March 19, 1943
Terror in the Bar
Unlike many other young American citizens in 1942, Biff Redondo had no desire to join the military or battle the Axis.
Others were driven by love of freedom and love of country; Biff was driven by love of Biff. He'd done his best to avoid the draft by claiming he had epilepsy, and he did his best to fail the induction physical too, but the draft board and the doctors had seen
it all before and hadn't been fooled by it then, either. They all thought that at an even six feet tall, 210 pounds, with blue eyes and black hair, Biff would make a perfect soldier. So they sent him to Army boot camp, like it or not.
He didn't. Biff
tried to wash out of boot camp, but every possible soldier was needed on the front, so nobody — not even the worst foul up, which he was — was allowed to wash. Under enemy fire, even losers like Biff learned to be real soldiers, or else. The Army
knows exactly how to force a square peg through a round hole: you hit it hard with a hammer. If that doesn't work, you use a bigger hammer.
All that his foul-ups achieved was a pile of demerits and extra duty. And he was due to ship out in two days.
Which was why he was wasting his last leave sitting in this seedy bar on the wrong side of a crummy little town.
He was feeling sorry for himself — not an altogether unusual activity for him — when a strange-looking man sat down unannounced
and slammed a full pint bottle of very good whiskey on the table. He pulled two shot glasses from one of his pockets, filled them both, and pushed one toward Biff. Biff examined the man with interest; this might be the guy he was supposed to meet. Old coot,
bald, thick glasses, protruding yellow-stained teeth. Taller than Biff, but skinny as a fence rail. Wearing a stained white lab coat with stained clothes on underneath. Hadn't had a bath in a few weeks. High squeaky voice.
The old man raised his shot
glass in a toast, so Biff picked up his glass and joined him. Even at 20, he'd learned never to pass up free booze.
"To the Army!" the coot said, and tossed down his shot.
"To HELL with the Army!" Biff said, and tossed his down, too.
old oddball's eyes lit up. "Sorry! I had to be sure you're the guy I'm looking for! Sir, my name is Dr. Andreas Daytona. I've heard you're seeking a way out of the Army. I can help you!"
Daytona was the name he'd been given, but Biff was still cautious.
"Okay, supposin' I am. How can you help?"
"You haven't been able to solve the quite straightforward problem of getting dismissed from the Army. If you had even half of my intellect, the solution would be obvious. Of course, there are few people in the
world who even come close to half my intellect!"
Biff didn't dare lose his temper. Suppose Daytona really could help him, and Biff drove him away? "Sure, Doc, it's obvious to everyone that you're the World's Greatest Intellect. Whatcha got in mind?"
"Fake a debilitating injury and get a medical discharge, my friend! Wait, wait, don't interrupt, I already know your every thought. 'Dr. Daytona,' you're about to say, 'I've already thought of that, but the Army doctors are really good at detecting fakes.'
So what you need is a real debilitating injury, but one that's only temporary, yes? Of course, to your puny intellect, this is an unsolvable problem. But before the majestic genius of Dr. Daytona, the unsolvable melts away like so many snowflakes in the desert!"
He was on a roll, now. "I won't keep you in suspense, young man. Lack of vision, temporary blindness in one eye, is the obvious answer!"
"Hey, old man! Pipe down, you're bothering my customers!" Daytona had finally gotten so loud that even in this noisy,
noisome dive, the bartender could no longer ignore him.
"Fool!" Daytona screamed. "You know the penalty for interrupting ME!!"
He turned to face the bartender, pulling a small white box with a big red button out of a pocket. Immediately, every
noise in the room stopped. The bartender looked like he was trying to swallow a ton of dry sand. He hadn't recognized Daytona with his back turned, but he sure as hell recognized him now. He crossed himself and prepared to die...or worse. But he could still
beg for his life.
"Aw, jeez, Doc, look, I didn't know it was you, or I wouldn't have said nothing!" He got down on his knees in front of Daytona, put his hands together, and prayed to the old man. "Doc, I got a wife and kids! Somebody's gotta take care
of 'em! Please, Doc!"
Daytona looked gratified. He very carefully set the box on the table, the large red button on the top visible to every eye in the room — all of which were locked on the movement of Daytona's hands by then. Biff was watching
a group of construction workers in a booth across the room, and they weren't even breathing...and they didn't start again until Daytona casually returned to his seat. "Your groveling has earned everyone a reprieve, this time," the man scientist sneered. "Now,
everyone, please return to your normal activities until I've finished my business here. However, no one is to leave until after I do!"
The few patrons who were starting to edge out of their seats quickly sat down again. The noise in the bar returned
to something like its normal level, but the character of the noise had changed. Biff heard men telling jokes, and other men laughing, but there was no humor in either the jokes or the laughter.
suddenly terrified. Daytona clearly expected him to say something, but he'd forgotten what they were talking about. Something about blindness? He prayed that he was right. "What an absolutely incredible idea. A perfect escape from the Army. Blindness in one
eye! Nobody will ever figure it out!"
By then, Biff had decided that he would rather fight all the Axis armies himself, naked and unarmed, than let this crazy man anywhere near his eyes. He had to keep Daytona talking until he figured out how to get
away. "Doc, it's a great plan, but I'm a little fuzzy on the details. Can you draw me a picture?"
Daytona reached for his inside jacket pocket again, and the crowd immediately fell silent. Biff started silently saying prayers, and somewhere nearby,
as close as the next booth, he could hear water dripping to the floor. Daytona stopped moving, looked a little confused, and then started laughing. Once again, the noise level returned to something like normal. Even to Biff's untrained ear, it sounded more
strained than before.
"Ah, an idiom. You don't want a real drawing, you want me to paint a picture with words. How absolutely charming, my dear boy!" Daytona reached over and patted Biff's hand. "I have here," he began, and the sound level dipped as
he reached again into his pocket. But Daytona moved slowly this time, a big smile on his face, and the hand came out holding a small glass ink bottle. He continued, "one of my greatest inventions. I call it ONPA!"
He paused, clearly expecting a response
of some kind. His face started to darken as no one seemed to notice. Biff swallowed a lump the size of Lake Erie and started clapping his hands and cheering. The other patrons noticed and quickly joined in. Softly at first, but more quickly as their fear grew,
the applause and cheering increased in volume, and within a few seconds, the place was rocking with applause, whistles, cheers, and forced goodwill.
Daytona looked around him like a conductor who has just finished directing a particularly well-played
Strauss waltz, stood up, and took bows to the four corners of the room. The applause, almost deafening to start with, doubled and redoubled in volume. Then the old man held up his hand for silence, and silence he had, instantly.
"My friends, thank you
ever so much for your acclaim. It is a humbling experience indeed to be acknowledged by such a learned and august body as this. While the accomplishment is, in the main, mine own, I must also insist that you acknowledge my partner, as he modestly sits before
He pointed to Biff, motioned for him to rise, and the patrons started cheering again. Not as loudly as before, and it was clear to Biff, at least, that many of the patrons had had just about enough — regardless of the power of that little
white box with its big red button.
Something bad was just waiting to happen. He had to get Daytona out of here. "Master Daytona, perhaps we can walk a while, and discuss your triumph in privacy? The applause makes it hard to talk in here."
stood and bowed again, this time in Biff's direction. "A marvelous idea, sir. Shall we take our leave?"
Just before they reached the door, Daytona stopped. "You!" he pointed at the trembling waitress. "We want the contents of the cash register! Now!"
She scampered behind the bar, opened the register, and quickly emptied the contents into an empty pitcher. She handed the pitcher to Daytona, who gave it to Biff. "Hold this, lackey!"
Of course Biff complied, although he raged silently at being called
a lackey. Daytona plunged his hand into the pitcher, came out with a handful of bills, and handed them to the waitress. "A round of drinks on me, please!" Then he turned to the bar, and continued in a menacing tone of voice. "Nobody leaves for half an hour
— and my partner will be watching!" He indicated Biff, and Biff knew he would never be welcome in this bar again. "And I don't think you ought to let anyone sit at our table," Daytona said, pointing at the table where the box with the ominous button
still sat, the button like a giant red eyeball, staring everywhere at once, "until after midnight." On that note, he led the very confused and totally terrified Biff out onto the street.
"Now, where were we?" Dr. Daytona asked.
timidly, "You had just showed me a bottle of something you called, hmm, let's see, Oompah or something... said it was your greatest invention."
"Not Oompah, you idiot! ONPA! And it's not really one of my greater inventions, just a potion I threw together
in a few minutes last week. I made it specially for that guy who wants to get out of the Army so badly. It stands for Optical Nerve Paralytic Agent. Neat nickname, huh? First letter of every word, get it?"
"That's very clever, Dr. Daytona. You were
just going to tell me how it works."
"Ah, yes. Two drops into one eye, and you will be blind in that eye for six weeks. That should get you the medical discharge you so earnestly desire. But remember, once your vision returns, you must continue to pretend
to be blind, at least until the war is over!"
Daytona paused and seemed to listen for a second. Biff didn't dare talk, but Daytona heard him anyway. "Idiot! Can't you figure out anything for yourself? Obviously you must stage a plausible accident!"
Biff hadn't been thinking that, in fact. But now that Daytona had brought it up... "Say, Doc, that's a great idea! Any suggestions?"
Daytona roared, "Must I do ALL your thinking for you? I don't know why I ally myself with idiots!" His voice dropped
somewhat, and he looked thoughtful. "Because, Dr. Daytona, they are all idiots!" He looked at Biff again and smiled. "And you are better than most. At least you are smart enough to see the benefits of becoming my partner!"
Biff saw nothing of the kind.
Where had that "partner" stuff come from? He tried to steer the conversation back to the ONPA. "An accident it is, Doc! No problems! Umm, just one more question," he added timidly. "Are you sure this stuff will work?"
Now Daytona's voice was like thunder.
"OF COURSE IT WILL WORK! I INVENTED IT, DIDN'T I?" Then, in a normal voice, he added "You have my personal guarantee, of course!" Biff shuddered inside. How much would such a guarantee be worth? Daytona continued, "I tested it on myself, a couple of months
back. For six weeks I was blind as a bat in my left eye, but my sight has returned and my vision is perfect. Here, let me show you!"
He reached into a pocket and came out with a handful of the boxes with red buttons, which he started to juggle. Horrified,
Biff counted five of the deadly devices flying between Daytona's hands. He wanted to run, but he didn't dare move; if he distracted Daytona, the mad scientist might drop one. What would happen then, Biff realized, he had no idea. But it was sure to be deadly
Daytona saw the helpless fear in Biff's eyes, and he laughed. "Fool! Do you think I would actually carry around dangerous devices? These are merely empty boxes, strictly for show. I've found that the threat of force is often more powerful
than the actual application of force, perhaps because of the uncertainty involved. BAHH! Why am I wasting my observations on a brainless idiot like you? It is time to wrap up this tedious business, so I can retire to my home and have an intellectual conversation
— with my mirror! Follow me."
He turned to walk away, ignoring the boxes as they fell to the ground. Biff sighed in relief until he noticed that one of the little cubes was starting to glow red and emit smoke. He tried to speak, but could only
At the weird noise, Daytona turned. He casually kicked the glowing cube into the sewer and walked away, ignoring the gash that had burned into the leather of his shoe. Biff hurried to catch the doctor. A few seconds later there came a muffled
whoomph of an explosion, and a noxious vapor started spewing from the curb. Daytona muttered to himself. Biff just barely made out some of the words: "...must have pulled that one from wrong bin..." and finally he'd had enough.
"Doc, it's getting late
and if I don't head back soon I'll end up AWOL." He started edging away.
Suddenly, Daytona was rational again. "Here you are, my boy! Good luck! Please look me up as soon as you get out and we'll begin our partnership in earnest."
Biff took the
bottle, crossed his fingers, and promised to be back at the same bar, at the same time, exactly eight weeks hence. And then he fled.
Biff on Guard
The next day, Biff had trouble believing his memories of the night
before. He suspected somebody had slipped peyote into his tequila... until he saw the little ink bottle tucked away in the corner of his trunk. A sudden surge of adrenaline cut through his hangover. Would this stuff actually work? Would he actually have the
guts to use it? He didn't have much time to make up his mind. He was going to have to take a risk, or get sent where evil people wanted to shoot him — and this seemed like his best option.
He was walking sentry duty tonight. Normally, he thought
of this as one of the dumbest duties the Army handed out. Who was going to attack an Army training base in the middle of Ohio? But tonight it would work out perfectly. After dinner, the soldiers had some free time, and that night, Biff put his to good use.
He picked up some bait from the trash behind the mess tent and set up a raccoon trap not far from the electrical power station. The 'coon wasn't essential, but he thought it would add a nice touch of believability to his plan. Then he had to wait for midnight,
when he went on duty.
Biff took a set of heavy work gloves with him. On his first round, he checked his trap, and was pleased to find a raccoon trapped under the box already. When he reached underneath to grab the frightened animal, he was grateful
that he had on the gloves, or his hands would have been torn to shreds. He carried the poor, innocent critter to the power station and threw it at one of the transformers. With a sharp crackle, it was burned to a crisp. He carefully hid the gloves under a
transformer, then reviewed his plan one last time.
"I heard something moving in the power station, so I checked it out," he told himself. "This 'coon leaped at me and I kicked it into a transformer, where it got fried. But I stumbled, and my rifle flew
into another transformer. The spark was so bright it blinded me in one eye."
Once he had the story straight, he stuck his little finger into the ONPA bottle and let two drops of the viscous fluid fall into his left eye, then threw the bottle away as
hard as he could. The pain hit like someone driving a railroad spike into his eye, and he fell to the ground, writhing in agony. He barely retained enough intelligence to throw his rifle where he was supposed to. It struck the transformer, and the barrel was
instantly enveloped in a blinding electrical flash. Sparks like lightning flashed from the transformer, and at least one of them struck Biff, shocking him unconscious.
Biff was in the hospital for almost a week...and, just as wacky old Dr. Daytona had
predicted, he was completely blind in his left eye. A couple days later, he got the medical discharge he wanted so desperately, and headed directly back to Redcliff, Ohio. There was no way he was ever going back to that bar!
Man Around Town
Biff had been BMOC at Redcliff High School, and had figured that sustaining an injury in boot camp would make him the next best thing to a war hero when he returned. It didn't. He was unskilled and could only find menial work,
which didn't fit with his self-image as a man of importance. Most of his male friends his own age had enlisted, so he didn't have anyone to hang out with, and most of the girls were still pining for their enlisted boyfriends, so he couldn't get any dates.
He'd been a very good baseball player in high school, so he tried out for the Redcliff Hawks semi-pro team — but with only one good eye, his depth perception wasn't adequate for the demands of baseball.
Things were definitely not working out the
way he had expected. He started drinking heavily, but that's not a good solution for most problems, and it didn't help Biff either.
It seemed like half the population of Redcliff was gathered in the town
square for the monthly band concert. The Redcliff High School Marching Band was going to play a John Phillip Sousa medley. For the seniors it was a sad occasion, their last chance to play together. For everyone else, it was a festive occasion, a chance to
forget about the war overseas and the rationing at home, at least for a couple of hours. For Rich Spooner, the martial music was a poignant reminder that by this time next year, he'd likely be deployed on a ship somewhere in the Pacific, as he planned to join
the Navy after his 18th birthday this coming September.
"Hey, Skinny!" someone nearby yelled, much too loudly. "Skinny" had been Rich's nickname until a couple of years back, because he'd been tall and thin as a rail. But after he'd faithfully followed
the Charles Atlas process and put on 35 pounds of muscle, it didn't fit any longer and nobody used it. So he ignored the shout.
"Skinny, it's Biff! How the heck you doing? I haven't seen you since I left for boot camp."
He recognized the voice,
and amended his last thought. Nobody but Biff Redondo still used his old nickname. And Biff wasn't one to go away if he was ignored, so Rich turned to greet his former friend.
"Hello, Biff. I heard about your accident at boot camp, and I'm really sorry
about your eye." He was sincere about that; he'd never wished harm on anyone.
"Damn, Skinny, I'm so tired of hearing that! I still got an eye, so it's no big deal." Biff pulled out a silver hip flask and took a swig, wiped the neck with his sleeve,
and offered it to Rich. "Have a shot — it'll put hair on your chest!" he suggested loudly.
People were starting to stare at them, and Rich was feeling uncomfortable. "Sorry, fella, I've gotta go. My date's waiting." Rich tried to walk away, but
Biff moved into his way. "Please, Biff. I'm serious."
"You can't just walk away from me like I'm some kinda nobody," Biff slurred.
"Look, Biff, you're drunk. Go home and sleep it off, will ya? I'm not looking for a fight tonight."
you found one, punk!" Biff sneered, and with that, he took a wild swing at Rich, who quickly stepped out of the way. By now, folks around them were getting alarmed, pulling away from them, leaving them alone in the center of a circle of onlookers. Biff swung
at his jaw; Rich ducked under the punch and moved forward, past and behind the off- balance drunk. He pushed Biff hard, and after Biff fell, Rich sat down on his back. "Settle down, pal!"
Biff responded with a string of profanity that wasn't suitable
for mixed company, ending with a threat: "I'm gonna beat your head off! Just wait! When you least expect it, pow! right in the kisser!"
Rich rolled his eyes. "From now on, you'd better leave me alone, Biff," he said in a quiet, deadly tone. "Better
go home before you get hurt, okay?" He got up and walked away, just as an officer of the Redcliff Police Department pushed into the circle to investigate the commotion. Rich saw no more of Biff that night.
With Great Power...
After his public humiliation, Biff took to drinking even more. A few weeks later, he awakened from a Saturday night bender at around 3 pm on Sunday and discovered that his eye-patch was missing. A few minutes later, he realized he was seeing things out
of his left eye! His first impulse was to run into the street and tell everyone, but when he got outside, he started to worry that the Army would find out somehow and come looking for him. At that instant, the two cars he'd seen moving on the street cracked
up in a head-on collision. Biff realized the police would be there soon, so he hurried back in the house.
After he found his patch, he returned to the street carrying a bottle of beer to watch the excitement. "Hey! This driver's asleep!" a cop yelled
as he looked into one of the wrecked cars. "Even the crash didn't wake him up!"
"Same thing over here!" the other one called. "Just like those folks on the sidewalk. I hope the doc gets here soon."
Biff went back for another beer, but it was
the last one in the house. He wasn't ready to stop drinking, but all the liquor stores were closed on Sundays, and the taverns in town wouldn't serve him anymore. He hopped in the car and headed for the next town, winding up in a crowded tavern where they
didn't know him.
After a couple of boilermakers, the bartender refused to serve him again. "You were half drunk when you staggered in here, buddy. You've had enough."
Biff took a swing at him.
Everyone sitting nearby jumped up to help,
and in a second, Biff was struggling in the grip of half a dozen men. Then somehow, his patch was knocked off — and the men in front of him fell to the floor like puppets with cut strings. A bottle smashed into his side, and when Biff turned to go after
the guy who threw it, more people started collapsing.
"He's killing them!" someone else yelled. "Let's get out of here!"
Biff looked his way, and suddenly, the room was silent. Biff was scared by what was happening around him, and the resulting
shot of adrenaline cleared his head a bit. He checked a couple of the men who had fallen around him and realized that they were unconscious, not dead.
"Serves you all right!" he yelled. He scrabbled around on the floor until he found his patch and took
his leave, picking up a couple of bottles from behind the bar on his way out the door.
On the drive home, instead of drinking more, he started thinking about what had happened. He could hardly believe it, but somehow Daytona's potion, maybe combined
with the lightning bolt from the transformer, had given him some kind of super power. I can knock people out just by looking at them! Holy cow! This is my big chance to finally cash in!
After some serious thinking and planning, Biff named himself
the Oculist. He formulated the tenet he was to live by for the rest of his life: "With great power comes great opportunity!"
And another super-powered mystery villain began his career.