With the flood of superhero movies every summer in recent years Balladeer’s Blog will feature periodic examinations of the more obscure comic book companies.
Secret Identity: Rance Raleigh, owner of an antique and curio shop
Origin: In Raleigh’s store was a portrait of the Duke de Chantreigh, sometimes said to be an ancestor of Rance. When that portrait would frown it was a supernatural sign that danger was coming. Rance would then suit up as the Cavalier and go into action. The first time was when Jake Miles, who was investigating munitions factory sabotage was hit by a truck outside Raleigh’s shop before he could tell him what he had discovered.
First Appearance: Thrilling Comics # 53 (April 1946). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1948
Powers: The Cavalier possessed the strength of a normal athletic male but was highly skilled with a sword and at unarmed combat. In addition he often used esoteric weapons and relics from his shop, just like the Golden Age Hawkman would wield artifacts from his museum.
This figure also had that ultimate annoyance – a kid sidekick, in the Cavalier’s case a large, muscular boy called Rocky.
Comment: Since the Duke of Chantreigh was French maybe the Cavalier should have instead been called the Chevalier.
Secret Identity: Peter Ward, Egyptologist
Origin: On one of his archaeological expeditions to Egypt mystical whispers and an intelligent black cat lead Ward to a secret chamber which contains the mummy of the Egyptian Priest Kor. A papyrus near the mummy tells Ward that he is the reincarnation of Kor, who was the High Priest of the cat god. Ward has been selected to wear Kor’s ring (also in the burial chamber) which, when rubbed, will transform Peter Ward into the superhero called the Scarab.
First Appearance: Startling Comics # 34 (July 1945). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1947.
Powers: The ring of Kor granted the Scarab super-strength, invulnerability and the power of flight. In addition he kept the black cat which led him to the tomb of Kor. That cat was named Akhtumen and was supernaturally intelligent to the point where he could help protect Peter Ward’s secret identity.
Comment: Among the Scarab’s World War Two adventures was one which saw him preventing the Nazis from instigating an Egyptian uprising which would seek an alliance with the Third Reich.
Secret Identity: None. She is known to the world as Judy of the Jungle.
Origin: Judy’s father was a naturalist who despised the petty and destructive nature of human beings so he raised his daughter Judy in isolation in the jungle. When her father was killed by German criminals visiting Africa his dying words to Judy were to live for revenge and trust no man. (Not exactly “With great power comes great responsibility” but what can you do?)
First Appearance: Exciting Comics # 55 (May 1947). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1949.
Powers: In addition to being as strong as a human female can possibly be Judy’s life in the jungle had allowed her to develop immunity to jungle diseases plus many insect and snake bites. Our heroine also possessed agility that surpassed even the world’s most skilled gymnasts.
Judy wielded a knife like it was part of her own body and fought human and supernatural evils with her loyal black panther Kala, her elephant Tanda and her monkey Chan.
Comment: Despite her father’s dying warning Judy develops a romance with “Pistol” Roberts, a Special Government Agent stationed in Africa. He is Judy’s sidekick in many adventures.
Secret Identity: Dick Martin, a college student studying electrical engineering.
Origin: Wrongly convicted of arson fatalities, Dick Martin (No, not Dan Rowan. Dick Martin.) is sent to the electric chair. Because he has “immunized himself to electricity through his experiments” this bestows electricity-oriented super-powers on him. Adopting a costume and the nom de guerre Pyroman he clears Dick Martin’s name and goes on to combat evil.
First Appearance: Startling Comics #18 (December 1942). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1949.
Powers: Pyroman could shoot electric bolts, surround himself with an electrical forcefield and fly using magnetic and radio waves. He could also magnetize metal with his powers.
Comment: Among Pyroman’s Rogue’s Gallery of Foes was Dizasta, Ruler of Disasters. Others were Dr Fosfor, Venomi and his boa constrictors, Dr Zucca, the Dread Disciples and Schneubel the Mad. His romantic interest was named Joyce Clark.
Secret Identity: Diana Adams, a bored, wealthy socialite.
Origin: Diana Adams was bored with her life and found thrills and danger by adopting a superhero name and fighting crime. No specific origin or shattering personal experience was ever cited as prompting Miss Masque to do what she did. Even in her first story readers are told she has been active for months already. The character only ever refers to her need for excitement outside her luxurious life.
First Appearance: Exciting Comics # 51 (September 1946). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1949.
Powers: Miss Masque had developed her strength to the utmost that a human female can possess. In addition she was a world-class athlete and gymnast and was very proficient in multiple forms of unarmed combat. She was also an expert markswoman with the two pistols she carried with her.
Diana Adams’ wealth permitted her to travel wherever she felt Miss Masque was needed to combat evildoers.
Comment: With countless male millionaires choosing to fight crime in superhero stories a female millionaire doing the same makes for a nice change of pace.
Secret Identity: Brad Spencer, an inventor.
Origin: Accidentally exposed to “the sizzling voltage of a secret current”, Brad Spencer is endowed with super powers. He adopts the name Wonderman and battles evil on Earth and in space, in the style of the later Silver Age Green Lantern.
First Appearance: Complete Book of Comics and Funnies # 1 (August 1944). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1948.
Powers: Super-strength, flight, magnified intelligence and the ability to turn his body steel-hard. He also invented a flame ray-gun that he used in battle. Wonderman made his headquarters in the Wonderlab. His other inventions included the most powerful telescope in the world and the Vacuum Spiral, which allowed him to teleport to distant planets.
Later on Wonderman gave his girlfriend Carol Paige lesser versions of his superpowers and she fought at his side as Wonder Girl. The pair would wear Compensator Belts invented by Brad which allowed them to breathe the atmosphere of any planet and move about in any gravity. Brad Spencer also invented an android sidekick named Roboroy.
Comment: Wonderman fought villains like Dr Voodoo, Lilith the Goddess of Darkness and the Immortal Emperor. That was in addition to plenty of alien races and extraterrestrial monsters who wanted to rule or destroy the Earth.
Secret Identity: Lynn Thomas
Origin: Lynn Thomas, pilot and African Aid altruist, was assisting her father in caring for Africans suffering from an enigmatic disease. Lynn flew to London to obtain Autorene, a new chemical serum which cured the disease. On her flight back, a storm caused Lynn’s plane to crash land near the long lost tribe of Flame People, red-skinned Africans. Lynn accidentally drank an entire container of Autorene mixed with jungle ingredients. She gained superpowers from the odd mixture and went on to fight the forces of evil as Tygra.
First Appearance: Startling Comics #45 (May 1947). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1948.
Powers: Tygra was strong enough to lift a rhinoceros over her head and throw lions around like they were kittens. She also had incredible stamina, heightened senses and catlike agility. She was also skilled with a knife.
Comment: The Flame People revered Tygra as their goddess, “The Tawny One.” She helped them in their quest to find their lost homeland and defended them against assorted jungle menaces and invasions from outsiders. Tygra was joined in Africa by physician Terry Wilton, the inventor of Autorene, who became her love interest. This heroine fought everything including aliens.
THE GRIM REAPER
Secret Identity: Bill Norris, college student
Origin: Bill Norris was a student at the Sorbonne when the Nazis invaded France. He intervened on behalf of an elderly Frenchman when Nazi thugs were harassing him and was thrown into a concentration camp with the old man. This man had allies with the Free French forces and helped Bill escape so he could link up with the Resistance. Norris donned a costume and weapons and worked for the Resistance in Occupied France.
First Appearance: Fighting Yank #7 (February 1944). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1948.
Powers: The Grim Reaper was in peak physical condition, exceled at armed and unarmed combat and was more agile than an acrobat. He wielded a hangman’s noose, a pistol and a knife in battle.
Comment: When World War Two ended in Europe, this hero made the Pacific Theater his stomping grounds. After the war, the Grim Reaper returned to America where he fought supervillains and gangsters.
Secret Identity: Ann (last name never revealed). She was created by Jerry Robinson so Ann Robinson would make a good name for her.
Origin: When Ann was in her early twenties she was a beautiful lady pursued by several men. She married an older but not elderly man named Bart (no last name ever given). On their honeymoon in Maine (Maine?) a gang of thugs employed by a supervillain called the Voice murdered Bart before her eyes, then drove off, leaving her there in tears.
After Bart’s funeral, Ann’s desire for revenge against the Voice prompted her to cut all ties with her family and friends, even former suitors. She taught herself marksmanship with handguns and learned how to fight. Adopting the costumed identity of Red Ann she set out to take down the Voice’s criminal empire and kill him for the murder of her husband.
First Appearance: The Black Terror #24 (September 1948). That was her only Golden Age appearance but it was a terrific story that saw the completion of her five year quest for vengeance.
Powers: Red Ann was in peak physical condition and excelled at unarmed combat. She was incredibly accurate with her handgun and was very skilled at infiltrating underworld dives and organizations and managed to thwart several of the Voice’s criminal operations over the years.
Comment: Red Ann’s gun apparently fired knockout pellets because when she at last caught up with the Voice she could not bring herself to kill him. Presumably this means that she had not killed any of his underlings in her long pursuit of the villain.
The Voice – who turned out to secretly be a former suitor of Ann’s named Trent – was bound for the electric chair for his crimes, so he wound up dead anyway. Trent had even paid for Ann and Bart’s train tickets for their honeymoon in Maine (Maine?) to pretend he was being a good loser for her affections.
Though this superheroine was a guest star in a Black Terror story, that hero made reference to the way Red Ann always managed to beat him to the crime scene when the Voice’s gang was involved and she would always leave the criminals bound and ready to be arrested.
That Black Terror story, The Revenge of Red Ann, did a great job of world-building for the costumed heroine and I’m always amazed that Nedor never used the character again, not even for prequel stories about her five year quest.
As of this writing, no one has revived Red Ann even though, like many Nedor characters, she is supposedly in the Public Domain now.
The conclusion of Red Ann’s costumed career with the capture and exposure of the Voice also brought her a new romantic interest – Daily Star reporter Richard Reagan, who became fascinated with Red Ann’s beauty and abilities.
Secret Identity: George Chance, practitioner of the Mystic Arts.
Origin: George’s father passed away when touring India with his son. George was raised by the Indian mystics that he and his father had been visiting at the time of his father’s death. They taught the young man all the powers of magic. In later life George would adopt the name the Ghost and combat the forces of evil both natural and supernatural.
First Appearance: Thrilling Comics # 3 (April 1940). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1946.
Powers: Invisibility, levitation, intangibility, weather control, psionic abilities and astral projection. The ghost of George’s father often appears to him to alert him to danger, advise him on how to combat mystical menaces or tutor him on ways of increasing his powers.
The Ghost’s love interest and eventual wife is Betty Morris, a woman from the 1700s brought forward in time as part of a plot by the Ghost’s archenemy Professor Fenton. Fenton used science the way George Chance used magic.
Comment: Think of the Ghost as Nedor Comics’ version of DC’s Dr Fate and Marvel’s Dr Strange.
Secret Identity: Jill Trent
Origin: Jill Trent was a maverick in the 1940s, making a name for herself in the usually male-dominated fields of science and criminology. Combining her interests, she fought the forces of evil as Science Sleuth.
First Appearance: Fighting Yank #6 (December 1943). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1948.
Powers: Jill Trent was as strong as a human female can possibly be and was highly skilled at unarmed combat. In addition she had genius-level intellect and invented many devices to aid her in her crime-fighting. Among Science Sleuth’s weaponry: Indestructible cloth, electro-repellant projectors to deflect bullets and other metal objects plus high-tech glasses for seeing through objects, for magnifying objects and for infra-red vision.
Comment: Science Sleuth is one of the most underrated superheroines from the Golden Age! She’s STEM, can wear indestructible outfits, ward off bullets with a hand-held device and wear super-specs in lieu of a mask.
Jill Trent’s sidekick and partner in her scientific detective agency was her friend Daisy Smythe, who was also pretty good in a fight, but nowhere near as smart as Jill.
Secret Identity: Bruce Carter III, a patriotic American.
Origin: Bruce Carter III is the spitting image of his ancestor, Bruce Carter I, a soldier who fought in the Revolutionary War. Unjustly accused of neglecting his duty Carter’s ghost has been wandering since then hoping to restore the family honor. He believes fighting in the expanding World War will provide that opportunity for his look-alike descendant, so he leads Bruce III to the attic of the old family home and reveals to him a cloak which bestows super-powers on the wearer.
First Appearance: Startling Comics # 10 (September 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1949.
Powers: Wearing the cloak revealed to him by his ghostly ancestor gives the Fighting Yank superhuman strength, a degree of invulnerability, and the power to run over 60 miles per hour. His fiance Joan Farwell shared the secret of his dual identity in a TERRIFIC bit where she told our hero that a mere domino mask was not good enough to conceal his identity from her. Joan spoke for generations of comic book fans.
Comment: In addition to the Fighting Yank, Nedor Comics also produced other patriotic superheroes for the World War Two era. They had different origins but had the same powers as the Fighting Yank: superhuman strength, flight and invulnerability making them so similar they’re not worth examining individually. Those other heroes were the American Crusader and the American Eagle.
Secret Identity: Peggy Allen, policewoman.
Origin: In order to work outside the limitations placed on the police, undercover policewoman Peggy Allen dons a costume and, calling herself the Woman in Red, fights crime even more effectively.
First Appearance: Thrilling Comics # 2 (March 1940). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1945.
Powers: The Woman in Red was in superb physical condition and had the maximum strength of a human female plus excellent hand-to-hand combat skills. She was also an extraordinary markswoman with her pistols and was a proficient detective.
In addition she was capable of devising “Q” like gadgets for herself like a fountain pen that fired tear gas. The Chief of Police was made aware of Peggy Allen’s crusade as the Woman in Red in order to avoid appearances of Allen shirking her duties.
Comment: The Woman in Red PREDATES Wonder Woman herself as a costumed crimefighter.
Secret Identity: Andrew Bryant, research scientist for the Pacific Electrical Corporation.
Origin: While experimenting with gamma radiation (yes, gamma radiation) and infra-red rays at once a lab accident gave Bryant superpowers. He decided to use those powers to fight crime.
First Appearance: Startling Comics # 1 (June 1940). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1947.
Powers: Captain Future has massive super-strength, can shoot energy bolts from his hands, has super- hearing and can fly. He can also read minds and mentally monitor radio broadcasts. His powers as Captain Future can fade after a time and to replenish them he periodically needs to expose himself to the gamma/ infra-red rays that he accidentally discovered.
Our hero was assisted by his love interest, Detective Grace Adams of the Agatha Detective Agency (named for Agatha Christie).
Comment: Captain Future often fought mad scientists like Dr Bio, creator of giant spiders with human faces and Dr Allirog, a Japanese man who had his own brain transplanted into a gorilla/bear hybrid monster.
(Another Nedor superhero was named Doc Strange, a scientist who got his powers by drinking his chemical serum called Alosun, liquid solar energy. Doc Strange’s appearance was too similar to Captain Future so I left him off this list. Plus his powers were the usual super-strength, invulnerability and flight that so many Nedor superheroes possessed.)
Secret Identity: Bob Benton, a pharmacist.
Origin: Pharmacist Bob Benton was being leaned on by gangsters looking for protection money when, as luck would have it, his next experiment with “formic ethers” gave him superpowers when inhaled. Donning a costume and calling himself the Black Terror he dealt with the gangsters.
First Appearance: Exciting Comics #9 (May 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1949.
Powers: Formic acid, one of the ingredients of Bob Benton’s fictional “formic ethers”, comes from red ants. The Black Terror has super-strength (Dare I say “the proportionate strength of an ant?”) and his skin has limited invulnerability due to its exo-skeleton(ish) toughness. His love interest was Jean Starr, the mayor’s secretary.
Bob Benton’s assistant, a boy named Tim Roland reproduced the experiment that he saw give the Black Terror his powers and gained a lesser version of them. As Kid Terror he fought crime and Nazis alongside the Black Terror. Instead of the Dynamic Duo the pair were called the Terror Twins.
Comment: The Black Terror was Nedor’s longest-lived and most successful superhero. He was also its grittiest and may well hold the Golden Age record for mercilessly killing his opponents, more than living up to his name.
On a visit to an old college instructor Bob learned that one of his ancestors – by sheer coincidence – went by the name of the Black Terror in the 1600’s and fought evildoers, albeit with no superpowers.
FOR MORE SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE: Superheroes
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