by Libbylawrence and Doc Quantum
On the Rock of Eternity, connected to the universe of Earth-S, the old wizard Shazam gazed into the antimatter universe of Qward using the Historama. What he saw surprised him.
Where there had been no Earth before was now a vibrant, pulsing world located in the solar system. After watching more carefully, he was astonished to discover that this was not just any world but the alternate world of Earth-Three — which he knew had been one of the last universes destroyed during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Shazam now knew what no one else did. That strange world where heroes were villains and villains were heroes had somehow survived the universe-destroying power of the Anti-Monitor.
Shazam soon learned the reason.
In the last moments of Earth-Three’s existence, Alexander Luthor and his wife Lois placed their infant son, Alexander, Jr., in a prototype craft meant to bridge the vibrational gap that separated his universe from that of Earth-One. Just as the Superman of that universe had been sent to Earth just before the destruction of the planet Krypton, so the Luthors had sent their only son through the dimensions to Earth-One. (*) Alex Luthor, Jr. would soon be retrieved from the Justice League of America’s abandoned satellite headquarters and brought to the Monitor’s own multiverse-spanning satellite, where he would grow to adulthood within days and play a pivotal role in saving five universes during the Crisis as one of the Monitor’s chosen agents.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Summoning,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 (April, 1985).]
But that was not all that Alexander Luthor had done.
The genius of Alexander Luthor, its science hero, had come through at the last second. Desperately using a modification of one feature of his amazing bio-suit to save his world, he had attempted to make the entire globe intangible so the antimatter could pass harmlessly through it, harnessing the power of that antimatter to do so. He did this without his wife’s knowledge, even as he watched Alex, Jr.’s craft disappear through a dimensional vortex. It was a desperate gamble, and as the white wall of antimatter closed in on him and Lois as they shared their last kiss, he realized it had also been a futile one.
It should not have worked, and indeed it would not have done so except for some amazing quirk of fate, if not for the actions of a being freed from the shackles of time itself who had seized upon Luthor’s intangibility function as a desperate measure to save Earth-Three itself. This being was Infinity, who had originated in Earth-Three’s 30th century, and expended the energy of a universe into Luthor’s bio-suit.
Infinity’s complete mastery over time also enabled him to turn back the clock, undoing all of the damage already done to Earth-Three, as well as all the lives taken by antimatter, and putting the world into a state of suspended animation. In a final act of sheer power, Infinity then teleported the intangible, time-frozen world and all its inhabitants, as well as several other planets, through space and time to the antimatter universe of Qward some months after the Crisis had safely ended. With that final act, the cosmic being Infinity expired, having given his life to save his world and many others as well. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: Infinity’s role in saving Earth-Three is revealed in Legion of Super-Heroes: Heroes No More?]
Now, this Earth and everything upon it — which had once been made of positive matter while in the original Earth-Three universe — was now made of antimatter like the rest of the antimatter universe, and thus would not be destroyed by any antimatter that came into contact with it.
As for the deaths that had indeed occurred at the beginning of the Crisis, they still happened. However, it was the Earth-Three of an alternate timeline that diverged the moment that antimatter struck who still lived.
What mattered was that Alexander Luthor — unknowingly assisted by Infinity — had saved billions of people and even more on other planets. In so doing, he had also saved his enemies, the powerful Crime Syndicate of America. They, along with the entire populace of the planet, were currently asleep after coming out of suspended animation and would soon awake. With a slight application of his own magic, the wizard Shazam had also ensured that the Crime Syndicate would sleep longer than anyone else, allowing Luthor to imprison them once more before they could awake and resist.
Due to this desperate stunt, however, Alex Luthor’s bio-suit had been drained of most of its power and was perhaps now burnt out for good. But with no super-criminals on the loose, would Luthor settle into retirement from heroics and devote the rest of his life to scientific pursuits?
Then a frown suddenly grew on Shazam’s bearded face. There was trouble looming on this world after all, but he was at a loss to understand how it could be stopped. All he could do was watch.
In the laboratory at his observatory headquarters, Alexander Luthor watched his computer screen with concern. The red-bearded man was a genius, and he had become his world’s sole super-hero. Yet now he feared that those days were a thing of the past.
A pretty woman entered the lab and saw the worry on his face immediately. She was his wife, Lois Lane Luthor.
“What’s wrong, dear?” asked Lois. She knew her husband often drove himself too hard and would go without sleep, food, or simple human comfort all too often in his quest to protect their world. For years, this world had been the home of super-beings called the Crime Syndicate — each of whom possessed both great power and malicious intent. No one could tame them. No law could restrict them.
Finally, one man alone had decided to take a stand and, with the inspiration of two Supermen from alternate Earths, Alexander Luthor invented the bio-suit that had enabled the noble scientist to win both the heart of Lois and safeguard their home. (*) Since then he had battled the Syndicators on his own, too, but now that they were back in a duplicate of their JLA-created prison, and the world-threatening Crisis had passed, he was torn. He pondered whether he should resume his heroic career or just be a mere scientist again and enjoy his marriage. He still marveled that he had won Lois’ heart at all. Years of quiet, lonely work in the lab had resigned him to a life of loneliness, but he had been wrong. How blessed was he that for once he had been wrong.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Crisis on Three Earths,” DC Comics Presents Annual #1 (1982).]
“Lois, the bio-suit is powerless!” he said, frustration in his voice.
A few days had passed since Alexander Luthor and the rest of the world awoke from an impossible months-long slumber known as the Big Sleep. On that day Luthor had first discovered that his bio-suit was failing, yet he had managed to keep it going long enough to devise a force-field bubble prison in orbit around Earth like a satellite. Although it emulated the one in Limbo that the Crime Syndicate had been kept in for so many years, it had none of Limbo’s unique life-preserving properties and had to be regularly restocked with food and water. Amazingly, the Crime Syndicate had remained fully asleep until the moment that Luthor completed that prison and placed them in it. Likewise, his bio-suit had remained powered until the moment that his work was done, and not one minute later. Since that time, he had been unable to recharge it fully, and had only used it sparingly until he could find the source of the problem and fix it.
“Something has drained it of all power and is keeping it drained,” continued Luthor. “I lack a source for new energy, and I fear that — even if I could fix it — perhaps I should leave things as they are. I mean, our world is now free from super-powered action of either good or ill intent. Perhaps we should just let things take their natural course.”
Lois kissed him. “Darling, I’ll support you no matter what you do, but look at it this way: What will Lana Lang talk about on the TV news if you aren’t out there saving lives?”
Luthor smiled. “Let the loquacious Miss Lang stay quiet for a while. It would do us all good to have less sensational news. I wonder what this world would have been like had it had not all gone so wrong hundreds or thousands of years ago. It’s as if we’ve lived under a curse until now.”
Lois smiled at her husband and held him in an embrace, trying to keep his mind off of the world’s problems. Inwardly, her reporter’s instincts could not have tugged at her more strongly in the opposite direction. Something bad was going to happen. She felt it. Ever since she had been a girl and her father Sam had died when the United States invaded and conquered Vietnam, she had trusted her sense of what was right and wrong. Something was definitely wrong here.
High above Earth’s orbit, a few colorful figures sat imprisoned within a huge force-bubble. Bored, they had begun arguing as they so often did, and life went on as it had so often before. They were the Crime Syndicate of America, and they had been here before.
“I feel as if we are on the cusp of something big,” declared Owlman pensively. “Something is going to happen to change our sad state.”
“I hope that means you’re going to get a breath mint,” said the laughing Johnny Quick. “Years in and out of this kind of imprisonment with you has left me sick and tired of your foul breath.”
“Once more you demonstrate that your wit is unable to live up to your dubious nom du crime,” sneered Owlman. “But why am I trying to carry on an intelligent conversation with intellectual buffoons?!”
Superwoman combed her long black hair and sighed. “What do you sense this time? I would jump at any change at this point. I almost miss the boredom and sickly sweet sentiment of Sanctuary Island at times.”
“Yeah!” said a sneering Power Ring. “That’s where I’d like to be imprisoned, if all those Amazon babes look anything like you.”
Superwoman slapped him again and said, “You really are a swine. I suppose you think you appeal to me with your brash, egotistical ways? I’d sooner mate with old Owlman than with you.”
Ultraman sat apart from the others, brooding and ignoring his peers. He desperately wanted to be free from this prison. He had tried time and again to smash free of this prison and an earlier one like it, yet except for a few rare occasions nothing had worked. Without outside help, they might stay in this bubble to their dying days.
Not for the first time, he wondered if his brilliant father could have solved this dilemma. No doubt Jur-LL could have worked out some solution or other, but the fact was that Ultraman lacked his father’s keen mind. He was strong, fast, and tough, but he lacked a super-brain. What was it that sap Superman had said? “He lacks the intellect to use his powers correctly.”
Well, his super-hearing had worked well enough for him to pick up that muttered phrase. He would have liked to prove that wimp wrong, but how could he when it might have been true? Back on Krypton, he had grown up under the shadow of a brilliant father, and he had never been able to please Jur-LL — never. That fact had greatly embittered him, for despite being the son of an infamous crime czar, he had never had the respect of his peers on that advanced world. Certainly, no one dared to bother the son of the House of LL, but still he was seen as a failure by most.
Still, that had not stopped the Science Council from convicting the teenage boy of his father’s crimes and exiling him into orbit around the planet for a duration of several years after being placed under suspended animation. The Council had waited until his father had gone missing (there were rumors that he had been assassinated by one of the other crime families) to take that opportunity to exact the punishment reserved for Jur-LL upon his teenage son Kel-LL, who — along with other hired guns — had done much of his father’s dirty work. However, not long after Kel-LL was sent away, a time-delayed planetary bomb invented by his father caused an imbalance in the planet’s very core, causing it to explode. That had been a final parting gift left by Jur-LL and had been activated by the absence of both himself and his son from the planet’s surface.
The explosion of the planet Krypton had sent Kel’s space capsule out of orbit and through a warp in space that led to the solar system of the planet Earth. His capsule crashed on Earth, where Kel-LL finally awoke from suspended animation. Soon, a radioactive fragment from the exploded planet Krypton, which he later dubbed kryptonite, unexpectedly granted him tremendous strength. Other samples of kryptonite landed upon Earth in succeeding months and years, and he quickly found that exposure to each piece of kryptonite granted him either further powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men in some cases, or at the very least a temporary boost of strength in others.
Upon reaching maturity, Kel-LL adopted the identity of Ultraman and began to make a name for himself as a nigh-unstoppable super-criminal who viewed the Earth as his own private domain to do with as he willed. With an iron fist and a cold heart, Ultraman terrorized the world with his brazen crimes, yet never sought to take over the world’s governments. Instead, he let them do all the work of governance and instead forced them to pay what amounted to protection money to keep the powerful Ultraman from destroying their lands.
Ultraman eventually found kindred spirits in other super-powered criminals who banded together with him as the Crime Syndicate of America. And they would have continued to run rampant all over the world if not for the heroes of two other alternate Earths, who defeated him along with his teammates. Things were never again the same on Earth-Three. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Crisis on Earth-Three,” Justice League of America #29 (August, 1964) and “The Most Dangerous Earth of All,” Justice League of America #30 (September, 1964).]
Since then, Ultraman had only briefly been freed on a handful of occasions, and each time was returned to imprisonment in Limbo by different heroes, such as the Supermen, the JLA, and Alexander Luthor. Perhaps most galling of all had been his defeat at the hands of that sniveling scientist who was so like his father in intellect, if not in morality. He vowed that he would kill Luthor yet. Ultraman sighed as he heard his partners begin their same old routine.
“Yes, I do sense that we shall be free soon,” assured Owlman.