Sunday, December 25, 2011

JILL TRENT/Golden Age Good Girls

FEATURING the first all-new JILL TRENT: SCIENCE SLEUTH adventure in 63 years!

Mini-Komix's first prose comic about public domain heroines from the Golden Age of comics & pulp fiction is now available in print and digital editions at Lulu: Edition: $7.00
Digital Download: $3.00


(NOTE: This variant story is NOT the same version that appears in the book.) 


One Thursday morning last summer, I received a telegram from my friend and partner Jill Trent. It was a simple message, but it gave me a chill.


I wondered what could be so urgent. Jill was ordinarily unflappable, and not given to hysterics. It worried me because I had not seen her in almost two weeks. She had been holed up in her laboratory all that time, communicating with no one, and refusing to answer the door.

I grabbed my handbag, put a hat on my head, and dashed over there as quickly as I could.

I arrived at the lab to find Jill pacing back and forth just outside the door, clapping her hands and grinning like someone had given her a shot of morphine. Her long, blonde hair, which looked as though it hadn’t been combed in weeks, was sticking out at a number of strange angles, and her usually-pale face was flushed.

“What is it?” I asked, gripping her upper arms. “Are you okay?”

“And how!” she said. “Wait til you see it!”

She grabbed me by the hand, and dragged me through the front room and down the short hallway to the lab. She gave me no time to bend down and pet her cat, Tesla, as I usually do.

In the lab, I saw that Jill had installed an enormous glass tank against the rear wall. It was full of water, and looked just like the tanks they had at the aquarium.

“Believe it or not, Daisy, I have succeeded in creating life! Right here in my little laboratory!”

“Oh, honey, that’s wonderful!”

“Come see!”

I got close to the glass and squinted, but I couldn’t see anything.

“Use this,” Jill said, pointing to a large electric microscope on a bench in front of the tank. A long, flexible tube had been attached to the bottom part of the ‘scope. On the other end of the tube was a small device Jill said was a tiny TV camera.

Standing on tiptoes, she dropped the camera into the water, and played out the tube until it was almost to the bottom of the tank.

I peered into the microscope, and saw a breathtaking sight. Tiny, humanoid creatures! There were hundreds of them, all smiling and cavorting around in the water. Oh, they were the cutest things! They looked a bit like monkeys, though they seemed to be completely hairless, and covered in pink scales. Their bodies were mammal-shaped, more like primates than anything else, but their skin, as I said, had fish-like scales, and their hands and feet were webbed. Also, their heads were topped with three strange-looking, antenna-like protuberances. But it was their faces, and the expressions on them, that got to me. They appeared to be quite intelligent. Certainly smarter than monkeys, and possibly even some human beings I could name. It looked like they had built little houses for themselves and everything. A few of them waved at the camera.

I stood back, overwhelmed, and gave Jill a hug.

“Wow!” I said. “This is fantastic. What are they?”

“I call them Sea Monkeys,” Jill said proudly. “I think we should try to sell them to the public. They could go over big. We can put ads in all the comic books, like we did with the x-ray glasses I invented.”

Several months earlier, Jill and I had formed a small company for the purpose of selling some of her inventions by mail, as novelties. The name of our corporation was derived from her mother’s maiden name and my surname: the Johnston Smythe Company.

She explained to me the process by which she had created the Sea Monkeys. It was simple and very elegant. It was one of those deceptively simple things you’d never think of in a million years, and when someone else did, you’d feel stupid for overlooking it. I wouldn’t have thought the secret of creating life would be so doggone simple. Now that I know it, I’m surprised nobody else ever thought of it.

Jill said she could produce them for next to nothing. Any orders she received would be pure profit.

“That’s kind of a strange thing to do,” I said. “It doesn’t seem to make much sense, with a discovery of this kind. Creating life is a pretty major breakthrough. Wouldn't selling them like this be kind of frivolous?”

Jill shrugged “Not really. I need more capital to do further experiments. These creatures are harmless, barring some kind of sudden mutation, which I don’t see happening. Anyhow, we live in a world that doesn’t make much sense. Look at some of the crooks we fight! Haven't you ever noticed that?”

I admitted I had, and that seemed to settle it.

The ads started running the following week. By Wednesday, Jill had received dozens of orders. By Thursday, there were hundreds. On Friday, they passed the ten thousand mark! Every envelope contained one dollar in cash. We opened the envelopes, noted the addresses in a ledger, and stacked the money in shoeboxes. Jill was afraid of banks.

I came by one afternoon to help her sort through the orders. Before getting to work, I looked through the electric microscope to check on our creatures. There was something different about them. The Sea Monkeys were getting bigger, and they didn’t look so cute any more. None of them were smiling. They were skulking around with scowls on their faces, like a microscopic gang of teenage malcontents. I thought I saw a dirty word scrawled on the wall of one of the little houses, but I couldn’t be sure.

I didn’t think much of it, and soon forgot about it. But an hour or so later, something else strange dawned on me.

“Jill,” I said, looking around the room, “where’s the cat?”

“Hm? Oh, I don’t know. I haven’t seen him in a day or two. I caught him trying to get into the tank. I suppose he wanted to eat the Sea Monkeys. I scolded him, he ran off and hid, and that’s the last I saw of him. I know he’s okay, though, because he’s been eating his food. I fill the bowl at night, in the morning it’s empty. He’s just sulking is all.”

Jill had worked out a way to ship small colonies of Sea Monkeys through the mail. Once we had enough money from orders, she said, we could put the plan into action.

Things went smoothly for a few days. Then, one morning, I picked up the newspaper and found an item on the front page that gave me a shock. I had to get to Jill immediately and let her know what had happened.

I rushed over to Jill's, where I found her mopping the floor in the hallway between the front room and the lab. It looked as though someone had left wet footprints all over the place.

“Jill!” I exclaimed, startling her. She dropped the mop and gave me a glare full of anger or fear or both.

“What is it?” she snapped.

“That dreadful Doctor Reiner is out of jail!”

“Out?’ said Jill in disbelief. “How can that be? He killed seven people, then he tried to kill us!”

Doctor Alex Reiner was the most wicked and horrible mad scientist I had ever met. He had invented a “poison ray lamp,” which he used to kill several innocent millionaires who had left money to phony charities controlled by Reiner in their wills. Jill and I had tracked him down and put an end to his scheme, nearly losing our lives in the process.  (Fighting Yank #9)

“I know. But the District Attorney said he didn’t have enough hard evidence to go to trial. Nobody could figure out how his poison ray lamp works, so that was out. And we caused him to wreck the truck he used to haul the dead bodies, so all the evidence there got burned up. They had to let him go.”

“Oh, fiddle,” said Jill crossly. “Why is the law so obsessed with proving things? If scientists had to prove everything, we’d still be living in caves. Why can’t law be more like science, where anything goes? ”

I couldn’t answer that.

“Don’t forget, Jill,” I said, “he swore vengeance on us when we brought him in.”

“Oh, mad scientists always swear vengeance on somebody,” she said dismissively.

“So they don’t actually carry it out?” I asked, somewhat relieved.

Jill thought for a moment “Actually,” she said, “they almost always do.”


“Yes, and it’s usually pretty horrible.”

“I see.”

"There was this one guy, Doctor Diablo. This was a few years ago. He broke out of prison and went after a girl who had testified against him in court. Well, when he caught her, the first thing he did was cut off her..."

"I need to go to the bathroom!" I said, much too loudly. Jill was still trying to tell me something, and I knew I didn't want to hear it. I dashed from the room and wandered down the hall to the lab, where I pressed my face to the front glass of the Sea Monkey tank. The water had gotten murky, so I couldn’t really see them. Just dark shapes moving around slowly. The silhouettes were so large, I figured there must have been huge clusters of Sea Monkeys huddling together.

But I couldn’t work up much interest in the little creatures just then, not with Doctor Reiner and his horrible revenge on my mind.

I went back to the front room Jill sighed and said, “Daisy, there’s something I must tell you. About the Sea Monkeys. I’m afraid they’re not…”

She was interrupted by the doorbell. She seemed almost grateful for it, but that didn’t last long when she opened the door and saw who was standing there.

It was our sworn nemesis, Doctor Alex Reiner, mass killer, inventor of the abominable poison ray machine. He was a tall man, middle-aged, with red hair and a red pointed beard, just like Satan.

And he wasn’t alone. Accompanying him was an individual who looked even more twisted and evil than the doctor. A sadistic henchman, I figured, judging by the unholy gleam in his small, beady eyes.

“You’ve come to kill us, I suppose,” Jill said with her customary pluck. She stepped back a couple paces as Reiner entered the room.

“No,” he said, with an evil grin. “You wish. It’s much worse than that.”

He touched his companion on the shoulder and said, “This is Marcus Gornsby. You’ve heard of him?”

It was plain that Jill had. All the color drained out of her face and she said a really nasty word. That gave me a fright, though I had never heard of Marcus Gornsby.

“What is he?” I asked. “A murderer? Rapist? Torturer?”

Jill shook her head and whispered, “No. Worse. He’s a… lawyer.”

I gasped.

Reiner laughed.

“Yes,” he said with evil glee. “I am suing the two of you for assault, false arrest, trespassing, injury, property damage, and whatever else I can think of.”

The lawyer reached into his jacket pocket and produced a small bundle of papers.

“These,” he said “are subpoenas. I am fully prepared to go to trial, and I can assure you that I will win. So many gross irregularities in your conduct! One would think you had never heard of the rule of law! I do believe we can expect to win at least a six-figure judgment.”

Jill looked ill.

“Unless,” the lawyer continued with an oily smirk on his face, “you’d care to settle out of court?”

Jill sighed. “How much?”

The lawyer pretended to think for a moment, then pretended to discuss it in a whisper with his client.

“Ten thousand dollars,” Gornsby said flatly. “Not a penny less.”

They had us over a barrel and we knew it. Jill would be totally ruined by a lawsuit. Long story short, we brought out our shoeboxes full of cash. Reiner and Gornsby seemed bit surprised at that-- I don't suppose they had expected it to be so easy, and that we would have all that cash on hand--but then they both grinned wolfishly. They sat on opposite sides of Jill's desk, practically drooling, as she counted out ten grand. We just barely had enough.

“Thank you, ladies,” said Gornsby, as he and Reiner bundled the cash back into the shoeboxes and started to carry them out to the car in which they had arrived.

“Well,” I said, “it didn’t turn out too badly.”

Jill gave me a scowl.

"It could have been worse," I observed.

Jill gave me a glare.

I'll never know what I would have said next, or what Jill would have done with her eyes in response, because at that moment, we heard a loud crash from the back room, the sound of breaking glass, and water rushing over the floor. A huge puddle seeped quickly out from under the door, then the door itself came off its hinges and sailed across the room.

Jill and I ducked, and the flying door caught Reiner’s lawyer square in the forehead, knocking him to the floor.

Through the doorway there poured a squad of Sea Monkeys. Only they weren’t Sea Monkeys any longer. I figured we’d have to start calling them Sea Gorillas now, since each one was almost seven feet tall.

“That,” Jill shouted, “is what I was going to tell you about!”

I thought they looked hungry, and they proved I was right by jumping on Reiner and the lawyer, tearing them to pieces, and stuffing the pieces into their mouths.

What happened next simply cannot be described. I hadn’t seen anything remotely like it since my little brother’s fifth birthday party.

It didn’t last long, though. And when it was over, the Sea Gorillas turned their attention to Jill and me. They still looked hungry, and maybe a little bit of something else, though I might have imagined that.

I glared at Jill and said, “I quit. I don’t want to be in the Sea Monkey business with you any more.”

“You can’t quit,” Jill shot back, “because I just dissolved the corporation.”

“What will we do?”

“I have an idea,” Jill said. She grabbed my hand and led me in a zigzag right through the middle of the Sea Gorillas. We got past them, down the hall, and into the lab.

“Do you remember the itching powder I invented?” she asked, rummaging through the junk on a shelf against the east wall. I could hear the Sea Gorillas swiftly making their way in our direction.

“What about it?”

“It has a chemical in it that should... Ah! Here!” She dragged out a round hatbox and yanked off the lid. It was filled with gray powder.

“Dig in,” she said. “And quick. Don’t worry, it’ll wash off afterwards.” We both took huge handfuls of the stuff and turned to meet the sinister advance.

When they got close enough, we threw the powder at the Sea Gorillas. At first nothing happened, and I started silently bargaining with my creator. It occurred to me that if I threw Jill to the monsters, I might be able to get away. I knew it was a horrible thing to do, but I wasn’t feeling too ethical at that moment. After all, she’s the one that made them. It was her responsibility to go down with the ship, not mine. If it’s any consolation, I really hated myself for it, but I figured I could find a way to atone for being so cowardly and despicable, like becoming a nun in a leper colony or something.

Well, I guess I’ll never know how much of a despicable coward I’m capable of being, because the itching powder finally took effect. The Sea Gorillas started screaming and clawing at themselves. Their eyes bugged out, they foamed at the mouth, they gouged huge holes in their skin with their wicked claws. Sea Gorilla blood, I learned, was yellow, and there was lots of it.

They got kind of rubbery and started sagging. The screaming had petered out and turned into a low, wet gurgle. Finally, they stopped making any sound at all. Then they stopped moving, and collapsed into a bunch of wet, smelly heaps on the floor.

Jill sighed and wiped her brow. "Gosh, I never expected them to get that big that fast!"

I gave her a nasty look.

It took a few hours to clean up the mess. We wrapped the dead Sea Gorillas up in large sheets of canvas and tied them with ropes. Later, we would take them out to an old rock quarry a few miles from town and dump them in.

There was nothing left of Reiner and Gornsby that we could find. This was both good and bad. Not only had the Sea Gorillas devoured the two men whole, they had eaten all the money, too.

“What will we do about all these orders?” I wailed, waving the ledger over my head. “We’re going to get sued after all.”

“We’ll have to send them something,” Jill said, closing her eyes and pinching he bridge of her nose.

She sat like that for a long time, while I imagined the both of us growing old behind bars for fraud. Finally, she spoke.

“Brine shrimp,” she said. “Brine shrimp will do. They’re so small, nobody can prove what they look like. Who’s going to pay that much attention anyhow?”

“That’s kind of unethical,” I said, forgetting for a moment what I had so recently contemplated doing to Jill. Of course, that was when I was under considerable duress. It was a totally different thing, really.

“Well, we have to do something. We can’t very well return money that was eaten by the Sea Gorillas, now can we? No. Buyer beware, that’s my motto. Besides, I need capital for my next invention.”

“Which is what?”

“I’m working on a small, two-man submarine! It is fully functional—missiles, sonar, the works. And here’s the beauty of it: They’re made out of a super high tensile cardboard I invented! Very cheap to manufacture. All I need to come up with is a small atomic reactor to power them. What kid wouldn’t love to have one of those? We’re gonna be rich!!”

I went home then, and did not speak to Jill again for a month.






Gaylord Tause

Cover art by Jason Bullock
Mini-Komix, Jer Alford-Editor/Publisher,


Heroines of the Golden Age of comics and pulp magazines return in all new adventures. Thrill to tales of Amazona, Jill Trent: Science Sleuth, Moon Girl, Vivian Lachan, and Rulah the Jungle Goddess, plus all new original stories of Ms. Amazing and Steam Bunny. Written by Terry Alexander, Jason Bullock, Chuck Miller, Bobby Nash, Sean Taylor, and Gaylord Tause.

Print Edition: $7.00
Digital Download: $3.00

To learn more about Golden Age Good Girls and Mini Komix, visit them at

To learn more about Jill Trent and Daisy Smythe, visit the PUBLIC DOMAIN SUPERHEROES wiki at:

And to download free scans of Jill's adventures in WONDER COMICS and FIGHTING YANK, visit the Digital Comic Museum at:


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