by Libbylawrence and Doc Quantum
Jimmy Olsen smiled as he sat in a room at the office of the Daily Planet. Across from him sat Dan Dunbar, the hero called Dynamite, who had been one-half of the heroic team of TNT and Dan the Dyna-Mite as he was originally known. After a perilous search that had taken him all the way to Atlantis, Jimmy had managed to track him down. Now he would finally have his answers. But before he began the interview, he thought about what else he had learned since his return from Atlantis.
With the information given to me by Lyla at the Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency, I’ll be able to locate TNT, too, he mused rather happily. He and Dan no longer create the dangerous power surge in one another that had forced them to remain separate for so many years. She even told me that TNT — Thomas N. Thomas — is no longer with Kandor’s populace. He’s here in America!
“So, Jimmy, what can I tell you?” began Dan.
“Well, if I may ask, why are you still so young?” asked Jimmy. “And what caused you and TNT to lose control of your powers? Even Superman didn’t have an answer to that.”
“My energized metabolism stopped my aging when I was in my mid-twenties. It did the same in TNT’s case years earlier,” said Dan, who was almost forty but still looked barely into his twenties. “Now as for how our powers forced us to separate for good, that is a long story. It happened in 1968 and involved another hero named Sargon the Sorcerer.”
“May I join you?” said a regal figure wearing a jewel-encrusted turban. It was Nadir, Master of Magic, the rajah of an Indian kingdom who had forsaken his heritage to devote his life to crime-fighting.
“Nadir!” said Jimmy as the mystical crime-fighter from Earth-Two entered the room. “Come on in! I actually wanted to hear your story, too.”
“As you know, I came to this Earth and time against my will, because Atoman brought me here from Earth-Two in the year 1938,” said the handsome Nadir. “And I was not the only one taken from Earth-Two, either. Joanie Swift, Robotgirl, Roh Kar, Tharka the Superwoman, and Crimson Avenger were also enslaved by Atoman.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Whatever Happened To…?]
“True, but I’m wondering about Dan and TNT,” said Jimmy. “I’ve heard that there was once a TNT and Dan the Dyna-Mite on Earth-Two, as well.”
“I wouldn’t know about that; if there was, they were after my time.” Turning to Dan, Nadir said, “You mentioned Sargon just now. He’s a magic man himself, like me and my younger ally, Zatara.”
“Well, yes,” Dan said. “He uses a Ruby of Life, and it led him to a case back then involving us and another hero. Let me see if I can start at the beginning.”
Jimmy leaned forward eagerly. This should be pretty cool! he thought and listened, along with Nadir, as Dan told his story.
Back in 1960, I was just an overachieving New York City high school student, the star pupil and star athlete of my high school teacher and coach, Thomas N. Thomas, known to everyone as Tex Thomas. But he was more than my teacher and coach — he was my mentor. I don’t mind saying that Tex was more of a father to me than my own always-busy dad, a diplomat who was away from home most of the time. Recognizing my own scientific and athletic potential, Tex took me under his wing, since he was also a man of both science and athletics. When we weren’t in training, I acted as his assistant in various scientific projects. But I hardly understood half of what Tex was doing. The man was a genius.
Well, we’d been working with radioactive salts for several weeks, when one day we began glowing. But instead of feeling weak as you’d expect from radiation poisoning, we felt strong as giants. Tex surmised that our bodies had somehow absorbed the radioactive salts, inadvertently charging ourselves with atomic energy. I should have been terrified, and if I’d known more about the effects of hard radiation on human bodies, I would have been. Instead, I’d grown up on comic-books and B-movies depicting tales of ordinary people and animals gaining great powers through radiation. Tex knew better, of course, but kept it to himself. I think he was sparing me until he either found a solution or was forced to accept that we would die of radiation poisoning.
So Tex did what he always did — he worked to find a solution. And it was an innovative one. He created two rings, one for each of us. Tex had discovered that his body had a positive charge, while my body was charged negatively. The special alloy in our rings kept the atomic energy dormant in our bodies until we touched the rings together, at which time we’d gain fantastic powers for a few minutes. But a longer contact would release too much energy, possibly even causing an atomic explosion. For all I knew, such a blast could cause a chain reaction powerful enough to destroy the world.
But the most important thing was that we were safe. Tex had discovered that our bodies had somehow mutated, giving us amazing powers instead of adverse side-effects. Naturally, we decided to use our new powers to combat crime, and we devised special clothing made of a remarkable type of molecule. When we touched our rings together, our street clothes were instantly transformed into the colorful costumes of TNT and Dyna-Mite! For some time, we battled crime using incredible strength and the ability to generate different forms of energy, such as heat and electricity. In our first case, we battled the Crime Clown, an early gimmick villain who dressed up like a clown. (*) He was no Joker, but he gave us trouble a few times.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Case of the Crime Clown,” World’s Finest Comics #5 (Spring, 1942).]
We were among the first generation of super-heroes that appeared in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In fact, during the same month that we debuted, three other heroes appeared: the Guardian in Metropolis and the Manhunter and Robotman in New York City. Of course, back then, when Superman was still just a young, mostly unproven Superboy, we didn’t really call ourselves super-heroes. We were mystery-men, and we worked well together as a heroic duo. But our careers as mystery-men lasted only a little over a year, from early 1960 to mid-1961, when we hung up our capes to focus on school and studying atomic physics.
By 1968, I was now in college and acting as an assistant to my mentor, who had now gone on to become a college science teacher. We had been retired from the hero game for seven years, and neither of us gave any thought to resuming our heroic careers. We’d moved on, and were too focused on our shared love of science to take much notice of the political turmoil in the late ’60s. My friends, who all had longer hair than me, would often describe me as a “square,” but I was just being myself rather than following popular trends. And the work Tex and I were focused on was just too fascinating for distractions.
Well, one day we both noticed some pretty weird things going on. Our metabolisms were already super-charged with energy, and the rings we used to release that power were still necessary for a controlled discharge. So that fateful day back then, we found ourselves just tingling as if some danger was coming that was keyed into our energy. We didn’t react to it at first, just continuing on with our daily routine. After all, it was just a strange feeling. We had no idea what would happen later. It wasn’t long afterwards, though, that we ended up being drawn back into our costumes for a battle along with a fellow costumed crime-fighter called Air Wave.
Now, Air Wave was a true class act. He first appeared a couple of months before we did, in late 1959, but instead of retiring when the costumed fad seemed to die down by the mid-1960s, he was active in Brooklyn for a good ten years. Like Plastic Man and Robotman, Air Wave had staying power. He also worked hand-in-hand with law enforcement and the D.A.’s office in Brooklyn to capture criminals, Soviet spies, and the odd mad scientist or two. He was known back then as the wizard of wireless thanks to his mastery of radio, he customarily skated along telephone wires, and he was able to not only broadcast and receive voices from any piece of metal in the vicinity, allowing him to overhear conversations or project his voice, but he also somehow broadcast electricity through the air waves themselves in a way only Nikola Tesla might have understood. His abilities might seem tame now, especially compared to what the Justice League of America can do, but back then, those powers seemed a lot more impressive than they do now.
Anyway, Air Wave’s equipment seemed to be on the fritz at the same time Tex and I felt some kind of tingling, and he could tell something big was coming, something that was causing all kinds of havoc with the electromagnetic field that he could tap into. And it scared him. He felt that hum of a sudden massive energy discharge broadcast over radio waves to such a degree that everything seemed charged with electromagnetic energy. Using his equipment, he tried to trace this energy discharge to the source. That was how he became drawn into this case.
As for me and Tex, well, as I said earlier, we still used our rings to discharge the energy built up in our metabolisms despite retiring from our costumed careers years earlier. But that day was something else entirely. By the time we joined our rings that evening — after feeling strange tinglings for several hours — the charge had grown to such an extent that the feedback was tremendous, blowing us off our feet to the ground. We looked at each other in shock and knew that something strange was happening. Not only that, we’d have to investigate it personally. It was time for TNT and Dynamite to come out of retirement.
The trouble was, we didn’t have any of Air Wave’s fancy equipment to track down the source of energy. But we did happen upon a bit of luck when we tuned in to the police radio band and heard a bulletin concerning Liberty Island, of all places, home of the Statue of Liberty. Air Wave had used his equipment to cut into the police radio band and was coordinating an evacuation of the island with law enforcement and other authorities. Why was the island being evacuated? There was a strange electromagnetic energy build-up that was centered around Lady Liberty. Hearing this, we looked at each other and knew we had to get to that island. We knew it had something to do with the same tingling we’d felt in ourselves.
By the time we got there, Air Wave was the only one on the island. He seemed relieved that we were there to act as back-up for him, and we caught up on old times. Although mystery-men were mostly loners, we did run across Air Wave and some of the other costumed heroes a few times. After all, except for Superboy and a few others, most of us operated around the New York City area. We shared stories about what had drawn us to Liberty Island, and we waited with anticipation for what was about to happen. Just as we were discussing bringing in some of the other heroes in the area for backup, a portal opened up in the sky just above Lady Liberty, almost as if all the energy buildup that we’d anticipated over the previous hours had finally broken through. And out of that portal came two strange figures battling each other. At the time, we had no way of knowing whether they were friend or foe, but Sargon later told us what had happened.
As we later learned, an evil sorcerer named Bandar had been going on a rampage through Civic City on the parallel Earth he came from, which we now know as Earth-Two. Bandar was a wizard steeped in the occult who made Aleister Crowley — supposedly the most evil man in the world — look like a saint.
A decade earlier, Bandar had been the head of the Crimson Circle Mystic Society, a murderous cult that had terrorized a city, and whose members he controlled via hypnosis. Their extortion activities attracted the attention of the Spectre, who nearly lost to Bandar’s powerful astral form until the Spectre used his Ring of Life on him, then destroyed his body to prevent his soul from returning to it. (*) Unfortunately, one of the first tricks Bandar had learned was how to return from a seemingly certain death. Once he returned to life by seizing the body of one of his cultists and remolding it to match his original, he continued his activities in secret once more, seeking to regain much of the power he had lost. Finally, nearly a decade after that fateful confrontation, Bandar was ready to seize power once more, this time by the mystical power he had stored within himself. But by then the Spectre had disappeared, and it was another mystical hero who arrived to stop Bandar’s rampage through Civic City.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Spectre, More Fun Comics #70 (August, 1941).]
Sargon the Sorcerer was one of a number of magician heroes on Earth-Two, and he was a smooth character, too, always in control. He possessed a mystical jewel called the Ruby of Life, and he could do all sorts of wild stuff with it, such as making street statues come to life to battle Bandar. He was doing just that when a huge burst of energy struck Bandar like a bolt of lightning.
Although the villain seemed to be struck down, as Sargon explained to us, it was only for a short while. For within only a few moments, Bandar began to rapidly grow more powerful, and he arose with determination, raising one arm that — with a single gesture — caused all of Sargon’s creations to be blown to dust!
Sargon renewed his attacks with more vigor, but the evil sorcerer seemed impervious to all harm. Finally, he was left with no choice but to grapple with him personally, throwing all the mystical energy in the Ruby of Life and in himself against Bandar. So great were the energies that grew in their battle, that the two began to rise up weightless into the sky as they grappled, sheer energy rippling outward around them. Then the world around them disappeared entirely, and the two were thrust into the region between parallel universes sometimes referred to as Limbo. The two fought with all their being for what seemed like an eternity to Sargon, as he put it, when a portal opened up in our world — on Earth-One.
Air Wave, TNT, and I thus witnessed Sargon the Sorcerer and the powerful Bandar appear in the midst of an energy vortex above the Statue of Liberty. Whatever the energy was that had struck Bandar on Earth-Two, it had the side-effect of sending both him and Sargon through the dimensions to our world. And once they arrived, they fell down to the ground, nearly unconscious from the tremendous power they’d been grappling with.
Bandar fell to the ground on the other side of Lady Liberty, much like he’d fallen during his battle with Doctor Fate. While on our side, Air Wave used an amazing acrobatic move to try to catch Sargon the Sorcerer. But it turned out that the magician didn’t need our help, as the very ground below him reached out like a hand to cushion his fall, thanks to his Ruby of Life.
We made our introductions to the dazed, otherworldly sorcerer, and soon determined that Sargon was one of the good guys. That left his evil sorcerer foe to deal with, and we would deal with him much sooner than we’d planned. You see, that was when Bandar arrived from the other side of the island.
“Here’s your coffee,” said a young, brown-haired woman carrying a cardboard drink tray with three paper coffee cups. “Two double-doubles and one coffee black.”
“Thank you, miss,” said Nadir politely as he took the unsweetened cup of coffee.
“Much obliged, ma’am,” said Dan, taking his cup.
“Thanks, Jennifer,” said Jimmy.
“Is there anything else I can get you gentleman?” asked Jennifer Owens, the Daily Planet receptionist and Jimmy’s current girlfriend.
“No thanks, Jenn,” said Jimmy, turning back to Dan, who began sipping his coffee slowly, almost too slowly. “Oh, and can you shut the door on your way out?”
“All right,” said Jennifer.
“This is wonderful coffee, Miss Owens,” said Dan, smiling.
“You’re welcome, Mr. Dunbar,” Jennifer said, shooting Jimmy a look that said he could learn a few things about politeness from Dan.
“So, Dan, you were just telling us about the arrival of this Bandar character,” said Jimmy, leaning forward eagerly. “What happened next?”
“Well,” said Dan between sips of coffee, “if you don’t mind, I’d really like to finish this coffee first. I haven’t had a good cup of java in years. But, as I’ll soon tell you, it was a bit of a wild story, to say the least.”