers, as did wives. Women were for service and decorative adornment on Torma and not for thinking, working, or for fighting crime. Thus, Ren had been forced to disguise her very gender in order to effectively serve as the planet’s champion after her father had given her powers with his magna-beam. She had used her father’s remarkable science to employ a bio-mask that concealed her gender and cloaked her pretty face with handsome male features. Volar had become the beloved hero of Torma, much like Superman served as Earth’s noble defender. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Heroine Haters,” Adventure Comics #384 (September, 1969).]
The click of high heels echoed on the hallway as a blonde woman entered the room. She had shoulder-length blonde hair and wore a black jacket with a pleated miniskirt and boots. Her name was Zinda Blake, but as the team’s expert pilot, she was known as Lady Blackhawk. She was an intelligent woman with a good perception of the foibles of her super-powered friends.
“Honey, you can’t expect it to happen overnight,” she said, having overheard the conversation and guessed what she was thinking. “Acceptance takes time. It’s a gradual thing. In fact, self-acceptance can be even slower and more difficult to come by. The team works well together, and they accept you as a friend and a member. You just need to become comfortable with expressing your true self. You hid your femininity while in your Volar role for years. You can’t expect being allowed to be both woman and heroine for the first time in public to be an experience free of discomfort. Plus, Rena, this isn’t even your planet. Give yourself a break!”
Volar smiled and said, “Thanks, Zinda. I knew all that, but hearing someone else say it means a lot. The Golden Glider is always difficult. She has her own ideas about what being a woman means.”
Zinda laughed. “Lisa Snart is not the average gal. She has problems all her own. Still, that’s good. You can’t expect any gender to be made with cookie-cutter exactness. We all have our individual quirks.”
The veteran crime-fighter called the Vigilante ambled inside and said, “Sounds like the makin’s of a country song. Maybe I can come up with something.”
They laughed and greeted the amiable Greg Sanders as he entered. The middle-aged cowboy hero had a personality that allowed him to make others feel at ease. That came from the entertainer in the man. It also was part of what had driven him to be a hero for a good part of the last thirty years.
While the friends laughed as the Vigilante went into his customary good-humored banter, Joan paced her room in frustration. She heard their laughter, and it made her feel worse than before. These artificial ears are more curse than blessing, she thought. I must deactivate them if I’m to have any peace. They are no different from any of my inhuman body features. I should have just died. Why did Chuck have to save my life at the cost of my humanity?
A seductive voice spoke to her out of thin air. She glanced at a sparkling energy beam that appeared in her room, and she instinctively knew that it was a hologram. There truly was no other person present. The woman before her was merely a projection of sight and sound.
“I think, in time, you may find humanity to be overrated,” said the woman, whose skin was ash-gray, while her eyes flashed of red fire or malice, given the hue. “It is nothing more than sentimental drivel of the type found on your earthly Hallmark cards. I revel in being so much more than human. Still, I am not devoid of emotions, and as a woman I can sympathize with your plight. If you serve me, I can do what neither Captain Comet nor Valor nor Magnus could do for you.”
“Who are you?” gasped Robotgirl.
“I am your friend. If you make me your mistress, I shall be your benefactor. Obey me, and I shall answer your prayers.” She smiled coldly.
Joan shuddered from the memory of human reaction, not from actual need, as she pleadingly said, “Do you mean…?”
“I will give you a real body,” said the woman named Pandora. (*) “I shall make you a woman again.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Superman Family: The Legacy, Chapter 4: Daughter of Darkseid.]
Back on Vumania, Starman and Dolphin emerged from warm waters off the coast of the tiny island. Will Payton smiled as he suddenly scooped the platinum blonde girl into his arms and soared skyward.
“We’ve traveled your way long enough. Now you’re flying Air Payton,” he said.
Dolphin kissed him and said, “I do like the benefits, now that you mention them. Jayne was so sweet. I loved meeting your family.”
Starman nodded. “Yep. I think I’ll keep them. They liked you, too, but then what’s not to like?” He frowned as his keen eyes spotted the burning entry of an object from space. “That’s no comet or meteor. Looks like a person. Let me drop you off and try to intercept it.”
“No need,” said Dolphin. “I’m fine.” And she jumped out of his arms, perfectly cleaving the waters below as only one with her affinity for water could do.
Starman streaked forward, easily matching the descent of the falling being. “I need to match her velocity just right, or she could be hurt. Then again, considering how fast she’s falling, it will be miracle if anyone survived.”
As he caught the woman, using releases of stellar energy and his own considerable strength, he gently slowed down her velocity and brought her down safety. Ignoring the heat of her re-entry, he suddenly recognized the injured features of the alien heroine.
“Tharka! That’s the Superwoman of Zor,” explained Dolphin as she caught up with him.
In the community of Zandar City on the planet Zor, an event of considerable strife was troubling the inhabitants. They gathered, as was their habit, in a type of alien town meeting to discuss the ramifications of a new arrival.
The wise Narkin addressed his peers as the visitor watched impassively. He was actually a rather nondescript type, wearing an unassuming outfit that equipped him for both travel and combat. Clearly, it was not the arrival of the man that plagued the council as much as it was what his arrival implied.
“My friends, it is known to us all that, following our defeat in the war with the Calorians, we have been a humbled people,” said Narkin. “We have weighed our options with care and discernment, but now this arrival brings us to the point of crisis.”
“Please, good sir, tell us all once more why this man is such a danger,” requested a young member.
“Because he is widely known through space as a scavenger who only appears on a world that faces total doom. Is that not so, Zurnnulaxi-Vraxil?” he said.
A green-skinned humanoid wearing a protective gray space-suit stood up. The suit gave him an odd appearance, and only his eyes and his mouth could be seen, displaying a slight smile as he said, “I prefer to think of myself as nothing more than a shrewd man of commerce working on behalf of my own people. Your world is doomed because of the actions of one who seeks nothing less than genocide. I merely act prior to her planned destruction of this world to offer to buy your natural resources for my own world. You may accept my offer and flee as wealthy men.”
Narkin frowned. “Vraxil has only been wrong about a world’s imminent demise once. (*) I suggest we seek aid from the world whose destiny defied his words of doom. We must look to Earth.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Death Out of a Bottle,” Action Comics #496 (June, 1979).]
On a dark world of smoke and gloom, a sinister woman lounged across a divan, idly stroking the hair of the blonde woman who crouched humbly at her feet. “Mistress, why did you allow Tharka to escape? Surely letting her go free and not slaying the merchant of doom when he learned of your plans was risky,” said the beautiful blonde girl as she groveled at the gray-skinned woman’s feet, gazing at her with a mixture of adoration and fear.
Pandora, daughter of Darkseid, laughed with the sound of chains on bone and said, “You question me? What a bad pet you are, Gilotina! I will answer, since your doubt amuses me. The merchant of doom is of no consequence to us. He merely spreads panic as word of my coming should do. I let Tharka slip through my grasp after I marked her, because I wanted her to reach Earth and seek out help there. My father has enemies on that pretty little blue globe, and I would enjoy doing them harm.”
Twisting her fingers in the woman’s hair, Pandora drew Gilotina’s face upward toward her own. The blonde cried out in pain as her mistress wrenched her head upward. “Earth — such a pretty world. I think I’ll play with it some more,” she said madly.
On the island of Vumania, Captain Comet turned to Dolphin, who examined the injured Tharka. The pretty platinum haired girl frowned and turned to look at Adam Blake while Starman, Robotgirl, and Volar watched from the sides. The Vigilante was absent, manning the island’s communications chamber.
“She’s badly injured,” said Dolphin. “Considering her super-strength, what could have harmed her? And just where did she go after we last saw her?”
“The computer says her flight path indicates that she came from a planet called Zor,” said Robotgirl. “It appears that there is a Zor in our universe, even though she came from Earth-Two’s Zor originally when Atoman brought most of us here during the Crisis!” She referred to the incident in which the Earth-Two villain Atoman used the opportunity of the Crisis on Infinite Earths to abduct several obscure heroes from various time periods on Earth-Two — Robotgirl, Tharka the Superwoman, Nadir the Man of Magic, Joannie Swift, the second Crimson Avenger, and Roh Kar the Manhunter from Mars — before Captain Comet and his Rehab Squad freed them from Atoman’s control. The last time they saw her, Tharka the Superwoman had left Earth in search of this universe’s version of her home planet of Zor. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Whatever Happened To…?]
Captain Comet nodded. “I hesitated to use a mind-probe to help us learn what caused her injuries, because I feared using my powers upon her because in her weakened state, and due to her alien mind, I might accidentally do her more harm than good.”
Dolphin held Starman’s hand. “Thanks for staying. I barely knew Tharka, but I hate to see anyone in such a state. Will you help us help her?”
Starman smiled gently. “Of course. I’m glad to do my part. If Zor needs Starman, then I’m there.”
Captain Comet placed both hands flatly against the injured woman’s head and concentrated. For long moments he remained in such a position, and then he turned gravely to face the others.
“This is serious, indeed,” he said. “Just as we suspected, after the last time we saw her, Tharka went off in search of this universe’s version of her homeworld. But she was horrified to find her world in the midst of an interstellar war with the Calorians, an alien race that resembles intelligent gorillas. They are very similar to Gorilla Grodd and the intelligent simians of Gorilla City, in fact. (*) The planet Zor had been devastated by the war and was on the verge of losing when Tharka arrived and used her newfound super-powers to help turn the tide. Still, although she was able to free Zor from alien domination, many people had fallen under the superior might of Calor’s space armada, and this world’s civilization was on the verge of collapse.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “G: As in Guardians, Green Lantern and Gorilla Grodd,” DC Super-Stars #14 (June, 1977).]
“Tharka’s mind is full of such images of bloody destruction and tragic loss, but not only from the war in which she fought. Some are drawn from her readings in the theology of her people during the rebuilding after the war, when she had earnestly sought to find out how the Zorians had rebuilt their civilization after the planet had nearly been destroyed by another invading menace many centuries earlier. Some of those images of destruction are taken merely from her imaginings of those ancient events. She obviously is obsessed with and troubled by the threat of a powerful force of evil that still plagues her planet, despite the war with the Calorians being over.”
“Does this threat have a name?” asked Starman.
Captain Comet nodded grimly. “She is spoken of in the theology of her people as Devastation. That is the closest English word I can employ, and she seems to be the very embodiment of that word. This dark goddess is referred to as She Who Brings Ruin. I have never heard of such a being. She is some goddess of wrath who purges a world of its people when they fail to please her. I can only guess how this applies to Zor. The planet is not known to me from my travels, so all I know about it is what I glimpsed in Tharka’s mind.”
“Her injuries seem so dire,” said Dolphin. “What caused them?”
“Well, they aren’t random,” said Robotgirl. “They form some pattern. I’d wager it was due to a ceremonial torture — the type used in a ritual.”
Comet agreed readily. “That much I can confirm. Although the planet Zor is more scientifically advanced than Earth, Tharka’s mind indicates that the ritual is an ancient and long-abandoned act from the darkest origins of the Zorian culture. This act of bloodletting is designed to bring forth or invoke a being of power.”
“Someone hurt her deliberately and in such a way as to summon this Devastation?” asked Starman.
The Vigilante rushed in from the communications center and said, “We just got word from Zor. They are sending out a distress signal. The JLA relayed it here, since most members are occupied, and Black Canary asked if we could help out. I heard y’all mention Zor while you were examining the pretty little lady.”
“Tell her we’ll go,” said Captain Comet.
Starman stepped forward, glancing toward the leader of the Forgotten Heroes. “I’ll go, too. Tharka the Superwoman was sort of one of us, and I still want to help this team whenever I can.”
Captain Comet nodded curtly and smiled slightly in acknowledgement. “Glad to have you here, Will.”