Script: Bob Haney
Art: Ramona Fradon
Editor: George Kashdan
In the upper canyons of the Nile, deep inside an ancient lost pyramid, a lone man is borne on a moving stone slab, toward an object that glows with the heat of a hundred suns! Suddenly, as strange radiant energy bombards his very cells, the man utters a last conscious cry..."Sapphire!"
The story opens as an excitable throng of reporters and wellwishers waits to see Rex Mason, soldier of fortune! Mason is in the employ of "Mr. Millions," Simon Stagg, for whom he scours the world for curiosities! He's back from South America with the secrets of the witch doctors who shrink the human body! As the plane lands, out steps a tiny figure! The crowd shrieks! Minutes earlier, though, Stagg's beautiful daughter Sapphire rushed to meet his plane, and caught up with him as he parachuted into her racing convertable! Back at the airport, one of the reporters notices that the Rex Mason miniature is just a wind-up toy! The mayor sputters while the newsies have a laugh! Mason has gained a headline without even showing up!
We go now to the lavish mansion of Simon Stagg, brilliant scientist and tycoon, who loves only power! He is accompanied by his flunky, a revived million-year-old Java man called Java. Stagg had granted him elevated intelligence, and generally has cause to regret it. Stagg focuses his TV through a hidden camera in Sapphire's car, and we see the young folks are in a clinch. Java expresses his jealousy for not the first, nor last, time. Stagg rants that no one will marry Sapphire without his approval. Meanwhile, he has a special mission for Mason: to recover the Orb of Ra!
Minutes later, a squad of black-clothed, black-hooded figures inform Miss Stagg and Mason that Stagg requests their presence at once. As Mason tells them off, a giant grappling claw rises from the back of their van and hauls Sapphire's car inside! Mason reflects that this affords them more privacy than the highway, and Sapphire coos her approval. Soon, they stand before Stagg, who accuses Mason of botching the job. In reply, Mason pitches a vial under the snoot of Stagg's pet jaguar, and it quickly comes down to the size of a housecat! Mason tells Stagg that he guaranteed he'd bring the potion back, not that he'd give it to him. Java threatens Mason, but Stagg offers grudging respect for the trick, and offers him the new job and payment of one million dollars, successful of not! Sapphire balks at the thought of Rex on another dangerous mission, but Mason sees this as his ticket away from Stagg: the final job. Mason agrees, and Stagg lays out the Orb of Ra mission, as well as the fact that he's sending Java along to insure that Mason actually goes through with it, no tricks. Sapphire begs him not to go, citing a premonition, but Mason laughs it off. Stagg tells her she should be thanking him for giving Mason a chance to be independent, while thinking that it will be years before she sees Mason again..."Java will see to that!" Indeed, as Mason and Java fly off, Java muses that, once he's stranded Mason, perhaps Stagg can alter his body as he did the brain, making him handsome so that Sapphire will love him rather than Mason!
Eventually, the plane is only a few miles from the lost pyramid of AHK-TON! Then, Mason sees it, an odd red color. At first he presumes it's made of some rose-colored stone, but as they come near, Mason realizes that, while the desert's hot--that thing's lots hotter!
Interlude: house ads: Rip Hunter, Time Master #24; and Blackhawk #204, as the lads in their new red-and-green outfits duke it out due to "The Return of Queen Killer Shark!" Then, a full-pager for 80-Page Giant #5, a special Silver Anniversary issue celebrating 25 years of Batman and Robin!
Part 2! Mason nearly loses control of the plane in the incredible updrafts given off by the blazing pyramid. He finally wrestles it into a landing, but breaks a strut in the process. Oddly, the pyramid seems to have shed all that heat, and they approach. Java soon finds the blocks that covers the entry, pulls it aside, and they enter. A pillar of hieroglyphics tells the story of a meteor, fallen to Earth; of Ahk-Ton, who made one of its pieces into an orb and presented it to his pharaoh! As represented, the orb has fanastic powers! Java races ahead to find it, but Mason urges caution. Soon, in another chamber, Java spies it, resting across an ornate throne. "We've found it," says Mason, but Java corrects him; "JAVA found it, and Java will return it to the master--ALONE!" Unwisely, Mason demands that Java hand it over, and Java executes a judo throw, knocking Mason unconscious before taking his leave. Unfortunately, Mason's hard fall has activated an old system of pulleys and counter-weights, carrying him deep into the pyramid's heart. He comes to just to see that he's now within a few yards of a big rock...and that it's starting to glow! It must be Ahk-Ton's old meteor, and it's what made the whole pyramid heat up before! Mason is resigned to his fate: it's what he gets for crossing Stagg, and for falling in love with his daughter.
There's only one chance! Stagg gave him a ring years ago, and it contains a chemical formula which he was told to use if death was catching up with him! He drains it with his last conscious thought, as the strange rock glows hotter, blazes more fiery than a falling star, and finally ignites more brightly than an exploding sun...before cooling again, as it had done before. Mason is amazed he's still alive. The door to the chamber slides open, and Mason wonders if Stagg's chemical saved him after all. Then, he catches sight of himself in a mirror, and sees the odd physical configuration we've come to love over the years. Hoping it will wear off in the open air, Mason races for that stone Java had moved, but of course it's back in place now. A stray thought creates an odd transformation, though, and Mason changes to a gaseous form, to escape through the cracks! He leaps to the obvious conclusion that he can now will himself into different chemical forms! Seeing his badly landed plane, Mason wonders if he can use his incredible power to repair it. Willing his arm into magnesium, he beefs up the broken strut, and before long the plane is airborne again!
Meanwhile, hours ahead and in another plane piloted by one of Stagg's black-hooded minions, Java holds the orb and grins like a fiend! Before long, he presents a similarly-grinning Stagg with the orb as Sapphire pounds her fists furiously on his chest! Even as Java declares his love for her, Sapphire is on her knees before Stagg, offering the rest of her life in obedience if he'll save Mason. Stagg promises to do his best, but as she exits, sobbing, Stagg continues ranting on about the legendary powers which are now his! But the mood is broken as, suddenly, Mason's voice wafts about the room!
Interlude: Showcase #53: G.I. Joe by Russ Heath and others. And...a subscription offer! Ten issues of Brave and Bold for $1! Or, Metal Men, Aquaman or Blackhawk for the same price!
Part 3! Stagg is on the radio to his Task Group, telling them to stop Mason, no matter what! "He may try to...kill me!" Mason is not in sight, though, just "that weird lookin' bozo!" They tell him to leave, but instead, he changes form to sodium and jumps into the moat, which then sends up acrid white fumes! He then floats inside as hydrogen and, reforming, scares the bejabbers out of Sapphire, as this matches her nightmare! Java assumes it's a disguise and grabs for him, thwarted as Mason changes his arm to flourine gas. A roundhouse punch then gives Java a pain as Mason transforms himself into marble, before returning the favor with a fist of cobalt! Stagg shoots him, but Mason is now apparently invulnerable...except to the Orb, that is, and he cowers from it. Stagg is suddenly overcome with remorse, as the plan was merely for Mason to be marooned. He dedicates his "scientific skill" to returning Mason to normal. Tests reveal that Mason's body has been transmuted into pure forms of the body's elements, and that he can change completely into any one of them! Meanwhile, in his "intert" state, he can resist everything from high electrical jolts to powerful acid baths! Eventually, though, Stagg admits he has no idea how to reboot Mason's physical self, while wondering if Mason has any idea the power he now possesses. Mason, though, wants just to be himself so that he can marry Sapphire.
The mansion is on fire, though...Java is feeling humiliated and wants to wipe it all away! In order to save Sapphire, Mason becomes a slithering creature of fire foam, eventually engulfing the tower that serves as her room. Then, he becomes a spiral slide of calcium, and her unconscious form glides down to earth. She comes to in his arms and declares her undying love, all the while confident that her tather will find a cure someday. Stagg's sincerity will become a theme throughout the series, but for now, he hides the sceptre with the Orb at the bottom of his shark's tank. Metamorpho himself, possibly the goofiest DC character of the Silver Age, has somehow endured to this day.
Final interlude: house ads: Aquaman #15(?); Sea Devils #21. And, on the inside back cover...we meet the G.I.Joe Action Soldier!