Headline:Jack-in-the-Box Trapped in Fiery Explosion

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Jack-in-the-Box Trapped in Fiery Explosion

Friday, October 14, 1983

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Is Harlequin Hero Dead?
By CADY CASWELL
Special to the Astro City Rocket

ASTRO CITY — An explosion on Torres Island yesterday afternoon may have taken the life of longtime Astro City hero Jack-In-The-Box, police and rescue workers say. If so, then he gave his life the way he lived it, battling crime and preserving the freedom of our city's innocents.

The masked hero had been attempting to track down The Weirdies, the paranormal gang of super-criminals, over the past weeks. Running battles between the hero and the "felonious freaks," as The Weirdies have been dubbed by the media, have been witnessed at numerous Astro City locations. Things built to a head when The Weirdies kidnapped a dozen people, including this reporter, and threatened to kill them unless Jack-In-The-Box surrendered himself to them on Torres Island.

The harlequin hero must have known it was a trap, but he came anyway, finding, not The Weirdies, but instead the hostages, wired to enough explosives to level every structure on the small island. Working feverishly, and without regard for his own safety, Jack-In-The-Box freed the hostages as time ticked away. He created a shielding shell of his distinctive, bulletproof 'confetti' and set us afloat seconds before the blast went off.

It is suspected that he was inside the abandoned citizen watch tower when the explosives went off, but rescue workers have been unable to find any trace of his body. "It's not possible that he'd have been completely vaporized by the blast," said Rescue Chief Warren Zeller. "That just doesn't happen. He could have been thrown into the river, but dredging's turned up nothing. But there does seem to be another possibility."

The possibility Chief Zeller refers to is linked to the discover, under the wreckage of the tower, of a hidden door leading to an underground complex, which has been tentatively identified as belonging to mystery criminal The Underlord. "Now, this could be a complete coincidence," said Zeller. "The underground complex could have just been there, unnoticed, and neither the Weirdies nor Jack knew a thing about it. But if he did find it, and he go inside — well, those doors are titanium steel. They were dented by the blast, but they didn't buckle. He'd have been safe in there."

The Weirdies' recent rash of robberies of scientific equipment and The Underlord's longtime interest in human genetic manipulation has led to speculation that the Weirdies were connected to, or possibly even created by, The Underlord, and that he was the mastermind behind their latest crime spree. Perhaps he kidnapped Jack-In-The-Box, and the hero is still alive somewhere.

There is no reason to believe this but hope, however. No trace of Jack-In-The-Box was found in the Underlord's lair, and no indication that the Underlord has even been there in years was found by police. "Much as I hate to say it, it looks like he's gone," said Astro City Police Commissioner Kevin O'Fiannon. "We might as well face it."

Members of Honor Guard captured The Weirdies in Northern California a few hours after the explosion, and have promised city officials that they will give top priority to locating and capturing The Underlord and making him available for police interrogation. "He's got plenty of crimes to pay for," said the N-Forcer, "but before he goes into the clink, we'll know whether he had anything to do with this. Count on it."

Jack-In-The-Box's career began in 1964, with, ironically, the rescue of hostages from a gang of criminals. A memorial service will be held in Binderbeck Plaza tomorrow afternoon. [See further coverage, pages 17-22.]

© Juke Box Productions



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