Superheroes rule pop culture right now and readers demand more superhero items whenever I go too long without one. Here’s a look at yet another neglected pantheon of comic book heroes who don’t get the attention that Marvel and DC do.
Secret Identity: Phil Anson
Origin: A young American ran off to Tibet in 1915 and spent 25 years studying with the Grand High Lamas to learn some of their mystic secrets. After mastering them he returned to the U.S. to fight the forces of evil.
First Appearance: The Funnies #45 (July 1940). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1941.
Powers: Phil Anson only had superpowers in his astral body. He would go into a trance – during which his vulnerable physical form would be guarded by his sidekick, bellhop Whizzer McGee. While in this trance Anson’s astral form, Phantasmo, could fly, had massive super-strength and could grow to giant size as well as turn invisible.
Comment: Phantasmo had a kind of “Superman crossed with the Spectre” appeal.
Secret Identity: Matthew Gibbs, Air Force Pilot
Origin: While flying a U-2 spy plane over Communist China, Matthew Gibbs and his aircraft were hit by multiple Red Chinese experimental nuclear missiles. In the aftermath, Gibbs was able to reassemble his body, which now possessed extraordinary nuclear powers. He donned a costume and began working for the CIA as the superhero Nukla.
First Appearance: Nukla #1 (October 1965)
Powers: Nukla could shoot controlled nuclear explosions from his fingertips as well as render his body immaterial at will.
Comment: As was the case with Timely/ Marvel Comics, Dell went from having World War Two spawn many of their Golden Age heroes to having the Cold War spawn many of their Silver Age heroes. And since Nukla sounds like a female figure this hero could be a woman if revived today.
Secret Identity: Belle Wayne, gossip columnist
Origin: Belle’s boyfriend, Special Police Investigator Nick Terry, was the costumed superhero called the Owl. She joined him in his crusade against crime.
First Appearance: Crackajack Funnies #28 (October 1940). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1943.
Powers: Owl Girl was in the peak of human condition and was more agile than an Olympic gymnast. She was an expert at unarmed combat and could glide through the air and from great heights thanks to her para-glider type cape which was secured at her wrists and the back of her neck.
Owl Girl drove the Owlmobile, which could also fly. She wielded a Blacklight Ray which projected darkness and could use robotic mini-owls able to see in that darkness. Those owl robots were used to track people, too.
Comment: As always, given the scarcity of Golden Age superheroines, whenever there is a male and female team who have the exact same powers and abilities I list the woman instead of the man to have some variety.
SON OF SUPERMIND
Secret Identity: Dan Warren
Origin: Dan Warren’s inventor father, Professor Warren, created an electric-chair styled device called the High Frequency Energy Builder. Sitting in the device for hours endowed Dan with super powers. His father called himself Professor Supermind and condemned Dan to be known as Supermind’s Son or Son of Supermind.
First Appearance: Popular Comics #60 (February 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1942.
Powers: Exposure to the High Frequency Energy Builder gave Son of Supermind super-strength equivalent to a thousand horse-power, the ability to fly, to communicate telepathically with his father and to generate an electric force-field around himself.
That force-field would melt bullets or other projectiles before they could reach him and would also let him “burn” his way through walls too thick for his super-strength to let him burst through.
Comment: Son of Supermind couldn’t decide on wanting a secret identity or not. Sometimes he wore a domino mask but other times went maskless.
Secret Identity: Frank Stone, millionaire industrialist
Origin: This Frankenstein Monster was created by an American scientist in 1866 in imitation of the Mary Shelley story. He awoke in 1966 in a castle near America’s Metropole City, where he had apparently lain comatose for a century until being awakened by a stray lightning bolt. Crafting a lifelike mask to disguise his monstrous face, the creature ventured out into the city.
He wound up using his incredible strength to try to save a millionaire from a car accident. The tycoon – an old business partner of the creator’s family – died later of a heart attack, but in gratitude he left his entire fortune to his would-be rescuer. Hiding behind his “human” facial mask, Frankenstein assumed the name Frank Stone and became an even wealthier industrialist while fighting crime like a superhero in his costumed “monster” identity.
First Appearance: Frankenstein #2 (September 1966) – the first issue was an adaptation of the Mary Shelley story. This figure’s final Silver Age appearance came in 1967.
Powers: Frankenstein, as this hero called himself, had the strength of fifty men as well as a high level of invulnerability.
Comment: “Frank Stone” had a butler named William who was the only person who knew he was really the superhero Frankenstein. Frank even had a girlfriend – reporter Ann Thorpe – but he kept her in the dark about his dual identity. Frankenstein’s archenemy was the midget mad scientist Mr Freek, who rode the shoulders of his super-strong ape Bruto so he could go head-to-head with our hero when need be.
WILL O’ THE WISP
Secret Identity: Gale Leary
Origin: When she was an infant, Gale Leary’s father – a District Attorney – and her mother were murdered by vengeful gangsters during a home invasion. The only thing that could soothe baby Gale that night and make her stop crying was a willow branch tucked into one of her little hands.
As she grew older, the odd link between Gale and the willow branch somehow imbued the branch with mystic powers – or vice versa. (It’s a comic book. Just go with it.) When Gale reached adulthood she wielded the willow branch to avenge her parents’ murders and then continued fighting crime as Will O’ The Wisp.
First Appearance: Key Comics #1 (January 1944). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1946.
Powers: Will O’ The Wisp’s mystic willow branch could surround her in a glow that served as a force field and permitted her to shoot some sort of energy bolts at will. She could also extend her force field all at once to repel any attackers in her immediate vicinity.
Comment: Okay, so willows have nothing to do with the glowing swamp gas called Will O’ The Wisps, but apparently the creators of this superheroine didn’t know that. A shorter, better nom de guerre for her would have been Willow, but what can you do?
Secret Identity: Tim Brant, police detective
Origin: Tim’s scientist friend Professor Bert Wilson invented a special cellophane suit which would keep itself and its wearer invisible after periodic exposure to sigma rays. The professor let Tim use the suit to fight crime as the invisible superhero called the Voice.
First Appearance: Popular Comics #53 (July 1940). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1942.
Powers: When he wore his cowl and costume the Voice was completely invisible. In addition, Tim Brant was an expert criminologist and was highly skilled at unarmed combat.
Comment: Professor Wilson’s invisibility experiments at one point produced an invisible car similar to the suit.
Secret Identity: Vana of the planet Antaclea
Origin: Vana was from the scientifically advanced planet Antaclea. When she and her husband Martan the Marvel Man visited Earth in 1939 for their honeymoon they became charmed with humanity’s potential despite our primitive state compared to them. Their honeymoon was interrupted when aliens led by the Supreme Three of the Universe invaded Earth. Vana and her husband saved our planet and decided to stay to keep us backward shlubs safe from interplanetary menaces and supervillains.
First Appearance: Popular Comics #46 (December 1939). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1941.
Powers: Like all Antacleans, Vana the Marvel Woman had Superman-level strength when on Earth. That strength allowed her to leap incredible distances. Her super-scientific clothing endowed her with telepathy and the ability to project force fields around herself. She also wielded a flame-thrower gun.
Comment: Again, given the scarcity of Golden Age superheroines, whenever there is a male and female team who have the exact same powers and abilities I list the woman instead of the man to have some variety.
Secret Identity: Ian Stannard, U.S. astronaut
Origin: In America’s REAL 1960s Space Program, which was apparently far more advanced than we ever let on, Astronaut Ian Stannard becomes the heroic Space Man. After secretly making the first Moon Landing against alien opposition, he goes on to have even more space-related adventures.
First Appearance: Four-Color Comics #1253 (March 1962). His final Silver Age appearance came in 1964.
Powers: Ian Stannard was already an ace in America’s Space Corps (Did he shoot down five Cosmonauts?) and had our most advanced space ship, the Flyin’ Jenny II at his command. He wielded a variety of futuristic weapons and high-tech tools on his missions. He was also highly skilled at unarmed combat.
Comment: With his 14 year old sidekick Johnny Mack, son of a famous space pioneer, Space Man flew to the Moon in 1962 to defeat the sinister alien forces which up until then had been preventing Earthlings from landing. Space Man’s girlfriend Mary Lansing was also a famous astronaut.
Secret Identity: “Ray” Kennedy
Origin: When our hero’s mother died while he was an infant, his father apparently went insane. He began feeding the boy radium while bombarding him with radiation over the years, thus giving him superpowers. (WARNING: Don’t try this at home!) Adopting the nom de guerre Radior, the X-Ray Powerman, he took to fighting the forces of evil as an agent of the U.S. Government.
First Appearance: Key Ring Comics #1 (1941, but no month is known). His first appearance was also his final appearance, which is a shame given the character’s potential.
Powers: Radior could lift just over a ton and could shoot atomic energy blasts from his hands. He could magnetically levitate objects like cars, had x-ray vision and could see and hear things across great distances. A side-effect was that use of his power often interfered with radios.
Comment: Radior defeated the deadly German saboteur Doctor Teufel (“Devil”) in his only adventure and gained a girlfriend, Arlene Loughran. He saved her pilot brother in his debut story and decided to hire Arlene as his secretary in his new Top Secret job in Washington, DC.
Secret Identity: Wiley Wolf, CIA Agent
Origin: U.S. Air Force Major Wiley Wolf crash-landed inside the Arctic Circle, where he saved the life of a wolf injured by the crash. Wiley lived with that wolf – whom he named Thor – and the rest of the pack until being rescued. Life with the pack had altered Wiley’s personality and the crash had wiped out most of his memories so he was happy to become the CIA superhero called Werewolf, granted superior abilities through his high-tech costume.
First Appearance: Werewolf #1 (December 1966). His final Silver Age appearance came in 1967.
Powers: Werewolf was maniacally skilled at unarmed combat and was a weapons expert. A technological implant in his throat and another in Thor’s brain enabled Werewolf to remotely control his wolf sidekick. This hero’s specially designed black suit was bulletproof, fireproof and would filter out gasses and other dangerous chemicals. It also enhanced the speed with which Werewolf could move and allowed him to walk up walls and breathe underwater. The suit also sported a utility belt which carried assorted other high-tech items.
Comment: With his past all but gone and nearly everyone who used to know him assuming he died in the plane crash, this character seems tailor-made for today’s gritty, angst-ridden and brooding superhero market. He battled Communist menaces around the world, including Cuba.
Secret Identity: Jack Morrow
Origin: When Jack was a child he and his father became stranded on an uncharted island with a healthy native population and dangerous jungle animals. By an incredible coincidence “morro” was the natives’ word for magic and since the boy’s last name Morrow sounded like morro he was taught all the secrets of native magic when his father passed away. When he reached adulthood Jack returned to America and used his mystical powers to fight the forces of evil as Magic Morro.
First Appearance: Super Comics #21 (February 1940). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1943.
Powers: Magic Morro combined qualities of Golden Age “Jungle Kings” with Masters of the Mystic Arts like DC’s Doctor Fate and Marvel’s Doctor Strange. In addition to controlling all the animals in the jungles on the island that became his hidden base after he returned to America, Magic Morro also had incredible magical abilities.
He could control the weather, project energy, undo spells cast by lesser magicians, etc. His pet lion Hector often helped him out, as did his native sidekick Oomla.
Comment: Using a jungle island as his base despite having reestablished his American citizenship is just part of Magic Morro’s eccentric charm.
Secret Identity: Polly Wheeler, high school student
Origin: Polly was visiting a museum dedicated to superheroes (past Dell characters) along with her friends Danny Boyd, Tom Dennis and “Reb” Ogilvie. They stumbled into a Top Secret lab in which super-powered androids were being created to serve as new heroes. A lab accident caused the minds of Polly and her three fellow students to be transferred into the super-powered robots. The four of them found they could transfer their minds between their human forms and the robots at will, and set out to fight the forces of evil as the Fab Four. (Yes, the Fab Four.)
First Appearance: Super Heroes #1 (January 1967). She and her teammates’ final Silver Age appearance came after just 4 issues.
Powers: When her mind was in the Polymer android this superheroine could fly at incredible speeds, was heat resistant and could weave polymer fibers like webbing to restrain opponents and serve other purposes. (Danny became “L” and could fire lasers from his eyes, Tom became “Hy” and had sonic powers while Reb became “Crispy” and was finger-lickin’ good – I mean had the ability to freeze things.)
Comment: This is a variation of my usual policy regarding the lack of superheroines. All four of these characters have the same origin so the woman gets listed to add variety.
Secret Identity: None. Dr Hormone is his real name.
Origin: Seventy-five year old Doctor Hormone used his specially developed hormones and exposure to “Angstrom Rays” to de-age himself about fifty years. He decided to use his designer hormones and his new youthful energy to take on the forces of evil.
First Appearance: Popular Comics #54 (August 1940). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1941.
Powers: Dr Hormone had no superpowers but he could use his hormonal concoctions to adversely affect the metabolisms of his opponents. He’d have made a better villain than hero, actually, as he made his foes age, gain or lose weight or transform into human-animal hybrids. Once he used his hormones to cause a generation of children in a European nation to immediately mature into adults so they could be sent off to war against a Nazi-like menace.
Comment: This truly bizarre superhero even used his own granddaughter Janey as his sidekick. In the final adventure of Dr Hormone and Janey a mystical figure called the Thinker gave our hero super-strength and the ability to grow to gigantic size. At story’s end, however, he put the pair into a magic slumber, preserving them for the possibility that they would be needed to help mankind in the future.
Secret Identity: Matt Price, anthropology student
Origin: When Matt’s mother was still pregnant with him she was exposed to a heavy charge of electricity in an accident. That same accident killed his father but the mother miraculously survived. Somehow, this exposure to electricity while in the womb gave Matt superpowers that enabled him to grow up to be a super-powered operative for the U.S. Government.
First Appearance: Brain Boy #1330-sic (April 1962). Blame Dell’s eccentric numbering system for that first issue number. This figure’s final Silver Age appearance came in 1963.
Powers: Brain Boy was a telepath and could also levitate objects. By levitating himself, he could fly. In addition he could control other people’s minds and moods but doing so exhausted him.
Comment: The secret organization that Brain Boy worked for went by the name Organization of Active Anthropologists just to ensure NOBODY could guess it was really a secret intelligence agency. Brain Boy’s archenemy was Ricorta, a South American Dictator who had psychic abilities of his own. His adventures had that certain Cold War feel that early to mid-60s Marvel Comics also had.
Secret Identity: Al U. Card, biochemist
Origin: The latest Count Dracula to inherit the title was an idealistic man who set out to redeem the family honor. To that end he was working on a chemical cure for brain damage via elements in bat blood, but instead accidentally created a biochemical formula which granted him superpowers. This enabled him to fight crime under the costumed identity of Dracula.
First Appearance: Dracula #2 (November 1966). The first issue was a comic-book adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel. This hero’s final Silver Age appearance came in 1967 but his series was reprinted in the early 1970s.
Powers: Dracula had the power to change into a bat, was very strong and had ultrasonic hearing. In addition he could control bats.
Comment: Dell should have just gone all the way and had Dracula use sonar blasts from his mouth, be able to fly and have other abilities from being a humanoid bat. DC’s character Man-Bat did not come along until 1970 so Dell really wasted a good opportunity here. After the second issue Castle Dracula was destroyed, prompting the latest Count Dracula to relocate to the U.S. in an abandoned radar station and adopt his ridiculous secret identity, Al U. Card.
In his 3rd and final adventure Dracula got a female sidekick when his beautiful girlfriend, blonde socialite B.B. Beebe, gained the same powers from his bat blood serum. She took on the costumed identity Fleeta, from Fledermouse, but a mere one issue appearance was not enough for me to use her instead of Dracula himself for this entry.
Secret Identity: CHEMIX (Barton Brandon), LECTRA (Richard Brandon), MENTA (Bruce Brandon)
Origin: The Brandon Brothers – Barton, Bruce and Richard – were appalled that their father died because of how his scientific inventions were used in destructive ways. They vowed to use their specialized skills to fight the forces of evil as the costumed trio Chemix, Lectra and Menta aka Triple Terror.
First Appearance: Tip Top Comics #54 (October 1940). Their final Golden Age appearance came in 1946.
Powers: Lectra was an electronics and radio genius. Among other inventions, he came up with the group’s pens which served as broadcast and communications radios.
Menta was a genius at human psychology and possessed seemingly superhuman hypnotic abilities. He was also a master strategist and could pilot any kind of aircraft.
Chemix was a chemical genius. He created the group’s special costumes which helped them blend into backgrounds like chameleons. The trio often displayed small amounts of super-strength, like breaking out of chains, so I’m assuming his chemicals were responsible for that.
In addition the Brandons were all in peak human condition. They were as agile as Olympic gymnasts and were experts at unarmed combat.
Comment: Proving that there’s no telling what will be a hit with fans Triple Terror proved to be Dell’s longest-lasting superheroes in the Golden Age, making it all the way to 1946. Some of their foes were the Glove, Black Sam, Professor Duste, Vapine, the Silver Swastikas and a villainess called the Rat.
I would make either Lectra or Menta female for some variety.
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