As always in these superhero-crazed times, readers let me hear about it when I go too long without a post like this. Here is Balladeer’s Blog’s look at the neglected superheroes from Four Star Publications.
Secret Identity: Bruce Corbet, reporter
First Appearance: Captain Flight Comics #5 (December 1944)
Origin: Nazi agents accidentally killed Daily Star reporter Bruce Corbet’s brother Danny while searching for Bruce’s notes regarding a top secret War Department development. Since the Nazis killed Danny with a hand grenade he adopted the nom de guerre the Grenade and donned a costume to seek revenge.
Powers: The Grenade was in the peak of human condition. He was as agile as an Olympic gymnast and excelled at unarmed combat. In addition he sported hand grenades which he could hurl with deadly accuracy.
Comment: I’d have added some knock-out grenades or harmless smoke grenades to the explosive grenades this hero carried with him, just for some variety. A beautiful lounge singer was the Grenade’s love interest in his civilian identity.
Secret Identity: Steve Drake, FBI Agent
First Appearance: Black Cobra #1 (October 1954)
Origin: When FBI Agent Steve Drake encountered exceptionally dangerous criminals or Communist Agents he would don his Black Cobra costume to deal with the villains.
Powers: More than human strength. The Black Cobra’s FBI-issued costume was made from a nearly indestructible plastic/ fabric combo. Not only did this protect him from bullets but once when hit by a tank shell it simply KNOCKED THE WIND OUT OF HIM! The costume’s boots sported suction cups which let Black Cobra run up or down walls like Spider-Man.
This hero was an expert in all types of unarmed combat, was in peak human condition and was more agile than an acrobat. Hidden in a garage beneath his home was his Racer-Car, a superfast government-developed auto which he rode into action.
Comment: In one issue Steve Drake referred to “a chemical formula” which let him become Black Cobra. Apparently this formula was the source of his greater than normal strength.
Secret Identity: Don Wallace
First Appearance: Captain Flight Comics #8 (May 1945)
Origin: Never explained.
Powers: Torpedoman wore a costume with a torpedo on the chest. The costume, complete with a breathing helmet, let him both fly AND travel underwater at very high speed. The outfit protected this hero from the pressure of the ocean’s depths and supplied him with several hours worth of oxygen. He would sometimes use specialized weaponry.
Comment: Torpedoman had a secret headquarters in the base of the Statue of Liberty below the water line. This certainly indicates some form of governmental or big money backing but details were not provided.
Secret Identity: Kitty Kelly, stewardess
First Appearance: Captain Flight Comics #6 (January 1945)
Origin: Never revealed.
Powers: Hypnosis, plus Yankee Girl was as strong as a human female can possibly be and was very proficient at unarmed combat. She could also pilot fighter planes better than some Army Air Corps aces.
Comment: This superheroine is not to be confused with the OTHER Yankee Girl (Lauren Mason) OR the other Kitty Kelly, who wore a red costume, had super-strength and could fly. Both of those ladies had black hair.
Secret Identity: Unknown
First Appearance: Captain Flight Comics #11 (February 1947)
Origin: Never revealed. Four Star Publications was apparently competing with Ace Comics to have the most superheroes with no origin provided.
Powers: Ability to burst into blue flames, to fly and to shoot blue fire from his hands.
Comment: Power-wise, Blue Flame was clearly a rip-off of the Timely Comics (later called Marvel Comics) character, the original (android) Human Torch. Costume-wise, Blue Flame ripped off the Human Torch’s sidekick Toro, wearing nothing but blue trunks and blue boots.
Secret Identity: Tom Dash, antique store owner
First Appearance: Captain Flight Comics # 1 (March 1944)
Origin: When Tom Dash’s daughter Lola was shot to death in the crossfire of a mob hit, he vowed revenge on organized crime. He adopted a costume of sorts and took action under the name Avenger.
Powers: Avenger spent a year in training, reaching the peak of human condition and mastering every form of armed and unarmed combat. He was an uncanny marksman with the revolvers he used in his crusade and was also very adept at throwing and wielding knives.
Comment: A close ally of this hero was Marmossi, owner of a sleazy bar frequented by many members of the criminal element. Apparently, Avenger found a mask unnecessary since none of his targets survived meeting him.
THE MENTAL WIZARD
Secret Identity: Telo. Just Telo. Like Sting. Or Prince.
First Appearance: Captain Flight Comics #3 (July 1944)
Origin: The Mental Wizard was a probable mutant with psychic abilities. He decided to use his abilities as an operative for the War Department.
Powers: This hero could read minds and seemingly communicate telepathically. He was also very proficient at unarmed combat and flew an experimental jet-plane which could drop bombs.
Comment: Telo had a flirty sort of Batman/ Catwoman dynamic with his foe the Prussian Spy, a beautiful blonde Nazi agent.
Secret Identity: Rod Page, private detective
First Appearance: Captain Flight Comics #5 (December 1944)
Origin: Rod Page adopted the costumed identity of Red Rocket to take on criminals that the law couldn’t touch.
Powers: Red Rocket wore a chainmail costume which made him bullet-proof and gave his punches some extra oomph. He was also an expert at unarmed combat.
Comment: This hero’s first several adventures were set in the present-day (1940s) but then abruptly switched to the year 2042 (sometimes 2046). In those 21st Century stories Rod Page was a U.S. Representative at the United Nations, now headquartered on a floating artificial island. Red Rocket could now read minds among his other abilities.
The continuity-obsessed can pretend that the Red Rocket was an identity like the Phantom or the Black Panther and was passed from generation to generation. The 21st Century Rod Page could be a descendant of the original Red Rocket from the 1940s.
Secret Identity: Bill Flight (I’m not joking.)
First Appearance: Captain Flight Comics #1 (March 1944)
Origin: Bill Flight, a pilot Captain and inventor, designed remote-controlled mini-planes which did not need pilots. The designs were stolen and the small fighter planes/ bombers mass produced by a European nation. (It was 1944 so I have no idea why they didn’t just name the Nazis outright.) Captain Flight took to the air and destroyed the gigantic Flying Fortress which controlled the hundreds of mini-planes, then vowed to continue flying against America’s enemies.
Powers: Captain Flight was a highly skilled fighter pilot and gifted inventor. He equipped his plane with high-powered “magical machine guns” (as he called them) which seemed to never run out of bullets. His futuristic aircraft could fly at 400 miles per hour. This hero was also accomplished at hand-to-hand combat and was proficient with hand-guns as well.
Comment: After a few issues Captain Flight was said to be part of the Doom Squad, free-lance pilots with a secret base. Captain Flight outfitted all of the Doom Squad’s planes with his high-tech inventions. The Squad was financed by a millionaire plane manufacturer. A few of the other pilots in this group had flown in World War One with Bill’s father, MAJOR Flight. Again, I’m not joking.
Let’s ignore the advanced ages that World War One pilots would have by the mid 1940s and instead mention that Captain Flight’s first love interest was Lilly Duvall, a former enemy spy. His second love interest was Elsie Davis, daughter of the elderly (and rich) Chief who led the Doom Squad.
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