Superheroes – Once upon a Time in 1968 – Christmas Special – Riddles and Snowmen

21 December, 2021


This story is in canon but out of continuity, the most recent Issue was 12, but this story does not directly connect with it or Issue 13.

Cover: TIC Superheroic Christmas Special 196880-Page Giant!  The cover art shows all of the heroes in ranks, some with hats, singing Christmas Carols.  Circles around the edge have team names: Heroes Inc, the New Atlantians, the LA Stars, Freedom Five and more!

Opening page:  A list of stories with the faces of the team members next to the team name.

ESBPage 54, story begins: The whole team at their Christmas party held at Vulpix’s swinging pad on Christmas Eve.  Shadowfist has brought homemade dimsum (made by her, so they are slightly mishapen), Horizon brought tamales (“Juan’s mother is a wonderful cook”).  Roboto is wearing a santa hat and is wrapped in Christmas lights.  Montage of scenes: decorating the tree, shaking presents. eating food, and so on.  Next page, the hero phone rings, Vulpix tries to convince the caller that they are not taking cases until after Christmas.  It is a call from Jack Diamond, “Vulpix, the team and I are in Antarctica fighting Nazi yeti.  Can your team take a look in on the Empire State Building?  Janice says there are some odd things going on.  I would really appreciate it.  Sorry, have to go, an aluminum flying saucer is strafing us.”

With ill-grace, Vulpix leads the team to the Empire State Building which is surrounded by snow statues of heroes and villains in combat.  808 uses his light based power to X-illuminate (as in x-ray) the snow statues, looking for dangers.  One has a very basic amature and clockwork inside and as the heroes approach it turns to face them, it is of the Puzzle Master and it unfolds a sign that says “Where do I keep my money?”

“A snow bank!” answers the team.  They recall a news report about a bank that was caught in a freak snowburst.  The bank was not in any threat of structural damage so it was left until after the holidays to clean up (if needed).  The team quickly head to the bank which is indeed covered in snow and surrounded by police barriers.  Their were lights in the building, which seemed strange, so 808 phased into take a look.  Inside are eight people in winter gear, with skies stacked by the door, one of them, a woman, is projecting cold against the vault door.  808 reports this and Vulpix identifies them as, probably, as Snow Bunny and her Ski-Thieves.  “So they are freezing the bank’s assets,” says Roboto.

“We will have to make sure there is no cold, hard cash for them,” says Shadowfist

808 phases the team in.  “Stop them.  I am almost there,” says Snow Bunny.  The Ski-Thieves ready spray guns and   Horizon sucks snow in from outside forms it into a ball and rolls it over two of the thieves.  Shadowfist, gracefully, but ineffectually, slides by one of the others on a patch of ice.

808 tries to use asolid light hand to capture Snow Bunny but ends up getting frozen by water shot by one of the Ski Thieves.  “Heck of a time to freeze on the job, Bob,” says Roboto just before he grabs the ice-encased 808 and throws him at Snow Bunny (this being part of a move they have been practicing where Roboto uses his super stength to throw 808 who uses his density power to become ultra-dense just before impact, they still have not named it though).  Unfortunately, Roboto’s aim is off just a hair and 808 and the ice hits, and breaks the super-chilled vault door.

Snow Bunny retaliates but dropping the tempurature on the air around Roboto to sub-sub-zero levels, as his servo start to freeze up, he snaps at horizon.  “You control the powers of gravity, Horizon, so why is she still moving?”

Horizon grimaces and wrenches the largest piece of the vault off the floor and propels it at Snow Bunny.  She manages to duck under it and only take a glancing blow from it.   “You are more dangerous than I expected,” says Snow Bunny as she retaliates by pulling in an avalanche of snow through the main doors of the bank.  The Ski-Thieves scatter.  Shadowfist and Vulpix double team Snow Bunny to get in a finishing blow which halts the avalanche.

As she is being let away, Snow Bunny says, “My first major heist on the East Coast and I have the bad luck to run across a team of teen heroes.  What are the odds?”

Waiting among the police is a messenger in a red suit with a pillbox hat.  “Freedom Five!” he shouts.  “I have a telegram for you.”

Perplexed and slightly nervous they accept the message from the Eastern Union messenger.  It reads:

I have cities, but no houses. I have mountains, but no trees. I have water, but no fish. What am I? 

The team ponders this and then Vulpix snaps her fingers.  “A globe or a map!  And a display of rare maps just opened at the at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts!”

So, they head to the museum, which, naturally, is closed as it is Christmas Eve.  They start looking around trying to see if anything is happening.  Vulpix notices that there is a window ajar on the second floor, behind a set of bars, but it should not be open!  808 creates a solid light staircase (channeling his Green Lantern energy) and they walk up to outside the room and he then phases them through the wall.  It is the rare map exhibit and several of the cases are open!  A flashlight, on, is set on one of the case and the door to the rest of the museum is just swinging closed.

Shadowfist springs into action and . . . hits an oil slicked marble floor and shoots forward, flipping over the railing to land, dramatically on the floor below.  Roboto sticks his head out to look around just in time for a smoke grenade to go off and to hear the sound of feet running away down the corridor.  Horizon pushes the window closed to trigger the alarm (alarm bells everywhere!) and Roboto gives chase!  He grabs a bollard and tosses it at the retreating figure who nibly dodges it but he cannot outrun the electrically powered leg of Roboto who tackled the thief who goes limp and says, “Don;t hurn the maps!  I surrender!”

377px-David_Niven_in_Enchantment_(1948)For it is the Wiley Weasel!  Unmasked, he looks like a young David Niven complete with pencil thin mustache.  The Wiley Weasel is an expert at executing impossible crimes, where no one else could get in, he does.  But he is not a fighter and he does not want beautiful things damaged, even if he does steal them,  (His backpack had a special frame and protective pockets to transport the maps safely.)

While waiting for the police, they question him and he explain that he stole the maps as he knew collector willing to pay top dollar for them.  He also admits, after they mention the bank robbery, that a group of super-criminals had gotten together and planned multiple heists across NYC on Christams Eve, knowning that it would stretch the police thin.  It was a group of “hononable villains”, targeting institutions that were insured and targets where it was unlikely anyone would get hurt.  When it was mentioned to the Wiley Weason that the Puzzle Master ratted him out, he just shrugged and said, “That’s the way he plays the game.”  (Horizon rudely called him the “Limp Lemur” as he was handed over to the police.)

As they stepped out of the museum, one of the posters for the map display was illuminated and a riddle had been painted on it that read:

Until I am measured, I am not known. Yet how you miss me, When I have flown. What am I?

“Is this some sort of math problem?” asks 808.  “Time,” answers Vulpix and Shadowfist simultaneously.  

“We’ve been tricked!” says Vulpix, slamming her fist into her palm.  They hurry back to Vulpix’s apartment, where among the left behind rood was a green wrapped box tied with a purple bow.  Horizon takes it outside to open, where it releases a burst of green and purple confetti and inside are five question mark shaped Chirstmas ornaments and a note that reads, “Thank you for a delightful evening, -Puzzle Master“.

This is soon followed by a rude outburst from Vulpix who has found that the cutlass she took from Captain Kraken (in Issue #7) has been replaced by a giant green and purple candy cane and a note reading,.  “Thank you for helping me find the perfect gift.”  And on the back it reads, “The Captain will be so pleased to have it back.”

“We will get it back next time Kraken show up,” says Shadowfist with a hand on Vulpix’s shoulder.

Final panel, the team all together holding a sign that reads, “Merry Christmas!”

Other criminals involved in the Christmas Eve of Crime: The Dog Girls gang knocks over three small bank branches in quick succession and get away clean (several anonymous cash donations to dog shelters around the city are suspected to have been from them).  Die Fliedermaus was prevented from cracking a high security vault by Challenger but escaped capture.  Flowerchild steals a truckload of US Army rations and distributes them among the needy and the dispossed of NYC, Captain Liberty debates philosophy with him but ultimately lets him go “as it is Christmas eve.”  Jumbo Jet and his Flying Robbers try to hit a securities firm on the 42nd floor of a high rise office block but are captured by Lady Defender and Chief Storm (who almost came to blows, each initailly thinking the other was working with the criminals).  Queen Magick and her sidekick hit a set of high end jewelers and cleaned out the loose stones and unused metals, leaving the finished pieces behind.  The Wave Wizard attempts to steal color televisions off a docked ship but is stopped by Tigershark of the Misfits of Science.

Freedom Five Issue 13 “Darkness in the Light” is on the stands now!

Notes:  Another holiday special!  Fun to have a light herted game after the last one, which was rather heavy.  And the source material plays with continuity all the time so we can too!

The Puzzle Master is, of course, my homage to my favorite Batman villain, the Riddler.  He has not show up in a game (where he was equally playing the heroes) since back in the Heroes Inc era.

Photos upper: from the Empire State Building twitter acount, taken by mattsfocus/IG and used without permission (but should be Fair Use).  Lower photo David Niven (1948), found on Wikimedia Commons and is in the Public Domain.

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