Heroes Inc – Issue 18 – Puzzles and Pennies

30 January, 2020

Heroes Incorporated, Issue 18: Puzzles and Pennies

Appearing in this issue: Playboy, Plasma-Man, Kid Comic, and Lt. Steele.

Villains: The Puzzle Master and the Three Pennies (Penny Black, Penny Dreadful, and Penny Farthing)

Cover: The team overshadowed by a huge question mark. Across the bottom is blazoned: Against the Puzzle Master!

Opening page: Part One. Janice at the Heroes Inc front desk, inter-coming Jack Diamond, “Mr. Diamond, we have received a package. Normally I would not bother you, sir, but it is ticking.”

Next page: Jack Diamond and Plasma-Man in the lab, Jack is using a set of waldos to open the package while Plasma-Man reviews the x-ray of the package. “I think it is a clock,” says Plasma-Man. And indeed it is, a clock and taped to its face is a riddle. The heroes puzzle over the riddle before realizing that it is the calling card of Peter Arthur Radox aka the Puzzle Master!

Just as they conclude that, the clock strikes twelve and a recorded voice says, “By now you should have figured out who this is. So riddle me this, Mr. Diamond, why is a raven like a writing desk?”

Inside the NY Public LibraryThe heroes ponder this for a moment and then call Janice to ask her.(1) Janice immediately recognizes it and replies, “It is from Alice in Wonderland, Mr. Diamond. The reply given by the Mad Hatter was, ‘If I knew the answer I would not ask you.’ Though another suggested answer is Edgar Allan Poe, because he wrote on both of them.” Janice picks up a copy of the New York Times, “Mr. Diamond, a new display of rare books from the 19th century has just opened at the New York Public Library including first editions of works by Lewis Carroll and Poe.”

Jack looks to Plasma-Man and switches on his wrist communicator, “Heroes Incorporate!”

The heroes rush to the New York Public Library, when they arrive they find a Penny Farthing bicycle and a U S Postal Service van abandoned on the steps of the Library. The heroes rush in to find a group of armed men in tuxedos waiting for them (and Elaine Elizabeth hiding behind a display photographing it all). The heroes quickly eliminate half the goons when three women repel down from the ceiling saying, “A penny for your thoughts, Mr. Diamond. Well, three pennies actually.”

It is the Three Pennies, occasional foes of the Night Cat and themed villains:

Penny Black, stamp collector. Dressed in a black Victorian military uniform with the jacket edge scalloped like the edge of a stamp. Penny Dreadful, literary-themed villainess, in a blue uniform with her jacket edge looking like the spine of a book. Penny Farthing, collector of Victorian and mistress of weird science, in a white Victorian-era labcoat with brass cogwheel buttons.

Battle ensues. The highlights of which were: The Pennies using tactics to switch between foes to best use their themed weaponry. Plasma Man being hit by Penny Black’s cancellation gun and wearing a cancellation stamp on his head for the rest of the adventure. Penny Farthing dumped clockwork spiders on Lt. Steele that ate the linkages between his armor systems. Plasma Man being hit by a stream of water from a fire hose wielded by the Puzzle Master. At the end, the heroes are blinded by a storm of postage stamps and the villains escape, leaving behind another puzzle.

Interlude: The heroes retire to their base and invite and formally install Janice as a full (though non-fighting) member of Heroes Inc. Lt. Steele is shipped to White Plains to repair the damage done to his systems by Penny Farthing’s clockwork spiders. The heroes ponder the puzzle.

Part two: The next day, our heroes continue to puzzle over the problem and decide to take a break and have dinner at a local diner. Upon sitting down at the lunch counter, Plasma Man notices an ad for the Wonders of the Victorian Orient exhibit at Carnegie Center including a set of rare Siamese Shadow puppets. Shadow being the answer to the riddle and Victorian being the theme of Penny Farthing, the heroes set out remembering that Janice went to attend the showing of the Mikado at Carnegie Center . . .

3 Little Maids or Pennies

The heroes arrive to see the crowd pouring out of the theater and clouds of pale blue smoke filtering out of the exits. Janice gives a situation report, which is that the Three Pennies rigged the fans used by the main female characters and at the end of the song, “Three Little Girls from School” the fans started emitting gas as did hidden dispensers in the boxes. The heroes plan an attack coming in through two levels and find the Pennies and their goons looting the valuables of the unconscious patrons.

The heroes attack and everything goes their way in this second battle, Penny Black is taken out of the fight in the first attack and the heroes easily defeat the Pennies. But they find the Siamese shadow puppets missing replaced with a shadow puppet of the Puzzle Master and a question mark with a note attached saying, “I will return when I have more puzzles and more allies to confound you with. <signed> Puzzle Master”

The heroes are disappointed that the Puzzle Master escaped but pleased with the capture of the Pennies.

Period notes: 1. Janice Trades has a BA in English Literature from Brown. – Studious Sean

Flip back to summaries of Issues 16 and 17.

Sideways to Heroes Inc 80-Page Giant.

Onward to Issue 19!

Back to Heroes Inc Roll Call.

Notes: Back to the full write ups!  This was one of my favorite adventures of the whole Heroes Inc run and I was disappointed that we never had another chance for the Pennies, and the Puzzle Master, to return to face Heroes Inc.  But he has returned to bedevil the young heroes of Freedom’s Five!

The Three Pennies, and especially Penny Dreadful, all presage the current steampunk craze.

Photos: NY Public Library entrance by vagueonthehow and used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.  Mikado picture adapted from “Card Number 169, The Mikado, from the Actors and Actresses series (N145-2) issued by Duke Sons & Co. to promote Cross Cut Cigarettes” by W. Duke, Sons & Co. is licensed under CC0 1.0.

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