Goody Rickels? Seriously?
Under the Kirby’s magic touch, Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen goes from the sublime to the ridiculous with the arrival of real-life standup comedian Don Rickle’s “long lost alter ego,” Goody Rickels, a researcher for the Galaxy Broadcasting System who accompanies Jimmy and The Guardian in their tussle with Inter-Gangster Ugly Mannheim.
Sergeant Willie Walker, the alter ego of The Black Racer, is cared for by his sister Verna and her husband Ray Johnson, a young African American couple, and all three reside in a Metropolis ghetto apartment. We meet the couple on the final page of this issue after The Black Racer has transformed back into the paraplegic: “Moments later, the two people who have taken care of Willie Walker enter the room — his sister Verna and her husband, Ray Johnson.”
Verna: Willie! Willie! Oh, Ray — we shouldn’t have gone out and left him alone!
Ray: Willie’s okay! — I mean — as well as he could be! Besides, we arranged for the neighbors to check on him!
Verna: They were no help! They were busy with all that trouble tonight! We can’t let this happen again, Ray! We can’t leave Willie alone this way!
Ray: Well, who could foresee that they were gonna find a dead hoodlum outside this building?
Verna: Willie was here! He might have been hit by a stray bullet! And he can’t move or shout for help!
Ray: Yes, Willie must have heard the shots! But I’m sure he didn’t get involved for better reasons than our neighbors!
Verna: Well, they’re all excited now! The police are on their way!
Ray: Poor Willie! What must he be thinking?
We next see the pair very briefly in a pair of panels in the next issue, when after The Black Racer again assumes the war veteran’s identity, and smoke wafts about the air in his room. Verna enters and exclaims, “Willie! Willie! Are you all right? How did these fumes get in this room? I’ve taken all precaution against fire!” The next caption states, “Under the constant care of his sister and her husband, who would suspect that Sergeant Willie Walker is The Black Racer, messenger of death!?” A look of concern on her face, Verna thinks, “But how could this be?”
Their last appearance is in “Darkseid and Sons,” when…
In a shabbier district of the city, the gathering clouds of disaster have yet to shroud the sky! Willie Walker lies still as ever! — Unable to move — for all time!
Verna: Well! That takes care of your medication for today, Willie! It looks like big sister Verna is doing as well as any nurse!
Willie Walker is also forever silent! His eyes can move, but at this moment they are fixed on the distance –! — A distance far beyond his room –!
Verna: How do you like that! You’re paying no attention to me at all! I’ll just cut the chatter and say “good night”! I – I seem to have lost him again, Ray! He just doesn’t seem to hear or see us anymore!
Ray: Willie’s lost in the stars, Verna! I think nothing here has any meaning for him now!
Verna: We’re doing our best for him, aren’t we, Ray? Sometimes I think our marriage suffers for it!
Ray: Nonsense! Willie suffered for us in Vietnam! And we’re sticking with Willie — all the way!
Obviously we see a pattern here and I wonder where Jack would have gone to expand the formula. Verna frets about Willie’s vulnerability, Ray consoles his wife, and neither are aware that her brother is, for all practical purposes, the Grim Reaper himself. A completely paralyzed character is quite a challenge to flesh out, I should think!
We don’t see much of the Inter-Gang crime boss Badger but we see enough to determine he’s a vile sort! After Sugar-Man executes Screamer, who is suspected of the intent to blab about the “Big Caper,” and returns to the hideaway, wounded by The Black Racer, to report to Badger, the kingpin tells the pimped-out criminal, “You did your job, Sugar-Man! Sure there was a witness — but what can Willie Walker say? The kid’s a living clam! They’ll get nothing outta him! Not in time to stop what we gotta do! Sorry about the accident!” We see Badger is a slit-eyed, bald-headed, rat-faced goon (okay, badger-faced, then!), sporting a bow tie and fat cigar. After listening to his minion fret about The Black Racer, Badger dismisses him with, “Yaaa — Shut up! Inter-Gang must carry out what it’s paid to do! bring in the bomb!” Upon being asked what does the device do exactly, he responds, “The Apokolips people didn’t say! But I’ll bet it’s something wild and nasty!” He then places a key into the bomb, telling his henchmen, “There! I turn this key — and now the bomb is activated! And ready to plant!”
Just then, Orion (with Dave Lincoln in tow) exploded into the room, and Badger orders, “We’ve been warned about him! Get those special guns!” Orion sees they have Apokolips weapons, as Badger turns his trigger-man, telling him, “Stash that pea-shooter, Sugar-Man! Take the bomb! Plant it where the Apokolips crowd designated! Take off, Sugar-Man! We’ll get these birds!” As the bad guy and the bomb leave by the back way, Orion’s Mother Box jams the Apokolips-designed weapons and Badger’s gang is subdued. Badger clucks, “You cats cooled us, but not our bomb! By now, it’s being clamped on the communications building across town!!” But Mother Box intercedes again and the Inter-Gang plot is thwarted. But Badger still smirks, telling Orion and Dave Lincoln, “Nailing our unit won’t stop Inter-Gang!”
But it sure stopped Badger, dinnit?
Vietnam war hero and wounded paraplegic Willie Walker is chosen to become the alter ego of the messenger of death, The Black Racer. The former sergeant lives in a state of perpetual paralysis in the Metropolis ghetto apartment of his sister Verna and her husband Ray Johnson, bedridden beside a window that is adjacent to a tenement rooftop. When Sugar-Man executes Screamer in full view of Willie Walker, clad in hospital gown and neckbrace, laying still in his bed, the criminal turns his attention to the possible witness. “Oh-oh! A witness to the bang bang!” Willie has a reputation, at least in the neighborhood, as the assassin exclaims, “Hey! I know you! Sergeant Willie Walker! Big Vietnam hero! Can’t walk, talk — or even feed himself! Lotsa Medals — but one big bad wound, eh, Willie?” Sugar-Man aims his pistol at the veteran but is thwarted by The Black Racer who has been observing the thug.
Then, so too does The Black Racer turn his attention to the unfortunate invalid. “Walls are no barrier to The Black Racer! He enters the room of Sergeant Willie Walker!” The harbinger of doom says, “I hear a call! A voice invoking my name!” Standing over the bed, the armored celestial observes a wide-eyed Walker. “The voice is yours! I can hear it! This is why destiny has lead me here! I understand now! And even I must do destiny’s bidding! For one of your value, The Black Racer must bow!” The messenger of death offers his hand. “Come! Take my hand! You will not live — you will die! But you will have that what you have earned — the freedom of a great power!” Miraculously Willie’s hand moves to reach out to The Black Racer! “Fear not! See? Your hand moves! Yea — even as it reaches out — the rest of your body stirs to follow!”
Miracle begets miracle as Sgt. Willie Walker speaks and rises in his bed! “Wha–? I can move! I-I can move! — A-and speak! I can speak — Who are you?” The Black Racer only replies as he takes the earthling’s hand, “In your despair — you summoned me!” But Willie is upset. “Why don’t you answer me? I’m scared! More scared than I ever was in combat! Good Lord! I’m standing! This can’t be happening! What am I saying! It’s happened! I’m whole! I’m strong! I’m no longer half-alive! Willie Walker no longer needs this aid!” He takes off the neck brace and suddenly notices the empty suit of armor laying on the floor at the foot of the bed. “Wha–? The armored stranger has collapsed! He lies motionless on the floor! There are so many questions I have to ask him!” Lifting up the helmet, the combat veteran turns it and out flows tiny grains. Willie exclaims, “Dust! There is nothing in this armor — but dust! He’s gone!”
Then begins the transformation. A brilliant glow suddenly flows from the war hero. He understands now. “But the meaning of this, now, begins to dawn on me — I’m changing — I-I am more than Willie Walker!” He has become The Black Racer!
After completing his first mission on Earth, The Black Racer flies back to the apartment where his alter ego is bedridden, explaining, “Tonight’s mission ends! I return to the ghetto of Sergeant Willie Walker!” He floats through the atoms of the building, appearing in Willie’s room. “There are no barriers for him now! Willie Walker now has the freedom of the farthest dimensions! Willie Walker is now one of many messengers! All who make the one entity — The Black Racer! The one who transferred his power to Willie has returned to The Source! The Source is all! The Source gave me this knowledge — this power! It was The Source that chose Willie Walker for this mission! I must still do its bidding! I Return as Willie Walker! I touch my helmet and vanish as I am!”
Suddenly The Black Racer is transformed into the prostate form of the war veteran and, within a few seconds, Willie’s sister Verna and her husband Ray enter the room, fretting that they had left the invalid alone and of Sugar-Man’s rampage earlier in the evening. As one of them ponders, “Poor Willie! What must he be thinking?” a caption reads, “Willie Walker’s eyes grow wide! He is aware! He now knows his next quarry! Who is it? Him? — Her? — You?”
The following issue, after The Black Racer has taken Seagrin to his Valhalla, he streaks across the Metropolis sky, glimpsed by a police officer. “Casey! Look! Up there! Did you see it?” Casey responds, “I don’t see anything but that fire! Cough! Cough!” The next captions read: “But he is there! Swift! Silent! Present at the finish of a man — or a god! Even stranger is his destination! When he makes his descent, it is in the humblest of places — the ghetto district! Ahead of him is a tenement of fading brick! Then a wall! Then — a window! Without hesitation, he enters, through material barriers that are not for him! For a moment, the room is lit by a blinding flash! Then — it’s gone! Sergeant Willie Walker has come home! Where but in the hands of a paraplegic, made helpless by war, would a wandering, god-like being have placed the most awesome power?” Just after the eternal changes back into his paralyzed alternative identity, Verna bursts into the room, which is filled with vapors. “Under the constant care of his sister and her husband, who would suspect that Sergeant Willie Walker is The Black Racer, messenger of death!?”
During the climax of the regular series, we last see Willie Walker being cared for by his sister. “In a shabbier district of the city, the gathering clouds of disaster have yet to shroud the sky! Willie Walker lies still as ever! — Unable to move — for all time!” Verna administers medicine and the caption says, “Willie Walker is also forever silent! His eyes can move, but at this moment they are fixed on the distance –! — A distance far beyond his room –!” After his sister despairs that her brother “just doesn’t seem to hear or see us anymore,” husband Ray responds, “Willie’s lost in the stars, Verna! I think nothing here has any meaning for him now!” The caption to follow states ““And what does Willie think? And see? — And hear? What of the voice that calls to him — from — out there — !”
Here we witness the most explicit connection, I suspect, that Willie and his alter ego have with The Source, the closest to an omnipotent God (capital “G”) we get in this series when that disembodied voice is heard by the stricken Willie Walker. “It’s time, Willie! A messenger is needed! — A messenger, both swift and — final!” The next caption reads, “…A messenger of death — !! With powers beyond the standards known by men! Powers that can make an invalid rise and stand firm with new strength!” The voice orders him, “On your feet, Willie! You can do it! That’s it, Willie! The change is coming! Even as you stand, the change is taking place!” And then: “Where the commanding voice comes from is a mystery to Willie! He only knows that it changes him! And with that change he is given a grim mission! And a new name!” Willie Walker is no more. In his place stands: “Once again — I’m The Black Racer!”
Did Willie Walker die when The Black Racer first took his hand? The celestial death-dealer seems explicit about that, given The Black Racer’s comment, “Come! Take my hand! You will not live — you will die! But you will have that what you have earned — the freedom of a great power!” Yet the figure that remains is recognized by his sister and brother-in-law as Willie Walker. It appears that many others have assumed the role of the Messenger of Death — “Willie Walker is now one of many messengers! All who make the one entity — The Black Racer! The one who transferred his power to Willie has returned to The Source!” — and begs the question, many others over time, one at a time… and/or simultaneously? Interesting to ponder…
Sugar-Man is the African-American gunman who becomes the first quarry on planet Earth for The Black Racer. When the Messenger of Death arrives via Boom Tube in the skies above the Metropolis ghetto, he first spies the Inter Gang criminal called Sugar-Man stalking another bad-guy, this one with a similarly odd nickname. The Black Racer first takes note, saying, “There, below — a place of black men! Those who fight to live — others who risk my presence!” BAM! BAM! “I’ve got you, Screamer!” Sugar-Man barks, as clad in a beret, neck scarf and sunglasses, engages in a gun battle. “You’re running out of ammo!”
Chasing his prey from rooftop to rooftop, Sugar-Man continues the fusillade as Screamer flees. “You can’t get away Screamer! It’s useless to run, baby.” Then making a bead on his target, the hunter makes the fatal shot with a taunt. “Your last scream won’t be to the law!” His job complete, the gangster says to no one in particular, “Inter-Gang gets rid of cats they can’t trust! Especially when he can blab about the Big Caper.” Sugar-Man then takes a look around and notices a figure laying still in a bed. “Oh-oh! A witness to the bang bang!” We get a closer look at the prone figure, one the criminal recognizes. “Hey! I know you! Sergeant Willie Walker! Big Vietnam hero! Can’t walk, talk — or even feed himself! Lotsa medals — But one big, bad wound, eh, Willie?” Despite the invalid’s obvious paralysis, the thug raise his pistol and takes aim. “Well, Sugar-Man is gonna help you, Willie! Sugar-Man is gonna blot out all the misery inside you — It’ll just take — one squeeze –”
Then the hand of The Black Racer suddenly encompasses the handgun which explodes with Sugar-Man taking the full force of the backfire. “My face!” he screams while running away. “I’m hit! I’m hit! Gotta get outta here!” The murderer runs to the lair of his Inter-Gang boss, Badger, who says upon Sugar-Man’s arrival, “You did your job, Sugar-Man! Sure, there was a witness — but what can Willie Walker say? The kid’s a living clam! They’ll get nothing outta him! Not in time to stop what we gotta do! Sorry about the accident!”
His noggin getting bandaged (even around his eyes!), Sugar-Man is angry. “Accident, hell! I saw a hand, I tell you! It was like the hand of death closing over the barrel of my gun! Then — BOOM! There was someone there, standing in the darkness! I couldn’t see him — but I’ll know when I find him again!” Badger replies, “Yaaa — Shut up! Inter-Gang must carry out what it’s paid to do! Bring in the bomb!”
We learn that the “Apokolips people” made the device, which will melt all “every bit communication metal within a radius of thousands of miles,” as Orion will subsequently inform us, and when the fierce new god and his friend Dave Lincoln smash into the Inter-Gang hideout and Sugar-Man, once again donning sunglasses, fires at them. “Stash that pea-shooter, Sugar-Man!” orders Badger. “Take the bomb! Plant it where the Apokolips crowd designated!” Sugar-Man responds, “Okay, Badger! But hold this cat while I get away!” As the wounded desperado slinks out a back entrance, his boss yells, “Take off, Sugar-Man! We’ll get these birds!” And the departing gangster replies, “Sure, Badger! I’ll do as you say, but –”
Sugar-Man, running through an enclosed alleyway with the activated bomb in his grip, realizes the identity of one of the assailants laying seige on Badger’s crib. “A cat from New Genesis! We were warned that they might raid us! But they won’t stop Inter-Gang from doing what it’s paid to do!” He runs up to a waiting truck and loads his lethal possession in back. “In you go, bomb! Sugar-Man is gonna make sure you blow!” The truck takes off and the oblivious driver doesn’t know this will be his last delivery.
The next caption reads, “But Sugar-Man is unaware that he’s been joined by another — one new at his mission — but old as time!” The Black Racer follows closely behind, telling us, “And so the chase begins! Faster, Sugar-Man! Go faster! We are linked in a moment of dying!” Sugar-Man looks in the side-view to see the harbinger of death coming on fast. He thinks, “That reflection in my rear view mirror — I’m being followed! That clown’s not from Earth! But I’m not stopping to find out which side he’s on!” The celestial being taunts his quarry. “You know me, Sugar-Man! You’ve sent many to The Black Racer!”
Sugar-Man is freaking out, driving the truck at top speed, and he recognizes his pursuer. “I do know him! It was him — standing in the shadows on that roof — when my gun blew up in my face!” The Black Racer is ever closer, announcing to his prey, “Your luck has run out, Sugar-Man! Listen to the song of death!” The bomb starts making a disconcerting noise that adds to the driver’s hysteria. “The bomb!!” Sugar-Man hollers, “I-It’s not supposed to make those sounds!” The Black Racer uses his ski pole to penetrate the truck and make contact with the device. “Yes, it can, Sugar-Man — when its shell is penetrated by transmitted signals — They enter the truck — without resistance — as does my ski pole — Then, as signals reach the mechanized heart of the bomb — ” Then the pole does its business and the truck starts to fly skyward! The Black Racer solemnly says, “They trigger its anti-gravity circuits! Farewell, Sugar-Man!”
The criminal pleads, “No! No! No!” as he flies into outer space, Orion’s Mother Box activates the explosive and that’s the last we see of Sugar-Man. As Badger is subdued, he says to Orion and Lincoln, “You cats cooled us, but not our bomb! By now, it’s being clamped on the communications building across town!!” Dave replies, “We were too late to stop your man from escaping with the bomb — but perhaps –” But Orion reassures his Earth ally. “Don’t worry, Lincoln! Mother Box has intercepted the bomb in transit! And has sent it toward space! Now, the vehicle carrying the bomb is high enough to destruct there! Mother Box sends out her death signal!”
As Dave Lincoln calls the cops to take away the Inter-Gangsters, he tells his friend, “Now to call the police and drop this little package in their lap!” Orion replies, “We’ll deliver all, except the man who took the bomb! I’m afraid he’ll never be found!”
And, apparently, we’ll never learn how this rotten bad guy ever got such a sweet nickname. Just desserts indeed!
The Black Racer is the so-called Messenger of Death born of The Source and allied with neither New Genesis, Apokolips or Earth. His mission is merely to return his unfortunate and ill-fated quarry to The Source, commanded by a mysterious voice and suited in armor complete with a set of skis and ski-poles. When called, this god-like Dark Bringer of Death rides the spaceways, often at the speed of light to complete his grim missions. To be touch by The Black Racer is to die.
We first encounter this ominous being at the start of our current tale, as friendly Lightray is being pursued in space by the harbinger of doom. The young New God is desperate and very afraid. The caption reads: “Death is The Black Racer! Like the very source of all things, he is an ever-present fear that sweeps through the universe on swift, silent skis. The charred husks of great stars are left in his passing… and small lives vanish with their dreams at his touch! Yes, even the New Gods fear the Black Racer! For he brings –”
Lightray: Oblivion! I face oblivion! I am the quarry of a power that challenges all power!
The Black Racer: Hail, young Light-Ray! Destiny has decreed that our paths should cross! The flotsam of the universe cannot hide you! I am as swift as you are!
Lightray: But not as eager as I am to avoid your touch!
Orion’s best friend flies through a field of crystallized space rocks and suddenly stops behind one. He thinks, “I govern the power of light — and I must use it to ward off the racer! The jewel-like substance of these meteoroids may intensify this power of mine!” The Black Racer is catching up, telling the hapless New Genesis youth, “I am almost upon you, Lightray! Even one such as you must submit to me!” But our hero suddenly emits flashes of light energy from his hands, thinking, “I shall flash the brightest of beams through this prism-stone!” The next caption states, “So intensified are the light-beams passing through the massive jewel that they emerge with the power of a fiery holocaust!” Lightray explains, “Thus, as on Earth, the principle of the laser is invoked!”
As the consuming flame leaps at him, The Black Racer leaps even faster!
The Black Racer: Foolish one! Was it not told to you on New Genesis of The Black Racer’s superb agility? You cannot escape me!
Lightray: [Thinking] He is right! Though I fly at the utmost speed of light, he easily paces me! — Toys with me — but I shall not stop! I dare not stop!
The Black Racer: Your time has come, young one! I am no respecter of tender years! Prepare for my touch!
Lightray: No! No!
The scene shifts to Metropolis and a meeting of Orion and his Earth allies, with this caption: “This is the drama of desperation and death, enfolding the destinies of gods and men! Lightray, fighting madly to prolong his last, cosmic moments…” And, then, a little later…
Meanwhile, in the vast wilderness of stars, a giant, new sun flares into being!! Lightray, in a final burst of desperation, spends his remaining energies by exploding a filed of drifting matter to block his pursuer!!
Lightray: This must do it! This must halt him — and give me time to escape!
But from its flaming heart emerges death! The Black Racer is more than powerful! He is relentless… unshakable in his purpose! Lightray, mustering his failing strength, does not see the planetoid coming in his path!
Lightray: [Thinking] Can’t give up! Must escape!
He strikes its harsh surface with damaging effect!
The Black Rider: It is the end, Lightray! It could only end this way!
Then, just when we think Lightray will fade from being: “Suddenly, a rumble of sound like the crack of doom erupts about Lightray! A Boom Tube appears in mid-air and swallows The Black Racer! Then it quickly fades — revealing to an astonished Lightray the presence of his rescuer — Metron of New Genesis!”
The intellectual of New Genesis appears on his Mobius Chair and tells his ally, “Fear no more, Lightray! The Racer is gone! I merely deflected his flight elsewhere! You could have done the same, Lightray! You must learn to think more coolly! However, a brush with The Black Racer is a humbling experience at best! In my Mobius Chair, I master Time! Space! Infinity! Luckily for you — I am everywhere when needed!” If Lightray is grateful, you wouldn’t know it, as the young god is more concerned about where the interdimensional bridge will reappear: “The Black Racer — Where is he now? Where had the Boom Tube taken him?”
In a grandiose, full-page splash that follows the Messenger of Death bursts forth into the skies of Metropolis, exclaiming, “So, destiny has changed my course and takes me here — to Earth! The sound of deadly weapons reaches me! I sense that this area is ripe for my arrival! instinct guides me to my quarry!” Gunshots ring out! The Black Racer is gliding above the littered streets of the city’s black ghetto. “There, below — a place of black men! Those who fight to live — others who risk my presence!” We see Inter-Gang criminal Sugar-Man engaged in a rooftop gun battle with another bad guy. “I’ve got you, Screamer!” boasts Sugar-Man. “You’re running out of ammo!” The god-like being thinks, “It is true! One of them can no longer shoot! He must run!” Bullets ricochet off chimneys as the Inter-Gangster closes in for the kill. Sugar-Man taunts his prey, “You can’t get away, Screamer! It’s useless to run, baby! Your last scream won’t be to the law!” With that, Screamer falls, now eternally silent.
Sugar-Man looks about, muttering to himself, “Inter-Gang gets rid of cats they can’t trust! Especially when he can blab about the Big Caper!” Then, looking at the taller portion of the building, the criminal notes a window that has had full view of Screamer’s execution. Within, we see a still prostrate form in a neck brace lying on a bed. “Oh-oh!” exclaims Sugar-Man, “A witness to the bang bang! Hey! I know you! Sergeant Willie Walker! Big Vietnam hero! Can’t walk, talk — or even feed himself! Lotsa medals — but one big, bad wound, eh, Willie?” Targeting his intended victim at point blank range, the criminal is about to make his second elimination in as many minutes. “Well, Sugar-Man is gonna help you, Willie! Sugar-Man is gonna blot out all that misery inside you — It’ll just take — one squeeze –” Suddenly a hand appears from the ether, enveloping the pistol as Sugar-Man pulls the trigger. “The gun blasts, and backfires in Sugar-Man’s hand! Its barrel has been blocked and its torn metal flies in all directions!” The criminal’s face is recipient of the shards! He screams, “Aaaaa! My face! I’m hit! I’m hit! Gotta get outta here!”
Then, the death harbinger turns his attention to the paraplegic war hero. “Walls are no barrier to The Black Racer! He enters the room of Sergeant Willie Walker!”
The Black Racer: I hear a call! A voice invoking my name! The voice is yours! I can hear it! This is why destiny has led me here! I understand now! And even I must do destiny’s bidding! For one of your value, The Black Racer must bow! Come! Take my hand! You will not live — you will die! But you will have that what you have earned — the freedom of a great power! Fear not! See? Your hand moves! Yea — even as it reaches out — the rest of your body stirs to follow!”
Suddenly the wounded war veteran miraculously rises from his bed! And he speaks! “Wha–? I can move! I-I can move! — A-and speak! I can speak — Who are you?”
The Black Racer: In your despair — you summoned me!
Sgt. Willie Walker: Why don’t you answer me? I’m scared! More scared than I ever was in combat! Good Lord! I’m standing! This can’t be happening! What am I saying! It’s happened! I’m whole! I’m strong! I’m no longer half-alive! Willie Walker no longer needs this aid!
A transformation is occurring before our eyes, Sgt. Willie Walker metamorphosing into this new — yet eternal — persona as the Earth warrior takes on a solemn mantle. “Wha–? The armored stranger has collapsed! He lies motionless on the floor! There are so many questions I have to ask him!” Picking up the knight-like helmet, Willie pours out granules, exclaiming, “Dust! There is nothing in this armor — but dust! He’s gone! But the meaning of this, now, begins to dawn on me — I’m changing — I-I am more than Willie Walker!” A blinding flash consumes the hospital johnny-clad war veteran and instantaneously he is adorned in the colorful armor of the messenger of death! “I am a power to make all tremble! I am The Black Racer!” He steps through the wall and onto the rooftop, where stand ready are his skis and ski poles. “My instincts have cosmic sharpness! My mission is ever clear! Destiny has opened all barriers to the most helpless of beings! Now I mount my skis — and ride the night! Beware, my quarry! You are marked for oblivion!”
After Sugar-Man meets with his superior, Badger, and is assigned to carry the “wild and nasty” Apokolips-made bomb, Orion and Dave Lincoln smash into the Inter-Gang hideout. Sugar-Man then makes his escape with the explosive device, which he loads into the back of a box van. As he takes off in the truck, the caption reads, “But Sugar-Man is unaware that he’s been joined by another — one new at his mission — but old as time!”
The Black Racer: And so the chase begins! Faster, Sugar-Man! Go faster! We are linked in a moment of dying!
Sugar-Man: That reflection in my rear view mirror — I’m being followed! That clown’s not from Earth! But I’m not stopping to find out which side he’s on!
The Black Racer: You know me, Sugar-Man! You’ve sent many to The Black Racer!
Sugar-Man: I do know him! It was him — standing in the shadows on that roof — when my gun blew up in my face!
The Black Racer: Your luck has run out, Sugar-Man! Listen to the song of death!
Inside the truck, strange, electronic sounds rise to a strident pitch from the activated bomb!
Sugar-Man is in a panic behind the wheel. “The bomb!!” he screams, “I-It’s not supposed to make those sounds!” The Black Racer parallels the vehicle, both traveling at high speed, and he points a ski pole towards the truck’s cargo area. “Yes, it can, Sugar-Man — when its shell is penetrated by transmitted signals –” And then the pole pokes into the truck to make contact with the bomb inside! “They enter the truck — without resistance — as does my ski pole — Then, as signals reach the mechanized heart of the bomb — ” Amid the unnerving “RRRREEE” sound, “Suddenly, as the ski pole touches the bomb…” and Sugar-Man and the truck are space-bound, flying into the Metropolis sky! Despite Sugar-Man’s screams of “No! No! No!” The Black Racer bids his quarry adieu. “They trigger its anti-gravity circuits! Farewell, Sugar-Man!”
Whether Sugar-Man is dead or not by the time Mother Box activates the bomb’s detonation is unknown, but suffice to say there is a massive explosion in the night sky over Superman’s adopted city and Sugar-Man is no more. As Dave Lincoln and Orion are roundng up the gangsters, Badger says, “Nailing our unit won’t stop Inter-Gang!” Dave retorts as he dials the phone to alert the cops, “We’ve made a good start, eh, O’Ryan? Now to call the police and drop this little package in their lap!” Standing grimly, Orion answers, “We’ll deliver them all, except the man who took the bomb! I’m afraid he’ll never be found!” And the following caption reads, “No one knows this better than The Black Racer, who has seen Sugar-Man die in space!”
The Black Racer flies back to Willie Walker’s domicile, telling us, “Tonight’s mission ends! I return to the ghetto of Sergeant Willie Walker! There are no barriers for him now! Willie Walker now has the freedom of the farthest dimensions! Willie Walker is now one of many messengers! All who make the one entity — The Black Racer! The one who transferred his power to Willie has returned to the Source! The Source is all! The Source gave me this knowledge — this power! It was the Source that chose Willie Walker for this mission! I must still do its bidding! I return as Willie Walker! I touch my helmet and vanish as I am!”
We then meet the sergeant’s caretakers, Willie’s sister Verna and her husband Ray, and after she frets for her invalid brother’s safety, her spouse ponders, “Poor Willie! What must he be thinking?” and the next caption, closing the issue, reads, “Willie Walker’s eyes grow wide! He is aware! He knows his next quarry! Who is it? Him? — Her? — You? Don’t run for the exits! You can’t escape The Black Racer!”
We next encounter the harbinger of eternity in the very next adventure, as Orion mourns the death of Seagrin, the gentle warrior new god, who has been killed by the Deep Six. A veritable viking’s funeral erupts on the dock, which bursts into flames, and as Orion and Dave Lincoln leave the tragic scene, “behind them, leaping from the heart of the flames, a dark, blood-chilling figure silently swoops into the night sky!” It is The Black Racer. A police officer points at the flying figure, exclaiming, “Casey! Look! Up there! Did you see it?” Casey responds, “I don’t see anything but that fire! Cough! Cough!”
But he is there! Swift! Silent! Present at the finish of a man — or a god! Even stranger is his destination! When he makes his descent, it is in the humblest of places — the ghetto district! Ahead of him is a tenement of fading brick! Then a wall! Then — a window! Without hesitation, he enters, through material barriers that are not for him! For a moment, the room is lit by a blinding flash! Then — it’s gone! Sergeant Willie Walker has come home! Where but in the hands of a paraplegic, made helpless by war, would a wandering, god-like being have placed the most awesome power?
Verna: Willie! Willie! Are you all right? How did these fumes get in this room? I’ve taken all precaution against fire!
Under the constant care of his sister and her husband, who would suspect that Sergeant Willie Walker is The Black Racer, Messenger of Death!?
Verna: [Thinking] But how could this be?
In the final issue of The New Gods, The Black Racer appears as Orion and Kalibak are culminating their savage blood feud. We learn a little more about the character’s connection with The Source — or so we think! — when upon administering medication to her brother, Verna notices Willie Walker seems completely detached from her and reality. “Willie Walker is also forever silent! His eyes can move, but at this moment they are fixed on the distance –! — A distance far beyond his room –!”
Verna seeks the comfort of Ray’s embrace as she laments her sibling’s condition. “He just doesn’t seem to hear or see us anymore!” Ray holds her close, telling Verna, “Willie’s lost in the stars, Verna! I think nothing here has any meaning for him now!”
The caption reads, “And what does Willie think? And see? — And hear? What of the voice that calls to him — from — out there –!” And a voice comes from out of the air itself, telling the invalid, “It’s time, Willie! A messenger is needed! — A messenger, both swift and — final!”
–A messenger of death –!! With powers beyond the standards known by men! Powers that can make an invalid rise and stand firm with new strength!
Voice: On your feet, Willie! You can do it! That’s it, Willie! The change is coming! Even as you stand, the change is taking place!
Where the commanding voice comes from is a mystery to Willie! He only knows that it changes him! And with that change he is given a grim mission! And a new name!
The Black Racer: Once again — I’m The Black Racer!
With the change come new and strange powers! The Black Racer walks through the wall of Willie’s building — into the night outside –
The Black Racer: My equipment lies waiting! My mission begins!! Death is on the wing this night! –Death for an angry god!
Thus, as the ferocious slugfest between half-brothers reaches a crescendo, “At that deadly moment, The Black Racer arrives!”
The Black Racer: The time is at hand!
Then, as Orion lifts Kalibak for a last crushing act of violence, he sees The Black Racer rushing toward him!
The Black Racer: Death approaches, Orion! Both of you have taken incredible punishment! But I’ve come for only one!
Orion: If it be me — then come and be swift!
There’s no stopping The Black Racer! Orion is struck by a fierce wind! And every fiber quakes and screams in the shadow of what overwhelms him!
The wind shrieks on and flings debris everywhere! The Black Racer has come and gone — and gone, too, is Kalibak!!! A heavy silence falls on the city in the wake of the sudden gust! Then, the normal sounds of the city return –
Orion: [Thinking] The Black Racer spared me! It was Kalibak’s moment of dying! — not mine!
Dave Lincoln: Orion! What was all that? Where is Kalibak — and that guy on skis?
Ye ghads! What a climax and resolved on the very last page of the final issue of The New Gods, at that!
There is one other appearance for the character, during a “Young Gods of Supertown” vignette starring Fastbak entitled “Beat The Black Racer!!” Fastbak, as we previously learned, flies the skies (and apparently spaceways) courtesy of his phenomenally quick “Aero-Pads.” In this adventure, we see him in space about New Genesis as a lethal ski pole advances toward him.
The Black Racer: Greetings, Fastbak!! You face a difficult challenger this day!
Fastbak: The Dark Bringer of Death! [Thinking] Young Esak is missing –! And The Black Racer is a sorry clue to his situation!!
The Black Racer: Destiny has sent us on the same mission, Fastbak!! Life or extinction!! — It depends on which of us reaches our quarry — first!!
A race to the death! Fastbak had guessed as much from the start!
Fastbak: [Thinking] My new circuits check out! I hope they do their job well!
They do well — enabling Fastbak to elude the fatal rush of a meteor swarm! Apokolips has turned space into a great trap for New Genesis life!! It’s littered with dangers like the great Terror-Bats which pursue and kill!! Then there are the roving patrols of fierce Para-Demons!
Para-Demon: Close in on him! Don’t let him escape!!
But stopping Fastbak at his blinding speed is like trying to halt a dodging missile!!
Fastbak: Out of my way!
Fastbak whizzes on!! He know that the most sinister space-trap of all is the Magna-Target which holds its prey and pulls it toward Apokolips — where it can be shot down and destroyed!!
Fastbak: Just as I thought! The victim on that Magna-Target is young Esak!
The Black Racer: He was ever curious! As curious as Metron!
Fastbak: [Thinking] The Black Racer! I thought I’d lost him!
The Black Racer: The Black Racer catches up with everyone, Fastbak!
Fastbak: No! No!
The Black Racer: One of us must claim him! Fastbak!
Fastbak: I’ll do it! I must do it!
Esak: Help me, Fastbak!
At the last moment, Fastbak executes an unheard of burst of speed! Then –
Fastbak: The weapons of Apokolips have spoken! Their target is destroyed! But not its living prey, Esak!!
Esak: That was fantastic, Fastbak! You outdid yourself!
The Black Racer is nowhere to be seen! But he’ll return again!! He’s neither lost nor won! — But merely thwarted for a time!!
Call it what you will — Blow-Up! Doom-Time! Holocaust Time! The Big Boom! — but it sure looks like the end of our heroes, The Project and all of Metropolis when The Four-Armed Terror, looking to munch on raw atomic energy is wrecking havoc with the facility’s atomic reactor, and Kirby builds up the anxiety as deftly as Hitchcock throughout this nail-biting issue!
It’s Mokkari and Simyan, the Apokolips agents in charge of Darkseid’s Evil Factory who first envision the Big Boom as they track the progress of the Four-Armed Terror as it closes in on The Project’s atomic power plant. After the D.N.Alien cocoons Superman, Jimmy and the kids in a giant, impenetrable shell, “Hunger has replaced fury! There is abundant food nearby! One pair of arms seeks leverage on the wall of rock — while the other arms grasp the metal leading to the food! Primitive, savage strength tears free all obstructions!! The path ahead is now clear and round and smooth! The smell of food is overpowering — the creature increases its pace!” The mutant is traveling through a tube and there is a sign reading, “CAUTION: DANGER ZONE!” with a notice to check clothing for leakage.”
Somewhere, in their hidden location, the operators of the “Evil Factory” follow the creature’s progress!
Simyan: There’s the blip! Our fledgling is in the main conduit!
Mokkari: Praise Darkseid!
Simyan: Yes, directly in his path is a giant atomic pile that supplies power to the entire underground world of The “Project!”
Mokkari: He must feed on radiation! He’ll rip that pile apart and trigger a chain reaction! Then a great white flash! A fire storm of indescribable heat! Shock upon shock as a mushroom cloud rises where once The Project stood! A job well done, eh, Simyan?
Simyan: It will be beautiful, Mokkari! And with it will go the rest! Yes — and even the city of Metropolis — which lies above, within range! We’ll have carried out, to the letter, the order of our great leader, Darklseid! Surely this is a triumph for the forces of our world — Apokolips! The pattern is set! We have bred the perfect instrument to challenge humanity!
Mokkari: Sprung from their own seed — and nutured by radioactive vapors!
Simyan: The others are stirring! They’re breaking free of their protective shells, Mokkari!
Mokkari: It is their time, Simyan! Their birth heralds the age of holocaust! Hail Homo Usurpus! Earth lies before you for the taking!
The final countdown is on! It isn’t waiting for Jimmy Olsen, his pal Superman, or for any of us! So stay where you are — on Ground Zero — so you won’t miss the following issue — and the Big Boom!
That closes JO #137, and the next issue opens with pandemonium at The Project. The opening caption reads: “The End of the World is at hand! But who would believe us!!?? You would! — If you knew what was going on, underground, in the world of The Project! Down there, it is fifteen minutes to The Big Boom!!” A commanding officers barks orders to his soldiers, “Snap to it, men! You know what our scanners show!” One says, “Yeah! Wow!” and the other, “It’s holocaust time at the atomic power plant!” Coming right at us on this opening splash page are the Guardian and the original Newsboy Legion wielding pistols.
Tommy, Sr.: Our rival project, the Evil Factory, has turned loose a destructive D.N.Alien in our area!
Flippa-Dippa’s Dad: Superman’s trying to head him off! But he’s run into trouble!
Big-Words, Sr.: Let’s go! Jimmy Olsen and our kids are with him!
Moments later, an armed convoy of battle-trained security troops races toward the alien danger unleashed by a hidden enemy!
We see a spectacular panorama of the giant cave that encompasses the main Project complex. Unidentified voices rise from various transports.
First voice: There’s no telling what’s happened! Our instruments show they’ve made contact with the alien!
Second voice: But the alien is heading for our atomic power plant! All traces of Superman and the boys have vanished!
Third voice: Go, men! The Evil Factory has jammed all communications with our atomic power plant! We can’t warn them! All we can do now is pour on the speed!
When the convoy reaches an entrance of the fabled “Zoomway” its vehicles switch to jet speed and roar towards where the action is!!
Big-Words, Sr.: Our destination lies in the Wild Area, outside of The Project! When we get there, Don’t think! Just act! Time is running out — but fast!
Gabby, Sr.: The old Newsboy Legion — the Guardian — and danger — you know, fellas, I’m getting like a lump in the heart!!
Scrapper, Sr.: Shaddap, Gabby! If we don’t pull this one off, that lump is gonna be a hole fifty miles wide!
Thirteen minutes to destruction! The D.N.Alien, driven by primitive fury and a hunger for radiation, gets closer to his objective — the atomic power plant! He moves without resistance, for those who would stop him are imprisoned in a trap of the alien’s weaving!
While Superman, Jimmy and their young cohorts are trapped inside the egg with “a wild atomic structure” and figure out how to escape, we on the outside know there’s only eleven minutes to Doomsday!
Closer! Closer! Ahead lies the great source of food on which the Four-Armed Terror can gorge himself! His arms tear out earth, rock and the buried equipment which leads to the atomic power plant! Suddenly, his path is blocked by a thick lead wall! It resists his brute strength! The alien digs! He hammers! But the wall stands! On the other side of the wall, startled workers and security guards converge on the sounds of attack!! But the D.N.Alien is already digging beneath the wall — digging toward his goal — it is nine minutes to holocaust!
The gang finally gets out of their predicament and immediately the Man of Steel takes to the air. Jimmy cries out, “Superman! Wait for us!” and Scrapper adds, “Yeah, We wanna get dat alien too!”
Superman takes no time to reply! Speed is the answer now! It is seven minutes to fiery end! Like a supersonic dart, the Man of Steel follows the trail of torn rock and metal on the heels of his quarry!
Superman thinks, “Got to stop him! Got to!” The next caption reads, “His momentum almost hurls him agains a great lead wall — built to stop radiation leaks!” Superman says aloud, “The alien was here — I can see his marks! But where is he now?”
After an interlude with Terry Dean and Perry White, we see more wide-angle shots of the Project trooper convoy traveling into the Outsiders’ realm.
It is six minutes to disaster! And the fates are gathering the principal players in their death game swiftly together!
Voice: This is it! A camouflaged Zoomway exit!
Second Voice: We’re entering the Wild Area! Alert the convoy! We’re almost at our destination!
Third voice: There’s our kids’ Whiz Wagon! Wherever Superman is, we’ll find them on his trail!
Scrapper, Sr.: There’s a tunnel ahead! It looks like the alien is digging his way to the atomic plant!
Big-Words, Sr.: Then that’s where Superman and our boys are! Let’s go!
Then Mokkari and Simyan, observing the Project forces on video screen, send their army of Four-Armed Terrors into the Dimensional Threshold! Morgan Edge, thoughtfully tipped off by Inter-Gang to get the hell out of Dodge, flies away from Metropolis before the Big Boom!
Three minutes to violent eruption! Beneath the blast area, Superman frantically scurries in the wake of the Four-Armed Terror!
“I hear sounds of shooting up ahead!” thinks Superman. “He’s broken into the atomic power plant!” Guards scream, “Stop him! Stop him!” and fire at the creature, who uses his four upper appendages to throw them aside in his ceaseless quest for satiation. Thinks the Man of Steel, That thing mustn’t reach the reactor!” Jumping from behind, Superman puts the beast in a headlock. “This is as far as you go, mister!” says our hero. “AARRUK!” says our villain. “Maddened by his hunger for radiation, the D.N.Alien increases his power! He hurls Superman from him!!” Superman says, “Wha-?” and Four-Armed Terror says, “ARUK!” Then, “the creature lunges at the reactor — tearing at the metal…” A cringing scientist helpfully explains, “Good lord! He’s pulling out the damper rods!”
“That’s done it!” thinks Superman. “The damper rods regulate the flow of radiation! And he’s using them as waepons! — Against me!” Four rods flung by four arms fly with a ZZZWWOOOSH towards the last son of Krypton. “The great boron steel rods shatter like matchsticks upon impact with Superman!” (KRAKANNKKLE) Our hero thinks, “Now what? Without the rods, the radiation flow will rise to the danger level — where the reactor reaches critical mass!”
The reactor begins to run wild! And the alien feeds upon the escaping energy!
Four-Armed Terror: ARUK! ARUK!
Superman: Come down from there, you animal!
It is one minute to Blow-Up! And it can’t be stopped! As if to nail down this fact to Superman, the glistening Threshold appears — and from it pours an army of D.N.Aliens! And to meet their charge at this incredible moment, The Project security forces arrive to close in for battle!!
Soldier: Open fire! Give ’em all you’ve got!
Superman: [Thinking] They’re too late! It’s just about doom-time!
Big-Words, Sr.: Superman! We found the boys! They filled us in! — They — Wha–!? The reactor’s reaching critical mass! It’ll melt — flood the area with deadly radiation!
Gabby, Sr.: No! No!
Superman: It’s worse! Those aliens could trigger an atomic blast! Are the test tunnels still here?
Big-Words, Sr.: Yes! Beyond the reactor chamber! We’ve been planning to tap the Earth’s core for power!
Superman: Fine! Now! When I give the signal — halt the firing! Break ranks and let the D.N.Aliens come through!
It is thirty seconds SECONDS to eternity! The battle rages in full fury!
Superman: Hold them back! Just for one second more!
Bracing himself against the sizzling reactor, Superman pours his might into one lifting motion…
Superman: It’s got to be now!
Then he jars the reactor from its foundation!
Superman: This is it! Stop firing! Let the aliens through! Let them through!
Lifting the great reactor, Superman runs with his burden toward the test tunnels! The security lines suddenly open! And the aliens break through! Countdown has begun! 10 — 9 — 8 — 7 — 6 — 5 –
Superman: The aliens are following the trail of radiation — as I’d hoped! I’ve got to use sonic speed now!
4 — 3 — 2 –
Superman: The deep core tunnel! And down she goes!
Like maddened lemmings, the aliens ignore Superman and hurl themselves after the plummeting reactor!!
Superman: They’re blindly following their food supply!
Then thousands of feet below, an immense, fiery blast occurs — which sends seismograph needles waving hundreds of miles away!
Phew! That was a close one! And, okay, you’re right, the Big Boom is more a non-event, huh?
We’re not exactly informed how The Four-Armed Terror is transported from the Evil Factory (hidden in the Scottish highlands) to The Wild Area (near Metropolis), as it happens between Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #136 and 137, but we kinda assumed it was the Penetrator Beam that did the job, the same device used to land Giant Green Jimmy in The Project. But actually, at least when it comes to multiple Homo Ursurpui, Mokkari and Simyan utilize the Matter-Transmitter to create the Dimensional Threshold to get the buggers out of their hair.
As the grown-up Newsboy Legionnaires, Golden Guardian and DNA Project soldiers are rushing via transports to meet the singular Four-Armed Terror threat in the Wild Area, Mokkari and Simyan, proprietors of The Evil Factory spring into action. The caption reads: “The death game grows more tense! The countermove comes by remote control!” Controlling a view screen, Mokkari blurts, “Project troops!” and Simyan adds, “We must act!”
At an unknown location, the architects of the atomic blow-up work feverishly in the Evil Factory!
Simyan: Those troops could help Superman stop our alien, Mokkari!
Mokkari: Then we’ll arrange to keep them busy, Simyan! — By sending them — more aliens! I’ll activate the Matter-Transmitter!”
With that, the yellow-faced Apokolips denizen fiddles with some dials.
Simyan: Our entire alien brood has hatched — and dissolved their shells!
Mokkari: As soon as the generator builds up the desired charge, we’ll create the Dimensional Threshold — and transmit them across it to the scene of action!
Amidst their cries of “ARUK,” the Four-Armed Terrors are sprayed with magenta-colored gas, perhaps more radioactive vapors.
Simyan: And when they get there, nothing will stop them! They’ll tear into that atomic reactor! The blow-up must happen!
Mokkari: It shall! These brutes will make it a certainty! We must report to our ruler that we’ve done his will!
Suddenly there’s a glowing area in the chamber… the Dimensional Threshold begins to appear!
As Superman is engaged in a slug-fest with the first Four-Armed Terror, suddenly… “It is one minute to blow-up! And it can’t be stopped! As if to nail down this fact to Superman, the glistening Threshold appears — and from it pours an army of D.N.Aliens!”