Lex Luthor had suffered greatly in his time. He had become friends with Smallville’s legendary hero Superboy, and he had been rewarded for his brilliant mind when the Boy of Steel, who had respected his intellect, created a super-laboratory for him. But when his discoveries had threatened Superboy’s pride and status as Smallville’s best, the vengeful Kryptonian hero had destroyed the lab with fire and robbed Lex of his hair via a chemical accident. Feeling as if he had lost his stature in the eyes of the community and been forever set apart as one inherently less worthy of respect because of Superboy, Luthor developed a mania. He became obsessed with the punishment of Superboy, who had betrayed their friendship. He vowed to use his mind to kill the Boy of Steel and gain the fear, if not the respect, of the world. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “How Luthor Met Superboy,” Adventure Comics #271 (April, 1960).]
Thus had begun warfare between the two. Luthor had come close to winning over Superboy several times, but he had always been defeated by the alien youth. Now he harbored a new grudge against the boy. His own family had disowned him and changed their name to avoid association with the now-notorious Luthor. He had not seen them or his little sister Lena in years.
He admired the plush manor house to which the weird little flying craft had brought him, noticing that the rooms were well-decorated, and the staff obeyed their unseen master with military precision. He would not take orders so blindly or so readily in spite of the debt he supposedly owed his rescuer.
“My time is valuable!” he shouted. “Show yourself, or I’ll leave now. My appreciation has its limits.”
An evil old man in a regal military uniform entered, rubbing his gnarled hands together in anticipation. “I assure you, young Luthor, time is a commodity that I never undervalue,” he said with a gleam in his eyes. “Time — more time for me — is why I liberated you. My name is General Immortus.”
Finding himself in the past, Captain Comet had gone to Midwest City in hope of keeping the Plasmen from ever invading the little community. He was surprised to learn that not only had they not invaded, but they had never existed.
“This is very odd. I apparently went back in time, but not to the time I remembered,” he mused. “I’m in some other dimension where the rules are different. They didn’t even know me in town, and I would have been reference librarian there not too many years ago, as far as their time goes. I’m in some alternate dimension, and that means, perhaps, anything goes!”
He frowned as he heard people talking in the drug store. “Miss Walker!” he said, smiling. “At least my favorite pharmacist is still around, even in this place.”
The pretty, dark-haired woman smiled as he entered. “May I help you?” she asked.
He realized that Adam Blake apparently did not exist in this dimension and asked her, “What’s the excitement about, Miss?”
She nodded toward the talking customers, who were gathered around a small television set. “Oh, it’s the latest Superboy news,” she said. “He stopped a forest fire not that far from here.”
Captain Comet nodded. “Superboy! Maybe he’s just the ally I need to get me back home.” He hurried out and took to the air.
After a flight across the country, he soon reached Smallville, located just a few miles inland from neighboring Metropolis.
“Nice town. Funny, it makes Midwest City look like Chicago in comparison. Still, it gave birth to the greatest hero I’ve ever met — or at least he was raised there!” He smiled as he saw a pretty teenage cheerleader working out with a squad. That’s Lana Lang! he thought. I met the adult version briefly.
However, he saw no sign of Clark Kent anywhere. I guess young Clark avoided the football field, he thought. He kept up that meek pose from boyhood onward!
He walked toward the Kent General Store and entered to see a friendly older man working behind the counter. “Mr. Kent? I’m Adam Blake. I’m here because I need the help of Superboy. I know his secret.” He was whispering, although the little store was empty.
“I don’t understand, stranger,” said Jonathan Kent, frowning in concern. “Just who are you?”
Adam opened his coat to reveal his brightly colored Captain Comet costume. “I’m from the future. They call me Captain Comet. Your son as an adult will be my friend and ally.”
“Land sakes! You’re really not from around here!” said Jonathan Kent.
Two youths entered at that moment. One was bookish and wore a red sweater, even though it was the middle of summer. The other wore a costly suit that certainly did not come from Smallville.
“Clark, your Ma and I need you to do something here,” he said. “I’m afraid your visitor will need to come back later.”
“Bruce, here, is leaving today anyway,” said Clark. “His Uncle Philip is sending the car for him.”
“Bruce Wayne?” asked Captain Comet as he recognized the youth.
“Yes, sir. But I’m afraid you have the advantage of me,” said the observant Wayne. “Captain Comet, isn’t it? I recall your costume from the papers.”
The foursome gathered in the comfortable Kent home shortly thereafter, and Captain Comet was amazed to learn that in this dimension, he had been Captain Comet but had never lived in Midwest City.
Apparently, I settled in Metropolis in this world, he thought. I suppose the other me is not literally me, or I would be a phantom due to the vagaries of time travel. Still, a mind-scan for my powers of mind indicates that the other me is not on Earth right now.
Superboy was now in costume. “Bruce, here, learned my secret, and he has one, too,” he said. “He was the Flying Fox you might have heard about recently. (*) We were going to block our memories of this meeting to keep certain future events intact when we walked in on you.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Origin of the Superman-Batman Team,” Adventure Comics #275 (August, 1960).]
Bruce Wayne wore the same suit with a purple fox-styled cowl and cape. “We can hold off on that hypnotic measure for a bit,” he said to Superboy, then turned to Comet. “You say you come from our futures? How may we help you?” he asked, getting right to the point.
“First, I see your keen mind and mature judgment were instilled in you early on,” said Comet. “You will also be a friend of mine years from now. A benefactor as well!”
“So you are not the Captain Comet we’ve read about?” asked Bruce. “He went into space recently.”
Comet nodded. “I’m a counterpart, you might say. I don’t even know how I arrived here.”
“I’ve visited the future before and have capable allies there,” said Superboy. “One of them is a master of time travel technology.”
Captain Comet nodded. “I believe I know who you mean, but another idea occurs to me. Perhaps Professor Hyatt or Professor Potter could assist me.”
“Lana’s uncle!” said Superboy, looking surprised at the name. “Good idea. You sure know your material, for a stranger.”
“Hold it!” said the Flying Fox. “Before we take any action, we’d best get over to the bank — there’s some kind of trouble!”
They rushed off as Jonathan Kent shook his head. “Clark’s going to have some good friends when he grows up. That’s good to know.”
Five thugs raced out of the bank. “I tell ya, it’s a thing a beauty!” said one of the teenage punks. “With Superboy so busy around the world, nobody thinks ta rob a bank in his home town!”
“Sure! It’s a real gas!” said his friend.
“Hart, put down that wacky horn — we got to lay rubber!” they called to their driver, a rich kid seeking cheap thrills, whose sports car was worth more than all the money in the bank.
As they piled into the car, Superboy landed in front and smiled. “Nice wheels,” he said. “Too bad you don’t have any!” They gasped as their vehicle slammed down on bare axles.
Captain Comet grinned. “A super-speed tire removal! Nicely done!” He mentally pulled the guns out of the hands of each teen, saying, “Let’s keep this simple.”
The Flying Fox nodded. “Don’t want to hurt any bystander by deflecting bullets.” He casually tripped and stunned a punk with a smooth judo move.
Superboy flew the startled gang to juvenile hall as the driver sighed. “Should have never left Central City,” said Hartley Rathaway. (*) “Being a robber was just a pipe dream!”
[(*) Editor’s note: Hartley Rathaway grows up to become the Pied Piper, foe of the Flash.]
Captain Comet turned to his young allies as a crowd cheered. “We make a good team,” he said with a smile. “Perhaps I came here for a reason after all. Let’s talk to your Uncle Philip. I’d like to make you boys an offer. How about joining a team I’m thinking of starting?”
Superboy grinned back. “I’d like that.”
The Flying Fox nodded and said, “I’m still in training, but I could learn a lot from someone with a brain like yours.”
They shook hands, and a new legend was born.
Elsewhere, Lex Luthor pointed to a chart and said, “My studies of your problem enabled me to reach a conclusion that concurs with your own. The potions that keep you alive are failing. Your immortality is soon to be a thing of the past. Your efforts to find some new way to prolong your life have failed, and so you need me.” He smiled coldly as he concluded.
General Immortus nodded. “I did give you your freedom, young sir.”
“It was ever within my grasp, old man,” said Luthor, sneering. “Still, I’ll save you. My studies of your biochemistry told me that you can be restored. My personal studies of certain alien substances that arrived on Earth led me to a little-known fact that might be just what the doctor ordered for you.”
Immortus leaned forward. Curse the pup, he mused. He is brilliant!
“I always want kryptonite,” said Lex. “I have tracked meteors or comets in hopes that they carry the stuff or something equally effective for my war against Superboy. I learned one such comet that landed eons ago, according to legend, may be what you need. The radiation from it is said to grant immortality.”
The General grinned wickedly. “Excellent! How do we acquire it? Can you pinpoint it? Is it intact?”
“No,” said Lex. “It split in pieces. If assembled, they will give you eternal life. Gather them from these locales.”
Immortus frowned. “Wait. What do I do with them after I locate them?”
Luthor grinned. “I’ll keep that to myself until after you’ve helped me kill Superboy. Deal?”
General Immortus nodded ruefully. “Indeed!”
Quickly, General Immortus assembled a team to secure the precious comet fragments. Luthor scowled at one team leader.
“That punk leads a salvage job?” he scoffed. “He’s younger than I am!”
General Immortus turned toward the dark-haired youth as he readily assembled a crew of burly men to locate a submerged part of the comet.
“Marius, there, knows the sea better than men twice his age,” he said smugly. “His father was a lighthouse keeper. Boy has saltwater in his blood. Leave the management of men to me, my genius. You do the analytic work.”
Lex nodded. “Fine. How you acquire the space rocks is your business. Did you acquire the other tool I demanded?”
“I acquired the scientist you requested,” said Immortus. “Magnus is in a cell below.”
Luthor smiled. “Excellent. I may keep you on staff!”
Immortus silently cursed the arrogant young genius.
News of Captain Comet’s new team spread as they succeeded in rescuing many in need. They did not remain in Smallville but were mobile, going where the need for their heroics arose. The media coverage was impressive as well. Comet’s Crusaders were everywhere.
One very small girl clutched a stuffed monkey and watched them on the news with eager and wide blue eyes.
“Angel, time for dinner,” called Mr. O’Day. “Come on!”
Angel nodded and placed the toy monkey near a Nancy Drew book. “You wait here, Sam,” she scolded.
Elsewhere, a pretty girl won a local beauty pageant as crowds clapped and one youth looked on with pride.
Daphne Dean will make a wonderful Miss Harvest! thought Barry Allen as he glanced at his watch. Gosh, I almost missed the crowning, too, ’cause I was late!
Adam Strange looked up from a college textbook and waved away his roommate. “I’ve got to study,” he said. “You go to the movies without me.”
The other lad whined, “But, Adam, you always have your nose in a book. When are you going see the real world? Come on — Rita Farr’s starring in Jungle Princess! It’ll be great!”
Adam smiled and turned back to his book. “Some guys never get anywhere in life,” sighed the other lad as he left.
General Immortus did not tell Luthor that he had consulted other brilliant young men as well. One worked alone, financed by Immortus. His name was Niles Caulder. He would loom large in the life of the wily old rogue. However, there was another who sought more exotic means to prolong life.
His name was Felix Faust, and he had stumbled onto a rumored race of magic-users in a hidden valley. His mentor King Inferno had already set out years before to conquer this land in Turkey. Still, young Faust had found something of value. In Africa, he learned there dwelt a man called by various names. One name was Doctor Mist, and Faust wanted to know more, since legend had it that Mist was immortal — perhaps even one of the so-called Homo Magi.
Faust decided to check this lead out on his own after accompanying one of Immortus’ teams to a comet landing sight in Africa. He departed from the others as they roamed through the jungle.
One very sinister figure led this group. He was mysterious and used an alias; that much was obvious. He led the team toward the chuck of comet, but it was clear he had big plans for his future.
“The comet is ahead. Odd, my sensors detect a large amount of simian life-forms not far from here in a valley bathed by the glow from this embedded comet. I wonder how its radiation altered those apes or gorillas below. Perhaps it evolved them or gave them greater strength of mind and body. That would fit if the radiation bestows immortality on humans.”
Imagine the mind of a man and the body of a beast! he thought. Such a combination would be unbeatable!
“Hey, look at Brains up there!” sneered one of the lackeys as they loaded the comet into a wagon. “He’s lost in his own thoughts again!”
Meanwhile, unseen and undisturbed in the hidden valley below rested a wonderful city full of such evolved apes. Gorilla City was its name, and one day its natives would encounter Earth heroes — but not yet.
One golden gorilla noticed all that occurred. It noticed with a keen and knowing human mind. The mind belonged to one called Bill — Congo Bill. He was an explorer and adventurer who could swap minds with a gorilla when he rubbed a special ring. He did so from time to time when human abilities were not enough to do a job.
He frowned and returned to a base where a handsome man pawed the ground in animal fury. My human form gets restless, he mused as he rubbed the ring and inhabited his own form again. The gorilla clawed at dirt and ate ants as Bill mused over what he had witnessed.
“Those goons are up to no good. I recall seeing their leader on Interpol wanted posters. I could take them down, but for what? I guess some are wanted men like their Brains, but maybe I should call in more powerful help.” He fingered a newspaper, reading a recent headline. “Maybe Captain Comet’s new team.”
Elsewhere, below the ocean depths, the crew led by Orm Marius retrieved the comet, while passing nearby a secret city. This city contained mermen and mermaids all with telepathic powers possibly granted by the comet’s radiation as it bathed over their hidden home. A teenage girl named Lori Lemaris swam unseen and watched them work. These men intrigued her, but she kept out of sight.
Maybe someday I could even venture upon the surface as well, she mused.
One other youthful figure spotted them. He had actually been searching for one in particular. He sought the lad called Marius, since as his half-brother he was all-too aware of the youth’s criminal bent and hoped to save him from a dark future.
Father did favor me because of my gifts, mused young Arthur Curry. I only wish I could help Orm see that I love him and can’t help what I am!
He had become known among shipping lanes as a hero of sorts in his own right. Aquaboy was what a few old skippers called the powerful boy. He would soon encounter more serious trouble than the modern pirates and wrecked ships he encountered.
One such pleasure yacht passed far overhead. It held a party of many rich men and women.
A pretty girl named Doris Drake flirted with a reckless boy named Oliver Queen. A bored, slightly older young man named Steve Dayton enjoyed watching the idle rich, though he was one of them. He had a trained eye, for he had begun psychology studies.
None aboard the ship of Captain Mark Compass would enter the tale as more than unknowing passersby.