Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Whatever Happened To... The Crimson Avenger?" (10/1981)

Admitted to City Community Hospital, Lee Travis had a new, inoperable, incurable condition. He also had an estimated week to live, and as a man of action, Travis just didn't think it was fair that he should pass with a whimper. First, as the Daily Globe-Leader's crusading young publisher, then as "the midnight manstalker called the Crimson Avenger," Travis relentlessly pursued justice in the 1930s & 40s. However, Travis vanished for decades, lost in time alongside his fellow members of The Seven Soldiers of Victory. Though still a fit man of reasonable age after being brought to the present day with the help of the Justice League of America, culture shock and the power levels of that caliber of super-hero sent the merely human Crimson Avenger into retirement.

Using wealth from his newspaper, Travis became a world traveler, until he was diagnosed as terminal while in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Now, it isn't the dying, but the injustice of dying meekly that irked him. Good thing Travis spied that tanker ship blinking "SOS" in code with its lights from his hospital room window. Suiting up one final time as the Crimson Avenger, Travis dove out his window, making his way via flagpoles and such.

On the south side of town, a muy caliente mami complained about the price of food in her apartment, as her niño toddler Umberto slipped and fell over the ledge. Her "single soul-chilling scream" was stifled by the Crimson Avenger's catching the kid in mid-death plunge. "Gracias dios, señor!" This hero would be in her grateful prayers that night as he swung away, explaining that before she was born, he was "el Vengadore Rojo."

Hopping an unauthorized ride on a commuter shuttle-copter's landing gear, the Crimson Avenger finally reached the tanker. Well-armed mercenaries had taken the vessel for its experimental, unstable, highly volatile chemical cargo. Though machine guns blazed, they fared poorly at finding a target through the red fog bombs dropped by our hero. A grenade was far more effective, as it set off a chain reaction with the chemicals, deemed so dangerous they had been scheduled for a mid-Atlantic deep-sixing. Learning that the whole shebang was about to take out the city like a hydrogen bomb, the Crimson Avenger had the crew and crooks hauled into lifeboats. Then, he navigated the tanker as far from the city as possible.

Reaching a safe distance, Lee Travis began to smile. He knew he'd saved the city, even as he'd doomed himself. "At least this way my death counts for something... at least this way the Crimson Avenger will be remembered! I'm just happy I got one last chance to wear this good old uniform... For the first time in years I feel truly alive--!"


Police pulled the survivors from the water at the docks. The captain wanted all the credit to go to their savior, except "the smoke was too thick to see him clearly... and he never mentioned his name!"

The legend of the Crimson Avenger seemed as dead as the namesake, but then again, there's that senorita to remember. "When you are old enough, Umberto, I will tell you how a brave man saved your life today... and then someday you will tell your children so they can tell their children! We must never forget el Vengadore Rojo... the Crimson Avenger!"

This back-up story from DC Comics Presents #38 was crafted by Len Wein, Alex Saviuk & Dennis Jensen.

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