Justice League of America: Pawns of the Power Pirate, Chapter 1: Planned Encounters

by HarveyKent

Return to chapter list

Once a year, the International Gem Exhibition was held in Gotham City Civic Center. In the past this show had been the target of criminals such as the Penguin, the Riddler, and Mister Freeze. There was talk of moving the exhibition to quieter Bludhaven, but it was decided to triple its security instead and leave it in Gotham. This year, a costumed criminal who hadn’t been seen in Gotham for a long time made a try for the gems.

“That’s right — don’t bother about the small pebbles,” the gaudily costumed man said as the gem dealer placed several large stones in a velvet bag. “Nothing under fifty carats, if you please.”

“Sir?” A uniformed security guard approached the costumed man. “You asked to be alerted if Batman showed up. I just saw the Batmobile pull up outside.”

“Thank you, Officer Maynard,” the villain said, reading the guard’s name from his badge. “When the Caped Crusader arrives, you and the rest of you rent-a-cops shoot him, won’t you?”

Twenty trained security agents aimed their pistols at the front door, waiting for Batman to arrive. The sound of shattering glass above them warned them too late that Batman had chosen the skylight for his entrance. Before the guns could swing around to him, glass capsules shattered at their feet, and billowing clouds of yellow gas rendered them unconscious.

“Long time, no see, Spellbinder,” Batman said as he swung across the room on his bat-rope. “I had thought you’d retired long ago.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: The Spellbinder first appeared in “The Circle of Terror,” Detective Comics #358 (December, 1966).]

“Not at all, Batman,” Spellbinder said, facing the costumed hero. “Merely waiting for the right opportunity. And this is it.” Hypnotic waves issued forth from the Spellbinder’s helmet, washing over the Darknight Detective. “Come and kneel before your master, Batman!” Spellbinder commanded. Obediently, Batman landed on the floor before the villain and walked trancelike toward him. When he reached the Spellbinder, however, instead of kneeling, Batman delivered a roundhouse right that floored the villain.

“You’re slipping, Spellbinder,” Batman said. “You forgot about my protective contact lenses. Your hypnosis is useless on me.”

Spellbinder writhed on the floor, pretending to be in worse pain than he was. His hands, hidden from Batman’s view by his body, were working the controls on the device he had been given by the master criminal. Batman came closer to snap the cuffs on Spellbinder.

***

Washington, D.C., was host to several million tourists every week. They came to see sights like the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the White House. Today, however, the tourists would have a story to tell their grandchildren. They saw something no one else had seen before. The Smithsonian Institute was being looted by robots.

A man with glasses and a bristling black beard watched in glee as guards’ bullets bounced off his robots’ steel chassis. This was more fun than he’d had in years.

In a shimmer of light, two stalwart champions from the Justice League of America arrived.

“Thanks for coming with me, Ralph,” said Nubia, the current Wonder Woman. “What can you tell me about this Professor Menace?

“Just what I’ve read in the files; I’ve never met him, either,” the Elongated Man said. “He’s a brilliant criminal scientist — not on the level of Lex Luthor or Hugo Strange, but dangerous in his own way. Your predecessor Diana fought him a couple of times. (*) He hasn’t been seen in years, though.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Robot Wonder Woman,” Wonder Woman #111 (January, 1960).]

“He’s making up for lost time now. Let’s go!” Wonder Woman declared, charging into battle.

“Be careful of the antiques,” Elongated Man said, following her. In short time, all of Professor Menace’s robots were reduced to scrap metal.

The Professor himself cowered against the wall of one of the Institute buildings as Wonder Woman and Elongated Man approached him. “Stay back — don’t come any closer!” he pleaded..

“Bah! A coward who hides behind his machines!” Wonder Woman spat. “Barely worth dirtying my hands on!”

“Allow me, milady. I’m wearing gloves,” Elongated Man offered, forming his rubberized hands into enormous fists.

Professor Menace, maintaining an expression of terror, gloated inside as his hand moved to his inside pocket for the strange device the other villain had given him.

***

Riverview Arts Center in Central City played host to many traveling exhibits. Currently the Imperial Treasures show was on display here. The main attraction of this show was the Star of Samarkand, a huge, flawless diamond originally owned by a Russian czar. Long after the arts center closed for the night, a slender man clad head to toe in black lowered himself into the building on a thin cable. The glass case containing the Star of Samarkand was directly beneath him, dimly lit by the moonlight from the center windows.

Suddenly, the room blazed into light, and a scarlet blur raced in a circle around the case. A sudden updraft of wind swung the man in black on his cable like a spider in a windstorm.

“As I live and speed, Andre Le Blanc!” the Flash said to the startled thief as he came to a stop. “I haven’t seen you since I was Kid Flash! (*) How’ve you been?”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Eye of the Beholder,” Teen Titans #18 (November-December, 1968).]

“I have been better,” Le Blanc said, struggling to maintain his hold on the cable. “Did you ‘ave to spin me so fast? I think I am becoming sick.”

“Well, I’ll try to get you into a nice, soft jail cell where you can sleep it off. Come down slowly, and no tricks.” The scarlet speedster stood beneath the black-garbed thief, hands confidently on hips.

“Thank you, mon ami,” Le Blanc said, slowly lowering himself. Unseen to the Flash, his hand reached for the device he had been given.

***

Aquaman’s body cleaved the water at a hundred knots. The distress call had come from a cruise ship sailing not far from his New Venice home; he closed the distance in record time. The ship loomed before him, a titan of steel. Aquaman took a moment to reflect on the obscene amounts of money surface people spent on inane pleasures while others could not afford to even feed themselves. Then, with a mighty leap he propelled himself out of the water and landed on the ship’s deck. He heard voices coming from the main entertainment area and headed there. What he saw surprised him.

Zatanna? What are you doing here?”

“Oh, hi, Arthur,” Zatanna said, turning to greet her old friend. She was garbed in her tuxedo-and-fishnets outfit, which she wore for stage performances. Aquaman saw an old enemy he had not seen in years, his arms pinned to his body by thick coils of rope. The end of the rope led into a wicker basket on the stage. “I was performing my act — I’m the shipboard entertainment on this cruise — when this loser tried to hijack the ship and rob the passengers. Know him?”

“He’s called the Sea Thief,” Aquaman said. (*) “One of the least-effective costumed clowns I’ve ever fought, and in a group that includes Cutlass Charlie, that’s really saying something. The radio operator sent out a distress call when Sea Thief boarded the ship. I guess he didn’t know you were that Zatanna.”

[(*) Editor’s note: The Sea Thief’s only appearance was in “The Menace of the Atom Bomb,” Justice League of America #14 (September, 1962).]

“Well, I’m appearing under a stage name,” Zatanna said. “I want the audience to show up because they love magic, not because they want to see a super-heroine. Well, as long as you’re here, how about a drink?”

“Sure, but nothing alcoholic,” Aquaman said. “You called ship security to take this clown into custody?”

While the two JLA comrades chatted, neither of them saw the scuba-suited villain produce a device no larger than a common flashlight from the pouch on his hip.

***

Plummer Sports Arena in Ivy Town was packed that night. Ivy was a small town, and for a long time it did not have any professional sports teams to call its own; the arena was built mainly for the use of local high school and college teams. In a move masterminded by Ivy’s new publicity-conscious mayor, however, the town had recently acquired its own NBA expansion team, with the unlikely name of the Asgards. The team was playing its first public game tonight against the visiting Middletown Zodiacs. Nearly everyone in town had come out to support their new team.

“Come on, make it quick,” the woman in white demanded of the frightened college girl in the cashier’s cage. “Empty it all into the sack!” For emphasis, the woman waved the weapon she pointed at the cashier. “This is a napalm-gun. Pick up the pace or feel the breath of Surtur!

Suddenly, a strong gust of wind blasted against the barrel of the gun, making the woman drop it. Before she turned around to see who had done it, she hissed, “Atom!”

“Not today, Swan-Maiden,” declared a red-skinned android with blue and yellow trim on his costume. “I am the Red Tornado, and the only reason I even know who you are is because I once memorized the Justice League of America’s entire database of super-foes, including the most obscure foes that the Atom fought. The JLA has been keeping an eye on Ivy Town in his absence. I suspect from the description of your modus operandi that the name of this team piqued your interest for Norse mythology-based crimes.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Mysterious Swan-Maiden,” The Atom #10 (December, 1963-January, 1964).]

While the Red Tornado was soliloquizing, the Swan-Maiden reached for a device about the size of an ordinary flashlight concealed beneath her cloak.

***

Midway City Library had always been proud of its collection of rare books, and it had special reason to be even prouder now. An eccentric old citizen of Midway passed away at the age of one hundred and two, bequeathing to the library a copy of the extremely rare mystic volume known as the Necronomicon. The book, reportedly written by a mad Arab named Abdul Alhazred, was immediately put on display in a special case, wired against possible theft.

The glass walls of the case dissolved into mist at the spoken words of a spectacled man in purple robes and hood. Almost lovingly he bent to touch the faded leather tome.

Before his hands could touch the bindings, a crossbow bolt pierced the sleeve of his robe, making him cry out in surprise. He looked up to see Hawkman and Hawkwoman, flying down the aisle of the library toward him.

“If it isn’t our old friend, Konrad Kaslak,” Hawkman said. “Master of the mystic arts, and poor man’s Felix Faust.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Strange Spells of the Sorcerer,” The Brave and the Bold #36 (June-July, 1961).]

“So wrapped up in the arcane,” Hawkwoman commented, “he failed to disarm a scientific device called a motion-detector.”

Grimacing with rage, Kaslak spread his arms wide and shouted, “Libris avius homo!

Instantly, books began flying off the shelves, their pages flapping like wings as they launched themselves at the winged duo. Hawkwoman threw up the shield she carried, while Hawkman swatted books away with his mighty arms and continued forward. As the Hawks advanced, Kaslak reached within his robes for a device that looked something like a common flashlight.

***

On a regular schedule, armored trucks departed the Denver Mint with large shipments of currency. These trucks were prepared for any conventional form of attack. The guards, however, were sadly unprepared for a hijacker who melted their bullets before they reached him.

“All right, you’ve seen what I can do,” the man with flame-throwers built into his costume demanded. “Now quit monkeying around and throw down the money!

“Do not comply with his instructions,” a booming voice came from above. Guards and villain alike looked to the sky to see a mightily muscled green man flying above them.

“The Martian Manhunter!” the villain exclaimed. “Don’t come any closer; if you remember the Human Flame, you know what I can do!” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Human Flame,” Detective Comics #274 (December, 1959)]

“I do,” the Manhunter acknowledged. “And I know how to stop you.” J’onn’s Martian vision stabbed out then, striking with surgical precision. The fuel lines to the flamethrowers in the Human Flame’s costume were severed, spilling accelerant all over him.

“One spark now will be your undoing,” Manhunter said as he landed in front of the incapacitated villain. “Will you surrender?”

“Not just yet,” the Human Flame snarled, whipping out a device that looked something like a flashlight.

***

“Can’t you make this contraption go any faster, pretty bird?” Green Arrow asked. He was riding on the back of Black Canary’s motorcycle, his hands around her waist as they rocketed through the Star City night.

“I could hug the curves a little better if you weren’t doing it so much,” Canary quipped. “Mind the hands, bub.”

Soon they came upon the scene a radio distress call had brought them to. An armored truck carrying cash deposits from Weisinger’s Department Store in Star City to the bank that held the store’s account had gone off the highway into a ditch. A quick look showed Green Arrow and Black Canary why.

“Someone set up those road flares to lure the truck into the ditch,” Canary said, pointing. Thin red shafts with red sparks shooting from their ends were embedded in the road in a sharp curve that led into the ditch.

Wait a minute, pretty bird,” Green Arrow said, looking closer. “Those aren’t road flares; they’re arrows!

“Arrows?” Black Canary repeated. She looked and saw that it was true. Crimson arrows with spark-shooting ends were stuck in the asphalt of the highway.

“Look out!” Green Arrow shouted, and Canary neatly dodged a blue arrow with a gleaming razor-sharp head as it whistled past her face.

“Red arrows, blue arrows,” Green Arrow grumbled. “We’re either up against Dr. Seuss or my old punching bag, the Rainbow Archer!” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Rainbow Archer,” Adventure Comics #246 (March, 1958).]

“Right the second time, Green Arrow!” called a voice from behind the crippled truck. Canary and Arrow looked to see a red-bearded man in a gray costume adorned with a rainbow across it, aiming a drawn arrow at them. This arrow was golden yellow.

“For this I turned off the Asgards/Zodiacs game?” Green Arrow asked, drawing two arrows, notching them, and firing them in less time than it took to ask his question. The shafts sped true, shattering the Rainbow Archer’s bow before he had time to fire the golden arrow.

“Nice shots, Robin Hood,” Black Canary commented, leaping past the archer. “Wait here; I won’t let him get away!”

But the Rainbow Archer had no intention of leaving. As Black Canary and Green Arrow approached, he reached into his quiver and drew out a device that resembled a simple flashlight.

Return to chapter list