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April in Gotham didn’t mean spring. In fact, some years – even years that didn’t include Lex Luthor aiming a giant snowstorm gun at the East Coast – it was downright cold and miserable. Knox hoped that this would not be one of those years, given his aversion to winter since his brief and traumatic visit to Bahamut. But instead he and Gotham got sleet and ice and slush well into the “cruelest month.” In fact, Opening Day at Gotham Municipal Stadium was nearly called off, and the Mets were forced to play under gray skies and the threat of snow.

Still, winter was starting to leave. The sun, when it reported for work, was stronger. The air was going from the stench of snowplows to the stink of fertilizer on Gotham’s many tiny patches of grass. There was baseball (after a fashion, since the Mets did not have the look of a winner anymore). And the first flowers were trying to blossom along the streets of Bristol, which Knox had to admit was far more pleasant right now than Gotham.

Knox’ probationary period as columnist was over, and PM confirmed his work as a weekly feature for the next year. He was still asked to help out with Casey and Marty, but the two tyros had done very well, and he in turn liked being a mentor. Marty especially showed potential, being a much more natural pit bull than Casey (though Casey was a better writer). No one expected Knox to cover the crime beat anymore. For the first time in ages, he really could write what he wanted.

The only problem was that crime and crime-fighting were still what got Knox’ attention. Harvey Dent’s murder of Boss Maroni turned out to be the tip of the iceberg. Dent – wearing what looked like the halves of two mismatched suits sewn together – had robbed three banks. With a machine gun. And identical twin henchmen. And even a report that he was flipping a scarred two-headed coin to decide which teller to approach. When Knox first heard about this, he thought it was a prank, or a copycat. But with each new heist, it grew more clear that Dent was indeed robbing banks.

So Knox found himself writing about how Gotham – a relentless monster in the form of a city – had claimed one more victim, had even made one more slave of its worst impulses and drives. The idea that Dent could be so utterly broken was a bit scary, and Knox wondered how that could happen to anyone. Soon, he and other reporters began to get tips, however, that Dent was damaged before ever leaving Texas. But sad if garish tales of abuse by an uncaring father only served to remind Knox and his readers how thin the line between normality and insanity could be.

Knox, however, didn’t dwell on this. It was not his way to dwell. And when the reports kept coming in about the heroes, he shifted his attention. The six inch high crimestopper in Ivy Town was apparently named the Atom. The Flash reportedly squared off against an assassin with a freeze ray (no doubt using Luthor’s technology) who the papers in Central City called “Captain Cold.” And there was a story of a man in a blue business suit, trenchcoat and faceless mask (at least everyone assumed it was a mask) getting into a brawl at the waterfront in Boston. When it was over, the thugs were on their backs, and No-Face – the silly name the Globe was using – had limped off, leaving a business card with a question mark on it.

It was all a bit surreal. And hard to follow. And odds were that most cops didn’t like the competition any more than prosecutors liked people whose arrests were constitutionally improper. But Knox loved it. He began keeping a file for each hero. He planned trips to Boston and Ivy Town. He even called his old buddy Joe Kline in Central City for the first time in six years, and compared notes on costumed types. If pressed, Knox would say that he made his name chasing the Bat. And that he figured that he could do worse than to follow the rest of the new breed of hero. But he also just liked them. Liked the costumes and the derring-do and the nerve and the dedication. He didn’t want to be a hero. Not that kind, anyway. But he thought the world was a better place for having them. And that they needed someone on their side.

On April 11, 1991, Alex Knox submitted his first column about the Flash. There wasn’t much original reporting. There were merely the musings of a Gothamite about what happens when a man in a red bodysuit with yellow boots races through a city at 300 MPH. It wasn’t the best thing Knox ever wrote, but he was very happy with it.
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November 2011

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