At 9 pm on May 14, 1942, Sandra Moore sat in her cramped, stifling office and mused. She blew smoke towards the ceiling and watched it hang there, not dissipating or being moved by the poky ceiling fan, only gradually becoming indistinct from the smoke stains already on the ceiling. Sandra watched the smoke curling and slowly fading, trying to ignore the old, cracked and peeling wallpaper, the heaps of paper strewn about the office, the filing cabinets overflowing with carbon copies and paper originals and manila folders.
She took long, contemplative drags on her cigarettes and thought about the problem before her. Outside, the traffic from Pennsylvania Avenue, only slightly diminished because of the wartime gasoline rationing, made its way up and down the street, the sounds mournfully dopplering away. The loss of the Lexington a few days before had cast a pall over the city, and although the papers said that the battle in the Coral Sea was actually a defeat for the Japs nobody really believed that, and so the capital, like most of the rest of the US, was feeling grim about the war.
Sandra, who was in a position to know quite a bit more about the war's progress than the average Joe on the street, knew that the public was right to be depressed about the war, but also knew that the public had a surprise coming in a week's time, a very pleasant surprise. But despite what was to come at Midway the future would remain dark for quite some time to come.
Permanently, in fact, unless Sandra took action. But action itself had its costs, as Sandra well knew, and in this case the price would be a hideous one. Sandra balked at what she'd been told to do, knowing something of the future results of her actions and feeling guilt for what she was about to do.
For the twentieth time in the past hour she entertained the notion of disobeying her orders. But for the twentieth time she stopped herself in mid-fantasy, reminding herself that what was written was written, and not all her could intentions could change that.
Sandra sighed heavily, feeling miserable and bitter, and reached for another cigarette. With a start she realised that there weren't any more, that she'd smoked straight through two packs, and that her mouth was parched and tasted like gravel. She muttered a curse she'd learned in Java and reached for the phone on her desk.
"Give me Frank Robinson 89657, please. Yes, I'll wait."
"Yes, thank you. I'll need contact information for the following subjects: numbers 16, 37, 74, and 122, please."
Three a.m., the "Hogshead," a notorious bar on Chicago's lakefront. Bruiser, a tough stevedore, was surrounded by fellow longshoremen, most of whom were well on their way to unconsciousness. Bruiser had told them that he'd struck it big earlier, unloading cargo for a wealthy businessmen for a high fee. So Bruiser was using the money from that job to stand rounds for his friends. Now, hours after they'd started drinking, tongues were loosened, wits dulled, spirits lifted, and the Hogshead was filled with a happy, drunken babble, one that supplanted the usual sullen atmosphere.
One of the dock workers, an old-timer named Steve, was boozily telling his friend Frank about an upcoming job.
"...sssooo we're, we're gonna have to, to, to get ready next Saturday morning. The, the Roman's, he's, the Roman's sending something to his sisisister."
Bruiser didn't turn his head, but he strained and focussed on Steve's words. Three weeks of undercover work were about to pay off.
The door to the Hogshead swung open, and conversation abruptly halted. Standing in the doorway, backlit by the fog-shrouded lights of the docks, was a beautiful blonde dressed in a man's business suit. Bruiser felt a rush of annoyance, recognizing the woman immediately. Before he could figure a way to distract the other men in the bar, the woman pointed at him and said, in a voice guaranteed to catch the attention of everyone present, "You. You weren't there tonight. I had to come looking for you."
Bruiser put on a smirk and muttered to the men around him, "Looks like someone wants the good stuff." He exchanged lewd grins and winks with the other men in the Hogshead as he sauntered to the woman, put his arm around her shoulder, and began stage whispering endearments and apologies to her as he guided her out of the bar.
He kept up the act until they were in her car, then said, "Damn it, Sandra, do you know how close I was?" As he said this he began taking off his makeup.
She did not look at him, sitting next to her, as she drove, concentrating instead on figuring the best way to make it back to the private airfield in Lisle. As she drove she said, "King, come one. You know I wouldn't have done this unless I had to."
Once divested of his makeup The King, the wizard of costumes and disguises and sworn enemy of crime, found the clothes Sandra had brought him and changed into them. (He had been in theater long enough not to be fazed at the thought of changing in front of a woman, and Sandra had been around the world often enough not to blink at the sight of a handsome man stripping naked in front of her) Clothed in his usual tuxedo and smoking the brand of Cuban cigar he favored, he nodded slowly and said, "Yes, I suppose I do. What did you have in mind?"
Sandra did not respond for a moment, her face becoming increasingly grim. Finally she said, "I need you to kill a man."
Nine a.m, New York's Upper East Side, a penthouse apartment. The King and Sandra stood outside the apartment door, hammering on it. After two minutes they heard faint groans from inside. The King shot Sandra a quick grin and said, "I told you that getting him up before noon was cruel and unusual punishment."
Sandra puffed on her silk-cut cigarette and, unsmiling, said, "You're not going to have a lot of cause of laughing, where you're going."
The King shrugged, still grinning. "Dear Sandra, I laugh that--"
"--that you can be sure that someone laughs at your jokes."
The door opened, interrupting the King's response. A tall, handsome blond man, wearing only silk boxers, blearily looked at them. "King, what did I do to you to deserve this?"
Sandra took in the man's tousled hair and generally rumpled appearance and said, "We interrupt you with company?"
The man lazily smiled and said, "Perhaps. You are...?"
Sandra snapped, "I'm Sandra, Cosmo. You've got two minutes to hustle her out of here and get dressed. We need you."
Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise, sighed and said, "Charming as always, Sandra. Let me tell Carole that she has to go, and I'll get dressed. King, what's this about?"
The King smiled. "You'll love this, Cosmo. We're going to war."
Sandra, the King, and Cosmo stood in front of the jail cell. The lights in the cell had been removed (the man inside was too good at using wires and electricity to make weapons and tools) and the man they had come to talk to sat in the rear of the cell, obscured by the dank shadows of the cell.
"...and that's why we need you. In exchange, your record will be cleared and you'll be free to go."
Several seconds passed in uncomfortable silence. Despite the reassuringly solid steel bars between Sandra, the King, Cosmo, and the man inside the cell, both the King and Cosmo kept their hands near their weapons and tried to conceal their nervousness from each other and the inmate. His reputation was an evil one, and although neither had fought him they'd heard stories of what he was capable.
The inmate stood up and slowly shuffled foward into the light. The King and Cosmo involuntarily took two steps backward, more than a little daunted by the sheer size of the man.
Crusher Crock, the Sportsmaster, sneered down at Sandra. "And all you want from me is to kill some Nazi? Who happens to be in the middle of Europe right now? That's all?" He did not bother to disguise the contempt in his voice.
Sandra locked eyes with him, letting him see her disdain for him and lack of fear of him. "Yes. Take it or leave it."
She mentally counted three beats, and then turned and began walking down the hallway, saying, "C'mon, boys. We'll see if Professor Crane is willing to--"
"Wait." Crock's growl raised the hair on the back of the necks of the King and Cosmo. "Yeah, I'll go. But I want my equipment first."
Sandra looked over her shoulder. "Only what can be concealed underneath workman's clothing, Crusher. And no mask. I'm afraid everyone's going to have to see your face. Sorry."
As she continued down the hall she muttered, with feeling, "Damn me." The King and Cosmo exchanged worried glances and followed her.
Welcome to the first issue of New Fun Comics. The original came out in 1935 and was DC's first comic with all-new, original material. It only last six issues, but gave birth to Dr. Occult and represented the first real work of a pair of youngsters named "Siegel" and "Shuster." They went on to better things in the comic book industry, and New Fun, after six issues, was changed into More Fun Comics, which had a very respectable run of over 120 issues and debuted a number of characters, including the Spectre and Starman.
So why am I writing a book which hasn't been around for 65 years? And who are Sandra, and the King, and Cosmo?
Just like the rest of the folks on the All-Star site, I'm a fan of the DC characters, especially the Golden Age ones. But I'm something of a curiosity, as my affections in large part go to the more obscure DC characters, the ones who don't get much press, either in comics or fanfiction, and who are never even considered for resurrection. I love the JSA as much as anybody, and I bow to nobody in my devotion to Dr. Occult, but there's something about the untapped potential of a Bart Regan or The Federal Men that fires my imagination. Now, I happen to know a good bit about these characters--more, I say with no false modesty, than 99% of the fanbase. And I know enough about them (and own enough of their adventures) to want to write adventures starring them. And so I'm here.
Eventually I'll do a Who's Who of these characters, probably tied in to an upcoming web project of mine detailing DC's Obscure Golden Age characters.
I havenít had the
time to work on fanfic very much, for a variety of reasons. And I donít
really have the time to write the long, involved, dense stories that I
prefer. So what Iím doing with this seriesĖand I thank the kind of
indulgence of Eric Northcutt, for letting me do things this wayĖis write
shorter issues, between 2-4 pages long. Admittedly this means that individual
issues will be much shorter, not just than what I usually produce, but
than most other issues, as well. But this also means Iíll be able to write
the issues quicker than I normally do, so that the end result will be more
pages from me. Thatís the plan, anyhow. Weíll see how I do.
Next issue: Conversations and Arguments
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