A lone flower blossomed incongruously in the middle of the empty factory. Suddenly, it opened its artificial petals, and an acidic spray erupted from within the weird device.
Superman turned to block the deadly substance from touching Perry White. “A giant-sized version of the old squirting flower gag,” he remarked, “but this one is filled with industrial acid!” Deflecting the acid with his body, he used his heat-vision to melt the entire weapon to scrap.
My vision was hotter than that acid, but had I not acted when I did, it could have hurt Perry! he thought.
Looking down at the factory, Superman saw something fluttering in the wind like a small flag. It was a bright green sports coat. Jim used to wear a coat like this one! he thought. I don’t like the look of this!
“After I drop you off, I’m checking on Jimmy, Clark, and Lois!” said Superman. “There’s a pattern to this, and it seems to spell danger for my closest friends!”
Kristin would be able to handle any assault on our home, but she’d also let me know of any jeopardy! he thought as he scanned the city. Things look okay at home! “Hmm… No sign of Lois Lane or Jimmy Olsen!” he said grimly.
After leaving a grateful Perry White with his family, Superman made his way toward Jimmy’s apartment, where he discovered a shocking sight.
The whole building is gone! he thought. How could someone make the entire apartment complex vanish? There is no sight or smell of any type of chemical weapon, nor is there any damage to neighboring buildings.
Landing in front of the empty space, Superman stopped and stared at the area. Soon he spotted a small object. It was a watch.
My molecular vision spots something significant, all right! he thought incredulously. The building is intact with all the occupants inside! But the whole structure has been reduced to the size of an atom, and it is resting within a very familiar object — Jimmy’s watch! The apartment building is resting within the watch’s cover! Jim is inside, too. Apparently, everyone inside has been sedated in some way!
Suddenly, Superman gasped in agony as his approach to the signal watch triggered a deafening noise: ZEE! ZEE! ZEE!
That’s the sound Jim’s signal watch makes, but instead of being an ultrasonic sound only I can detect, the altered version has the capacity to kill me! he thought, gasping in agony and covering his ears, to no avail. Ears aching! Vertigo setting in! Yet no sign of kryptonite, so how is it hurting me?
Scanning the watch, Superman frowned as the scene began to shimmer before his eyes. “My ear drums will shatter if I don’t stop that noise!”
As he inhaled sharply with super-breath, the sound ceased. After covering the watch with his cape, he made some delicate adjustments at super-speed while beneath the cape, then stepped back as the building reverted to normal, its sleeping occupants following suit.
Once I stopped that lethal noise, I was able to destroy the mechanism that had been placed within the watch, he mused. That also had the unexpected side-effect of cancelling the shrinking effect that had made the building microscopic. The watch had been altered so that, upon proximity to my Kryptonian form, it activated that signal. But the signal itself had been made deadly to me by a small device that converted light to sound. The particular light frequency that was turned into sound waves came from red sun energy. I’m powerless under that shade of solar energy, and my ears were vulnerable to that kind of noise as well!
Luckily, I was able to inhale all the atmosphere away from the watch, and without air to carry the sound waves, they couldn’t reach my ears! That, in turn, enabled me to shield the area with my cape, and while blocking out the red sun beams, I could restore the watch to normal! Alien science did this, and the whole scheme of a shrunken building spells Brainiac! He’s been laying low for too long now, so it’s no surprise he’d turn up again like a bad penny! (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: This story takes place prior to the events of Superman: The Unkindest Cut.]
Superman flew directly to Lois Lane’s apartment, only to find the dark-haired woman sitting on a sofa within. She smiled demurely as Superman appeared at her window, and he offered a slight smile as she greeted him.
“Superman, what a nice surprise!” Lois said, rising from the sofa and muting her television.
Suddenly, the Man of Steel slammed both palms together, and the shock wave knocked her backward across the room. As she struggled to rise, he struck her with a beam of heat-vision and said, “But not enough of a surprise!”
Lois shimmered, then transformed into a green-hued male alien, but it was not the green-skinned Coluan humanoid villain called Brainiac as he’d previously expected to see based on their last encounter. (*) “So, you saw through my little deception. How did you do it?” asked the Martian.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Superman: Rokyn Attacked.]
“You looked like Lois, just as you looked like Toyman before, but your heartbeat was identical in both cases,” explained Superman. “You had the same heart rhythm. When you duplicate a human, you might want to watch that.”
“I killed your Miss Lane!” the Martian gloated.
Superman shook his head. “No, you didn’t,” he replied. “She was stuck in traffic outside the city. I had a friend find her and secure her before I came here.”
In fact, he had used super-ventriloquism to alert Superwoman, telling her she needed to find and protect Lois. Kristin had located her, and assured her husband that the girl reporter was safe.
“I thought I could fool you,” the Martian replied. “You see, I would have taken Lane, too, but you moved from one trap to another faster than I expected.”
“You kidnapped Lana, Perry, and Jimmy, and posed as Toyman, Prankster, and Brainiac,” stated Superman. “You even used your alien science to mimic their particular M.O.s!”
The Martian smiled broadly and said, “Exactly! That’s my method of operation, and it always has been!”
“What do you mean?” asked Superman, taken aback.
“Please allow me to introduce myself,” said the Martian proudly. “You may call me Mimic, as that moniker suits my artistic muse much more than my real name. H’ney is simply too mundane to describe one such as I.” Superman rolled his eyes as the Martian continued his hackneyed villain monologue.
“I was among the first Martians to arrive here. Like many others, I was assigned to take the place of a normal citizen and await the signal that the Red Brotherhood’s plan had reached fruition! But I disobeyed orders. You see, on Mars I wanted to be an actor, and when I came here, I realized nothing could be better than creating a type of performance art by becoming various super-villains or super-heroes!
“Oh, I scanned the minds of certain super-criminals and super-heroes in order to effectively impersonate them, but I never bothered to abduct them. I drew upon my acting skills to become the ultimate method actor. When I became them, I thought like them, and limited myself to the resources a particular role would have had access to. If he was a normal human with gimmicked weapons, for example, I refused to use my Martian powers. I merely copied his weapons, assumed his appearance, and put into effect a crime that particular person might have planned! When the hero won, I accepted defeat, and didn’t use my Martian powers to escape until after he had dropped me off with the police. I merely turned intangible and walked away at that time to assume my next role!
“It was delightful to pretend to be the colorful heroes and villains of your planet. Curiously, I did discover that, when I was a hero, I won more often than I did as a villain! For a time I was obsessed with your Earth’s Batman. Since he was known across the galaxy as a great sleuth, I wanted to pit my acting skills against him. I posed as several of his foes for a few months. I became one right after another, and he beat me in every role. I was young, and my acting was broad. I am afraid I made them come off as rather silly or comical. His partner Robin came up with a term for the out-of-character behavior of so many formerly serious villains. He called it Bat-Mania, joking that the foes were suffering from such a fear of the grim crusader that they had all become a bit rattled.
“Still, I gave up posing as Batman’s enemies, because he was suspicious of why, for example, the Joker had changed from a killer into a criminal comedian! It was then that I began to pose as various heroes. I even worked with Batman a few times in a few cases of the brave and the bold, but again I often took great artistic license with those roles, so many of my parts were often inconsistent with their established personas.”
“Are you telling me,” said Superman, “that you fought Batman, me, and other heroes in the guises of other Earth criminals?”
The Martian laughed. “Indeed! I even posed as Luthor on a couple of occasions, such as the time I tried to join the Secret Society of Super-Villains! (*) I freely admit I was terrible in that role — miscast, you might say! In fact, if you name almost any Justice Leaguer, you’ll find I’ve been either some of his foes or been the hero himself or herself at different times. I’d wait until, say, Hawkman was out of Midway City, and then I’d pretend to be him. I even had a Martian ally join me a few times, but sadly he died. It was too bad; he made a good Hawkgirl and a good Speedy. Naturally, I later planted false memories most of in the beings I’d copied, so there would be no loose ends later on that led back to me!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Luthor’s League of Super-Villains,” Secret Society of Super-Villains #7 (May-June, 1977).]
Superman stepped forward. “So your masters ordered you to attack me, but you had to do so in your own style, didn’t you? You just couldn’t resist.”
Mimic laughed. “One must remain true to one’s art!” he replied.
Before Superman could make a move toward him, he was suddenly distracted by a rain of cascading red, blue, and gold balls that poured down from the ceiling. The Man of Steel groaned in pain as he realized each one was laced with kryptonite.
“I call these my ping pong balls of doom!” squealed the Prankster, entering the apartment from the hallway. “I had my partner, here, pose as me so you’d assume I was just one of the roles being played, if you figured out that all the villains were the same being. You never knew that I planned the whole thing with H’ney. He tried to copy me, but I was able to weaken him with one of my heat-based gimmicks: lethal hotfoot, in fact! He told me what he was doing, and I agreed to help him. You see, with his help and my criminal genius, I was able to mimic the methods used by your deadliest foes.”
Struggling against the deadly spheres, Superman said, “But why?”
“I was recently beaten by a housewife!” the Prankster replied hotly. “I admit it! She would have framed me for murder, had pure luck not prevented it. (*) I had to do something to restore my reputation! I was one of your first foes after you came to Metropolis, around the time you became Superman, but no one takes me seriously as a threat! That’s why I vowed to help H’ney. I duplicated the techniques of some of your more celebrated foes, Toyman and Brainiac, with the help of H’ney’s Martian science. I could have done the same with a scheme based on Luthor’s tactics or the Parasite’s! The point was to prove to you — and the world — that the Prankster can be as deadly as any other super-villain! And I did it! Do you hear me? I did it!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: The Prankster: Desperate Housewife: A Halloween Tale.]
Suddenly, the kryptonite-laced sphere surged upward and struck the Prankster with stunning force before sailing away toward the sun itself.
A moment later, Supergirl stepped into the room and helped Superman to his feet. “Are you injured?” asked Lydia-7, the Supergirl from the far-future. “I regret that I failed to arrive earlier. I was occupied with smugglers, but I realized I had to find you. I knew the time had come!”
“I’m okay, but what about you?” asked Superman, puzzled. “Why didn’t the green K hurt you when you used your super-breath to move the spheres away from me?”
Hovering over the stunned form of the fallen Prankster, H’ney laughed. “Tell him why kryptonite doesn’t hurt you, ‘Supergirl!'” he cried. “Tell him the truth!”
Superman casually drove him back with a burst of heat-vision, only to see Lydia recoil sharply, before transforming into a petite, green-skinned female Martian.
Unlike the gloating H’ney, the Martian who had been posing as Supergirl neither laughed nor boasted about it. Instead, she lowered her head in shame and whispered, tears filling her eyes, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”