In a dimly lit room somewhere in the Eastern United States, a group of eight gaudily uniformed people — seven men and one woman — sat around a circular table. One chair remained empty at the table; the men present were awaiting the arrival of another. Some were anxious for this latecomer’s arrival and displayed it with unconscious nervous habits. A man dressed head to toe in black twirled the end of his pencil-thin mustache with his fingers. A red-haired man tugged absently at his spiked beard. A man in brown scuba gear adjusted the fit of his right flipper for the sixth time.
Finally, the single door to the room opened to admit the final player in the drama. The man looked over the assembled faces, who all turned to him with expectant looks. He smiled warmly at them.
“Good evening, gentlemen and lady,” the newcomer said pleasantly. “I trust I haven’t kept you waiting long. Was the buffet passable?”
“We didn’t come here for the buffet,” a bespectacled man in purple robes and hood said brusquely.
“That’s right; you came because I called you,” the newcomer said warmly. “Because I offered you the chance at something you’ve never had before: success.”
“It seems to me you’ve never been much more successful than we have,” pointed out the most gaudily costumed man present — and in this assembly that was saying something — somewhat rudely.
“Shut up and let the man talk,” a black-bearded man snapped at the harlequin.
“Thank you, Professor,” the summoner said. “Now, you all know me — by reputation, I mean. While I have not had the pleasure of personally meeting any of you before, I know of you as well. Like myself, you have striven mightily against the costumed do-gooders of this world. Like myself, your efforts have met with, shall we say, less than success. However, your particular campaigns against your respective super-foes have been — forgive me — particularly unsuccessful. In fact, in the super-villain community, you are regarded as little more than jokes.”
“One minute now–” the scuba-suited man began angrily, half-rising out of his chair.
“No, let’s face it. He’s right,” the red-bearded man sighed. “The Injustice Gang we’re not. The last time I was in prison, I was laughed at by the Clock King. Do you have any idea how embarrassing that is?”
“I’m sure,” the speaker said sympathetically. “However, if you accept what I offer you, you will never be laughed at again!”
“A question before you continue,” the purple-robed man said. “If we are the losers you describe, why have you approached us with your offer, rather than villains of the caliber of the Joker, Captain Cold, or Sinestro?”
“For precisely that reason, my friend,” the speaker said, smiling. “Our super-foes would be prepared for anything those villains had to dish out. The Batman has had such a difficult time with the Joker in the past, he is always on his guard when fighting the Mirthful Mountebank. However, our gaudily garbed friend here–” The speaker indicated the most colorful costume in the crowd. “–will not inspire such caution in the Darknight Detective. Batman will consider him an easy mark and will thus be unprepared.”
“Unprepared for what?” the gaudily garbed man asked a little tersely.
“For this!” the speaker said dramatically, producing a small device no larger than a common flashlight. “This weapon of my own design is guaranteed to destroy any of our costumed foes who happen within its beam. However, its range is sadly limited. The hero must be almost upon you before you can use it. That is why I have selected you as my associates in this enterprise. Aquaman, for example, would never allow the Ocean Master or Black Manta to get close enough to him to use this device. Our scuba-suited friend here, however, is a seahorse of another color.”
“I get it!” the man in black exclaimed. “We will use our own poor reputations to our benefit! Lull ze heroes into a false sense of security, and zen strike with your magnificent weapons!”
“Precisely,” the speaker said with a smile. “Well, gentlemen, you’ve heard my proposal. Any takers?”
They all took.