Day 107: Sgt. Willie Walker!

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 earnedthe 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…