When I closed my eyes, in the days when I had eyes, I could still see the events of that terrible day as if it was yesterday. And now, of course, it is.
My parents had emigrated to Australia where my father Bart Hill LaBrea had been signed on to do engineering work on a new invention. But he hadn't been able to hide from us that the new invention had attracted the notice of crooks.
I was in the back seat of my father's car as he drove across the Outback. I remember the blazing heat of the afternoon sun when I woke up. My parents must have heard me because my mom spoke over the sound of the car, "Good morning, Bill." She passed me a thermos of water. The water was warm, but my throat was so parched I didn't mind.
"Are we there yet, Dad?" I asked.
My father half-turned around to look at me. "No Bill, Australia's a big place. Why don't you look around? There's lots to see here."
I sat up, looking at the desert landscape. Maybe I'd see a kangaroo. Later I saw the car turn off the side road as we passed it, but didn't think anything about the fact. After all, Australia is a big place.
The car followed us as we followed the road through a mountain pass, and I felt a jolt as it slammed into us from behind. My father swore and tried to evade them, but they edged closer and our car ran off the side of the cliff.
The fall seemed like flight, it was so slow. I thought it was fascinating, like watching a serial at the movie theatre. That all ended in pain and shock and fear when we hit the ground.
I couldn't see my mother. My thoughts were jolted out of me until I felt my father's strong arms around my waist, carrying me out of the car to safety. He staggered ... I had never seen my father stagger before ... and we fell to the ground right before the automobile caught fire.
"Dad?" He had blood on his head. I tried to wake him up when the other car drove up to the crash scene and two men got out, one big and burly, the other lean.
The former went over and kicked at my father's body. "Damnit Jack, I told you this was a bad idea. The old man's dead. Binder ain't going to be happy."
The other shrugged, "Binder'll get over it. What about the kid? Maybe he knows something. C'mon Chuck, give me a hand."
The two of them picked me up. "Where are they? Your father's notes? Tell us."
My voice fled from me in horror and fear. When they thrust a piece of metal from the burning car into my chest, marking me with a D-shaped brand, I screamed, and all the words I would use for years fled me.
When I awoke from my faint, they were gone. I somehow had enough presence of mind to gather together the water bottles before I wandered off looking for help.
It didn't take long before I knew I was in trouble. With my lack of knowledge of desert survival skills I was having difficulty finding water, and I soon found myself faltering. Finally, I couldn't walk any further, and took what shelter I could from the blazing sun behind a large rock.
Amazingly, I was found.
The aborigines found my father's body, and took us to the only other white man they trusted, Prof. Franz Tottentanz, a doctor working a circuit in the Outback. The healer of one of the local tribes, he had taken an interest in the withdrawn mute boy with dead eyes. I didn't know at the time what he had done with my father's body.
Although I was the child of white parents, I found himself adopted by the tribesmen. I was whipped into tiptop physical and acrobatic condition and taught the ways of the desert. On the day of my adulthood, when I returned from the ritual known as Walkabout, I silently swore to destroy the forces of evil responsible for my father's death.
The day I was ready, I returned to Prof. Tottentanz's laboratory, and spoke to him using the system of hand signs he had taught me. I discovered that he had treated my father's body with an experimental preservation treatment and that it was intact from the day of the accident. Prof. Tottentanz explained that he intended to accompany me back to America until I was settled, and where my father's body could be buried. But I had a different idea.
I knew from the reading material the Professor had given me over the years, that criminals had a morbid fear of death, based on the sure knowledge that those who live violently will die violently. I dressed my father's preserved corpse in a mysteryman costume and, naming ourselves "Deaddevil", used the resulting apparition as a weapon to make crime pay.
My arrival in so-called civilization was a tumultuous one. The return of Bill Hart LaBrea, heir to the LaBrea fortune, attracted a lot of attention which I was ill-suited at first to respond to appropriately. On Tottentanz's advice I hired a personal assistant, Williams, who stood as a buffer between me and the paparazzi. But I found that my ideas on fighting evil had been hopelessly naive.
I looked at American society and I saw corruption, racism, hatred and fear. I found, in time, others to associate with who shared similar ideals. I gathered together troubled youth, and calling them the Wise Boyz, made use of their help in transforming the country into a finer place, battling Axis agents such as the Yellow Light. Although grief remained in my life as I found that I could no more keep all of them alive than I could my parents.
As the years passed after the war and the menace of Nazism receded, it seemed the need for more blatant costumed theatrics had passed. I gave my father a burial at last, and using the fortune at my command I started a newspaper intending to expose what I saw and unite the nation. I called it the DEADDEVIL PRESS, and abandoned my secret identity.
But the nation had changed, as I found when I was called before the MacCarthy witch trials, claiming that the ideals I propagated were Communist. My fortune was no protection, and when others testified that my old associates were Party members, my struggles became impossible. The paper's offices were raided and I had no choice but to close it down.
Having failed to protect my parents, my Wise Boyz, my country, or myself, only darkness beckoned. I felt the rush of air as the subway train entered the platform, and once more in slow motion I flew.