Legion of Substitute Heroes: The Old Order Changeth, Kinda, Chapter 2: Unexplained Plot Device

by Libbylawrence

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The odd pair of newcomers consisted of two talking, intelligent monkeys. The first one smiled in a friendly manner and wore a bright costume and cape of red and blue. His friend was smaller and wore a bow-tie and a green plaid coat.

“Beppo the Super Monkey!” said Fire Lad. “This is an honor!”

“I’m afraid you’ve made a mistake! I’m Monkey Man, the defender of Monkey Town, a suburb of Gorilla City. I can’t leave my home to join your team, but I wanted to meet you and offer my services as an ally, should a crisis occur. However, I do have an offer for you that involves my friend Miki here!”

“I’m Monkey Man’s pal Miki!” the smaller monkey said. “When I’m in danger, I use my Monkey Man signal coconut to summon him! Only his keen ears can detect the ultrasonic drumming of my pounding of the coconut!”

“Right,” said Monkey Man. “I thought you might agree to make Miki an honorary member of the team!”

Chlorophyll Kid frowned. “Hey! That’s not fair. If we’re letting our pals join the team, then I want my old buddy Pete Moss to get in! He has known my secret identity for years, but he’s never told anyone!”

“Ral, you don’t wear a mask!” said Porcupine Pete. “Everyone knows your secret identity!”

Gigi Cusimano groaned and said, “This is too much! Get me out of here! Anybody! Hey, the ape in the cape! Take me with you! Won’t you take me to Monkey Town?”

Monkey Man frowned in irritation. “Hey, hey! We’re monkeys! Not apes!”

“Listen, no offense to either of you, but we’ve seen one musical applicant make crazy demands already today,” said Stone Boy, “and since you’ve got that coconut drum and all, we think we’d better pass!”

“Well to be honest, we don’t play our own instruments,” said Miki.

“I’m not sure what use a monkey with no real super-powers would be to us,” said Color Boy.

“He’s loyal, and he is resourceful,” said Monkey Man. “This could be his stepping stone to greatness! I’m a believer!”

“I know,” said Color Kid. “But isn’t it a bit silly to think a monkey in a plaid coat could fit in with a team of intergalactic heroes?”

“Oh, unlike a guy who can change the color of things at will?” said Miki. “Why don’t you let Green Boy in next?”

Color Kid sank back into his child. “Green Boy? Green Boy?!

Diva Damsel stepped forward and said, “I refuse to work with animals! You’re in my light!”

Monkey Man jumped on her shoulders and said, “Don’t mess with me! I’m trained in guerrilla combat!”

“Where’s an organ grinder when you need one?” gasped Infectious Lass.

Diva Damsel shrieked and said, “Somebody get this monkey off my back!”

Stoned Boy leaned forward from the crowd and said, “That’s hard to do, man!”

“Stop fighting!” yelled Color Kid. “Don’t make me use my power against you!”

“He means it!” warned Pete. “You don’t want him to change your color schemes!”

Color Kid waved his hands, and the red and blue costume of Monkey Man turned purple, while Diva Damsel’s gown turned a sickening shade of green.

“Grape Ape! Coool!” sighed Stoned Boy.

We’re monkeys!” cried Miki and Monkey Man in unison.

Monkey Man jumped off of Diva Damsel and said, “Great Kong! The Wizard Glick is free! I need to get back to the newspaper!”

“You have business at a newspaper?” asked Fire Lad.

Monkey Man grimaced and said, “Uh, I do my business on a newspaper! Come, Miki!”

Diva Damsel crawled to her feet and glared at them. “My public can’t see me like this! I’m leaving!” As Diva Damsel stalked out of the room, she said, “You’ll be sorry! I won’t forget this!”

“So, since we brought it up,” said Chlorophyll Kid, “can my pal Pete join up?”

“I think having only one Pete is best!” said Porcupine Pete.

“Pete Best! That’s a good one!” laughed Fire Lad. They stared at him in silence, and he shrugged. “You know… the Beatles? Pete Best, Mike Nesmith, Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby? Ancient Earth musicians?” They shook their heads, and he sighed. “Nobody appreciates culture anymore!”

“I like Leaf Garret,” offered Chlorophyll Kid.

“The monkey was kind of cute,” said Infectious Lass.

“Let’s just vote!” said Gigi. “Let Lass Lad in! I’ll personally loan him some new outfits! Just end this now!”

A tall, green-colored humanoid in a cowboy hat entered the room, and a hush fell over the chamber. “I’m here to save the day. I’m G’orge J’onzz, the last son of Mars!” he said. “I have Martian super-strength, Martian speed, the Martian powers of flight, invisibility, and super-senses, and I can change my shape. I am superior to all other applicants because I am a Martian!”

“Martian! Martian! Martian! It’s not fair!” cried a blonde girl in the crowd. She rushed out of the room, leaving the Subs to face the applicant.

“You are very impressive!” said Stone Boy. “I vote we make G’orge a member! What do you say, Fire Lad?”

Fire Lad? Did you say Fire Lad? I’m deathly afraid of fire! I feel ill. Excuse me, please!” cried the Martian as he flew away.

“What did I do?” cried Fire Lad.

“You scorched his hopes,” said Pete.

“You’re such a hothead,” sighed Infectious Lass.

“You burn me up,” said Color Kid.

“This has been a rocky start,” offered Stone Boy.

“Say, maybe we could get a white Martian,” suggested Infectious Lass.

“Heroes don’t drink on duty!” warned Fire Lad.

Suddenly, two more strange figures entered the room. The first man had a white beard around his wrinkled and evil face. The second being wore a purple robe and hood, and nothing could be seen of his features, which made it very difficult for him to get a close shave.

“Mordru and the Time Trapper!” cried Gigi as she reached for her communications device to summon help.

“Return to infancy!” cried the Time Trapper in tones that could only be called stentorian, had someone been narrating. Gigi gasped as she changed into a diapered baby. She was helpless.

“Uh, I think she needs changing,” said Double-Header, wrinkling one of his noses. “Or is that Polecat guy back?”

“Get them!” cried Fire Lad. “That’s Mordru!”

“Mordru the wizard?” asked Infectious Lass.

“No, Mordru the dentist!” gasped Fire Lad. “Look at him! Long white beard, pointed green hat! Of course he’s the wizard!” He breathed a blazing stream of fire at the two arch-villains, but before the flames could reach them, Mordru stopped them with a wave of his hand.

“Your petty fire is not as hot as my hatred for you all!” he hissed.

Stone Boy jumped forward and turned to stone. He shielded his pals from the yellow energy that crackled from Mordru’s raised hands.

“Don’t worry,” said Infectious Lass. “I’ll make him really sick!” She concentrated and spread her diseases, but nothing happened. “I don’t understand it! I make everyone sick!” she whined.

“No, that’s Dream Girl!” quipped Porcupine Pete.

“As the sands of time, so are the powers of the Time Trapper!” said the robed figure.

“That reminds me,” said Antennae Boy. “It’s time for my soap! I wish we had let DVD Kid on the team!”

“There are no plants in the room! I’m helpless!” said Chlorophyll Kid. “Someone give me a flower! Didn’t Stoned Boy have some kind of weed in his hand?” He choked as Mordru’s magical energy struck him like a bolt from the blue. He fell down hard and rolled out of the room. He then jumped to his feet and ran screaming through Multivac’s halls. “A daisy! A lily! A rose! For the sake of the known universe, somebody bring me a flower!” he shrieked.

Back inside the audition chamber, Double-Header Frenk said, “I’ll get help! You stay here!”

“No! You get help! I’ll stay here!” replied Dyvud confidently.

Porcupine Pete fired a barrage of quills, only to see them bounce harmlessly off of the two villains.

Color Kid waved his hands and turned the Time Trapper’s robe a bright yellow. “That’s more cheerful, but in the scheme of things, it doesn’t help much!” he said with a shrug. He noticed that Stoned Boy had fled along with most of the other applicants. Membership was not worth fighting two of the deadliest villains in all of creation.

Lad Lass fell down hard as his heel broke. The Time Trapper reached for him, and he changed to a girl. “You wouldn’t hit a girl, would you?” he gasped. He grabbed a pair of glasses from a frightened nurse who had been tending to Gigi and slipped them on. “You wouldn’t hit a girl in glasses?” he said.

“Put down the… person!” cried a newcomer. Polecat stood before the villains and sprayed the room in a display of senseless and useless courage.

The Time Trapper raised an hourglass. “Do you know what time it is now? Time for you to die!”

“I just knew he was going to say that!” said Color Kid.

Fire Lad belched fire and hit his own chest with a fist. “Those Venusian hot fries just sit on the tummy!” he said.

“Eh-oh!” cried Antennae Boy.

“You resemble a skunk, so you shall be one!” said Mordru, and with a gesture, Polecat was turned into a skunk, which crawled onto baby Gigi’s lap and curled up to sleep.

Antennae Boy adjusted his screen and cried out, “This will stop them!” Suddenly, the room was filled with a strident voice.

“Hey, all you WGBS listeners! This is Weird Waldo of Planet Funk coming at you cats with a solid hour of nothing but the finest grooves this side of Ventura! Before we start the music, I’m going to try to make a prank call to President Stewart himself!”

Antennae Boy groaned in frustration as electrical energy crackled around him. He rolled under a table and said, “I always get a bad reception this time of day!”

At that moment, three more heroes rushed into the room. Mordru sneered in that way villains and Galactic Department of Motor Vehicles workers have. “A pretty threesome dares to fight us, eh?” he said.

“Did you say threesome?” cried Double-Header.

The first boy had blond hair and a green costume with a peaked cap. The second boy wore yellow glasses and a costume of gold and green with a puffy object on his chest. “It’s Cotton Candy Kid! We’re saved!” cried Infectious Lass.

“No, honey,” said Pete. “That symbol on his chest is not cotton candy. That’s a fluffy bunny! He’s Rabbit Lad!”

“It’s a storm cloud, for I am Storm Boy,” said the newcomer. “This is my boon companion, Calamity King!”

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” said Fire Lad.

“He’s just a pal! Get your mind out of the gutter!” said Calamity King.

“Years ago, we both tried to join the Legion but were rejected,” said the former college student turned meteorologist. “I controlled the weather via my invention, but when the team learned I relied on an artificial device for my powers, Mon-El and Superboy escorted me out.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Secret Origin of Bouncing Boy,” Adventure Comics #301 (October, 1962).]

“Actually, Duo Damsel kicked him out and roughed him up while doing so,” whispered Color Boy.

Storm Boy blushed and thunder boomed around them. “I had an accident,” explained Myke Chypurz. “It internalized my powers.”

“And unlike Myke, here, my powers of creating localized fields of bad luck are natural,” explained Calamity King, alias David Ester.

“You can alter probabilities! That’s impressive!” said Infectious Lass. “Why didn’t you get in the Legion?”

“Bad luck,” said Calamity King with a shrug. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Legionnaire Who Killed,” Adventure Comics #342 (March, 1966) and “The Evil Hand of the Luck Lords,” Adventure Comics #343 (April, 1966).]

“I hate to interrupt this little exchange,” growled Mordru, “but I’m busy trying to kill you all! Have you no manners?”

The Time Trapper sighed deeply. “Kids today! There’s no talking to them. When I was a boy, I had to walk–”

But before he could continue, the third figure began to dominate the scene. He wore a red and blue costume with a faded color scheme and a white slate around his neck. His pale face was chalky and craggy.

“He really needs to do something about that skin problem,” said Infectious Lass.

“I could fix those faded colors, too,” offered Color Kid.

Superboy? How can it be?” cried the Time Trapper.

“Me not Superboy! Him not as pretty! Me Bizarro-Superboy! (*) Me come from Bizarro World to see Legion of Stupor Heroes like Bizarro-Brainiac 5, who has mind like an eggbeater, or Bizarro-Saturn Girl, who can phonetically read minds!”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Bizarro-Legion,” Adventure Comics #329 (February, 1964).]

“You belittle us with such worthless sport!” said Mordru.

“You Bizarro-Santa come to take toys from bad little kids!” said Bizarro-Superboy, punching the old wizard with his raw strength and shattering his chest to dust.

That had to hurt!” gasped Fire Lad.

“Ohhh… I’m going to be sick!” cried Infectious Lass as she turned pale, or seemed to do so; no one could really tell for sure.

“Now my power to make things go wrong will reveal this Time Trapper to be nothing more than a wind-up toy!” said Calamity Kid, and with a gesture, Time Trapper stiffened, and wires and gears popped out of his body, even as Color Kid’s pants fell down.

“Sorry!” said Calamity King. “I can’t control my aim that well!”

“Do it again, and I’ll make you see red!” said Color Kid.

“Great,” said Storm Boy. “Just great! I come all the way here and don’t get to do anything!”

Suddenly, thunder boomed, and rain began to fall around them.

“I hope I don’t catch a cold,” said Infectious Lass.

Polecat and Gigi Cusimano returned to normal, and she shoved him off her lap and said, “What is going on here?”

Two final newcomers entered sheepishly. The first one spoke in hushed tones and had a ruggedly handsome demeanor, while his skulking — or was it lurking? — partner was cute and perky. “Uh, hi. I’m Matt, and this is Katee. We make lifelike automatons for super-folks to stage fights with in the rec room of their cave or fortress or satellite, or uh… basement.”

“We’d be household names, except we’ve never made a sale yet!” said Katee.

“We design robot copies of super-folks, and we program them to think, talk, and act like the real deals,” said Matt. “Our last prototype was defective. The nuclear core was a bit temperamental. It thought it was Stargrave. We put it in a sun, thinking that would be enough to melt it down, but some robots on Bismoll summoned it and tried to use it to conquer that world. You guys stopped it. (*) I figured we could pay you back by offering you two models for your peril chamber or danger den for a bargain price.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “You Can’t Keep a Good Villain Down,” Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1 (1985).]

“You said those things have a nuclear core?” said Fire Lad. “Get them out of here!”

“Me like to see things go boom, so me take them to sun!” cried Bizarro-Superboy. He departed with the broken automatons but failed to return. When he returned hours later, he would explain with a scowl, “Me got lost!”

Gigi Cusimano stalked across the room and said, “Hold it! Hold it! How were two energy-powered automatons able to turn me into a baby or make Skunk Boy think he was really a skunk?”

Polecat raised one hand and said, “I’m sorry, but my name is Polecat! Does Skunk Boy sound more imposing?

“I think it’s one of those unexplained plot devices,” said Fire Lad. “We run into them all the time.”

“Or perhaps we all hallucinated that change due to residual effects of Stoned Boy’s power,” suggested Infectious Lass.

Gigi wiped one hand across her mouth and rubbed away a bit of drool. “Whatever! I don’t even care anymore!”

***

That night was a proud one, or what passed for a proud one among the Subs as they welcomed Storm Boy, Calamity King, Bizarro-Superboy, and Polecat to the team.

“Me never go home again,” said Bizarro-Superboy. “This place is nothing like home from now on!”

Lass Lad agreed to work with the team as an Espionage Squad member should they ever find any other members for that type of subtle work. He also swapped makeup tips with Drura Sehpt.

Everyone was happy, since Matt and Katee were hired to work for the Subs as technical advisors. Calamity Kid’s wealthy father gladly agreed to pay them to help his boy.

***

As for S.P. Officer Gigi Cusimano, she was thrilled to be allowed to return to Earth and to her more serious duties. As she sat on a commercial flight back to Earth, she crossed her legs and settled back against the pillow in her seat. “I’m getting a welcome from the senior S.P.s themselves. Maybe I’ll get a promotion. That purple dye has faded, and my cold is better. What could go wrong now? Things are looking up!”

She turned to the weird-looking man sitting next to her on the craft home. “Haven’t I seen you before?” she asked. “What’s your name?”

“They call me Mothman,” he said.

Gigi screamed in horror as her uniform began to dissolve.

The End

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