What if were you?
What if you devoted your entire adult life to law-enforcement and, perhaps, in a more dissimulating occupation to fight crime, risking life and limb for the public good; what if your reward, in the end, as life bleeds out, was to have an agency take what is the essence of everything you are and, to serve them, to grow another… you?
If Jim Harper, the alter ego of the hero of Suicide Slum, The Golden Guardian, could look down onto our world from the pearly gates, maybe he might ponder the strange new questions raised by artificial replication of human life. Maybe, ya think, he might be angry, believing he had sacrificed quite enough, thank you, for the betterment of mankind. Well, at least, the improvement of a quartet of Metropolis street kids back in the day…
It’s difficult to ascertain exactly what has transpired at The Project. That is, whether the men formally known as the original Newsboy Legion took it upon themselves to create a clone of Jim Harper to reintroduce The Guardian to the world, or if the genetic scientists of the vast government enterprise had exactly that intention. It seems, in our tale, that it was the idea of the adult compatriots of the original super-hero because they couldn’t bear to let him go… ?
Let’s re-examine a scenario from our previous issue of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen (and, fear not, effendis — we’ll quickly get up to date): After the grand Zoomway adventure, Superman, Jimmy and the new Newsboy Legion are taking their first stroll together through The Project. The Man of Steel escorts them (as he himself must pass various security checkpoints) and “Suddenly, there is the whir of hidden mechanisms — and great steel doors open!” Superman tells his pals, “Here comes your first big surprise, my friends!”
“And indeed it is!” the caption reads, “For facing the boys are ‘originals‘ not seen by the general public since the ‘1940’s!‘ But the Newsboy Legionnaires of today call each of them ‘DAD!'” And sons and fathers share a happy respite reacquainting themselves. It seems all the patriarchs are employed at The Project! Later, as the Giant Green Jimmy is bearing down upon The Project, Jimmy confers with the fathers after Superman is momentarily knocked unconscious by the monster with the synthetic-Kryptonite coating.
Gabby, Sr.: We, the first Newsboy Legion, were called here to help do a job — I, Gabby, a teacher!
Big Words, Sr.: Yes, and I, the original ‘Big Words,’ am here, as a geneticist!
Scrapper, Sr.: I, Scrapper, became a social worker — But I’m needed here, too!
Tommy, Sr.: And I, once the kid they called Tommy, was summoned here as a medical doctor! Like you men, I can’t save the day — but, like you, I know who might!
At this, Doctor Tom pushes a button to open a chamber door. Inside is the Life Chamber containing a newly grown James Harper.
Scrapper, Sr.: Tommy — do you think he’s ready?
Big Words, Sr.: I think so! I’m glad we left the boys with Flippa Dippa’s dad!
Gabby, Sr.: This has been our little secret up till now —
Jimmy: You men have been developing a replica of your own?
Tommy, Sr.: Yes! He was one of us — a good friend — A good captain of detectives — who died in a battle with thieving hoods recently! But not before I —
Jimmy: Doctor! You took a living tissue sample from this wounded man?
“Suddenly Jimmy peers deeply within the depths of the Life Chamber!”
Jimmy: No! — He was no ordinary policeman! I remember his story! He was more like Superman himself!
Gabby, Sr.’s statement of “our little secret” could be typical hyperbole, as it is very hard to imagine the super-tight defense of The Project wouldn’t be aware of such an ambitious and expensive (I mean, that Life Chamber must’ve cost some bucks, know what I’m saying?). But, then again, the denizens of The Evil Factory are keeping the security personnel hopping, that’s for sure…
Back to our current story: After the defeat of “The Incredible Jimmy” by the Scrapper-Troopers, we witness Mokkari and Simyan report to their master, Darkseid. The King of Evil chagrins his servitors and tells them with the next plan “there must be comlete, thorough success!” The proprietors of The Evil Factory discuss the coming age if their nefarious deeds bear fruit: “Our offspring shall bring Apokolips to Earth! Chaos in place of order!” says Simyan, “and from that chaos will arise the new masters of Earth — with the great Darkseid as their exalted leader!” Then, perched atop a cherry-picker type of crane, they overlook a (conveniently labeled!) “great model of their rival project in its entirety!”
Ponders Mokkari: What should their next project be? “Except for the giant Jimmy Olsen, we have grown nothing but mere beasts of burden!” Suddenly Simyan reminds him of the cell tissues raised in beta gas. “But they are ‘unknowns!’” protests his yellow-faced companion. “Even as they grew — they hid from us!” They enter the Lower Level Control Bubble and — holy H.R. Giger! — they look out over a vast chamber filled with giant egg sacs, sinister mists of beta gas wafting overhead… !
Cut to the new Newsboy Legion meeting the Guardian, who is a bit out of sorts…
Scrapper: Wow! Da Guardian! Where ya been all dese years?
Tommy: I’ll bet our dad’s know!
Big Words: There was a policeman named Jim Harper known by the old Newsboy Legion — Did you know him?
Gabby: Know him? I’ll bet he is Jim! C’mon, ’Fess up!
The Guardian: I-I would like to answer all your questions — but I somehow feel so — strange —
Suddenly, the “Dads” burst into the room.
Gabby: The “all clear” has sounded! How is “Model One”?
Flippa Dippa: “Model One’? Don’t tell me all this heah fuss is bein’ made over a phony Guardian!
Tommy, Sr.: He’s every bit as real as the original Guardian! And, after watching him on the tele-monitor, I’d say he’s magnificent!
Tommy: Dad! What are you trying to tell us? What happened to the original?
Tommy, Sr.: The other men will fill you in! I’m busy!
Scrapper, Sr.: Ya might as well have it straight, kids! The original Guardian is dead! During the years we grew to manhood, we lost track of him!
Big Words: Of course! You were all pursuing your separate careers!
Gabby, Sr.: The Guardian vanished when Jim Harper was transferred to the detective division, in another precinct!
Big Words, Sr.: Not long ago, we were called to Jim Harper’s bedside! He’d been fatally wounded in an action with fleeing criminals!
Gabby: (Blub) (Sniff) Don’t tell us da rest — I’ll cry —
Tommy: Wait! Before he died, Jim Harper confessed he’d been the Guardian — Didn’t he?
Big Words: Yes! But we just couldn’t bear to lose him! When the original Jim Harper passed on, he left behind a still-living cell tissue sample!
Flippa Dippa’s father: So, ‘The Project‘ grew a new Guardian! I’m glad that Flippa-Dippa and I are part of the kind of friendship you share!
The story of Jim Harper doesn’t end here. There’s still the issue of who killed him and what will happen to that “Mister Rat,” but we’ll save that for when the time comes.
There you have it, friends. “We just couldn’t bear to lose him.” So they clone him!?
Part of me believes Jack is being overly optimistic, neglecting to think through the ethical considerations that arise with human cloning. But I’d betcha there was something to come in the unfinished saga percolating in Jack’s noggin. All this talk about “strange brain activity” in The Project’s clones might be a foreshadowing of a deeper, darker, and more complex tale…