by Libbylawrence and Doc Quantum
At the Daily Planet offices, Dan Dunbar downed the last of his cup of coffee and prepared to continue his story. “Now, where was I?”
“Where were you?” Jimmy Olsen cried, nearly on the edge of his seat in anticipation. “You were just about to tell us that an evil sorcerer — who had nearly defeated the Spectre himself — was coming toward you and the others! How could you forget where you were?”
Nadir, Master of Magic, smiled at the younger man’s impatience.
Dan grinned and said, “Well, it was a long time ago. Anyway, it was 1968, and we — TNT, Air Wave, Sargon the Sorcerer, and myself — were in big trouble.”
Bandar, the evil sorcerer of Earth-Two, approached us at the foot of the Statue of Liberty, intent on our destruction.
I was itching to discharge my explosive power on this powerful, evil sorcerer before he could do any damage. But TNT, God bless ‘im, sized things up quickly and said, “Dan, hold back a minute. That guy isn’t in control of himself!” He was right, as usual. Bandar was gone, so to speak. His body was acting on autopilot, with something else driving it.
Bandar rose one arm, and with a mere gesture, electromagnetic energy emanated from him to knock Sargon flat. That was enough for me. I guess anyone in his right mind would have been scared, but I was just angry. I ran forward and pulled Sargon aside as a second barrage of sheer force slammed the pavement below us to fragments right where he had been a second before!
Air Wave ran up to us and said, “My equipment lets me hear radio or television transmissions, and I keep getting one signal emanating from Bandar’s body! It’s the word or name of Zor over and over — just Zor!”
Sargon the Sorcerer had already quickly explained that he had come from a parallel world, of course, and he knew what that name meant. “Well, the first Zor I know of was one of the Spectre’s foes,” he said. “But there was also a second Zor who fought the whole JSA — the Justice Society of America. He was an energy being from space who took over a kindly old toymaker named Willie Wonder and used his body in an attempt to destroy my Earth! (*) Well, he’s back, and he’s in Bandar this time! Perhaps I may be able to expel him with the Ruby of Life.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Spectre, More Fun Comics #55 (May, 1940) and “The Workshop of Willie Wonder,” All-Star Comics #31 (October-November, 1946).]
Without another word, he walked right up to Bandar. It was about the bravest thing I had ever seen. Touching the Ruby with one hand and Bandar with the other, he said in a cold, commanding tone, “Leave this host!”
The energy being called Zor immediately left Bandar’s body with a crackle that hurt all of us and left Bandar unconscious on the ground. “He’s out of the sorcerer,” said Air Wave, “but now he’s free to take a more powerful host! What if he takes over someone like Superboy or even the President?”
“Put him in me!” cried TNT. “Quickly!”
Sargon the Sorcerer blinked in dismay at first, but I think he knew he had no other choice but to trust TNT’s judgment, so he slammed one hand into the nimbus of ball energy that was Zor and commanded, “Enter TNT!”
Tex screamed, and his eyes grew bright with light, but after a few very frightening moments, he was himself once again. “I can control Zor with my energized body,” TNT explained. “He won’t harm others or get a chance to possess anyone else. My metabolic state makes me uniquely suited to hold his energy form.” And it seemed to be true. The threat genuinely appeared to be over, at least for a few moments.
But then, Tex’s eyes glazed over, and he suddenly looked like he was possessed, just as Bandar had been. It seemed like my old friend and mentor was gone, and Zor was all that was left in his body. I couldn’t let that happen. So without a thought for myself, I ran up and slammed my ring into his.
As I had half-guessed, the energy discharge from our rings managed to send part of Zor into me, too! With Zor split in half between us and imprisoned by our will and our special, energy-based body chemistries, he was weakened.
Air Wave then called out, “I detect another power surge! He’s going to blow you both up if he can!”
Sargon leaped forward and tried a desperate ploy. “Begone from this world!” he cried as he touched us both. This caused Zor to be banished from us — or so we thought. Although we didn’t know this at the time, in reality, Sargon’s spell had only put Zor into a dormant, unconscious state.
With the menace of both Zor and Bandar now passed, Sargon the Sorcerer attempted to return to his own world of Earth-Two. But try as he might, he could not return. With a good sense of humor, Sargon said he’d have to simply adjust to starting over on a new world. He returned to New York City with us, and that was when he noticed just how much he had lost when he left his home on Earth-Two. Remember, it was the late 1960s. Flower children and hippies of my generation were walking the streets everywhere, not to mention the strange styles of automobiles and clothing. Sargon really began to feel like he was on a parallel world where history had taken some wild turns.
That was when he told us the kicker. Sargon had been battling Bandar on Earth-Two in the year 1950.
At the time, we figured that Sargon and Bandar had been trapped in Limbo between Earth-Two and Earth-One for eighteen years, somehow. But Sargon didn’t think that any suspended animation or time travel was involved. He theorized, way back in 1968, that there must have been some kind of slight time difference between the two Earths that accounted for the different years, something to do with a vibrational delay. We didn’t think much of this until years later, when the JLA discovered this to be true during their frequent cases with the JSA.
Sargon was also taken aback to learn there weren’t very many super-heroes on this world, and that the few there were had all begun their careers several years after those of Earth-Two’s heroes. Captain Comet, of course, appeared in 1951. But it wasn’t until the late 1950s and early 1960s that me and TNT, Superboy, Air Wave, Plastic Man, and Robotman, as well as the Guardian in Metropolis, began to appear.
What startled Tex and I was when Sargon explained that all of this generation of heroes, except for Captain Comet, had counterparts on Earth-Two that had begun their careers exactly eighteen years before we did. It was strange to think of another TNT and Dynamite who were much older than we were on that other world. Moreover, there were many more heroes on that world that overshadowed our counterparts greatly. And instead of a Superboy, there had only been a Superman on Earth-Two, who was the first costumed hero of that world. That doesn’t seem as strange now, since Superboy has been Superman for nearly twenty years now, but back then it was weird to think of history being so different.
Well, Tex and I decided to go back into retirement after this case, and you know what happened over the next few years, as many more super-heroes emerged onto the public scene. Except for Superboy, our generation was all but forgotten by the public we had protected. Of course, we had never been in it for the glory, and the heroes in the JLA seemed to be doing a better job of it, anyways.
As for us, the United States government sealed us away from all human contact in an underground bunker for more than a decade.
Dan Dunbar stopped speaking in order to take a sip of water.
Nadir, Master of Magic, looked appalled at the idea. “Whatever for?” he asked. “Surely you couldn’t have been a threat to the population.”
Dan nodded. “I’m afraid we were.”
“Lois Lane wrote a feature story about it,” said Jimmy Olsen sympathetically. “She interviewed TNT in Kandor a few years back. (*) But I’d really like to hear how it happened from your point of view.”
[(*) Editor’s note: “The Museum of Eternity,” Superman Family #190 (July-August, 1978).]
“All those wasted years,” said Dan. “I really don’t like to think about them. It felt like our lives were permanently on-hold back then. I know that thirteen years passed, because that’s what the government told me, but it could have been thirty years for all I knew.” Dan paused for a few moments. Finally, he added, “Y’know, back when I was in college, I felt like my whole life was ahead of me. And it would have been, had it not been for these blasted atomic powers.”
Dan sighed deeply and said, “Anyway, here’s how it happened in a nutshell. A few months after the incident at the Statue of Liberty, our use of atomic power brought us to the notice of the FBI, who soon traced our true identities. With the consent of my parents, Tex and I were taken to a top-secret government project, which I cannot name. Suffice it to say that this project wanted to use our discoveries to help America gain preeminence over the Soviet Union in any way possible, both through our insights into atomic power and even through our unique DNA. We weren’t at war, of course — at least not directly — but the Cold War was still very real back then, even more than now. When they asked for our help, I remember that Tex looked at me. When I gave him a slight nod in the affirmative, Tex turned back to them and said, ‘If our country needs us — all right.’ In hindsight, I wish we’d made a different decision, but it probably ended up preventing disaster.
“You see, it wasn’t all that long before the project scientists discovered that our powers were getting out of control. Our energies started flaring up wildly whenever we were near one another. That was, of course, due to our earlier encounter with Zor and the energies that were still inside us from that incident, but we didn’t think of it at the time. I only realized this myself later. We no longer needed to touch rings, and they couldn’t keep our radiation in check now, anyway. So we figured that we could simply split up — stay away from each other — as difficult as that would have been. But the scientists told us that even that wouldn’t be enough. They said that we would have to be sealed from all human contact. The reason was because, although the radiation we emitted couldn’t harm us, it would be deadly to others.
“So in the end we had no choice,” continued Dan. “In 1969, the government built for us a pair of underground bunkers in the Southwest. And there we lived for thirteen years, shielded from all human contact and from each other. Our only direct contact with the outside and each other was by special closed-circuit television. Our food was sent in through special lead-lined dumbwaiters. The radiation within us didn’t wear off, but it did have one odd effect. Tex and I remained about the same age physically. Our aging processes had been halted.
“It all remained unchanged until 1982,” said Dan Dunbar. “That was when we were freed, and that was when our lives took another strange turn.”