Written by Phillies64
Disclaimer: Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, and is a trademark of Marvel Comics. The Joker was created by Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson and Bob Kane, and is a trademark of DC comics. I am mixing these and other characters without permission for non-profitable entertainment. The American Joke concept is based on Michael C. Jackson's drawing in Wizard #59.
The American Joke
Book One: "Duty and Power"
As Dr. Harleen Jones walks down the halls of The Arkhamcroft Institute for the Criminally Insane, something sticks to her shoe. She prays it's gum. The inmates greet her with their usual barrage of lewd grunts, gestures, and insults as she passes each cell. The humidity is almost unbearable and the air is rank with an odor similar to that of a dirty gym sock. Dr. Jones doesn't mind. Believe it or not, she's here by choice. She had graduated from med. school at the top of her class, and could've worked at any hospital in the country. She chose Arkhamcroft for the chance to work with extreme personalities. In her mind, she and her talents were most needed here. She's been working here for three years and never had any regrets…until today.
Dr. Jones dealt with a myriad number of patients in her time here at Arkhamcroft. She is renowned for taking some of Manhattan City's most dangerous and violent criminals under her care. She has never once turned down a patient. Today, however, she's thinking about making an exception. He's different from the rest. There's something almost…supernatural about this one.
She continues to walk down the hallway, following the tall black haired man in the white uniform. The man stops at the end of the hallway and turns to face a large steel door. "Why is it isolated from the rest?" she silently wonders. A rectangular plate is plastered on the center of the door. Dr. Jones shivers as she reads it: "Rogers, J. 0801."
"This is it, Doc." The man takes out a large set of keys. He selects one, puts it in the lock, turns it, and slowly opens the door.
Dr. Jones nervously peeks into the cell. She feels like a child looking for a monster under her bed. "Come on Harleen," she whispers to herself. "You can do this."
"Just holler if you need me," says the security guard.
"Thanks, Lyle," replies the doctor as she cautiously steps into the cell. She tries to glance back towards the hallway one last time, but the door slams with a thud. Her heart nearly stops as she hears the door lock from the outside. Her long brown hair hides the goose bumps that form on her neck. "You can do this," she repeats.
The dimly lit room is rectangular in shape. A thick glass wall splits the room in half. Dr. Jones' side is empty, save for a small wooden chair that is placed a little too close to the glass wall. She sits in it, and stares through the transparent barrier. She can't help but notice the tiny plaque on the wall that reads: "DANGER! PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH THE GLASS!"
Nervously, she adjusts her glasses, clears her throat, and then speaks. "Mr. Rogers?"
She doesn't receive an answer. Instead she hears a faint tapping sound coming from the other side of the glass wall. Ignoring it, she decides to try again. "Mr. Rogers?" Still no reply, but the tapping continues. The doctor timidly gazes into the glass, and sees her patient crouched on a chair next to a wooden table. His face is hidden, but his hand appears to be repeatedly knocking on the table's surface. Dr. Jones bites down on her lip as the tapping continues. "What the hell is he doing?" she thinks. Although very faint, each tap causes her to cringe. "Uh…Mr. Rogers?" Dr. Jones is surprised to hear the fear in her voice. The tapping stops suddenly, but the doctor's heartbeat is still racing frantically. The mysterious patient slowly gets up from the table. A few piles of playing cards are scattered over the table's surface. Dr. Jones is mortified when she realizes that a harmless game of solitaire had nearly scared her to death. She isn't used to being afraid of her own patients.
The man slowly walks over toward Dr. Jones. He places his hands and face against the glass and stares at her intently. Dr. Jones stares back, trying her hardest not to look away. Her patient is huge. His tall muscular build immediately intimidates the doctor. The man's skin is unnaturally pale. His pasty white colored body blatantly contrasts the state issued dark gray rags that he is wearing. His wavy green hair gives him an almost unrealistic look.
"A clown on steroids," thinks Harleen. She tries to laugh, to find some humor in this situation, but she cannot. She's never had any problems with clowns, but seeing her new patient makes her stomach turn. She doesn't know why. She knew what to expect. She had seen him before in the news, everybody had, but seeing him in person terrified her. His clownish features aren't even the worst part. No, it's his large ghastly grin that causes her to wince, his freakish grin that covers his entire face. He smiles as if he had just heard a joke that no one else can even comprehend.
"Uh…Hello, Mr. Rogers. My name is Dr. Harleen Jones. I believe we have an appointment today," says the doctor, hoping to rid her patient of that awful smile. He doesn't reply to her statement. Instead, he pushes his face into the glass and continues to glare at the doctor. His nose flattens against the glass, but his horrific smile remains. Dr. Jones doesn't want to be here. As she feels the sweat drip off of her forehead, she longs to be in her quiet apartment with her cat, Dee Dee.
She reminds herself that she's a professional. She does her best to ignore her fear. "So, Mr. Rogers, how are you doing today?" she says with false confidence.
"HaHaHaHaHeHeHeHaH," her patient laughs. The laugh echoes throughout the entire cell. Dr. Jones holds back a scream and keeps her composure. In a matter of seconds, the excruciating laughter stops, and Dr. Jones cannot be more relieved. "Why are you here?" asks the patient, breaking the silence.
Dr. Jones looks towards her patient, shocked to hear him speak. With the grotesque grin still remaining, he stares back at her. The doctor can almost feel his gaze burn through her.
"I asked you a question, doctor. Why are you here?" repeats the smiling patient.
Dr. Jones hesitates. "I...uh…we have an appointment," she mumbles pathetically.
"I know that, doctor," he says with self-assurance. Dr. Jones blushes in embarrassment. Her patient keeps on smiling, enjoying her naiveté. "Why are you here, in an asylum for the 'criminally insane'? Why, of all the things in the world, would you choose this particular profession? I'm sure it's not for the company."
Dr. Jones doesn't laugh. She is almost insulted by the question. "I wanted to help people, Mr. Rogers. I'm here because I want to help you."
"Help?" asks her freakish patient. "My dear doctor, what makes you think I need help?" The man's eyes widen as he sticks out his long tongue and slowly licks the glass barrier. Dr. Jones remains silent, doing her best to ignore this disturbing gesture.
"You've heard the stories, I assume," says the patient. "You've read about me in the newspaper or seen me on the television, but you have no idea. You don't know anything about me."
"That's the point, replies Dr. Jones, masking her terror. "I want to know you. Tell me about yourself."
The patient laughs once more, louder than before. "You want to know me, doctor?" His grin grows larger. "Ok, doctor. I'll tell you about me."
Manhattan City, 1940…
The United States of America was invincible. The Great Depression was fading away into a bad memory. Over seas, a terrible war had been ravaging Europe, but America wasn't afraid. They were proud. They were free. They had few worries. Jack Rogers was the exception. His whole life had been torn apart this morning. Worries were the only thoughts in his head. As he stared at the chipped paint on the wooden door, sweat drizzled off of his wavy blonde hair like dew drops on grass. He slowly lifted his skinny arm and wiped his forehead. He took a deep breath and opened the door.
He entered a small one-room apartment that stunk of mothballs. An old cot sat on the left side of the room. Next to that sat a pile of crumpled up pillows and blankets. The right side of the room contained a sink full of dirty dishes, a stove, and a small icebox. Against the back wall a curtain hung, covering the doorway that led to the bathroom. A square wooden table sat in the center of the room, and two wooden chairs were placed on each end. A brown haired woman leaned back on one of the chairs. She wore a dark gray bathrobe that protruded at the belly. She was obviously pregnant. Jack walked to the chair opposite her and sat down.
The woman smiled at the sight of him. "Jack!?! You're home early! What a surprise!"
Jack put his arms on the table and his head collapsed on top of them. "I…I'm sorry," he sobbed. "Bernie, I'm so sorry."
The woman's smile quickly turned into a concerned frown. "What's the matter, Jack?!? What happened?"
Jack lifted his head and stared into his wife's eyes. "I…I didn't get off early," he mumbled. "I was fired."
Bernie Rogers turned pale. "But…why? I don't understand! I thought things were going so well. How could this…?"
Her husband interrupted her. "They don't need me anymore. They're going to change the plant into some sort of factory to produce materials for the war effort. I'm just a useless low-level chemist. I…Dammit!" shouted Jack as he slammed his fist into the table. "It's not even our war! I don't…"
"Jack…," Bernie sobbed.
Jack got out of his chair and slowly walked towards his wife. He saw the sorrow in her eyes. "…You think I'm a failure," he said.
"No, Jack. I…"
"You think I'm a loser, and you're right! I can't even hold a decent job! How are we going to feed the baby now, huh? How?!?" Jack grabbed his wife's shoulders and looked down at her. "How can you possibly love a man who can't even provide for his family?"
Bernie pushed her husband away. Tears poured down her cheeks. Jack looked at her and his heart sank. He fell to his knees, put his head on her lap, and embraced her. "Oh God," he sobbed. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. This isn't your fault. I shouldn't be shouting at you."
Bernie gently put her hand on her husband's head and stroked his hair. "Oh Jack," she said sympathetically. "We can get through this. We can beat this. We can dig up enough money to pay for this month's rent. The baby isn't due for two more months. You'll find another job. We'll be okay."
Jack stood up and walked away. He leaned against the refrigerator and lowered his head towards the floor. "You don't deserve this, baby. You don't deserve being married to a loser."
"Honey! Don't say…"
"I can't even support my own family," Jack interrupted. "We don't have enough money to move into a decent neighborhood. We're stuck here in this stuffy one room apartment. I…just…I just want to be able to take care of you. You don't deserve this."
"Jack, please don't say that," cried Bernie. "I don't want anything else. I want you. You make me happy." She wiped away her tears and smiled. Jack always loved her smile. "You'll find a job, honey. It's fine. Everything will be fine. We'll beat this…together."
Jack lifted his head and looked at his wife. She was so beautiful. She deserved a real man, not a scrawny little weakling like him. He walked towards her and kissed her on the cheek. "I need to think about a few things. I'm going to take a walk."
Bernie watched as her husband walked out of the apartment. His head hung low. He was full of shame. Bernie wanted to stop him. She wanted to reach out to him and ensure him that things would be okay. Her smile faded as the door closed. "I love you," she said softly. "I love you, Jack."
"All right Uncle Jonathan, I wasn't sure you were really behind this, but you've overplayed your hand. Now it's time to put all your cards on the table."
The dialogue boomed throughout the theater, but Jack Rogers didn't hear it. His eyes were fixed on the silver screen, but he didn't see the black and gray shadowy figures that danced across it. His bony body sank into the padded seat, but he was elsewhere. He was in his own world of depression and self-loathing. He had hoped a trip to the theater might take his mind off of his recent dilemma. He just wanted to forget everything, to hide somewhere and not come out until things were okay.
"Don't fail to see the next exciting chapter of Ensign Jack, Midnight at Garr Castle! At this theater next week!"
A loud sound of applause brought Jack back to reality. He nervously glanced back to see his fellow theatergoers cheering. Realizing the serial must have ended, Jack quickly joined in and began to clap, but his fraudulent approval was soon silenced as the newsreel began to flash across the screen.
"Dateline: September 7, 1940! London burns! As children are evacuated to the countryside, the Luftwaffe launches an all-out attack on British cities! Until now, Hitler's air forces have targeted Royal Air Force airfields and support installations, but now, it's war! German bombers have also targeted Portsmouth, Southampton, Plymouth, Exeter, Bristol, Bath, Cardiff, Birmingham, Coventry, Nottingham, Norwich, Ipswich, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Hull, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Newcastle, as well as Glasgow, Scotland and Belfast, Northern Ireland."
"What I saw on that screen I…remember it as if it were yesterday. Families forced to leave their homes. Children confused and crying. Beautiful cities reduced to ash and rubble. I was so ignorant. London…I had no idea. This had reached London!"
Harleen Jones stares attentively at her patient as he tells his tale. He speaks so passionately as if he were truly there, and yet he remains focused on his game of solitaire. His eyes concentrate on the cards in front of him, but his mind seems to be about sixty years in the past.
"Suddenly my problems seemed so small," continues the patient as he flips over another card. "I had been so selfish. These people had lost their homes, families, everything. I couldn't let this happen to them…to anybody. Why worry about money if I couldn't even protect my wife…my family from this power hungry regime? I couldn't stand idly by and mope about my own misfortunes. I had to do…something. So being the rash young man that I was, I did what I felt needed to be done," says the patient with a chuckle. "I tried to enlist."
The Princess Bar, Manhattan City, 1940…
"4F" The phrase bellowed in Jack's ears like the demands of a nagging mother. He was too skinny, too frail and weak to serve his own country. "They say anybody who could make it to the draft board under his own steam is healthy enough to be in uniform, but not me," thought Jack as he chugged another shot of Jameson. He wasn't fit for the army or any aspect of military life. He wasn't fit to serve his country. They laughed at him and sent him home. He had failed. He wasn't able to protect his family. Clearly drunk, he looked up at the bartender. "I should have known I wasn't good enough. Rejected by my own country," mumbled Jack as he lowered his head onto the bar. "I'm just a waste."
"Relax, fella. This one's on the house," said the bartender as he placed another shot next to Jack's head.
Jack raised his head slightly and poured the alcohol down his throat. Pushing the empty glass aside, he immediately crossed his arms against the bar and rested his head upon them. He didn't care where he was or who was watching him. He was a failure. Nothing else mattered. Feeling the effects of the alcohol, he closed his eyes and began to nod in and out of consciousness.
The bar was gone. The aroma of smoke and booze was replaced with that of freshly mowed grass. Jack Rogers was at home…his new home. He stood on his porch looking out at over the vast front lawn. He felt his wife embracing him. Her head rested on his shoulders. His arms wrapped around her and pulled her closer. She looked so comfortable within his arms.
"Daddy! Daddy!" a voice called out.
A blonde haired boy ran up the porch and grabbed onto Jack's leg. Jack gently placed his hand on the boy's…his son's head and smiled. The war was over. They were all safe. His wife, his son…everything was okay.
"Mr. Rogers?" asked a gravely voice. "Mr. Jack Rogers?"
Jack awoke startled. He was back in the bar. The noise of the crowd, the smoke filled air, all of it returned to him. How long was he out? Minutes? Hours? He felt a firm grip on his shoulder.
"Excuse me, son. Are you Jack Rogers?"
Jack lifted his head and turned to acknowledge the inquiring voice. He saw a tall muscular man in a long brown overcoat and matching fedora. "Uh…yeah. That's me. Why?" Jack meekly asked.
The man removed his hat and placed it on the bar, revealing his parted grey hair. Jack looked at the man closely. Who was he? What did he want? The man's clean-shaven face was filled with a few wrinkles, but to Jack he didn't seem old. His face looked not worn, but…experienced. The man's eyes stared back at Jack, unblinking. "Those eyes," thought Jack. "Those eyes look like they've seen every corner of the world twice over."
"Mr. Rogers, I'm General Richard Armstrong of the U.S. Army," said the man extending his hand.
A sudden wave of terror swept over Jack and shocked him into sobriety. General? Army?!? Maybe the man was from the draft board, sent to punish Jack for wasting their time. Or perhaps Jack was such an embarrassment to his country that they were going to force him to leave. A sequence of ridiculously paranoid ideas swam around in Jack's head. He glanced around the bar nervously.
"Not to worry, son," stated the General with a smirk. "I don't bite."
Seeing no immediate escape, Jack shook the man's hand. He couldn't help but notice the General's strong grip. "What can I do for you sir?" Jack asked meekly.
The civilian dressed General smiled and sat in the empty stool besides Jack. "You were at the draft office this morning weren't you, son?"
Jack almost turned white when he heard the question. All his outlandish fears suddenly turned into a harsh reality. They knew he wasn't good enough, and now he was going to pay. "I…uh…I…yes sir," Jack heard himself say.
"Good for you, son. With public opinion being what it is, our country could use more boys like you."
Jack looked at the General in astonishment. He was taken back by his words of praise.
"Let me ask you something, Jack. What makes you want to join the army? Believe you me the life of a soldier ain't particularly appealing, especially not these days. What makes you want to serve your county, son?"
Jack hesitated for a moment. He thought of his pregnant wife in the tiny run-down apartment. He thought of all the horrors that were wreaking havoc upon Europe. He thought of countries burning, soldiers dying, children crying, and the seemingly unstoppable evil that was spreading through the continent like a plague. "Because," said Jack with confidence, "I have to."
The General chuckled with delight. "I like you, kid. You remind me of my younger days."
Jack was confused. Were all these compliments genuine or just an elaborate mockery? "Umm...If you don't mind me asking, sir, why are you here? What do you want with me?"
The General stiffened up. His grin was replaced with an expression of stern sincerity. "You really do want to enlist, don't you?" he asked almost to himself. "Mr. Rogers…how far are you willing to go for your country?"
Jack looked at the old burly General with intense curiosity. "What do you mean, sir?"
"Jack, I have an offer I think you might be interested in."
"We talked for hours that night," says the patient, placing the nine of hearts on top of the ten of spades. "I liked him a lot. He was what I always imagined my father to be."
"You didn't know your father?" asks Dr. Jones, just then realizing it was the first time she spoke in quite some time.
"No. He died when I was young," replies the patient simply, "but somehow this General Armstrong…he seemed like a good man."
"What did you talk about?"
For the first time in the entire session the patient wavers. "Operation Rebirth," he says, struggling to keep his grin.
My name is Jack Rogers, and I'm lying half-naked on a steel examination table in a secret laboratory hidden on the top floor of a gloomy-looking curio shop. I would laugh at the absurdity of it all, but I'm far too nervous. Nervous? Terrified would be a more accurate description. I'm all-alone in this dimly lit room, and the eerie silence is almost as irritating as this steel table that feels like ice against my bare-back. I miss Bernie. It's been over a week since I've seen her last. I want to get out of here. I want to go back to Manhattan City. I'm tempted to walk away from all of this, but I can't. Not now. I owe it to my family…to my country. This is my duty.
My body jolts as I hear the creak of an opening door, immediately followed by a set of approaching footsteps. I glance upward to see General Armstrong standing over me with a small smile on his face.
"How're you doing, Jack?"
My throat is dry. I'm too on edge to talk. I simply answer his question with a timid nod.
He puts his hand on my shoulder. "I'm proud of you, son. We all are. You're doing a very brave thing. Don't you forget that."
I try and smile back at him, but I probably just put on some kind of absurd facial contortion.
"Hello, Mr. Rogers," says an unfamiliar voice.
Towards my left I see a short man with a bushy mustache. He wears an overly large lab coat that makes him look comical, but I'm too jittery to laugh.
"This is Doctor William Erskine," says the General. "He's the brains behind this whole procedure."
"There is no need for formalities here. Please call me Bill," says the doctor with a smile. His voice has a trace of a peculiar accent, but I can't even begin to fathom its origin. This is all so strange. It seems so unreal.
"I'll leave you two alone," says the General. "Good luck, Jack."
I watch as the General shuts the steel door behind him, leaving me alone with this quirky little scientist. Anxiety overwhelms me. My thoughts return to Bernie. I wish she were with me. I need her with me.
"Don't fret, young Rogers. This will all be over before you know it."
Doctor Erskine produces a syringe that is much larger than I would like, and dips into a glass bottle filled with…God knows what. My stomach turns. I think of the newsreel. I think of Europe. "This is my duty," I think to myself. I repeat the words in my head over and over again. Erskine rubs some sort of brown fluid on my arm. It's cold and smells like alcohol.
"Just try and relax, my boy."
"This is my duty," I repeat. I'm not even sure if I'm saying the words in my head or aloud. I feel a sharp pinch as the syringe penetrates skin. Seconds seem like minutes, but the doctor finally removes the syringe from my arm. I sigh in relief. The doctor washes off my arm, and wraps a small bandage over it. He then walks towards the door and exits the room. Where is he going? A feeling of lightheadedness overcomes me. I feel drowsy. I close my eyes. Rest. It'll all be over soon. I think of Bernie. She'd be proud. I wish she were here. Tired…rest...sleep...
Wait. I hear a loud humming above me. My eyes slowly open. A set of bright red lights glare down on me from the ceiling. It's almost blinding. I begin to sweat rapidly. What's going on? Why is it so hot? Everything starts to spin. I feel nauseous. My body tightens. No! Something's wrong. What's happening? Where's Doctor Erskine? I try to yell for help, but nothing audible escapes my lips. My heart races. I can hear it beating inside my head. It keeps getting louder! The sound is unbearable. Oh my god. My blood…my blood it burns. It's boiling! Pain. Hurts everywhere. I can't breathe! My body convulses on its own. I can't see anything. Oh god. I'm sorry Bernie. I'm so sorry. I let you down. I let everyone down. Blacking out. Not going to make it. I'm sorry. I'm so sor…I'm…I…I..sor…
Figures of bright light flicker inside my eyelids. I have a pounding headache and I'm thirsty, so thirsty. I assume I'm dead, but the soreness of my body tells me otherwise. Panic engulfs me as I remember where I am. The experiment! What happened?!? I slowly open my eyes to see a cluster of blurry forms standing over me. Can't focus. I hear voices coming from every which way. I try to get up, but I find that my arms and legs are now strapped to the steel table.
"What's going on?" I ask in a voice I hardly recognize.
The chattering voices stop in unison. The room is now totally silent, save for my heavy breathing.
"Ah! Young Rogers!" someone enthusiastically states.
My vision begins to clear. I see the smiling Doctor Erskine directly above me. Surrounding him are General Armstrong, various men in lab coats, three men in formal attire, and a beautiful young woman who reminds me of how much I miss Bernie. The General wears a proud expression on his face. The woman looks at me with intense curiosity. The others stare at me with mixed expressions of amazement and fear.
"My boy, we've done it!"
"Doctor Erskine. What…wh…" I struggle to get up, but again the restraints have other ideas.
"You must relax, Rogers. Your body is probably in shock. We've just injected the experimental formula directly into your bloodstream. We then exposed you to small amounts of radiation in order to increase the potency of the chemicals. It was an excruciating procedure. You've been out for hours, but you've passed the critical stage. My boy, it looks like you've made it!"
My mind barely registers the elated doctor's words. "What are you saying? It's over? It worked?"
"Take a look for yourself, son," says General Armstrong.
Still strapped to the examination table, I tilt my head up slightly and glance down at my body…or at least what I think is my body. Where once there was only skin and bone, I now see developed muscle and cartilage. I have the body of an Olympic athlete! I inspect myself a second time, expecting to somehow return to my old scrawny state, but nothing happens. I can't believe it! It worked. It actually worked!
"Of course it did," replies the smirking Dr. Erskine, filling me with embarrassment. I had no idea I was actually speaking out loud.
"How do you feel, Jack? Do you need anything?" asks General Armstrong.
"I can use a glass of water," I reply, still glancing over my body.
As the General gestures for somebody to fetch me a glass of water, Dr. Erskine crouches down alongside the operating table so that we're at eye level. His casual smirk is replaced by a look of intense sincerity. "Mr. Rogers. You've become the first." He looks down at the floor, struggling to find words. "These are dire times. I came to this country with a great deal of hope," He hesitates, again trying to find the words. "I've dedicated half my life to this experiment, and we need results…now more than ever. You've become the first of many, young Rogers. You are the American dream, born to crush the fascist nightmare."
He looks at me with such pride…such expectation. I try to take in his words, to absorb the sum total of their meaning. "Dr. Erskine I…"
I'm interrupted by a slight crash, as my glass of water shatters and splashes onto the floor. A woman screams as an earsplitting thunder cracks twice. A warm liquid splatters across my face. My stomach goes cold. Dr. Erskine's limp body falls to the floor awkwardly. Blood and tissue slowly spill out from the side of his head. The room goes quiet, chillingly quiet. No voices, no breathing, as if time itself had stopped for a moment.
A mustached man in suit stands over me, the barrel of his gun pointing towards my face. He shouts something in German. My confusion is replaced by rage. "NOOOOOO," I hear myself roar. With a jerk, I rise from the operating table, snapping the restraints that held me down. In the same motion I grab the man's head and smash it into the corner of the table. I watch myself slam his head into the hard steel over and over. I can still hear Dr. Erskine's words; still see him staring at me with that glimmer of hope shining across his face. I'm outside myself now, observing my actions, but not controlling them. I hear the man's skull crack. Warm crimson splatters across my bare chest and drips down my arms. Finally, I let him go. His lifeless body falls to the floor like a rag doll. I stand there motionless, between the bodies of two dead men, covered in their blood. I look at my arm. I don't recognize it. I watch the red liquid drip down its unfamiliar surface.
"No one knew how a Nazi spy could have possibly infiltrated a top secret government experiment," the patient pauses, separates the deck of playing cards into two evenly stacked piles, and shuffles them together. Dr. Jones glares at him impatiently, desperately wanting to hear the rest of his story. "I had been a scrawny little runt my whole life. I knew nothing about power, but when I saw Dr. Erskine fall to the floor, I had to do…something. I killed the spy with my bare hands. I never knew…I couldn't even comprehend that I was capable of something like that. I wanted to become a soldier to stop the killing. I wanted to protect people, to save lives. Yet, mere moments after gaining this new body, I had killed two people. Two lives actually ended…because of me"
"Dr. Erskine's death wasn't your fault," Dr. Jones interrupts.
"Not directly, but he was murdered because of my presence, because of the success of his experiment," says the patient, dealing himself a new hand. "His blood was still on my hands."
The room goes silent for a moment, save for the slight tapping sounds of playing cards being pressed against the table.
"With Dr. Erskine's death, the formula for Operation Rebirth was lost. He had told me I was the first, but now I would be the last, the only 'super soldier' to fight for his country. I remember thinking that Jack Rogers was gone, that my life as I knew it was over. At that moment, I realized that for better or worse, things would never again be the same."
Suddenly, the door opens with a loud metallic clang. Dr. Jones nearly leaps off of her small chair. The patient continues his game of solitaire as if nothing had happened.
"All done, Doc," states the security guard from the hallway.
Dr. Jones glances at her wrist watch, shocked that their session had gone by so quickly. For an instant, a grimace forms across her face. She almost feels disappointed. Composing herself, she smiles at her patient. "Thank you for seeing me today, Mr. Rogers. I enjoyed talking with you," says the doctor as she packs a pile of papers into her manila folder. Adjusting her glasses, she rises from the chair, her gaze still focusing on the patient. "I'll be looking forward to my next visit, Mr. Rogers," she states without a hint of pretense.
Not hearing a response, Dr. Jones turns around and begins to exit the cell. "Dr. Jones," says the patient, momentarily stopping his game to look up at the doctor.
"Yes?" asks the surprised Dr. Jones, turning towards him.
"You can call me Jack," states the patient, shooting her that grin of his.
"Goodbye, Mr. Rogers," replies the doctor, maintaining her professionalism as she exits the cell.
-End of Book One
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." ---Abraham Lincoln
From the journal of Dr. Harleen Jones
RE: Jack Rogers
First interview with the patient known only as Jack Rogers…went better than expected.
His physical appearance is disturbingly fascinating. Despite my preparation, I couldn't mask my shock upon seeing his extremely outlandish features. His clownish appearance does little to alleviate the intimidation caused by his muscular build. In fact, his abnormally pale skin and freakishly green hair make him all the more terrifying. Even now, I can still see that hideous grin he constantly wears across his face.
The patient is obviously delusional. He claims to be one Jack Rogers, born nearly a century ago, and yet he barely looks a day over thirty. Furthermore, there are no records of a Jack Rogers living in Manhattan City during the periods of nineteen thirty to nineteen forty. He also claims to be a genetically enhanced "super soldier" created during World War II.I believe he honestly thinks himself to be the American Dream, but we all know what happened to him. His exploits have become legendary, up until his heroic death at the end of the second World War. I'm curious to find out why the patient feels the need to obsess over the renowned war hero of yesteryear.
Aside from his initial intimidation tactics, the patient seemed surprisingly open and relaxed. He told his fantastic story with such enthusiasm and attention to detail, that I couldn't help but to be enthralled by it. There was something in his eyes, in his tone of voice that made it all seem so genuine. It was remarkable how real it all sounded. At times, I forgot I was listening to the words of a mad man. I believe that is what amazes me the most. Here I was, sitting inches away from a known mass murderer, expecting to see some sort of monster, but I never saw one. I read the papers. I knew what to expect, but I never saw a monster, not once.
I'd like to give a huge thank you to two fellow writers who helped me out with this one. The Ensign Jack movie serial was provided by Mikel Midnight. The excerpt was taken from the second issue of "In The Beginning Legends of the Amalgam Universe Presents." Mikel always had a way with golden age characters. I was delighted that he let me use Ensign Jack.
I'd also like to thank Two-Faced Goblin. Another of my favorite Amalgam writers, TFG provided the narration for the newsreel scene. I was honored to have TFG and Mikel contribute.
For more stories by Mikel, TFG, and other Amalgam authors check out the Amalgam Archives site. You'll find it in the link listed in my profile.
I really appreciate everyone who read this first issue. I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to leave me any sort of feedback. Expect the next issue sometime soon. Thanks again!!