“You have got to be kidding me!”
Guy Gardner could scarcely believe what he was seeing. Moments earlier, he and his teammates — Animal Man, Fire, and Ice — were literally rocked out of the Conglomerate Headquarters, the former Justice League Bunker in Detroit, by the power of Major Disaster and his new Injustice League: Multi-Man, Clock King, Cluemaster, and someone unexpected. Out of the clouds came a Green Lantern, but not any Green Lantern that Guy had ever seen before. This ring-wielder was not human but canine, and some said he had fleas. But how reliable were the reporters at the Intergalactic Inquirer, anyway? His name was odd.
“G’nort? What kind of name is that?” Fire looked at Guy like someone had pulled her leg.
“Ya got me, Bea. Ain’t never heard of this mutt. Yo, Dog-Boy, what do you mean brainwashed? Major Disaster here is a major league villain.”
G’nort shook his head. “They told me you would say that Mr. Gardner. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to come with me.”
Guy just laughed. “Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”
Multi-Man turned to Major Disaster and said angrily, “Can we please get this over with? I am not having a good day, and I need to get home and take my meds!”
Shaking in frustration, the Major yelled, “Fine! Let’s just get this over with so we can take on the real Justice League!”
The wind began to blow harshly as the Major raised his hands to the sky. Fire started off after Cluemaster, while Multi-Man began to stretch toward Ice. Animal Man called upon the strength of the rhinoceros and charged toward the Major. Above the fray, G’nort Esplanade Gneesmacher and Guy Garnder were facing off.
“You really want to take on the best Green Lantern there ever was, Dog-Breath?”
Clearly nervous, G’nort replied, “Whatever it takes to release you from this evil spell you are under, Mr. Gardner.”
“Then take your best shot.”
G’nort’s fist came flying toward Guy’s face.
Guy’s hand came up and grabbed G’nort’s hand — or was it a paw? appendage? — and stopped it cold. “Uh-uh, doggie. No more one punch, now or ever. Time for the one, true Green Lantern to take you to the dog pound!” Guy said with a stern tone.
“Dog pound?” A feral grimace crossed G’nort’s snout, and he began to growl at Guy. At that moment, an emerald newspaper appeared in front of G’nort and smacked itself across his snout. Instinctively, G’nort whimpered and flew off.
“Hey! Wait!” Guy yelled after the canine Green Lantern. “Ah, jeez… heel!” And Guy took off into the sky after the canine Green Lantern.
Elsewhere, Fire had the Cluemaster pinned behind a building. “You might as well give up, hombre. Smoke pellets aren’t going to do you a bit of good against a woman who breathes el fuego.”
Cluemaster came out from where he was hiding, his hands in the air. “You’re right. They won’t.”
Fire slowly came toward him. “Good. Glad you have some sense, even if your amigos don’t.”
Cluemaster broke out into a smile. “You misunderstand. I agreed that smoke pellets would be ineffective. I didn’t say anything about these.” Cluemaster quickly threw some pellets that he had between his fingers, and the resulting explosions caught Fire off-guard. “I’m not just a one-trick pony, you stupid woman.”
Meanwhile, Ice and Animal Man were squaring off against Major Disaster. Behind them was a very frozen Multi-Man. “You fools!” Major Disaster cried as he fended off the heroes attacks. “I command the power of nature itself. Your resistance is futile!”
“Tell that to Multi-Popsicle, Major,” Animal Man said as he charged toward the Major. Suddenly, a rather large arm came out of nowhere and grabbed Buddy, slamming him to the ground.
Major Disaster smiled. “My secret weapon, Animal Man. He may not be the brightest villain ever, but he is immensely strong. He can hurt you.”
Ice looked in horror as the hulking figure came closer.
Elsewhere, at Lord Enterprises, Maxwell Lord stared through the large glass window as the doctors worked meticulously on Mace Gardner.
Excellent. Everything is proceeding according to schedule. Four recruits signed up, and if everything else plays out as I suspect it will, they’ll never know what hit them. Max exited the observation room and walked down the hallway to the elevator.
Amazing what can come to you in a dream. These new mental powers of mine seemed to have tapped into an alternate world. Hmmm. If they get any stronger, I’ll be able to put spandex on myself.
As he walked off the elevator, Max noticed that the door to his office was open. Miss Wootenhoffer had already gone home for the day. There shouldn’t be anyone in there. Max approached cautiously.
“Whoever you are, I can have my security team here in under ten seconds. Show yourself.”
The lights popped on, and Max saw a figure sitting in his chair. “Greetings, Mr. Lord. Won’t you come in? It is your office, after all.”
Max was fuming. “What in the hell are you doing here?”
Back at Conglomerate Headquarters, Animal Man found his air supply being cut off by the giant hand that was holding him. “Tora…”
Major Disaster was insufferably pleased with himself. “Every group needs some muscle. Of course, the Conglomerate seems to have forgotten that. He wasn’t my first choice, but after a few years in prison, he was more than willing to come work for me. May I introduce Bork?”
The hulking man monster began to laugh. “After tangling with Batman and the Flash, these geeks are hardly worth the effort, Major. (*) Shall I kill him?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “But Bork Can Hurt You,” The Brave and the Bold #81 (December, 1968-January, 1969).]
“No-o-o-o-o-o!” Ice let loose with a blast of ice that sent Bork crashing back into the frozen Multi-Man, shattering him into a million little pieces. Animal Man fell to the ground clutching his throat.
Major Disaster hovered over Animal Man and Ice. “Enough of this game-playing. Time for you two to surrender or die!” The look on Disaster’s face changed from pleasure to pain as someone blasted him from behind. He crumpled to the ground next to Animal Man.
Buddy Baker looked skyward, expecting to see Guy, but instead he saw someone else. “Who the hell are you?”
Bork and Major Disaster lay unconscious in the shattered pieces of Multi-Man. Animal Man was being helped to his feet by Ice as another figure joined them, someone they had never seen before.
“Are you all right, Animal Man?” the stranger asked.
“I’m fine. But who are you?”
The man standing before them was tall and good-looking (like there were any heroes who weren’t?). His costume was gold with blue accents. His blond hair was framed by a blue mask that resembled high-tech sunglasses. He stuck out his hand. “Name’s Booster Gold. Looks like I showed up just in time.”
Tora looked at him with confusion. “Booster? What does that stand for? Usually our names mean something or reflect our powers in some way. I don’t understand.”
The man called Gold smiled. “Well, I like to think of myself as worth my weight in gold, and I’m something of a shameless self-promoter, so…” Booster was interrupted by a tinkling sound. The pieces of Multi-Man were coming back together. Bork and the Major were also rousing.
“Tora, we need to get the others,” Buddy said, suddenly realizing how dire the situation had become. But as the trio of heroes tried to depart, they found themselves unable to move.
“Looks like my powers this time aren’t so useless,” Multi-Man gloated.
“Can I hit them now, Major?” Bork said with a sadistic grin on his ugly puss.
Major Disaster walked slowly toward the immobilized heroes. He began to stroke Ice’s face. “All but this one. You my dear, have a choice. I can love you, but Bork can hurt you. Do what you will with the other two. Then we’ll deal with Fire and Guy Gardner.”
“Get your damn hands off her!”
Major Disaster looked up just in time to see the Cluemaster drop on top of him. Fire was the one who dropped the villain, as Bork closed in on the three immobilized heroes.
“Let them go, Multi-Man, or I won’t hesitate to barbecue your behind!” Multi-Man raised his other hand to immobilize Fire, when a green boxing glove came out of left field and clocked him. Animal Man, Booster, and Ice regained their mobility just in time to see an emerald blur.
“That takes care of the pointy-eared freak,” Guy Gardner said as he landed between Ice and Bork. “Now it’s your turn, you cheap Kilowog wannabe!”
As the heroes piled onto Bork, Major Disaster climbed out from under the Cluemaster, shaking his fists. “I have had enough of this!” The Major was about to summon the storm when he felt something tearing the flesh on his leg. He looked down to see G’nort biting him. “Get off me, you stupid mutt!”
G’nort looked up at the Major, a feral snarl on his face. “Grrr. You lied to me. Mr. Gardner explained it all.”
G’nort let out a yelp as Major Disaster kicked him away. “This is beyond humiliating. You’d never see Hawkman pecking me to death. Time to salvage what dignity I still have.” Summoning the power of the storm, the Major separated his cohorts from the Conglomerate. Using the gale force winds to keep the Conglomerate at bay, the villains made good their escape. “We’ll be back!”
By the time the heroes could regain their bearing, the villains had disappeared, leaving some confused heroes in their wake. “Who’s this jerk?” Guy asked, pointing at Booster.
“He saved us, Guy,” Animal Man said. “His name’s Booster Gold.”
“Uh-huh. Well, Rooster, thanks for the help. How about you take your feathers and molt?”
“Hold on a second, Guy. Booster did us a good turn. Maybe we should consider him for membership?”
Had anyone else besides Ice uttered those words, Guy might have suggested what cliff they should jump off of. In this case, he decided to hold his tongue. “All right. Let’s take this back inside.”
“Ooh, ooh, can I come, too, Mr. Gardner?” G’nort said as he raised his, uh, paws, and bounded up and down off the ground.
Guy put his hand over his face and dropped his head. “All I wanted was a new JLA, and instead I get all the rejects from the Gong Show.”
Meanwhile, 22,300 miles above the Earth:
“Monsieur J’onzz, did you receive the Oreos without trouble?”
Looking at the image of Catherine Cobert on the monitor screen, the Martian Manhunter replied, “I did indeed, Ms. Cobert, but I am unsure as to why you sent them. I do not want to seem ungrateful, but I cannot think of any logical reason for you to send them to me.”
“Consider them an incentive.”
“I am in the process of recruiting the final members for the new Justice League International, and I was hoping to have your endorsement.”
J’onn appeared to be perturbed. “Ms. Cobert, the name Justice League is not for sale, no matter how much you might bribe me.”
“I see. I had hoped to do this with some civility, Mr. J’onzz, but it appears you have left me no choice. I am faxing some papers to you now. It seems that no one ever bothered to copyright or trademark the name Justice League of America. Or, more accurately, no one until me. Rest assured, you will still be allowed to call yourselves the Justice League… of America. Or perhaps Justice League America, non? I would not want the bad publicity. However, Justice League International will move forward whether you like it or not. Good day, Mr. J’onzz.”
J’onn sat in front of the screen that had displayed this scene, then turned to his left. “That was our conversation one week prior, Batman.”
“That jibes with the conversation that Metamorpho had with Ms. Cobert. After the Maxwell Lord incident, I was keeping an eye on her activities, but with her virtually stealing the Justice League name out from under us, I am more convinced than ever that there’s something wrong here.”
“I agree, Batman. While you look into the legal issue, I have a visit to pay on someone. My relief should be here momentarily, and…”
As if on cue, the teleporter hummed to life, coalescing in the forms of Green Arrow and Black Canary. J’onn and Batman both did a double-take as the archer and the bird-lady exited the tube. “Before you say even one word, I tried to talk her out of this,” Green Arrow said, shaking his head.
“By the gods of Mars, Dinah! What were you thinking?”
“I am not going to take fashion advice from a green Martian who runs around with red straps across his chest and little blue trunks that don’t leave much to the imagination!” Black Canary said as she sat down at the meeting table.
Her new costume was something of a departure from the blue and white costume she’d adopted last year: black leather body-suit, black fishnets, black biker boots, black leather jacket with pushed-up sleeves, black choker with white canary figure at throat, black fingerless biker gloves, and black flat-top haircut.
“And I thought I was angry!”
“Oliver, you know why I changed my costume. I wanted to get out from under my mother’s shadow. The blue and white jumpsuit obviously didn’t work, so that’s why I chose this. It honors my mother’s costume and at the same time says don’t mess with me.”
J’onn said something that the Canary couldn’t quite hear.
“What was that, J’onn?” she asked.
Suppressing a grin, the Martian Manhunter replied, “I said I like it. Quite a looker.”
“If we’re done with all the snappy banter, three of us need to pay a visit to Ms. Catherine Cobert,” Batman said as Canary and the Manhunter head to the teleporter tube. “Since I’m assuming you’re staying behind, Oliver, there’s a couple of people I need you to call for me.”
Outside the meeting room of the Conglomerate, Booster Gold and G’nort waited anxiously to find out if they were going to be inducted into the Conglomerate.
“Rooster, congratulations! You’re the first new member of the Conglomerate!” Guy said as the doors slammed open. He clasped Booster’s hand and his shoulder.
“That’s Booster, Guy.”
Guy’s face turned a little angry. “And that’s Mr. Gardner ta you, bub.”
As the others gathered around Booster to welcome him aboard, they heard a whining sound. G’nort could be seen jumping up and down, his tail wagging. “Oh, damn. I forgot about him,” Guy said as he walked over to the canine Green Lantern. G’nort’s face lit up.
“What about me, Mr. Gardner, what about me?”
“Ah, jeez, G’nort, ummm, well, we were discussing things and well, you being a fellow G.L. and all, though I’m not sure how that happened, um…”
Fire jumped in and put her arm around G’nort, “What Guy means, G’nort, is that you being a fellow G.L. presents a problem. There’s a law here on Earth that only allows for one Green Lantern per team. The JLA has the original Green Lantern…”
G’nort’s eyes went wide. “The greatest Green Lantern of them all!”
Guy was about to say something when Ice put her hand over his mouth and dragged him away. Fire continued. “Right. And we have Guy. So you see, even though we’d love to have you, we just can’t.”
G’nort looked a little dejected, but he kept a brave face. “I understand, Miss Fire. So are there any other groups here on Earth?”
“Well, as a matter of fact, I can think of two that don’t have a Green Lantern. The New Titans and the Outsiders. I am sure that either Nightwing or Batman would love to have you!”
As Fire walked off with G’nort, Animal Man was watching Guy, Ice, and Booster Gold chat. There’s something about that man I just don’t like. I can’t place my finger on it, though. Something’s just not right about that Booster Gold.
As Animal Man went back to his room to call his wife, Ellen, Booster was chatting with Guy and Ice. “I can’t thank you all enough for voting me into the group. I’m curious, though, where’s the Blue Beetle?” Booster asked with a genuine look of concern on his face.
“Geez, Rooster, you ain’t very good with names, are ya?” Guy said, “His name was the Beetle, and he got himself killed when we were fightin’ Despero.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Pyre, Chapter 5: Day of Despero.]
Ice punched Guy in the arm and gave him a dirty look. “Guy Gardner! Don’t you dare disrespect Ted like that! He died a hero, Booster. Guy makes it sound so awful.”
Booster looked a little shaken. “He did? I… I thought, I mean, in my time… oh, wow…”
“Your time?” Ice asked.
“Um, yeah,” Booster said as he scratched his head. “You see, I’m originally from the future. I read about your adventures in holovids, and boy was I surprised when I saw myself in them. I couldn’t imagine how, but then one day things happened, and I ended up back in the twentieth century. But it looks like things aren’t exactly as the old records said. I mean, Blue Beetle and I were supposed to be a team, but he’s dead. And the group was supposed to have another name. It wasn’t the Conglomerate, it was supposed to be…”
Booster was interrupted by a voice from behind. “Justice League International, perhaps?”