Back in his lab, Alexander Luthor watched his computer screen with concern. The red-bearded man was a genius, and he had become his world’s sole super-hero. Yet he now feared that those days were a thing of the past. A pretty woman entered. She was his wife, Lois Lane Luthor.
“What’s wrong, dear?” asked Lois. She knew her husband drove himself too hard and went without sleep, food, or simple human comfort all too often in his quest to protect their world. For years, this world had been the home of super-beings called the Crime Syndicate — all of whom possessed great power and malicious intent. No one could tame them. No law could restrict them. Finally, Luthor had taken a stand and, with the inspiration of two Supermen from alternate earths, he had invented the armor that enabled the noble scientist to win both the heart of Lois and safeguard their home. He had battled the Syndicators on his own, too, but now that they were back in a duplication of their JLA-created prison and the world-threatening Crisis had passed, he was torn. He wondered to himself whether he should resume his heroic career or just be a lab man again and enjoy his marriage. How he marveled still that he had Lois. Years of quiet lonely work in the lab had made him resigned to life alone. He was wrong. How blessed was he that for one he had been wrong.
“Lois, the armor is powerless!” he said, frustration in his voice. “Something has drained it of all power. I lack a source for new energy, and I fear that — even if I could fix it — perhaps I should leave things as they are. I mean, our world is now free from super-powered action of good or ill intent. Let things take their natural course.”
Lois kissed him. “Darling, I’ll support you no matter what you do, but look at it this way: What will Lana Lang talk about on the TV news if you aren’t out saving lives?”
Luthor smiled. “Let the loquacious Miss Lang stay quiet for a while. It would do us all good to have less sensational news. I wonder what this world would have been like had it had not all gone so wrong hundreds or thousands of years ago. It’s like we’ve lived under a curse until now.”
Lois smiled at her husband and held him in an embrace, trying to keep his mind off of the world’s problems. Inwardly, her reporter’s instincts could not have tugged her more strongly in the opposite direction. Something bad was going to happen. She felt it. Ever since she had been a girl and her father Sam had died when the United States invaded and conquered Vietnam, she had trusted her sense of what was right and wrong. Something was wrong here.
High above Earth’s orbit in a huge green bubble sat some colorful figures. They were bored and had begun arguing, and life was going on as it had so often before. They were the Crime Syndicate, and they had been here before.
“I feel as if we are on the cusp of something big,” declared Owlman pensively. “Something is going to happen to change our sad state.”
“I hope that means you’re going to get a breath mint,” said the laughing Johnny Quick. “Years in and out of this bubble with you has left me sick and tired of your foul breath.”
“Once more you demonstrate that your wit is unable to live up to your dubious nom du crime,” sneered Owlman. “But why am I trying to carry on an intelligent conversation with intellectual buffoons?!”
Superwoman combed her long black hair and sighed. “What do you sense this time? I would jump at any change at this point. I almost miss the boredom and sickly sweet sentiment of Sanctuary Island at times.”
Power Ring sneered, “Yeah! That’s where I’d like to be imprisoned, if all those Amazon babes look like you.”
Superwoman slapped him again and said, “You really are a swine. I suppose you think you appeal to me with your brash, egotistical ways? I’d sooner mate with Owlman than you.”
Ultraman sat apart from the others brooding, and he ignored his peers. He desperately wanted to be free from this prison. He had tried time and again to smash free of this prison and earlier ones like it, yet nothing had worked. Without outside help, they would die in this bubble. He wondered if his brilliant father could have solved this dilemma? No doubt Jur-LL could have worked out a solution, but then Ultraman lacked his father’s keen mind. He was strong, fast and tough, but he lacked a super-brain. What was it that sap Superman had said? “He lacks the intellect to use his powers correctly.”
Well, his super-hearing had worked well enough for him to pick up that muttered phrase. He would have liked to prove that wimp wrong. But how could he when it might have been true? Back on Krypton, he had grown up under the shadow of a brilliant father, and he had never been able to please Jur-LL — never! That had embittered him greatly. Even as the son of an infamous crime czar, he had never had the respect of his peers on that advanced world. Certainly, no one dared to bother the son of the LL House, but still he was seen as a failure by most.
However, that had not stopped the Science Council from convicting him of his father’s crimes and exiling him into orbit around the planet for a duration of several years while under suspended animation. They had waited until his father had gone missing (there were rumors that he had been assassinated by one of the other crime families) and had taken that opportunity to exact the punishment reserved for Jur-LL upon his teenage son Kel-LL, who — along with other hired guns — had done much of his father’s dirty work. However, not long after Kel-LL had been sent away, a time-delayed planetary bomb invented by his father caused an imbalance in the planet’s very core, causing it to explode. It had been a final parting gift left by Jur-LL and had been activated by the absence of both himself and his son from the planet surface.
The explosion of the planet Krypton had sent his space capsule out of orbit and through a warp in space that led to the solar system of the planet Earth. His capsule crashed on Earth, and Kel-LL woke up from suspended animation. A radioactive fragment from the exploded planet Krypton, which he later dubbed kryptonite, unexpectedly granted him tremendous strength. Other samples of kryptonite had landed upon Earth in succeeding months and years, and he quickly found that exposure to each piece of kryptonite granted him further powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, or at the very least a temporary boost of strength.
As Ultraman, Kel-LL began to make himself a tyrant who ruled with an iron fist and a cold heart alongside other super-powered criminals who banded together with him as the Crime Syndicate of America. That is, he had done so until he was defeated along with his teammates by the heroes of two other alternate Earths. Things were never again the same. He had only been freed briefly since then and had been returned to captivity on several occasions by different heroes, such as the Supermen, the JLA, and Alexander Luthor. Perhaps most galling of all had been his defeat at the hands of that sniveling scientist so like his father in intellect. He would kill Luthor yet.
He sighed as he heard his partners begin their same old routine. “Yes, I do sense we shall be free soon,” said Owlman.