In his comfortable suburban home, Clark Kent smiled with pleasure as he kissed his wife, the lovely red-haired Kristin Wells Kent, and glanced down to where little Jasma was playing with a stuffed Cannonball doll. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Origins: Cannonball: Hero for Hire.]
“You know, I think he might just be her favorite super-hero!” teased Kristin.
“Well, sure, but then he’s got a cartoon!” replied Clark.
The couple enjoyed an easy bantering relationship that arose from the closeness they shared in so many other ways. Clark was happy, and he took the time to express that gratitude on a daily basis.
After poor Kara died in the Crisis, I wondered if I’d ever smile again, mused Clark, secretly the hero known to the world as Superman. Now, while I still miss Kara, my life is so full. I have a family all my own, and her legacy lives on with both Lydia-7 and Lesla Nim-El. Even little Jasma may someday be a Supergirl to make her late mother proud, just as Kent’s a promising Superboy!
Superman had adopted his late cousin Kara Zor-El’s daughter Jasma and had taken Kryptonian marriage vows with the time-traveling Kristin Wells, who originated the costumed role of Superwoman. (*) The happy couple enjoyed a wonderful domestic life, and with such extended family members like Kent Shakespeare, a super-powered boy, and two separate Supergirl figures in Lesla Nim-El, his cousin who was now the hero Valor on the planet Rokyn, and Lydia-7, a distant descendant of Kara’s from the far future who had become the second Supergirl in the present, he could certainly feel proud that a Superman Family was flourishing. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Superman Family: The Legacy, Superman: All Mxyed Up, Tales of the Bizarro World: The Last Bizarro, Krypto the Superdog: A Dog and His Boy, World of New Krypton: Supergirl and Valor: Homecoming, and Superman Family: Recovery.]
“A Kryptonian penny for your thoughts?” inquired Kristin.
Clark smiled. “You may have them for free! I was just thinking what a lucky man I am!”
“Would it be immodest of me to take some credit for that?” said Kristin.
Clark laughed and said, “Not at all… but–!”
“What’s wrong?” she asked, noticing he’d become distracted.
“I’ll have to owe you the rest of those thoughts,” he replied, staring off into the distance with his x-ray vision. “There’s trouble at WGBS!”
Superman flew out of the home through the underground tunnel that led from below the suburban home to a secluded spot away from prying eyes. Of course, no one could see him flying at super-speed, but he was always happier when he had covered every contingency. That was part of what made him the world’s greatest super-hero.
“I thought this Martian crisis might demand my attention, but so far all has been quiet on that front,” he said to himself. “I hate to think a secret society of Martian agents has really been living here and waiting to put some grand plan into action, but then again, my JLA friends and allies like Captain Comet are already looking into it, so we’ll triumph eventually!”
The Man of Steel rocketed straight toward the WGBS Studios, where seconds before a bizarre scene had played out.
Lana Lang entered the WGBS Studios on a daily basis. The attractive newswoman was well known to the staff and the people who watched her nightly broadcasts. She always drew more than a reasonable amount of attention because of her beauty, charm, style, and slightly flamboyant manner.
However, on one spring afternoon the red-haired journalist’s entrance literally brought the entire studio of staffers to a standstill as they gaped at her with wide eyes full of surprise and concern.
Lana wore a huge bright yellow polka dot bow in her hair. The absurdly large bow flopped back and forth as she marched forward. Her make-up was equally garish, with eye shadow smeared around her eyes, making her fluttering false eyelashes more noticeable by contrast. Her lipstick was shaped into a foolish perpetual smile, and her brief costume consisted only of a yellow polka dot pinafore with black Mary Janes adorning her feet. She carried a large red lollypop and a rag doll in each hand. In place of her normal sultry stride, she was skipping like a small child.
Halting her odd march at the center of the studio, Lana turned in an oddly robotic manner to reveal a bizarre metal coil that rested between her shoulders. The entire look reminded the observers of a huge wind-up doll.
“If you do not pay the Toyman one million dollars by midnight tonight, this human dolly will explode!”
The high-pitched sing-song voice came out of some concealed speaker, and Lana gazed vacantly forward as the studio crew listened to the threat.
“She’s under some kind of mind-control,” muttered a cameraman. “She’s sleep-walking or something!”
“Lana?” shouted Morgan Edge. “She can’t hear me! The Toyman’s turned her into some kind of living doll. If he could make Lana Lang into a plaything, then I have no doubt he could make good on his threat! I’m not going to bow down to that petty madman, but I won’t risk Lang’s life, either!”
The angry executive turned to his producer Josh Coyle and said, “We can’t touch her, or he might activate the bomb. Get me the police fast!” Edge scowled in concern. “Superman! Get Superman!” cried Edge. “Shine an ‘S’ into the sky or something! Get Jimmy Olsen in here fast! Maybe he can summon his pal!”
As the eerie-looking Lana Lang stood smiling in the studio, a wind swept through the complex as a figure in red and blue swooped in.
“Don’t worry, Edge. I’m here now,” said Superman. “Great Krypton! This is even more sinister than what I’m used to seeing from the Toyman, and the last I’d heard he’d become suddenly ill and was hospitalized in prison! (*) Of course, that could have been a ruse. I’ve also seen more than one Toyman in my time, so this could be the work of new one!”
[(*) Editor’s note: This story takes place prior to the events of Showcase: Terror of the Toyman.]
Superman swiftly wrapped the vacant-eyed Lana from head to toe in his expanding cape. That will shield her from any broadcast signal from Toyman, he thought, using super-speed to race away from Lana and soar over the city until he reached a mall. He can’t detonate the bomb while my cape blocks out such a signal. However, he will try to do so, and my super-senses will enable me to track said signal back to his lair!
The mall is closed for renovation, he thought. I’d say beneath it I’ll find a hidden base for the Toyman. I can’t imagine his signal is coming from anything as mundane as an ordinary basement!
Superman smiled as his x-ray vision allowed him to see through the floor to the exact type of criminal base he had imagined.
The Toyman was a fat man with glasses and longish hair. He wore a red-and-pink-striped jacket, and he seemed harmless enough. That was a mere illusion, since the criminal genius was as lethal as his deadly gimmicked toys.
That certainly looks like the Toyman! thought Superman.
Using his heat-vision to melt an entire row of colorful but potentially deadly toys, he stood defiantly before the Toyman. “What’s wrong, Toyman?” Superman said in a mocking tone. “Don’t you feel like playing today?”
The Toyman clapped his hands together and said, “Oh, I do! I do! Indeedy, I do! That’s why I lured you here! You didn’t think a man of my intellect would be unable to shield my broadcast signals had I desired to do so!”
Superman moved forward, but his path was blocked as a dozen objects rolled into his way and exploded in a rapid series of bright and hypnotic lights.
“My hypno-jacks will make you see things differently!” cried Toyman.
Superman gasped as he lost all will to fight. Can’t move! he thought. Can’t even raise my arms! Something strange is powering those things!
Toyman laughed madly and said, “I guess you thought your super-might would protect you from my poor inventions, but necessity is the mother of invention, and you, in turn, have forced me to give birth to a newer and more ruthless model!”
Darting around the helpless hero, Toyman said, “Now, what fun we’ll have together! I’ll even free Miss Lang by remote!”
True to his word, he passed his plump hand across a dial.
Back at WGBS Studios, Lana Lang blinked in surprise as the wind-up device fell off her back and crumbled into ashes.
Removing Superman’s cape, she gasped in shock as she looked around and caught sight of her altered appearance. “This is a nightmare!” she cried.
“It’s okay, Lana!” assured Josh. “You’re safe now!”
Lana shook her head and spread the pinafore out with both hands. “I know that, luv, but do you see what I’m wearing?!” she said in an exasperated tone of voice.
Meanwhile, Superman was fighting the hypnotic power of the bizarre hypno-jacks as they tumbled in front of his captive form. I can’t move, but I can still speak! he thought. That also means I can yell!
At that, he emitted a super-shout that shattered the ceiling, causing rubble to crash down and bury the underground base.
Emerging from the shattered structure, Superman glanced left and right. “Toyman escaped, but the rubble covered those jacks,” he said. “He must have used some kryptonite-based element in their design. Odd, though — he seemed to vanish right before I made my move to break free.”
An x-ray vision scan soon confirmed that Lana was safe, despite being seriously embarrassed. Poor Lana! he thought with a smile. At least Lola Barnett no longer works at WGBS; that gossip monger would have added Lana to her annual ‘worst-dressed’ list after seeing her in that costume!
Superman frowned as he saw a faintly glowing object among the rubble. “This is one of the cigars Perry used to favor before he quit smoking. Don’t tell me Toyman’s kidnapped him as well!”
With the merest concentration, he allowed his super-senses to instantly home in on the White home, where a weeping Alice White was being comforted by her sons.
“Don’t worry, Mom. Dad will be fine,” said Perry White Jr. Hank and Will White nodded in agreement. “He’s too tough to give in to any super-villain!”
Superman frowned as he examined the cigar. It was left behind intentionally and was well-secured, he realized. Toyman meant for me to find it. What’s his game? He knew the cigar was not an import, but was made locally in a Metropolis factory. This may be entirely too obvious, but since Toyman apparently wants me to find him based on the way he didn’t protect the signal he was using with Lana, I might as well check out the Supremo Factory.
After a super-swift return to the WGBS Building to retrieve his cape, the Man of Steel headed out of the city he loved toward a manufacturing district in a neighboring area. I can’t see inside the factory, he thought. The amount of lead in those walls isn’t natural. I suppose that’s a clue Toyman is in there!
Listening intently for signs of life, he hurried forward to vibrate through the walls at super-speed. “I hear Perry’s distinctive smoker’s cough!” he said. “Thank goodness he hasn’t suffered any real lung damage from those years of smoking! He’s a lucky man!”
Bursting into the room, Superman saw Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet, strapped to a huge black object that had the word Boom! painted across its side in garish white letters.
“Superman!” cried Perry. “This bomb is real in spite of its cartoonish appearance!”
“Don’t worry, Perry,” assured Superman. “I’ll have you safely back home with the grandkids before you can say Great Caesar’s Ghost!”
Covering Perry with his cape, Superman used his super-cold breath to freeze the entire mechanism solid. A shivering Perry fell into his arms as he gently helped the older man to safety.
“The bomb was rigged to literally turn the whole area into an inferno!” said Superman. “Instead of the old harmless exploding cigar joke, this exploding cigar factory would have destroyed countless businesses and killed hundreds of people!”
As they flew through the now-empty factory, neither Superman nor Perry saw any sign of the Toyman or anyone else.
“It was the Prankster!” explained Perry. “That giggling buffoon grabbed me from outside my house! I couldn’t put up a fight because I was afraid he might harm Alice or the neighbors!”
“The Prankster has never set up something quite this deadly,” said Superman. “I just left the scene of a fight with the Toyman. Could those old foes of mine be working together, or is this something a little more unusual?”
“Those two are each bad enough on their own,” said Perry. “I hate to imagine the two of them working as a team!”