Monday, May 10, 2010

MIA: The Secret Society of Super-Villains vs the Freedom Fighters

Of all the comics I wrote, what quite often comes up is a trio of issues that were never published. Those would be #s 16 through 18 of Secret Society of Super-Villains, featuring an epic battle between the SSoSV and the Freedom Fighters. The first two of the three were "published" in Cancelled Comics Cavalcade, a Xerox-copy compendium of books that were written and drawn, but bit the dust as part of the "DC Implosion." The third chapter exists only as a script.
For the benefit of those who have recently asked (and those who might in the future), I'm reprinting a lightly-edited version of the recap that appeared in my online column for Comics Bulletin some nine years ago.

Those of you who are not comics fans can click over to something else now...

A figure in the shadows says, "This is your ultimate assignment, Secret Society - destroy the Freedom Fighters!" Being blasted by Mirror Master and Chronos (with Copperhead standing by, ready to pounce) are all seven of the FFers: Human Bomb, Doll Man, Uncle Sam, Firebrand, Phantom Lady, the Ray, and Black Condor.
Yes, it's Secret Society of Super-Villains #16, with a cover by Alex Saviuk and Dick Giordano. "Murder Times Seven" (scripted by yours truly, with art by Dick Ayers and Mike Vosburg) opens with the Silver Ghost, perpetual foe of the Freedom Fighters, hiring the SSoSV to kill his enemies. Paying the tab by turning a desk to solid silver, Ghost tells Mirror Master and Copperhead that he wants them to recruit Chronos, Killer Moth, Quakemaster and Sizematic for the job. When Mirror Master points out that "some of your choices are strictly second-rate," Silver Ghost replies that he's the one footing the bill.
We switch to Provincetown, Massachusetts and Kane's Kolossal Circus, where the Freedom Fighters have taken up residence and new identities as "Travelin' Sam's Six Man (and One Girl) Show." Darrel Dane gets a phone call from girlfriend / newswoman Martha Roberts, advising him that the Silver Ghost has been spotted in Metropolis, Central City, Sun City, and Coast City.
Uncle Sam decides the team should split up to investigate. He and Doll Man will go to Sun City, while Phantom Lady and Black Condor fly out to Central City. The Ray does not like this plan… seems he wants to spend more time with the FFers distaff member. When she rebuffs him, he storms out, saying he'll handle Metropolis himself!
Shortly, in the sky above Superman's home town, The Ray spots the Silver Ghost flying right towards him. However, his target turns out to be Quakemaster riding on the back of Killer Moth, disguised thanks to KM's "illusion gimmick." The hero is zapped a number of times by Quakemaster and crashes to the streets below. When Killer Moth remarks that non one could survive such a fall, Quakemaster replies, "I know - but maybe we'd better check the body just in case." (It's a good idea, especially since we already know that The Ray was to turn up alive in his own solo series in Black Lightning.)
Killer Moth and Quakemaster can find no trace of a splattered Ray on the streets of Metropolis, but give up their search when Moth says the hero was "a being composed entirely of light energy. It's quite possible that the impact with the ground completely disintegrated his form and scatter The Ray like a million fireflies."
Deciding this must be the case, they head back to tell the Silver Ghost they've succeeded. But, "many hours later," we find the battered hero crawling out from a pile of newspapers in the alley. Seems he spotted them at the last second during his fall and they cushioned his landing. (A footnote advises readers to next seek The Ray in Black Lightning#11. Amusingly, that story had The Ray falling into Metropolis Harbor rather than onto a pile of newspapers.)
Moth and Quakemaster arrive at SSoSV headquarters with news of their victory as the Silver Ghost is watching a TV monitor. On it, Uncle Sam and Doll Man seem to be chasing the Silver Ghost. This time, it is Copperhead and Sizematic pulling off the illusion and the confrontation is the cliffhanger for this issue.

"Congratulations, Freedom Fighters - you've been suckered!" So taunts Sizematic, who, along with Copperhead, has lured Uncle Sam and Doll Man into a trap in Sun City, Florida.
That's the splash page as penciled by Dick Ayers that would have appeared in Secret Society of Super-Villains #17, had there been one.
As Copperhead wraps up Uncle Sam, Doll Man shrinks to escape the huge Sizematic, only to discover (as the Teen Titans learned when they faced the villain) that there are actually two Sizematics; one who can grow larger and one who can shrink. Though the heroes fight valiantly, both are eventually overcome.
And we switch back to SSoSV headquarters where the Silver Ghost has been watching the battle with Killer Moth and Quakemaster. After boasting about how he will see to it that all seven Freedom Fighters will die, the Ghost switches channels (and so do we) to Central City, where Black Condor and Phantom Lady are following their own lead to their foe.
As the heroes fly (Condor carrying Phantom Lady in his arms) above the city, Sandy asks him why he's never made a pass at her the way The Ray and Human Bomb have. But, before he can answer, the world seems to turn upside down. Turns out to be the handiwork of the Mirror Master, creating a massive optical illusion. When Chronos tosses his Time-Toller, with which he can make time seem to pass incredibly fast or amazingly slowly, the two heroes are overcome and fall out of the sky right into the villains' ship.
Back at the Sinister Citadel, with the four captured heroes encased in Lucite blocks, the Silver Ghost dispatches Quakemaster and Killer Moth to take care of the Human Bomb while he sets out to confront Firebrand himself. Meanwhile, aboard a plane heading for Coast City, Roy Lincoln is explaining to Rod Reilly how he became the Human Bomb. (As I'd done in issues of Freedom Fighters with the other members of the team, I worked in a one-page recap of the Bomb's origin.) When the two men deplane in Coast City, they are confronted immediately by the Silver Ghost.
Quakemaster and Killer Moth battle the Bomb, defeating him after Moth covers him in a cocoon-spray that prevents him from using his explosive powers. As the fight concludes, Firebrand sneaks up behind the FFers' foe. "Not too bright, Ghost. You've dropped your guard - let me walk right up and get you."
"On the contrary, Firebrand, this entire battle has been orchestrated to bring us face-to-face again."
"Again?! We've never met before."
"Of course we have, Rod Reilly!"
"R-Reilly!?! You know my other identity?"
"Certainly. Just as you know who I am!" With that the Silver Ghost unmasks and Firebrand shouts, "YOU?!" And as we stare at the unmasked face of the Silver Ghost, the bottom blurb (this being page 17, after all) advises us that the explanation will have to wait for next issue, leaving everybody wondering just who it is beneath the mask.
And that was all of the story that appeared in Cancelled Comics Cavalcade.

Well, of course I wasn't going to leave you hanging without the answers to the Freedom Fighters / Secret Society battle. Especially since the script had been written and I have (probably) the only existing copy.
"The Final Encounter" opens in the Sinister Citadel, where the Silver Ghost and his crew of villains have the six captured Freedom Fighters securely wrapped up. (The Ray, remember, was presumed dead, but instead turned up in his own back-up series in Black Lightning.) In the center of the room, Firebrand is bound into a chair and the Silver Ghost is berating him.
"Twelve years, Reilly. For twelve years I've waited for you to show yourself on this Earth. That is how much revenge meant to me."
The Ghost explains via flashbacks that he is actually Richard Von Zell and that he was chief Nazi magistrate of America back on Earth-X. Firebrand, posing as a collaborator, would bring information about rebel movements to Von Zell. However, they would actually lead the Nazi agents into traps, where, as Rod Reilly, the resistance leader, he would capture or kill them. Von Zell vows to kill Reilly, but learns that he had escaped to Earth-1. The villain, carrying an armload of silver bars to use to pay his way, crosses the dimensional barrier as well. But just as the journey changed or enhanced the powers of the Freedom Fighters, it turned Von Zell into a Midas with a silver touch.
With his new power, Von Zell became Raphael Van Zandt, amassing power and wealth. "When the Freedom Fighters appeared, I was convinced they had come looking for me. I created the Silver Ghost identity so I could destroy them! How fortunate it was that they lured YOU into the open before I was able to kill them."
Though the Freedom Fighters expect The Ray to show up at any moment, the Ghost tells them their compatriot is dead; and that Firebrand will be next, with a bullet in the head. But Firebrand has broken free of his bonds and a fight between them ensues. The hero charges the villain and grabs him, but the touch of the Ghost starts turning Firebrand to solid silver. Momentum carries hero and villain crashing through the window and they plummet to the ground far below, locked in a death-grip.
Back upstairs, the other five Freedom Fighters break free, leading to a free-for-all with the villains. With lots of teamwork, the heroes wrap up the seven villains.The battle ended and the police on the way, Condor goes to check on Firebrand and the Ghost. "I was hoping Rod would have survived in that silvery state, but the impact shattered his body into a million slivers of silver."
"What an irony," says Phantom Lady, "that he should be the last casualty of a World War that took place on another world."
"Rod Reilly - Firebrand - was a true American on any Earth," adds Uncle Sam.
With the Silver Ghost dead, the Freedom Fighters realize they have no way to ever prove their innocence. Rather than continue to live as fugitives on Earth-1, they decide to return to Earth-X. "After being joined by newswoman (and soon to be Mrs. Darrel Dane) Martha Roberts, the Freedom Fighters add one more "crime" to their police records: An unauthorized use of the S.T.A.R. Labs transporter in San Francisco."

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was how the story was going to end.


  1. Funnily enough, two things I always wanted to see in Freedom Fighters were a) an ex-Nazi villain following them across dimensions, and b) the team returning to Earth-X. I never knew how close we came to both those things!

    (Now, if I can just find some use for my fan ideas for Karate Kid, thirty-two years later...)

  2. A real death of an established hero. Mr. Rozakis, I like your schwerve in writing, yes I do. I miss the days...

    I remain,
    Eric L. Sofer
    The Silver Age Fogey

  3. Thanks for sharing the FF/SSoSV story. I've waited more than 30 years to learn what happened! Is DC going to print a synopsis of part 3 if they ever put out the Showcase collection that's been solicited a few times? (BTW, small world, I helped build that Family Finder product you commented on recently - though it was *not* my idea.)

  4. Ya know, I've never even seen either of the Cancelled Comic Cavalcade volumes----anywhere. Once upon a time I had some issues of Freedom Fighters. Those were some great stories, and it's a shame that the series fell victim to the Implosion.

    But I do have one question for you, Bob. What did you think of DC's decision to revive/reboot the Freedom Fighters a few years back? Good, bad, or somewhere in between?

  5. Hobbyfan --

    I recall looking at the series briefly, but don't remember much about it. As I have no claims on the characters, what DC does with them doesn't really matter to me.

  6. Thanks for sharing these Bob. I have every issue of SSOSV as it was one of my favorite series of all time. Can you give us any insight on what was going to happen between the SSOSV and the JSA? I was really looking forward to how the SSOSV planned on taking down such heavyweights as Superman, Wonder Woman, Power Girl, Dr. Fate, & the Spectre.

  7. Vince, I may have had some very preliminary ideas, but it's been 30+ years and any notes I'd made are probably long gone.

  8. There was a followup in justice league 166 were the JSA chased them from earth-two

  9. Hi Bob,
    I remember having a subscription to SSoSV when I was in junior high. I was so frustrated when the series got cancelled and I never got to see what happened with the Freedom Fighter. Thank you so much for giving this old fan some insight as to what was supposed to be. Wish I could find those Cancelled Comics Cavalcade issues!

  10. Greetings Bob.

    First, thank you so very much for the final chapter in a 30+ year saga. I just read the second volume of the SSOSV DC reprinted, and they ended it on the rough pencils of issue 17, where Firebrand shouts, "YOU!".

    The last chapter is great. Then the story leads into JLA #166-168, the famous "MindWipe" saga.

    Any other LOST tales you can share with us?


  11. Hi Bob! Question: I saved your original 9-part post about CCC from Silver Bullet Comics. That stuff is no longer on the web. This stuff is of great interest to readers of my site, Cosmic Teams, and I'm wondering if you'd allow me to reprint it there?

    1. Mike --
      I've pulled up the old files of those columns and will edit them, then post them as blog entries. Thanks for the interest.

  12. The last issue of Black Lightning with the Ray backup story was one of the early comics that I bought in '78. I had no idea at the time that it would be the last issue, but figured it out after a few months of not seeing anything. It was later that I picked up back issues of The Freedom Fighters and SSoSV.