Readers cannot get enough items on superheroes! Whenever I go too long without a blog post on this topic the reminders to do another one start rolling in. Here is a look at the neglected Golden Age superhero pantheon from Ace Periodicals.
Secret Identity: Jack Wilson, Diplomatic Attache
Origin: Jack Wilson was serving as a Diplomatic Attache at the American Embassy in the fictional Central American nation of Centralvo. While there he gained superpowers but Ace Periodicals’ writers never got around to explaining how during this character’s brief run.
First Appearance: Our Flag Comics #1 (August 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came that same year.
Powers: Captain Victory (No relation to the Jack Kirby character of that name) could fly and had massive super strength. The upper limits of his flying abilities and his strength were never established before the character disappeared.
Comment: Since America had not yet entered World War Two, Captain Victory’s adventures had to walk a fine line. The hero thwarted an Axis Powers attempt to trick Centralvo into entering the war on their side, stopped a Nazi sub from secretly sabotaging the Panama Canal and – in a prescient bit – defeated a Japanese sneak attack on the American Navy.
Secret Identity: Isabel Blake
Origin: When Isabel’s Naval Officer father John was brainwashed by Lash Lightning’s supervillain foe the Teacher and forced to help the Japanese forces against the U.S. When Lash Lightning was in one of the Teacher’s death traps he transferred some of his power to Isabel so she could help him.
Her father was freed from his brainwashing and died a hero. Isabel vowed to continue fighting the Axis nations to avenge her father and became Lightning Girl, Lash Lightning’s partner.
First Appearance: Lightning Comics Volume 3 #1 (June 1942). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1946.
Powers: Lightning Girl could fly at lightning speed, shoot lightning bolts from her hands, generate lightning-heat and track Lash Lightning through their shared electrical impulses.
This superheroine could recharge herself with any electrical outlet.
Comment: Usually when a male and female pair of superheroes have the same powers I go with just the woman since there are so many more male heroes than female from the Golden Age. However, in this case Lash Lightning was one of Ace Periodicals’ most successful characters so I will need to feature him, too.
Secret Identity: Robert Blake, Middle School Principal
Origin: To give the students at his school a role model to help them grow up to be “defenders of liberty” Robert dons a costume and becomes the superhero called Buckskin. He uses the skills taught to him by his old Indian Scout grandfather to fight crime and later on Axis Supervillains.
First Appearance: Super-Mystery Comics Volume 2 #1 (April 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1943.
Powers: Buckskin was at the peak of human condition and excelled at unarmed combat. He was also an expert tracker and was as stealthy as a ninja.
In addition he used a lariat in concert with his fighting abilities to help subdue his opponents.
Buckskin had a pet eagle named Talon who fought at his side like Redwing, the trained falcon of the Marvel Comics hero called the Falcon.
Comment: In a way this superhero was ahead of his time the way he used a blue buckskin costume to show that it wasn’t made of real animal skin.
Instead of just endangering the life of one young sidekick like other heroes, Buckskin sometimes enlisted several students at his school to risk their necks helping him.
Secret Identity: Arthur Lake, teenager
Origin: Frail Arthur Lake accompanied his father John to England on a business trip for his business the Lake Aircraft Company. While exploring on his own the teen discovered the hidden tomb of King Arthur.
Though physically weak he had the strength of character which made him worthy to pull the sword Excalibur from a stone. Drawing the sword transformed him into an adult figure wearing knightly clothes and possessing superpowers. Calling himself the Sword he fought mystical menaces and Axis supervillains.
First Appearance: Captain Courageous Comics #6 (March 1942). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1945.
Powers: Whenever Arthur would draw Excalibur from the stone (which he took home with him) he transformed into the Sword and had the strength of “many times ten men” as well as limited invulnerability. That invulnerability was enhanced by the chain mail armor he wore.
This hero’s preternatural swordsmanship enabled him to use Excalibur to subdue multiple foes without inflicting fatal wounds on them.
Comment: Teenaged Arthur Lake had a 12 year old friend named Lance Larter who was on hand once when Arthur drew Excalibur to become the Sword. From then on when Arthur assumed his superhero form 12 year old Lance transformed into a slightly older figure called the Lancer. As this hero he wielded a lance and had more than human strength, enabling him to serve as the Sword’s sidekick.
Secret Identity: James Bradley, MD
Origin: Working at Mercy Hospital’s Emergency Room, Dr James Bradley saw countless victims of violent crime. Eventually he decided to do something about it and donned a costume to wage a war against criminals.
First Appearance: Lightning Comics #6 (April 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1944.
Powers: Doctor Nemesis excelled at hand-to-hand combat, even against multiple foes at once. He also used his physician’s familiarity with the human anatomy to inflict maximum damage to his opponents as quickly and efficiently as possible.
In addition, this hero wielded and sometimes threw a scalpel or two against armed villains. He also used a hypodermic gun filled with either knock-out drugs or truth serum, depending on the need.
Comment: This superhero has that oddball appeal that I like about so many Golden Age superheroes. He’s sort of an MD version of the Green Hornet. His Rogue’s Gallery of foes included figures like the Surgeon, who unleashed plague rats on the city … Dr Quartz, who performed vivisections on human guinea pigs … and X-2, a costumed Japanese agent who tried poisoning America’s blood banks.
James Bradley’s girlfriend, Nurse Mary Strong, did not know her beau was the dashing vigilante called Doctor Nemesis.
Secret Identity: Countess LaRue
Origin: Countess LaRue was a beautiful and powerful sorceress whose husband the Count turned out to be an evil alchemist. The villain took her by surprise and put her in suspended animation for over a hundred years. Emerging from her comatose state in 1952, Jewel thwarted her evil husband’s latest schemes and resolved to fight all the forces of black magic from then on.
First Appearance: Baffling Mysteries #10 (September 1952). Unfortunately this was also the last Golden Age appearance for this promising heroine.
Powers: Think of Jewel as a female version of DC’s Doctor Fate and Marvel’s Doctor Strange. She had awesome eldritch powers that included energy projection, banishment, flight and the ability to counteract the spells of lesser practitioners of magic.
In addition she could control assorted supernatural beings who inhabited Castle LaRue and was able to curse her husband to become a monster when exposed to sunlight.
Comment: Considering her abilities, her need to adjust to the 20th Century and the implied arcane secrets of Castle LaRue it’s a shame Jewel never got a long-running series of her own.
Secret Identity: Never revealed.
Origin: The enigmatic Unknown Soldier – no relation to DC’s character of the same handle – was a mysterious, never-identified soldier from America’s distant past. Readers are told that in all time periods of our nation’s history this ageless super-powered figure has appeared whenever danger threatens America.
First Appearance: Our Flag Comics #1 (August 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1945.
Powers: Unknown Soldier had massive super-strength, limited invulnerability and the power of flight. In addition he could spin his body at such a speed that he could make a tornado of himself.
This mysterious entity also carried a souped-up pistol called a Nitro Gun which fired explosive bullets. The power of the explosions varied according to the demands of the story.
Comment: Obviously the Unknown Soldier was Ace’s variation on Quality Comics’ character Uncle Sam, another ageless, quasi-supernatural hero.
I like to think this Unknown Soldier was a dying warrior from the Revolutionary War who got experimented on by some of the Freemasons among America’s Founding Fathers. Through some combination of super-science and alchemy a potion was created for the soldier to drink.
In addition to saving the dying man it prolonged his lifespan indefinitely and endowed him with superpowers. The downside was that when his work was done he would lapse into suspended animation until an imperiled America needed him again.
Unfortunately, I can’t come up with ANY reasonable backstory for this hero’s eccentric decision to wear hot pants into battle.
Secret Identity: Danny Dartin, Detective Sergeant
Origin: The Raven was one of Ace Periodicals’ superhero versions of their old Pulp Heroes from the 1930s. The Raven was basically the Moon Man remade and renamed for comic books.
Just like the Moon Man, a police detective grew tired of criminals and corrupt politicians flouting the laws and assumed a costumed identity to fight them. Also like the Moon Man, the Raven would take the ill-gotten gains of his vanquished supervillains and redistribute it to the suffering poor of the city. Like the Green Hornet this figure was wanted by both the crooks AND the cops.
First Appearance: Sure-Fire Comics #1 (June 1940). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1942.
Powers: The Raven was in the peak of human condition, excelled at unarmed combat and had the agility of an Olympic athlete. In addition he brought his criminology and detective experience to bear in his crusade.
Comment: Ace even recycled the Moon Man’s shtick where the Raven’s girlfriend Lola Lash was the daughter of his most aggressive police pursuer Police Chief Lash. However, instead of a sidekick called Angel, the Raven had a sidekick named Mike, who was Chief Lash’s chauffer.
Secret Identity: None. Vulcan was his real name.
Origin: Vulcan was an actual descendant of the Roman god of fire Vulcan, who had mated with human women on a South Seas Island. Vulcan used the island as a base and fought criminals, monsters, Nazis and the Japanese Imperial Troops.
First Appearance: Super-Mystery Comics #1 (July 1940). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1942.
Powers: Vulcan could generate fire with his own body and use it to fly, to shoot fire blasts from his hands and to sculpt flame into various shapes like Green Lantern does with the energy from his ring.
He also surrounded his body with an aura of fire which could melt bullets or heavy artillery that hit him.
As a semi-immortal this superhero also possessed greater than human strength.
Comment: With this one figure Ace Periodicals sort of combined the best aspects of Marvel’s Human Torch and Sub-Mariner with DC’s Green Lantern.
Secret Identity: Nita Dell
Origin: Originally a criminal, Nita Dell was fleeing from the law following her latest robbery. She holed up in a creepy Wax Museum that turned out to be run by a witch named Lizette. The incensed witch transformed Nita into a super-powered tiger/ human hybrid.
First Appearance: Hand of Fate #25b (December 1954). Unfortunately this was also her final appearance, leaving her potential forever untapped.
Powers: Tigerwoman possessed the strength of a human-sized tiger, had sharp claws that were so strong they could even carve into metal and sported a prehensile tail that she used in battle.
Thanks to Lizette’s magic she was also bullet-proof.
Comment: Another one-appearance wonder but Ace Periodicals had so few female stars that I didn’t have the luxury of going with longer-lasting super-women from this publisher.
Tigerwoman also fought demons conjured up by Lizette and clashed with her own former partner in crime Brett Hannigan, who had been transformed into a wolf-man by Lizette.
This fascinating figure could have been like Marvel’s character Tigra but two decades earlier. It really is a shame that Tigerwoman never got the chance to fulfill her massive potential.
Secret Identity: Jim Courtney, flag-maker
Origin: An unnamed baby was left on the doorstep of crippled World War One veteran John Courtney in 1920. Courtney, a flag-maker, was intrigued by the American Flag birthmark on the infant’s chest. He named the boy Jim and raised him as his son, teaching him his flag-making trade.
On Jim’s 21st birthday he was visited by the ghosts of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln who told him he was a super-powered being and that his powers were ready to be used now that he was an adult. Jim donned a costume and fought the forces of evil as the Flag.
First Appearance: Our Flag Comics #2 (October 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1942.
Powers: The Flag possessed the strength of 100 men, was invulnerable to even heavy artillery and could both fly and run at super-speed. When this hero ran and flew at super-speed he left an American flag-like trail in his wake.
The American Flag birthmark on Jim Courtney’s chest would glow when his superhero identity was needed.
Comment: The Flag’s girlfriend was Sally Blair, the managing editor of the newspaper called The Daily Clarion.
Before taking on Axis supervillains the Flag fought criminals and Herman Foxson, a William Randolph Hearst-type figure who tried to impose his own dictatorship on America.
Secret Identity: Classified.
Origin: The woman who would become known as Sister Cheer was originally a vaudeville entertainer who became a nurse in the U.S. Army. Her 2 male sidekicks were also former vaudevillians who joined the service – one as a Navy Chemist and the other as a Marine Corps Sergeant.
A Nazi agent named Malko framed the 3 old friends for a crime they did not commit. They took it on the lam and adopted the fake identities of Sis, Boom and Bart, the Three Cheers, a USO act. (Talk about hiding in plain sight!) While touring as USO entertainers they secretly fought Axis agents while searching for a way of clearing their original names.
First Appearance: Our Flag Comics #1 (August 1941). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1942.
Powers: Sis(ter) Cheer was the brains and the medic. Boom, the former Marine, was the muscle and Bart, the chemist, provided the scientific know-how. This heroine led the trio into action.
Comment: Out of sheer desperation for another female character to add variety to the Ace Periodicals pantheon I regulated Sis’ partners Boom and Bart to mere sidekicks.
If I was adapting the character for modern readers I would make her an all-out superhero by going Agent Axis on her. That Captain America villain was a collective entity formed by the accidental scientific fusion of a German agent, a Japanese agent and an Italian agent.
I would have made Sister Cheer, Boom and Bart triplets. The Nazi Malko could have been sabotaging Top Secret experimental equipment. Sis, Boom and Bart could have caught him in the act and tried to stop him. A mishap could have killed the two men but fused their abilities into their surviving sister. (Hey, it’s a Golden Age comic book.)
Sis would still have her own strategic and medical skills but would have gained Bart’s scientific genius as well as Boom’s fighting abilities and impressive strength. (Again, comic book.) With her siblings dead, Sister Cheer would have kept her new abilities a secret and sworn to avenge herself on the Axis Powers by adopting a new costumed identity.
This heroine would continue touring with the USO as Sister Cheer, a solo singing act. My possibilities for her superhero name:
Agent 3 – As a nod to Agent Axis, the Three Cheers and her new “three in one” abilities. No matter what her nom de guerre a big Roman Numeral III would look great on her costume’s chest or belt or forehead.
Tri-Girl – For that quintessential Golden Age feel.
Trinity – Might be a bit too melodramatic for a superhero of that era.
Sergeant 3 – Ace already had too many Captains so why not a Sergeant?
The Chevron – A bit obscure, but her costume could have three Sergeant’s chevrons on the chest or belt or forehead as a nod to the World War II military AND her triple abilities.
Secret Identity: Robert Morgan, archaeologist
Origin: When Robert Morgan was exploring a previously unknown pyramid he encountered an aged Mystic called the Old Man of the Pyramid. (Catchy) This old man taught Morgan about the lost science of ancient civilizations and entrusted him with the Amulet of Annihilation. That amulet – which Robert took to wearing as an arm-band – bestowed our hero with super-powers.
First Appearance: Sure-Fire Comics #1 (June 1940). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1946.
Powers: Thanks to the Amulet of Annihilation this hero had greater than human strength, could fly as fast as lightning, shoot lightning bolts from his hands and generate an electrical force-field around himself.
Comment: Lash Lightning was originally called Flash Lightning but the name was quickly changed to avoid potential legal issues over DC’s character Flash.
Lash Lightning later bestowed a lesser version of his own powers upon Lightning Girl, who became his partner in crimefighting.
Secret Identity: None. He was a supernatural being who was never given an alternate identity. Sometimes he would refer to himself as “Ol’ Courageous” when out of costume but that’s as close as he ever got to an alter ego.
Origin: Like the Unknown Soldier, Captain Courageous was an Ace Periodicals imitation of Quality Comics’ superhero Uncle Sam. In this hero’s case he was a supernatural entity formed from the collective courage of Americans at war. He did battle with Axis villains, super-powered and otherwise.
If I was writing a version of the character I would throw in pseudo-mystical gibberish claiming that in the distant superstitious past entities like Captain Courageous would be spawned and regarded as gods. (For the ultimate “Did God create man or vice versa?” theme.)
In the more rational 20th Century these entities from humanity’s collective subconscious manifested as figures who were instead regarded as super-powered heroes. They were still praised and lionized, but not worshipped.
First Appearance: Banner Comics #3 (September 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1947.
Powers: Captain Courageous possessed massive super-strength, the power of flight and a high level of invulnerability. Though he could be rendered unconscious with knockout gas this hero could function underwater without any breathing apparatus.
Comment: Ace Periodicals had more than their share of characters with no true origin story and often with no secret identity. Captain Victory, Unknown Soldier, The Flag, Magno, X the Phantom Fed and Captain Courageous are tantalizingly enigmatic.
Captain Courageous’ final few years of adventures saw him maintaining order in Occupied Japan and fighting the legendary scattered Japanese forces who refused to surrender after the war had ended.
Some people confuse Captain Courageous with Captain Victory but still manage to lead fairly normal lives just the same.
Secret Identity: None. He was publicly known as Magno the Magnetic Man, a super-powered operative for the U.S. government.
Origin: Apparently how Magno got his powers is classified. He’s another Ace Periodicals character without a proper origin. From his first appearance he is a public hero and uses his superhero status as a pathway to success with lots and lots of women.
First Appearance: Super-Mystery Comics #1 (July 1940). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1947.
Powers: Magno used his magnetic abilities to fly, to attract, levitate and repel metal objects, to shoot magnetic energy from his hands and to surround himself with a magnetic “skin” that made him immune to bullets and other metal weapons.
Comment: Origin, shmorigin! Magno was far and away the most popular and longest-lasting superhero from Ace Periodicals. He fought super-powered criminals, Axis operatives and even a few Commies after World War Two was over. Magno was one of those tough Golden Age superheroes who casually threatened to kill crooks who refused to cooperate.
The Magnetic Man succumbed to the superhero fad for endangering children by taking on a sidekick named Davey, upon whom he bestowed a lesser version of his own powers.
Magno had the most interesting Rogue’s Gallery of foes out of all the Ace superheroes.
FOR MY EXAMINATION OF THE 13-PART BLACK PANTHER STORY TITLED PANTHER’S RAGE CLICK HERE
FOR MY ARTICLE ON THE LIST OF ATLAS/ SEABOARD SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE
FOR MY ARTICLE ON THE MAIN LIST OF CENTAUR COMICS SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE
FOR MY ARTICLE ON THE MEMBERS OF INFINITE HORIZON CLICK HERE
FOR THE AUSTRALIAN SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR MORE SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE: Superheroes
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