Doctor Destiny intended to be a master thief, but the Justice League of America stopped him before he could steal his first valuable. After that, he spent the rest of his Silver-Age career trying to destroy the League from his jail cell. He never did make that big score.
Professor Amos Fortune, on the other hand, was well on his way to a life of wealth and luxury, without ever having to worry about the law or costumed crime-fighters. He could have had the easy life, except his ego got in the way.
Professor Fortune was one of the few JLA villains about whom we knew a considerable amount of his background. A fat, toad-like man, he spent his boyhood as a chubby youth on the low-rent side of a large city. Nicknamed “Pudge”, he was the leader of a small gang of juvenile delinquents---three other boys and a girl called Queenie. In between street fights, they committed petit larcenies. Sort of a larcenous version of “Our Gang”. Thanks to Pudge’s brains, they were able to steal and always get away with it.
Eventually, the small-time hoods went their separate ways, and the grown-up Pudge looked for a less risky way of making a living without working. Becoming a gambler of moderate success, Fortune’s fertile brain began to examine the concept of luck. As he researched the laws of chance, he became convinced that something physiological, within the human body itself, determined whether one had good luck or bad luck. Something that worked as scientifically as the law of gravitation.
After years of experimentation, Fortune found the answer.
“At long last, I pinpointed the luck factor as unsuspected twin glands in the human body! Just as emotions can be controlled by the electric stimulation of the hypothalamus gland---so I can control luck by stimulating those two glands!”
Yeah, I know the science is shakier than Barney Fife’s gun hand, but that’s the way Professor Fortune explained it in his first appearance, in “The Wheel of Misfortune”, from JLA # 6 (Aug.-Sep., 1961). Anyway, there was no arguing with success. Acting on his discovery, Fortune invented the “stimoluck”, which could activate a person’s good-luck gland, or his bad-luck gland, as he desired. Stimulating his own good-luck gland, Fortune began to enjoy extraordinary success. He made a pile of money at the gaming tables. At the track, he inevitably picked the winning horses. And he made a killing on the stock market, his hyper-active good luck gland intuiting when to buy or sell at the precise moment.
Fortune amassed a fortune. (You knew I was going to say something like that, didn’t you?) And life would have rolled along just fine for the luck-filled gambler---if he hadn’t gotten overconfident and decided to prove a point. Just as he infused himself with good luck, he was going to show how he could cause others bad. He chose as his target the Justice League of America. “If I could hit them with bad luck---despite their super-powers,” he calculated, “I could inflict it on anybody!”
The professor tracked down six members of the Justice League---Aquaman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, the Green Arrow, the Green Lantern, and the Martian Manhunter---and, in turn, used his stimoluck to cause each hero misfortune while on individual cases.
Convinced of the power of his device, Professor Fortune goes back to making money, following the instincts of his stimulated good-luck gland. Meanwhile, the Justice Leaguers arrive at the Secret Sanctuary for a regularly scheduled meeting. (Superman and Batman sit out this adventure without even the courtesy of a “tied up on urgent cases of their own” excuse.) There, they do a little moaning and groaning, as each hero relates his recent spate of bad luck.
Soon enough, they get tired of the mutual bitching session and, with no other pressing business at hand, they go through their mail. In the pile of fan mail requesting autographed photos, there are two pleas for help---one from a girl asking the JLA to solve a riddle which will reveal the location of a family treasure, and the other from the curator of a museum from which valuable artifacts are being stolen by an invisible thief. Dividing into two teams of three, the JLAers rush off to solve the mysteries.
Despite being jinxed by the stimoluck, the Justice Leaguers succeed admirably. Professor Fortune is perplexed---the JLA members should have experienced nothing but further bad luck. Somehow, his luck-gland hypothesis is off. Injury is just about to be added to insult, too, when Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern discover the rotund luck master making off with the hidden loot of the museum thief.
Fortune zaps himself with an added boost of good luck and the JLA team with an extra dose of bad luck. The result of this is that the three heroes are taken out by a method that Gardner Fox should have been embarrassed to put to paper.
Back in his laboratory with his three captives, the professor gives himself an even more intense dosage of good luck. This results in the other JLA team being lured to Fortune’s lab and, essentially, capturing themselves.
After some calculations, the villain concludes that when he imbues subjects with bad luck, eventually, their good-luck glands strengthen and compensate for it. Accordingly, his bad-luck gland will eventually counteract all of his good fortune. Not to fret, though, because he has figured out a solution.
Fortune places the six League members upon what looks like a giant chuck-a-luck board he dubs the Wheel of Misfortune. As it spins, each hero’s luck gland will be zapped by a giant version of the stimoluck until it atrophies and dies. Thus, there will be no good-luck gland to compensate for their bad luck.
At least that’s the plan. And it would have worked too, if it hadn’t been for a simple oversight which was there for even the reader to spot. Instead, Fortune goes to jail and the stimoluck goes into the Secret Sanctuary souvenir room.
Now, if it were me, I’d just cool my heels in prison, serve out my time, build me a new stimoluck, and go break the bank at Monte Carlo or something. But then, I’m no Amos Fortune.
“The Secret of the ‘Atom’ Bomb”, from JLA # 14 (Sep., 1962), opens with the annual membership meeting of the League. After the votes are taken, including two proxies from Superman and Batman, who are playing hooky again, the count reveals a unanimous selection---the Atom is the newest member of the Justice League of America.
There’s just one tiny snag: none of the heroes ever heard of the Atom!
Not a one of them can recall a thing about him. Yet, they all voted for him. This is worse than any nonsense about dangling chads. After some general head-scratching by all the members, the Flash suggests to his good buddy, Green Lantern, that he ask his power ring if it holds any knowledge about the Atom.
The ring spits back a synopsis of the past year’s worth of Atom adventures, from his Showcase appearances and the first issue of his own mag.
The Manhunter from Mars volunteers to go to . . . where was it, again? . . . oh, yeah, Ivy Town, and seek out the Atom. Everybody else heads for home.
Our Heroes may have been in the dark, but Chapter Two brought us lucky readers up to speed. The Atom had fallen victim to a criminal invention called “the de-memorizer”. Anyone struck by the invisible beam of the de-memorizer instantly loses all knowledge of who he is or anything about himself. Due to a bizarre side-effect of the device, everyone else on Earth loses all memory of the victim, as well.
The brain behind the de-memorizer was a mysterious figure, shrouded in a purple hood and robe and calling himself “Mister Memory”. The mastermind arranged the loss of the Atom’s memories as a demonstration for five arch-foes of the individual Justice Leaguers---Angle Man, the Sea Thief, Hector Hammond, Doctor Davis, and the Pied Piper (each of whom, along with Mr. Memory himself, had been treated with an antidote to the de-memorizer’s side-effect).
The deal is simple: Mr. Memory will provide the five with de-memorizers. When the villains next confront the super-heroes, if they are forced to use the de-memorizers to escape, they will turn the defeated heroes over to Mr. Memory.
In Coast City, Central City, beneath the waves of the California coast, and in the skies over Star City and Washington, D.C., the villains embark on separate crime sprees. As could be predicted, each JLA member wins out over his respective foe’s usual tactics, but falls victim to the de-memorizer. Memoryless, they are then easily defeated, and Green Lantern, the Flash, Aquaman, Green Arrow, and Wonder Woman are handed over to Mr. Memory. The mystery mastermind himself “de-memorizes” J’onn J’onzz in Ivy Town.
As for the Atom, he has been wandering around the fields outside Ivy Town, muttering “Coronet Blue” or “Shenandoah” or whatever. The Tiny Titan accidentally activates his size controls and suddenly diminishes to microscopic size. The shock of the transition restores his memory, and he returns to his normal six-inch height in time to see Mr. Memory make off with J’onn J’onzz.
The Atom trails Mr. Memory to his secret hideout but falls victim to the hooded criminal, who then attempts to destroy the Justice League. The Tiny Titan recovers in time to save the day. Our Heroes pounce on Mr. Memory, pin him to the wall, and unmask him. Of course, they discover that their unknown foe is really . . .
Well, not really. The Caped Crusader, it seems, was the first victim of the mystery mastermind’s invention. While robbed of his memories, he was brainwashed to pose as Mr. Memory and be the real villain’s front man. It doesn’t matter, though. With the information provided by the restored Batman and the aid of J’onn J’onzz’s martian vision, the real villain of the piece is rooted out of his hidey-hole.
Mister Memory is actually Professor Amos Fortune. Deciding not to trust to luck anymore, he had invented the de-memorizer and adopted a new super-villain identity---for all the good it did him.
You’ve got to hand it to ol’ Pudge. Not too many Silver-Age criminals had the fortitude to go back to square one and re-invent themselves with new costumed identities and tactics. The Signalman and Mister Element come to mind, but the list isn’t much longer than that. But Amos Fortune topped them all. When it came to returning to the drawing board, he had fortitude in spades---or rather, in clubs.
In “The Card Crimes of the Royal Flush Gang”, from JLA # 43 (Mar., 1966), the Justice League runs up against a quintet of super-crooks in costumes evoking a playing-card motif. Dressed to represent a royal flush---the Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and Ten of Clubs---they embark on a wave of robberies. This attracts the attention of the Justice League. But, astoundingly, Our Heroes are defeated when the Royal Flushers inflict them with handicaps based upon the fortune-telling lore of playing cards.
Hawkman is exposed to the seven of spades, which supposedly foretold a disagreement, and suddenly he turns argumentative and disruptive. Wonder Woman is hit with the nine of spades, the sickness card, and doubles over in nausea. The five of diamonds distorts the Flash’s vision, and for the Batman, the four of diamonds, the card of betrayal, and he finds himself irresistibly compelled to subvert the other JLAers’ actions.
In one of writer Gardner Fox’s slight uses of characterisation, Superman shows some ego and frankly, he is a little pissed at his fellow members.
“I told you to leave this gang to me!” he barks. “Just clear out of my way---!”
They do---most of them are out of action, anyway---and the Man of Steel confronts the gang. Then the Ace of Clubs flashes the death card, the ace of spades, and Superman collapses to the pavement, filled with weakness as his super-powers evapourate.
The breathless readers, turning the pages with fingers shaking in suspense, don’t find this out until the last page, but I’ll go ahead and tell you---the Ace of Clubs is actually Amos Fortune, in his next new super-villain identity.
After breaking jail again, Fortune went back to his original field of study, the laws of chance and the science of luck. Only this time, he went off in a different direction. “There is a strange force that influences cards and their luck,” he surmised. “That’s why they’re used to tell fortunes! Even astrologers maintain that something about the stars ‘impels’ people to act as foretold in their horoscopes!”
Fortune isolated this force, which he termed “stellaration”, and after months of experimentation, constructed a device to absorb stellaration and intensify it. He learnt that bombarding a deck of playing cards with stellaration created a formidable weapon. If a stellaradiated card were focused on a person, auto-suggestion, amplified by the radiation, would cause the victim to experience whatever a specific card represented in fortune-telling lore.
Some of the stellaration Fortune collected came from giant red stars, which is why it was able to affect Superman.
With his stellaration weapon in place, Fortune called together his four boyhood cronies and enlisted them to team up as the Royal Flush Gang.
Back at the Secret Sanctuary, the five Justice League members are sitting around the council table, crying in their beers. Honorary member Snapper Carr tries to rally the team, but they pretty much tell him to put a sock in it. Undaunted, Snapper comes up with an idea, and by needling the argumentative Hawkman, manipulates him into duplicating Amos Fortune’s stellaration-gathering device.
The ol’ Snapster’s idea was to fight fire with fire, and he cons the Winged Wonder into imbuing him with an intensified dosage of stellaration. Once filled with the stellar force, the honorary JLAer is able to cancel the earlier effects of the playing cards on the super-heroes.
Back in fighting form, the Justice League heads off for the Royal Flushers’ hide-out, taking Snapper along with them, to neutralise the effects of the gang’s stellaradiated weapons. The card crooks fold like a seven-deuce in Texas hold’em. The revealed Amos Fortune complains that his stellaration gimmick didn’t work any better than his stimoluck device or his de-memorizer.
“That makes it three strikes and out, professor!” says Snapper.
Too bad that nobody told Snap that crime-fighting isn’t baseball. Because Amos Fortune gave it one more try, this time in yet a fourth costumed identity.
The plot of “History-Making Costumes of the Royal Flush Gang”, from JLA # 54 (Jun., 1967), is a tortuous one. If I describe it by starting at the beginning and avoiding the flashbacks, it might go faster,
While driving along a mountain road, Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan spots a car that has plunged over the embankment. The luckless driver, explorer Alvin Marley, is beyond any chance of saving. In dying breaths, he tells Jordan that, after years of searching, he discovered the greatest treasure in the world, marked the location on a map, and sent the map to a friend in Cape City for safekeeping. He asks Jordan to retrieve the map and turn it over to his daughter, Irene Marley, then dies.
Hal calls Irene Marley, gives her the bad news, and asks her to meet him in front of the bookstore where the map is being kept by the proprietor, her father’s friend. That night, in Cape City, Jordan receives the map from the bookstore owner, but while he is waiting outside for Irene, he is clouted over the head and the map is stolen. Hal goes down, a good chunk of his skull pulped. Irene Marley arrives in time to call an ambulance.
The incident makes the news broadcasts as far away as Central City, where Barry Allen hears the report that his good friend Hal Jordan lies in critical condition at Cape City General Hospital. As the Flash, he super-speeds to Cape City General, where he is informed that Jordan’s brain is injured, it’s grievous, and for that matter, he should be dead. The Flash knows that Jordan is secretly the Green Lantern and that the invisible power ring on his finger is preventing his injury from being mortal.
Left alone with Hal, the Scarlet Speedster wills the power ring to tell him what happened. The ring does so, then dies out, its twenty-four-hour charge exhausted. Now Hal doesn’t even have the protection of his ring.
The Flash activates the JLA emergency signal; Batman, the Atom, J’onn J’onzz, and Wonder Woman respond, and the situation is laid out for them. Assignments are quickly handed out. Batman and the Flash will interview the bookstore owner and Irene Marley, to try to get a lead on Hal’s assailant. Wonder Woman will fly out to get Dr. Clay Rockwell, the world’s foremost brain surgeon, to operate on Hal. Meanwhile, the Atom and the Manhunter will stand by in the hospital room, in case any other JLAers show up.
The Batman and the Flash learn nothing useful from the bookstore owner, but at Irene Marley’s address, they arrive in time to interrupt her kidnapping by two strongarms dressed as Sir Lancelot and Alexander the Great. To the JLA duo’s surprise, “Lancelot” and “Alexander” attack them with super-powerful weapons. Batman and the Flash manage to rescue the girl, but the villains escape by vanishing into thin air.
Across the country, at Dr. Rockwell’s home, Wonder Woman also interrupts a kidnapping. A woman dressed as Queen Elizabeth the First is attempting to make off with the renowned surgeon. “Good Queen Bess” also fights off the Amazing Amazon with super-powered weapons and then disappears from sight.
And back in Hal Jordan’s hospital room, a Serpent Man and a British jurist calling himself Judge Duffy are surprised to find two Justice Leaguers waiting. It’s a repeat of the other two instances. Serpent Man and Judge Duffy throw fantastic weapons at the Atom and J’onn J’onzz, but lose out in the end and vanish before they can be captured.
In an underground laboratory far from Cape City, the five villains regroup. The leader, Serpent Man, recaps for their---and our---benefit.
After learning that Alvin Marley had discovered the location of “the greatest treasure in the world”, Serpent Man waited for the explorer to return to Cape City. He even bugged Irene Marley’s telephone, expecting Marley to call his daughter. Thus, when Hal Jordan called Irene, informing her of her father’s death, the reptilian villain found out about the plan to recover the treasure map.
Lying in wait, Serpent Man ambushed Jordan and stole the map. The map revealed the location of the treasure, alright, but there were notations on the map, entered in an ancient language. Calling the rest of his gang together, Serpent Man launched a three-part plan: kidnap Irene Marley, hoping she could interpret the old language; kidnap Hal Jordan, in case Alvin Marley had told him what the notations meant; and for that, they would need Dr. Rockwell, to bring Jordan out of his coma. The scheme went south, though, thanks to the unexpected interference of the Justice League.
Serpent Man decides not to waste any more time over the unreadable notes. They will head immediately for the location of the treasure, deep in Asia Minor.
Meanwhile, Wonder Woman has brought Dr. Rockwell to Cape City. The prognosis is grim. Hal has less than a hundred-to-one chance of survival. Rockwell begins the operation immediately.
While the Justice Leaguers pace the hospital corridors impatiently, the Batman’s keen deductive mind is working on all cylinders. Not having the benefit of being able to read the title of the story, the World’s Finest Detective figures it out the hard way:
“It just struck me,” he tells his fellow members. “We’ve been battling our old foes, the Royal Flush Gang! According to the history of cards, the king of clubs was derived from Alexander the Great, the club queen from Queen Elizabeth the First of England---while the jack was inspired by Sir Lancelot! The ace is called a serpent in Spanish! In poker, three tens is known as a Judge Duffy . . . .”
Knowing that the card gang is one step ahead of them with the map, the JLAers head back to the bookstore. The proprietor confesses that he did sneak a peek at the map, but he can’t remember any of the details. Not a problem. In one of the rare instances at this point of the Silver Age when the Martian Manhunter used his telepathic powers, he reads the proprietor’s mind and reconstructs Alvin Marley’s map.
They learn the location of the treasure, in Asia Minor, and they learn just what the treasure is. It is the Lost Libraries of Sassanos. Scrolls and manuscripts from ancient Alexandria, Pergamo, and Athens. Forgotten writings from the Temple in Jerusalem and the Ptah in Memphis. Tomes that survived the book-burning ordered by the Emperor Chou Houang Ti in 213 B.C.
The wisdom of the ages!
The arcane notations on the map, however, deliver a warning. They are written in the Minoan language, which Irene Marley can translate: if the scrolls and manuscripts of the Lost Libraries are exposed to air, they will crumble to dust.
The Justice League rushes to Asia Minor for a showdown with the Royal Flush Gang in the Lost Library. Using mystical weapons found there---the Mirrors of Archimedes, Joshua’s Trumpet, and the Magical Tripod of Delphi---the card gang mounts a heated attack. However, the usual JLA teamwork wins the day.
But not without cost. The legendary weapons are destroyed in the battle, and the ancient writings disintegrate from exposure.
It’s all relative, they realise, when Hal Jordan emerges from surgery alive and his brain injury repaired.
That was Professor Amos Fortune’s Silver-Age swan song. No matter what identity he tried, the master of luck found that tangling with the Justice League of America was a decidedly unlucky proposition.
You need to be a member of Captain Comics to add comments!
Join Captain Comics