by Marc Drayer and Comickook
As Pig-Iron, Rubberduck, and Fastback were relaxing with some music and snacks on the rooftop of the Z-Building, a shadow passed overhead. The flutter of leather wings sounded around them, and a gust of wind foreshadowed the landing of a pterodactyl, brown with black wings, wearing a mask and a dark blue suit emblazoned with the emblem of a cloud with a lightning bolt.
“What the–?!” cried Pig-Iron as the tall winged figure alighted on the roof dramatically.
Folding his wings about himself, and with his best Batty Lugosi impression, the pterodactyl said, “Do not be afraid! I just dropped in for a little… bite.” He then made a sweeping bow and said, “Stormwing at your service. I’ve come to apply for membership in the Zoo Crew.”
“But y’all’re extinct!” said Fastback.
The pterodactyl lifted one of his wings and sniffed. “It isn’t me. I took a shower this morning.” They all groaned.
“I suppose you would all like to hear my origin story now.” He quickly looked around to see if anybody else was listening, then started. “My name is Terry Dactyl, TV weatherbeast. I replaced Stanley ‘Stormclouds’ Bruin when he became that evil Solar Bear. (*) And to say the least, I’m a lot more accurate in my forecasts than he was. That is, except for one time. I predicted fair weather, but a freak thunderstorm came over. I lost my temper at my failed prediction and flew out the window into the storm. I shook my fist, in which I was holding my lucky rock, a glowing meteor fragment I found a couple of years ago. I told that storm off, but what happened instead? Lightning struck, vaporizing my lucky rock and bathing me in a strange radiance. I suddenly found I had the power to control weather as the storm quickly abated. A distant ancestor of mine was supposedly a great wizard, and I like to think I had some of his power in me.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Here Comes the Sun,” Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #18 (August, 1983).]
“Yeah, so I guess you could make your forecasts right as rain every time,” said Rubberduck.
“I thought of that,” said Stormwing. “But that would be cheating. I decided I wouldn’t do the same as my predecessor, so I swore to use my powers for good and the betterment of animalkind. I plan to rain on the parade of crooks everywhere. So, what do you say? Will you have me?”
The three Zoo Crewers huddled up to discuss the matter. “Well, Stormy — you don’t mind if we call you ‘Stormy,’ do you?” began Rubberduck.
“No, Rubberduck, I don’t mind that at all,” Stormwing responded.
“Thank you. Anyway, we are quite certain you have impressive abilities, but because of the reputations we’ve built up, we have to be careful about who we let on the team,” Rubberduck added honestly. “Mind you, this isn’t a flat out no, but we still have to be certain that you aren’t some villain trying to destroy the team from within — no offense intended.”
“None taken, sir. I suppose, in this line of work, one really can’t be too careful,” Stormwing said, nodding with understanding. “After all, with your battles with the likes of ACROSTIC, the Bunny from Beyond, and assorted other super-baddies, it would be logical to think that some clever villains might actually be gunning for you.”
“Quite correct, old thing,” a familiar voice commented with an evil cackle as Pig-Iron was nailed by a disk that securely ensnared him in electromagnetic bonds. As Pig-Iron struggled against his bonds, Fastback, Rubberduck, and Stormwing turned around to see none other than the dastardly mad scientist Dr. Hieronymous Horton Hoot, who was now garbed in a suit of super-high-tech black battle armor.
“Now I’m glad I made that brief accidental stopover fifty years in the future when I used my time machine to escape from prison — and don’t think it was easy sneaking the parts needed past the prison guards, either,” the evil scientist replied as he teleported in seven more super-villains: the Salamandroid (mark-two version), Digger O’Doom, Jailhouse Roc, the Armordillo, Solar Bear, the Squawker, and the Cheshire Cheetah.
Using a well-aimed gust of extra-cold wind, Stormwing managed to freeze off the device used to ensnare Pig-Iron without doing any damage to the massive metallic swine. “Well, I was smart enough to get in a lot of practice using my powers before I came here seeking membership,” was all the winged weather wizard said.
Hoot signalled for his android minion and super-powered hired help to attack the four heroes and keep them too occupied to attack him while he started the usual long-winded super-villain’s explanation.
“I thought to bring seven villains, not counting myself, to deal with seven heroes, but it would appear that you are four members shy. Even with this super-powered prehistoric present, we still have you outnumbered eight to four, which is especially bad for you, because, as I aforementioned, I made a brief stopover fifty years in the future when I was escaping from prison. Though I was very nearly caught by the hero crowd of that era, I still managed to procure this battle-suit and enough parts to create a more powerful version of my Salamandroid robot. After I returned to this era, which was just in time to avoid getting spotted by the heroes investigating the super-tech warehouse robbery, I then proceed to arrange the release of old cronies and those I knew would remain loyal for a shot at revenge on the super-powered civil servants who put them in prison — and for a fair piece of the loot we will gather once the Zoo Crew has been dealt with. As I said, however, we’ll have to hunt your teammates down once we’ve dealt with you, as they are obviously not present at the moment.”
Because Rodney and Felina are having a lunch date, Rova is in the middle of a celebrity interview, and Chester’s at school, but there’s no need to tell Hoot and his pals that, thought Rubberduck, as he, Pig-Iron, and Fastback were each being ganged up on by the villains. Rubberduck was attacked by the Squawker and Digger O’Doom, Pig-Iron was assailed by the Salamandroid and the Armordillo, and Fastback was confronted by the Cheshire Cheetah and Solar Bear, while the newcomer Stormwing found himself tangling with Jailhouse Roc.
The Salamandroid nailed Pig-Iron squarely in the feet with twin heat-ray blasts from his wrists. “Did I neglect to mention that one of the improvements I’ve made on the Salamandroid is that he now has retractable portable heat-ray cannons built into each of his wrists?” Hoot said with a smug smirk.
Pig-Iron, knocked to the ground and blackened with soot, muttered, “Ya could’a said somethin’ about it sooner. Just sayin’.” But he hadn’t been able to recover quickly enough, because Armordillo took that moment to roll himself into a ball to strike the porcine powerhouse like a bowling ball making a strike. As Pig-Iron slowly rose to his feet to meet his powerful attackers, he said, “All right. No more Mister Nice Guy.”
While dodging one of Jailhouse Roc’s charges, Stormwing tried whistling up lightning from the sky, briefly setting five of Hoot’s allies on the run, until the Salamandroid began to absorb that lightning. While the Salamandroid was temporarily distracted, Pig-Iron was able to land a solid punch to Armordillo’s jaw.
“Oh, silly me,” Doctor Hoot replied with an even smugger smirk than he had already. “I also neglected to mention another pesky little improvement I’ve made on the Salamandroid. In addition to solar energy, he can now also absorb electricity. All the lightning does is make him stronger. I really am sorry for failing to point that out. Bad Hoot. Bad, bad Hieronymous Hoot.”
Rubberduck, kept busy trying to take on both Digger O’Doom and the Squawker at the same time, hoped that they could summon the other Zoo Crewers quickly, because even he was being stretched to his limits. Every time Byrd Rentals braced himself against a sonic screech from the Squawker, Digger O’Doom would attack from below after digging through the ground at a super-fast pace. And just as Rubberduck began defending himself against Digger O’Doom’s attack, the Squawker would launch another screech attack.
“Anyone ever tell you guys that you’re worse than the Puppy-razzi?” Byrd muttered.
Fastback and the Cheshire Cheetah were so busy racing circles around each other that Solar Bear’s heat-blasts tended to reach the super-speedster a bit too late. Already he’d accidentally struck the Cheshire Cheetah by accident, and still hadn’t been able to hit his old foe, Fastback. Stanley “Stormclouds” Bruin wondered if perhaps his attention would be best directed elsewhere. He looked up to the two figures in the sky above and grinned evilly.
Stormwing had his claws full with Jailhouse Roc. The two soared into the air, grappling for a piece of each other.
“I’ll make you join your friends in extinction yet, and I won’t be cruel,” said Jailhouse Roc, doing his best Elkvis impression.
“Not in this lifetime, baby,” said Stormwing, pulling away for a second. “It’s back to Heartbreak Hotel for you.” He summoned a tornado, which caught the jamming bird in its whirling maelstrom, finally slamming him down to the ground before it dissipated.
“Uh, anyone get the number of that truck…? Uhhh…” groaned Jailhouse Roc before passing out.
But Stormwing had other concerns at the moment. His prospective friends were badly outnumbered. Evidently, Doctor Hoot didn’t think the winged weather wizard was much of a threat, since he’d only sent one villain after him rather than two like the others. He threw another lightning bolt, not down toward the fight but up, where it exploded with a loud thunderclap in the form of a giant stylized Z; he’d seen that in a movie once, The Bark of Zorro. He hoped the remaining members of the Zoo Crew would see the Z-signal and come running.
“Yee-ouch!” screamed Stormwing as a flaming blast seared upward. He went spiraling down, barely catching himself before he crashed.
“Weather’s getting a little hot for you, is it?” said Solar Bear, the ex-weatherbeast having accurately aimed a heat-blast at his former colleague. “For taking my job, I forecast doom for you.”
The others couldn’t help the new hero, as Rubberduck was wrapping up the Squawker and Digger O’Doom, Fastback was still racing against Cheshire Cheetah, and Pig-Iron was trading blows with both the Salamandroid and Armordillo.
Thinking fast, Stormwing reasoned that Solar Bear’s powers were heat-based, so a little Ant-arctic cold would be just the thing to cool off the hot-headed super-bruin. With great concentration, the cretaceous climate-controller conjured up a powerful wind generating the cold of two hundred degrees below zero celsius, a cold that greatly weakened Solar Bear, not quite enough to take him down on its own, but enough that Stormwing could fly up and deliver a superb kick that sent him flying right into Digger O’Doom and the Squawker. Rubberduck then wrapped himself around all three villains several times over, then snapped back to normal so fast as to send all three spinning. By the time Solar Bear, the Squawker, and Digger O’Doom stopped spinning, Stormwing’s icy wind had them securely trapped.
Meanwhile, Pig-Iron finally had enough of the Salamandroid forcing him to dance with his rapid-fire heat-ray cannon blasts, but the Armordillo was coming in fast. With a powerful pounding on the ground, Pig-Iron threw off the Salamandroid’s aim and caused him to instead hit the Armordillo. Mistaking the accidental heat-ray blast for a double-cross, the Armordillo reared his claws and charged the super-charged android. This was all the opening Pig-Iron needed to grab the Armordillo from behind and sock him squarely in the jaw. When the Salamandroid tried firing again, his blasts were deflected by a pair of mirrors grabbed by Rubberduck.
The resulting deflection nailed the Cheshire Cheetah in both his feet, which caused him enough pain for Fastback to be able to kayo him with a super-speed haymaker.
Thinking he had sorely underestimated Stormwing, Doctor Hoot was about to join the fight himself when, just at that last instant, his armor’s sensors detected the rest of the Zoo Crew coming in fast. Deciding that even with his futuristic armor and his improved Salamandroid still in the fight, he would be no match for all seven Zoo Crewers and Stormwing, Hoot decided to use his armor’s tractor beam and teleportation device to get the blazes out of there.
“Whoa. That was some pretty good work back there, Stormy,” Rubberduck admitted just as Captain Carrot, Alley-Kat-Abra, Yankee Poodle, and Little Cheese came flying in.