It was a typical day in Metropolis, which meant that a crime was occurring somewhere, and Superman was busy stopping it. However, even Superman could not be in two places at once, and it was precisely this logic that prompted two colorful figures to take advantage of this fact.
They struck at precisely the same moment by each robbing one of the exclusive Tiffany’s Jewelry Stores located on opposite ends of the city, even using methods that were essentially the same. They burst into their respective stores and demonstrated their weaponry to the startled staffers and customers. While one blasted the display counter with hot, melting flames, the other smashed the glass in his store with a crushing burst of high-pressure water. They frightened the staff enough to help themselves to the jewels, then rushed outside with an exhilarating sense of achievement — for at least a minute or two. Then each of the Flamesplashers gasped as they were challenged by a couple of costumed figures.
Superman swooped down to block the path of the first sibling as he futilely aimed his flame-throwing device at the hero. “I wouldn’t try it. It won’t even make me break a sweat!” said the smiling Superman.
Flamesplasher I cursed and turned to set the hanging awnings of the nearby stores ablaze.
Puffing out the fires with a simple use of his super-breath, Superman then tapped the villain into a stunned state.
Meanwhile, the other Flamesplasher aimed his water-blaster at a gold-and-green-costumed figure who swooped down and smiled winningly.
“Cannonball!” muttered the villain.
“Say it clearly!” he shouted. “The folks in the back might not have heard you. I hate to have them mistake me for one of the other heroes who hang around these parts!” The blond man flew with the aid of a miniaturized jetpack, and he seemed entirely at ease as he faced the startled thief.
“My high-pressure water-blast will turn your fans into battered casualties!” sneered Flamesplasher.
Cannonball frowned. “Now, how would that look? A nobody loser who probably looks up to the Cluemaster, hurting one of the Cannonball’s legion of fans? Not likely!” He slammed into his foe and knocked him cold.
Standing over the stunned figure, Cannonball turned to the crowd and said, “I guess he’s all wet!”
A voice yelled, “And… cut! That’s a wrap!”
Cannonball turned to his camera crew and gave a thumb’s-up sign. “Primo work, guys and gals,” he said, grinning. “That jerk won’t work for sweeps month, but hey, we could use him on a blooper reel!”
The cameraman nodded. “Don’t worry, Ryan, we’ll use the footage sometime this season. Your fans will love that line about his being all wet! But, then Hero For Hire is the top-rated reality show on the air!”
Cannonball nodded. “Do you think that line was a bit too Robin-y? Nah, me neither!”
After signing a few autographs, he zoomed off into the air. With his TV show a rating smash, and his merchandising line bringing in a fortune, life was good for Ryan Chase.
Morgan Edge was angry. Pacing back and forth in his plush office, he shouted his thoughts as they occurred to him. As the president of Galaxy Broadcasting System, he took ratings seriously, and he was more than a bit irritated that the top new show Hero For Hire was not one of his.
“This Cannonball guy is everywhere!” he shouted. “He’s on the covers of Time, People, and even Rolling Stone. He dates actresses ranging from Daphne Pennyworth to Monica Lake! His clothing line of action gear is selling like hotcakes. And what do we have on? Roy Raymond reruns!”
“Mr. Edge, sir, nobody knew Cannonball would take the media by storm so quickly,” said a worried junior executive. “Saving the world in front of the media made him a star. His show is so simple, yet so clever. I mean, filming his crime-fighting adventures like that Cops show is a brainstorm! People love it!”
“I don’t need the obvious,” said Edge with a sneer. “I know all about the obvious! What hurts the most is that the show’s producer is my own flesh and blood! Stephanie Edge, my niece, took the idea to the other network! She wanted no hint of accusations of nepotism! Is that un-American, or what?”
He hit his desk. “Think of counter-programming, fast!” He then sighed and sank into his chair. “No one understands me! Why must life be so hard?”
Ryan Chase was working out in his mansion when he received a call. “Take five, Chuck. You’re good, but martial arts can’t match my Klurkor!” he said, grinning as he grabbed a cell phone.
“Hi. What’s up?” he said. “Flashman? No, I won’t work with the guy. He lacks class. I want the name Cannonball to be thought of with a sense of style. That reminds me, could we get Golden Glider as a love interest for the next season?
“Cool,” he replied. “Oh, and tell Simon Stagg it’s too late. If he wants to do business with the Cannonball, he’ll need an appointment, and this guy’s booked up till that old coot’s ready for a home!”
As he clicked off the call, he turned to see a pretty brunette. “Miss Tempest?” he said as the lively Daily Planet reporter came in. “May I call you Meg? Come in! Always glad to help out the media!”
“Thanks. Lois sends her regards!” Meg Tempest, wearing a pink minidress and heels, followed Ryan Chase as he led her around his estate.
Too bad I didn’t think of it, but we could have conducted this interview in the hot tub, he thought.
“I admire your home,” said Meg. “It’s lovely. It’s quite a change from your childhood.”
Ryan nodded. “It sure is! I grew up as a circus boy — not Mickey Dolenz, you understand, but a child of the circus. My folks and I were performers, and I was just raised touring town to town and soaking up the cheers of the crowds.”
“I imagine that can be pretty addictive,” said Meg.
Ryan smiled broadly. “Ah, here’s where the beautiful reporter tries to add a bit of journalistic depth to her piece by keen psychological insight! I did love it, and I also loved heroes like Green Arrow and Batman. I wanted to be like them. I developed a device that let me fly, put together this costume, and called myself the Human Cannonball. I thought being a super-hero would be the perfect life!”
“And Lois Lane was to be your ticket to the top?” prompted Meg.
“She’s a doll,” he said. “I followed her, because I knew she’d go where the action was to be found. I was right. She and I became quite close, and partnered around a bit.”
Meg smiled as she replied, “Lois says she and you are friends, and that’s it. She did teach you Klurkor, though, correct?”
“OK, OK, I exaggerated a bit,” said Ryan. “Artistic license and all that. She did teach me a lot about being a hero. Gutsy, bright, and caring — she’s all that and more. As for Klurkor, she taught me all I know. I admit it.”
“So, what happened?” asked Meg. “You fought the Butcher, the Starseed, and a guy named Adam, and then you sort of disappeared?” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: The Human Cannonball appeared in “The Mutant Menace of Metropolis,” Superman Family #188 (March-April, 1978), “The Star Who Loved Lois Lane,” Superman Family #189 (May-June, 1978), “The Most Precious Plunder,” Superman Family #191 (September-October, 1978), “The Hand of Death,” Superman Family #192 (November-December, 1978), “Hospital Hostilities,” Superman Family #193 (January-February, 1979), and “Armageddon Arrives Today,” Superman Family #194 (April, 1979).]
Ryan Chase turned away from the feisty young woman and said, “I thought I could be a Green Arrow. I wanted to be a swashbuckling do-gooder with a roguish grin, but I failed miserably. I messed up, and it almost cost some good folks their lives. I hung up the suit and never thought I’d fly again. I took a few odd jobs and ended up working as janitor. Pretty glam, huh?”
Shrugging, Meg said, “I was a cheerleader. We all have things in our past!”
“Our agency cleaned numerous homes, and one of our clients changed my life,” said Ryan. “His name was Edmond Hamilton. See, Hamilton was a military man, inventor, and former costume-wearer himself. As Colonel Future, he used brief glimpses into the future to design a high-tech suit for himself. He used it on a couple of occasions to prevent disasters that never really occurred, anyhow, thanks to Superman.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Man Who Saved the Future,” Superman #378 (December, 1982) and “The Man Who Saw Superman Die,” Superman #399 (September, 1984).]
“I recall that name!” said Meg.
“Sure,” continued Ryan. “Well, in one of those wacky scenarios you’d read about in a comic mag, Edmond could only get these prophetic visions when his life was in danger. Pretty nutty, huh? He got one after a car crash, and it gave him a real jolt.”
“That crash was potentially fatal,” said Meg. “I remember the story. So, what was his vision?”
“He saw Superman trying to kill the president!” replied Ryan.
Meg gasped. “That’s crazy! Superman would never do that. Was it a double? Or was the president a fake in disguise?”
Ryan put his arm around her and said in a low voice, “Stick with me, babe. You’ll get your scoop.” Continuing his story, he said, “I’ll pique your interests by saying both Supes and the prez were the real deals.”
“Just tell me: what did Colonel Hamilton do?” asked Meg.
“He was worried,” said Ryan, “yet he knew his visions had been pretty wonky before. Deciding to play it safe, he whipped up a new costume designed to stop even a maddened Superman.”
“Been done before. Nothing stops him!” said Meg.
“Well, nothing short of yours truly,” said Ryan.
Meg rolled her eyes. “Come on, tell me more — please.”
“He prepared the suit and even realized that Superman was due to be at a White House summit along with the Soviet hero Starfire,” said Ryan.
“Red Star?” said Meg. “I see. Now it all makes sense. That summit’s events made you famous.”
“Right,” said Ryan. “So, Colonel Future — that was Hamilton’s costumed name — planned to be there and be ready for trouble.”
Meg sat down by the pool. “That was the summit in which President Reagan and Gorbachev were meeting along with their respective national heroes.”
Ryan nodded. “It made sense to Hamilton that if Superman would go for the chief executive, that event would be a golden opportunity. You understand, Hamilton never believed Superman would do that. He just wanted to be ready in case something occurred that could remotely be tied to his vision.”
Meg nodded. “How’d you become involved?”
Ryan grinned. “Well, sweeping dolls like you off their feet is not the only sweeping I’ve done. Remember, I was a janitor, and I happened to get Hamilton’s house as an assignment. I stumbled across his suit, and it intrigued me. I had used my own jetpack before, but nothing as sophisticated as his futuristic suit.”
Meg laughed. “You didn’t–?”
“I took it for a joyride,” said Ryan with a nod. “I figured, who would know?”