Previously in The Home Front and “Homecoming #1-4:”
Decades before the Age of Heroic Intent, the first costumed heroes and super heroes began to appear. The first of these Mystery Men — and also also the last — was Knight City’s Adrian Wainwright, AKA the Golden Swashbuckler, who began his career in 1923 and retired in 1953. He was followed by successors starting with the Sleuth in Waterside City and then spreading across the country.
Most of these (American) successors appeared in the buildup to World War II, and immediately after December 7, 1941. Generally made up of men who couldn’t join up for one reason or another (medical, or extenuating circumstances) or women who wanted to do more than secretarial work for the war effort, the Mystery Men — led by Spycracker and his young sidekick Torpedo — captured the imagination of the public even as they fought and beat Axis power spies, gangsters, and those who would prey upon a nation even as it fought a war against tyranny across the globe.
Eventually, the most famous and successful of these mystery men — the Golden Swashbuckler, the Sleuth, Spycracker and Torpedo, Megapolis’s female mystery ‘men’ Solitaire and Diamond, the Judge, the Minuteman, Stiletto, Claymore, and Jackknife and many others — were gathered together by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself and formed into a Liberty Brigade — ostensibly a single force for freedom and justice to protect the home front, but mostly a rallying point for buying war bonds, collecting scrap metal, and otherwise doing the things necessary to help the war effort.
Among those heroes were Six Gun Sam and the All American Lad — unique among mystery men in that the ‘sidekick’ was actually the senior member of the team, whether the hero knew it or not. Sam Bochioni was a greengrocer from Topaz City who learned his cousin Alberto Bochioni — who lived back in Sicily, where Sam’s parents had come from — had become the Axis Powers assassin known as the Black Stroke. Despite Sam’s age, he decided he needed to balance the scales, so he put on the most American outfit he could think of — a cowboy outfit — and became Six Gun Sam, the best shot East, West, North and South of the Rio Grande. As a hedge against the connection between Sam and his cousin coming out, Sam took on a sidekick — young Lenny Davis, who at fourteen was already a football hero and an ace student at Topax City High. Training Len in gunplay, lariat work, use of the whip and more, they became Six Gun Sam and the All American Lad.
What was clear to many — if not clear to Sam himself — was that as good as Sam’s heart and sharpshooting was, Sam wasn’t a natural detective or strategist. The All American Lad found himself solving most of the crimes, developing most of the winning strategies, and essentially becoming the senior hero of the team. All the while, he let Six Gun Sam believe he was doing the lion’s share of the hero work, often with a wink to the police. The pair became extremely popular nationwide, and both Six Gun Sam and the All American Lad were among the most valuable of the Liberty Brigade and their war effort drive. When the Lad turned eighteen, he was commissioned as Second Lieutenant Leonard Davis, United States Army… and kept right where he was with the Liberty Brigade. He was worth too much as a symbol to send to Europe…
Besides… there were other heroes already on the scene in Europe and in the Pacific theater. Heroes who weren’t like the mystery men back home. Heroes with powers and abilities beyond anything seen before. The Quick, who could blur through any battlefield with the speed of a cheetah. The Wave, who could control the very water and turn the sea itself into a weapon against the Japanese Navy. Lieutenant Blockbuster — a rocket powered human gunship, flying in a special defensive shell above the battlefield obliterating tank columns with fiery explosions trailing from his hands. Actual super heroes ready to give it all they had to stop the Axis Powers.
When V-E and V-J Day came, everyone got to go home, of course. This included Second Lieutenant Len Davis, who had been awarded the Silver Star, even if the reasons why were classified. However, to his horror he discovered that Sam Bochioni had no intention of continuing on as Six Gun Sam. He was getting on in years and Hitler and all his ilk had been beaten. It was time for soldiers of all kinds to go home.
But Len Davis had never known any other kind of life. He’d given over his teenage years to being a mystery man, and he couldn’t imagine making any other choice. So Sam and Len’s parents equipped the All American Lad to become a solo hero. It was a proud moment for Len… until the very first day he went on patrol and learned that the fiery Lieutenant Blockbuster had also come home to Topaz City… overshadowing Topaz’s mystery man entirely.
Becoming obsessed with jealousy — not that he was willing to admit it at the time — Len figured out that Lieutenant Blockbuster was clearly Victor Esterhaus — the only V. Esterhaus known to come from Topaz City, and V. Esterhaus was known to be Lieutenant Blockbuster. After a bad scene between the All American Lad and the mayor, where the mayor wanted the Lad to cut the ribbon at the opening of the new Topaz City Financial Exchange — obviously a job beneath Lieutenant Blockbuster — the Lad and Blockbuster finally met to talk.
Lieutenant Blockbuster turned out to be a fan of the Lad’s — who had joined up because of the Lad’s example — and was shocked to hear the Lad’s vitriol. As they argued, a police report of a disturbance came over their respective radios, and they both raced to the scene. But to the All American Lad’s surprise, the enemy wasn’t a gangster… it was an actual super villain named Browbeat, with the strength to hurl cars, a near imperviousness to harm, and the firm belief that Topaz City belonged to him, now.
The Lad was nearly killed by Browbeat, but an already injured Lieutenant Blockbuster saved him. For the Lieutenant’s trouble, Browbeat smashed apart Lieutenant Blockbuster’s protective armor shell with a single blow, seemingly leaving the hero dead on the scene. The All American Lad fired seven shots right into Browbeat’s eyes, stinging badly enough to drive the bruiser off, and recovered Blockbuster from the remains of his shell… only to learn Lieutenant Blockbuster wasn’t Victor Esterhaus — or a ‘him’ — at all… but was in fact Victor’s twin sister Victoria Esterhaus.
Getting Esterhaus to the hospital after taking steps to protect her identity, the All American Lad rallied a dispirited police force and — using contacts at the nearby National Guard base — got some heavy artillery. When Browbeat returned, they nailed him with a shot to the back from a bazooka, only to be horrified to learn it had no effect. Browbeat grabbed the Lad by the neck and gave him a warning — he would return in one week’s time. If the All American Lad or any police opposed him, he would kill them without compunction.
It was clear to Len Davis that they needed to pinpoint their firepower — finding a weak point like Browbeat’s eyes — but a bazooka was hardly a sharpshooter’s weapon. They had no way to deliver that kind of devastating force with that kind of precision.
But Lieutenant Blockbuster did.
So Len Davis went to the hospital, where Victoria Esterhaus, freshly released, was waiting to be picked up and brought home. Davis revealed his identity to Esterhaus, and told her that Lieutenant Blockbuster was needed.
Victoria Esterhaus replied that they had a problem… because Lieutenant Blockbuster was dead.
continues later today on Patreon
tomorrow on Banter Latte