Superheroes still dominate pop culture right now and readers just keep demanding more and more articles about them. Here is a look at the heroes from another defunct comic book company, in this case Spark Publications.


Secret Identity: Barry Dale, nuclear scientist

First Appearance: Atoman #1 (February 1946)

Origin: While working at the Atomic Institute, scientist Barry Dale was exposed to so much radium and uranium that he absorbed “the power of the atom.” Barry’s powers manifested themselves when agents who wanted to sell America’s nuclear secrets to the highest bidder tried to kill him over his refusal to help them. With his new superpowers he donned a costume and fought the forces of evil as Atoman.

Powers: Atoman possessed massive super-strength, could fly, run at super-speed, was invulnerable and had “atomic vision” (x-ray vision). In addition he could heat his body to such a degree that he could weld objects together with his bare hands.

Comment: This hero boasted that he could “smash mountains, wipe out whole cities” and “travel for thousands of miles in one leap.” He was also convinced he was just the first of many atomic-powered beings which the nuclear age would spawn. I guess to prove he wasn’t just another Superman imitation, Atoman claimed he would “help all people, regardless of race or creed or nationality” instead of fighting for “truth, justice, and”… you know.


Secret Identity: Tommy Preston, student

First Appearance: Golden Lad #1 (July 1945)

Origin: Young Tommy Preston was working in his grandfather’s neighborhood antique shop when he discovered an ancient relic called the Aztec Heart of Gold. Yes. In an antique shop. (WRITER: Hey, Editor, do items like Aztec artifacts wind up in antique shops or in museums? EDITOR: You’re joking, right?  WRITER: Yeah, uh … joking. Who wouldn’t know the answer to that, right? Ha, ha, ha!)

        Anyway, the Aztec Heart of Gold holds the mystic power of “the blood of a thousand martyred Aztecs.” This relic bestowed superpowers on “pure hearted” people who were “devoted to justice.” And so Golden Lad was born!   

Powers: Upon Tommy Preston reciting THE ENGLISH WORDS “Heart of Gold” this Aztec relic granted its wearer incredible super-strength, the power of flight, a degree of invulnerability and “high voltage vision.” The Heart of Gold’s magic also prevented people from clearly seeing that Tommy and Golden Lad were one and the same. (That’s not me being snarky, that’s right in the comic books.)

Comment: I would have also given the Heart of Gold that Tommy wore certain abilities similar to the Golden Age Green Lantern’s ring, like ray-blasts, etc.

Magga the MagnificentMAGGA THE MAGNIFICENT

Secret Identity: Kay (last name never revealed), hostess of the morning news radio program Breakfast With Kay.

First Appearance: Atoman #2 (April 1946)

Origin: Kay had mastered Tibetan Magic and could transform into the superheroine called Magga the Magnificent after saying “om mani padme hum.” (A slight variation of the Green Lama’s more famous incantation.)

Powers: Magga the Magnificent could fly, levitate objects and possessed a large measure of super-strength. 

Comment: Magga, “the miraculous maiden of matchless might” was in reality a gender-switched Green Lama from an unsold and rewritten Green Lama story.


Secret Identity: Jon Dart, Editor of The Weekly Star      

First Appearance: Golden Lad #1 (July 1945)

Origin: Newspaper Editor Jon Dart wanted to extend his crusade against crime while keeping his friends and loved ones from being targeted by the foes he would thus acquire. He adopted a costume and the nom de guerre Swiftarrow and took action.

swiftarrow 2Powers: Swiftarrow was at the peak of human condition and had more agility than an Olympic gymnast. He was highly skilled in unarmed combat and had uncanny skill with his crossbow and special, gimmick bolts. In addition, this hero used a knife in battle.

Comment: It’s nice to see a crossbow-wielding variation of the Arrow, Alias the Spider, Diana the Archer and all the other bow-and-arrow superheroes. Swiftarrow switched up the red and black color scheme to his costume after awhile. 


Secret Identity: Don Wickett, managing director for WWGL Radio

First Appearance: Golden Lad #5 (June 1946)

Origin: Radio Station managing director Don Wickett put his anger at rampant crime to good use by donning a costume and fighting the forces of evil as the superhero called Shaman.

Powers: Shaman was at the peak of human condition and was highly skilled at unarmed combat. In addition he was more agile than an Olympic gymnast. He drove a high-tech Jetcar with futuristic features.

Comment: Shaman’s home base was in Knickerbocker City. If you need a backstory on his costumed name, let’s assume it comes from his “wizardry” with radio and vehicular technology. It’s not out of the question that he might have served as a fighter pilot or tank crewman during World War Two. 

           Shaman’s crimefighting partner was the superheroine called Flame.

Flame picFLAME

Secret Identity: Kandy Wilson, secretary

First Appearance: Golden Lad #5 (June 1946)

Origin: When Kandy’s boss at the radio station where she worked became the costumed superhero Shaman she donned a costume of her own and fought at his side as Flame.

Flame 2Powers: Flame was in the peak of human condition and was as strong as a human female can possibly be. In addition she was highly skilled at unarmed combat and was more agile than an Olympic gymnast.

Comment: The creative team showed real lack of imagination here. She’s called Flame so give her something like a pistol that shoots fire like a flamethrower does. Or some kind of fire-related superpower. No wonder Spark Publications only lasted a few years.

Lt Hercules

Don’t look at his crotch … Don’t look at his crotch …


Secret Identity: Wilbur Klotz, accountant

First Appearance: Green Lama # 1 (December 1944)

Origin: The wizard Merlin appeared to Wilbur Klotz in the present day. Declaring him “worthy” he magically granted him superpowers to fight the forces of evil.

Powers: Lieutenant Hercules possessed super-strength, indestructibility, super-speed and the power of flight. He also had the wisdom of a sage and was “master of the forest,” whatever that means. This hero could magically switch from his human to superhero forms at will. 

Comment: Almost 4 decades before the Australian-created superheroine Lieutenant Smith, this figure’s creators beat the Aussies to the punch with the “lieutenant somebody instead of the overused CAPTAIN somebody” joke.

          lt hercules 2Another way that Lieutenant Hercules was a bit ahead of his time was the way he planted ads in the newspaper offering his superhero services for hire. (But he wasn’t the first to do that, Hourman was.) Merlin remained at Wilbur’s side to advise him and manage his superhero cases.    


Secret Identity: Peggy Shane, student

First Appearance: Golden Lad #5 (June 1946)

Origin: Peggy Shane, a classmate of Tommy Preston/ Golden Lad, recovered a small portion of Golden Lad’s Aztec Heart of Gold after it was slightly damaged. When she would recite the words “Heart of Gold” she turned into the superheroine called Golden Girl. (Insert your own Bea Arthur joke here.)

Powers: Since Golden Girl had only a small fragment of the Heart of Gold she possessed lesser versions of Golden Lad’s super-strength, flight and invulnerability. The Heart’s magic also prevented people from noticing that Peggy and Golden Girl were one and the same.  

Comment: Golden Girl wore her piece of the Heart of Gold in a small necklace.  

Air Rover

It’s the little things, really …


Secret Identity: Johnny Hopper, war hero

First Appearance: Golden Lad #1 (July 1945)

Origin: Bored with his postwar life, highly decorated World War Two veteran Johnny Hopper – presumably rich – designed and built a futuristic airplane/ submarine hybrid and headed off for adventure as Air Rover.

Powers: Air Rover was in the peak of human condition and excelled at unarmed combat. In addition his technological genius was impressive, as was the battle savvy he gained serving in World War Two.

Air Rover 2Comment: Air Rover had Pulp Magazine/ Indiana Jones-style adventures, like on an uncharted island full of Amazon women and in a supernatural Lost Valley of a Thousand Demons in the Himalayas.

           If you want to think of the short-lived Spark Publications setting as a “shared universe” we could assume that maybe Johnny Hopper and Don Wickett (Shaman) were war buddies, and maybe Hopper provided the secret funding and material behind Shaman and Flame’s Jetcar.    


Secret Identity: John Kendrick, district attorney

First Appearance: Atoman #1 (February 1946)

Origin: WRITER: Hey, Editor, is it District Attorneys or just actual policemen who wield a gun and hit the streets to fight criminals?  EDITOR: You’re joking again, right?  WRITER: Yeah, uh … joking. Who wouldn’t know the answer to that question, too, right? Ha, ha, ha! 

Powers: The uncanny ability to take action in his hat, suit and tie and start punching and shooting criminals without getting arrested or losing his position as a District Attorney.

Comment: The District Attorney was especially tough on crimes that victimized America’s returning Veterans. He also had the worst secret identity this side of Super President (qv).

           I like to think that this figure’s campaigns for office featured slogans like “Our District Attorney can shoot to death your city’s District Attorney!” But I’m kind of weird.   





© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.




Filed under Superheroes


  1. OH MY GOD!!! I love all this! Just brilliant!!! Was trying to pick my favorite but every next one became that. You just gifted some great laughter! Thank You and Cheers!!! 🙂

  2. Ivan

    Shaman was a waste of a cool name and a great costume.

  3. Randy

    I like your sense of humor with these!

  4. Antwan

    Magnificent Magga should be Magnificent Maga instead!

  5. Leo

    District Attorney? Your jokes made me laugh so hard!

  6. Ernest

    ur right Shaman and Flame had potential but they made them too bland.

  7. Adam

    This was so funny!

  8. Tena

    Magga the Magnificent was kind of like Supergirl.

  9. Elliott

    Shaman could have been awesome!

  10. Bernie M

    Your takes and context for these old superheroes are a masterpiece!

  11. Sam

    Atoman had great potential! I shared this post with my facebook followers.

  12. Very good information thanks so much!

  13. Thx so much ! Appreciate the useful information.

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