Readers just cannot get enough superhero blog posts, so since it has been two weeks since I last did one of these, here is a look at the Lev Gleason pantheon of superheroes.
Secret Identity: Basil Brusilof, MD
First Appearance: Captain Battle #1 (June 1941)
Origin: Once, when Dr Brusilof was in the experimental lab of the Belgrave, Yugoslavia hospital where he worked, a Nazi bombing run blew up that lab. Basil gained superpowers from the accident and fought crime and the Axis Nations under the name Blackout.
Powers: Blackout’s body became coal-black from the explosion which gave him his powers. The mysterious black gases/ energies that his body generated gave him massive super-strength, invulnerability and the ability to fly by shooting the gases/ energies from his feet like thrust from rocket engines. Similarly, from his hands he could shoot concussive blasts of those same gases/ energies.
In addition, this hero could see in the dark and his blackened body provided perfect camouflage for night-time attacks on the Nazis.
Comment: This hero should not be confused with the Holyoke superhero called Blackout.
Secret Identity: Mark (Marc) Holmes, radio newscaster
First Appearance: Daredevil Comics #2 (August 1941)
Origin: While covering the Blitz, suave newscaster Mark Holmes decided that his fellow Brits needed extra inspiration to maintain their spirit of defiance against the Nazis. He adopted the costumed identity of London and battled Axis Agents plus criminals.
Powers: London was in the peak of human condition and excelled at unarmed combat. He also possessed the agility of an Olympic gymnast. In addition, this hero was a crack shot with the handgun he carried.
Comment: This superhero may SOUND run of the mill, but there’s just something about the name “London” plus the great font for the letter “L” on his forehead that makes him more appealing to me than other “regular guys in a costume” heroes.
On top of that, there’s the wartime morale appeal, especially with his Blitz-referencing catch-phrase “London can take it!” For my review of London’s first 10 adventures click HERE.
Secret Identity: Unknown
First Appearance: Silver Streak Comics #13 (August 1941)
Origin: Like a Golden Age version of Danny Rand, this hero saw his parents die on a family expedition to the snowy Himalayas. The little boy was rescued and raised by the monks of the hidden Lha-I-Ha lamasery. As he grew to adulthood our hero mastered Gom-Pa, the mystic arts of the monks.
When the evil Lama Sin Khaii left Lha-I-Ha with Pandora’s Box to spread evil in the world the heroic young man followed him to oppose his villainy as Thun-Dohr.
Powers: Thun-Dohr had mastered martial arts fighting, could teleport over long distances, travel in his astral body and make himself immune to fire. He also possessed telekinetic powers and could cast illusions and shoot mystic fire. In addition he could place himself into suspended animation to survive hostile environments, including the vacuum of space.
Comment: When he passed the Tests of Potala, Thun-Dohr proved himself superior to his own teachers, one of whom was 300 years old.
Secret Identity: Bill Reed
First Appearance: Crime Does Not Pay #22 (July 1942)
Origin: In his first appearance we are told that War Eagle has been in action since 1929. Prior to that, as Bill Reed – part of a wealthy family – he had suffered infantile paralysis and was confined to a wheelchair.
Over the years he built up his upper body to the utmost and satisfied his inventive nature by secretly devising a winged costume that he could fly with just the strength of his arms. During frequent tests of the costume Bill built up his leg strength to the point where he could stand unaided, too. Adopting the superhero name War Eagle in 1929 he started out fighting bootleggers and other gangsters before moving on to Axis villains during World War Two.
Powers: War Eagle could fly at very high speeds. His arms had been built up to carnival strongman levels, which let him work the wings of his costume enough to achieve flight. He became skilled at unarmed combat, too, in coordination with his flying abilities.
Comment: It’s hard to see why this promising Auburn fan (I’m kidding!) did not catch on as a superhero.
Secret Identity: Patricia Patrios, assembly-line worker
First Appearance: Daredevil Comics #2 (August 1941)
Origin: Factory worker and Greek-American Patricia Patrios was on her way home one night after rehearsal in a patriotic musical when she encountered Nazi conspirators plotting sabotage. Pat was still dressed in her “Female Uncle Sam” outfit from the dress rehearsal but dove in and thwarted the Nazi plans.
The media got her name wrong and identified her as Pat Patriot instead of Pat Patrios. Against all reason this gave our heroine a “secret identity” to hide behind as she continued her superheroics as Pat Patriot, America’s Joan of Arc.
Powers: Pat Patriot was in the peak of human condition and excelled at unarmed combat. She would sometimes use guns in her crusade against the Axis Powers.
Comment: Most of Pat’s adventures took place stateside but her final story was set in Burma where she took on the occupying Japanese forces. Pat’s boyfriend was named Mike Brown (no relation to the thuggish robber of convenience stores).
Secret Identity: Malcolm Spirit
First Appearance: Silver Streak Comics #1 (December 1939)
Powers: Spirit Man had no powers of his own but possessed highly advanced technology and a secret headquarters. His Futurescope allowed him to monitor events all around the world looking for trouble.
If he needed to take action his Mistodine Ray would teleport him anywhere on Earth, disassembling him and reassembling him like the transporters on Star Trek. Spirit Man could also fly and used a Rayodine Gun which fired energy blasts at his foes.
Comment: Sometimes the narration said Spirit Man’s “spirit” alone was transported to locales around the world, hence his superhero name. Even in spirit form he was solid, further confusing the issue. (You know comic books!)
Secret Identity: Harold Higgins, newspaper reporter
First Appearance: Daredevil Comics #3 (September 1941)
Origin: After a lifetime of having truly horrific misfortunes – like the death of loved ones and friends – happen to him on the 13th of the month, Harold Higgins snapped and decided to make triskaidekaphobia work FOR him rather than against him.
Higgins adopted the costumed identity of Thirteen and brought bad luck to criminals and other evildoers.
Powers: Thirteen was in excellent physical condition and was as agile as an acrobat. He was also skilled at unarmed combat. Like Marvel Comics characters Longshot, Domino and Roulette, this hero’s superpowers somehow affected probability fields, bringing massive bad luck to the supervillains he battled.
Comment: This superhero adopted the fad of endangering youngsters by taking on a teen sidekick called Jinx aka Darrel Kreig, steel fortune heir.
Secret Identity: Dryas of Mars
First Appearance: Boy Comics #3 (April 1942)
Origin: Mars, the King of the Red Planet, was the master of war. Observing events on Earth, he grew disgusted with the way the Axis Powers made war nothing but slaughter and oppression. He sent his son Dryas to our planet to fight at the side of the Allies.
Powers: Bombshell had greater than human strength, sturdy armor, a bullet and shell-proof shield plus a sword which would slice through tanks, planes and jeeps but would mystically cause no severe harm to humans. As a warrior from Mars, Bombshell was incredibly skilled at fighting.
Comment: For unknown reasons, once a Martian visits Earth they can never return to their home planet, so Mars knew he and his son would never see each other again.
JACK OF SPADES
Secret Identity: None
First Appearance: Tops Comics #2001 (1944, no month is known)
Origin: During a high-stakes card game at an underworld hangout, a naive man who is in over his head gets killed. Somehow this causes the card that drops from his hand – the Jack of Spades – to mystically gain sentience. (It’s a comic book. Just go with it.) The resulting humanoid Jack of Spades deals out justice to the dead man’s murderers after telling the slain man “You have not lost your life in vain. Your last breath became my first.”
Powers: The Jack of Spades could somehow materialize out of any deck of cards – or possibly only the same deck. He only lasted two stories so no real backstory or continuity was established. At any rate, anytime danger broke out near the deck of cards the Jack of Spades could take human form again.
This hero could fly, possessed a large measure of super-strength and his cape could stretch to incredible lengths, like Superman’s cape in some stories.
Comment: In his second story Jack of Spades fought a race of large hawkmen and saved a shipload of female army nurses from being transformed into hawkwomen by Mercuro, leader of the winged race of monsters.
Secret Identity: Jeff Dixon, lawyer
First Appearance: Daredevil Comics #2 (August 1941)
Origin: Jeff Dixon, an Apache, returned to the reservation after graduating from Law School. His father White Falcon had been framed for murder, prompting Jeff to adopt the costumed identity of Bronze Terror and clear White Falcon’s name. After that he continued fighting modern oppression of the Apaches.
Powers: Bronze Terror was in peak human condition and was an expert at unarmed combat. He was a master with the bow and gimmick arrows, making him Lev Gleason’s version of heroes like the Arrow, Alias the Spider, Green Arrow, Diana the Archer, Swiftarrow and others. This hero also rode a horse whose face he would adorn with white war-paint to give it a skull-like look.
Comment: This hero had incredible potential and could be adapted for almost any time period as either a superhero or a Zorro-like crusader.
Secret Identity: Never revealed
First Appearance: Silver Streak Comics #3 (March 1940)
Origin: A swami/ scientist (you know comic books) invented a special racecar called the Silver Streak but every time anyone drove it, they would be attacked and killed by giant insects. At length he hypnotized an unnamed taxi driver to get behind the wheel of the Silver Streak and he, too, was killed.
This time, the swami/ scientist was prepared, and through his magic/ super-science he resurrected the taxi driver into a hybrid of the vehicle AND his previous human self. (Insert your own My Mother, The Car joke here.) Now going by the name Silver Streak himself, he fought the forces of evil.
Powers: The special fluid coursing through Silver Streak’s veins granted him greater than human strength and durability, mild invulnerability and the power to fly and move at super speed.
Comment: Silver Streak had one or two teen sidekicks, the first was named Mickey O’Toole, who was wounded by criminals and needed a blood transfusion. The Silver Streak was the blood donor and Mickey gained a lesser version of the superhero’s powers. He fought crime at our main character’s side as Mercury.
Later he gained a separate teen boy sidekick who called himself Meteor, but sometimes it’s treated as if he’s the same character as Mercury under a different nom de guerre. Even more ridiculously, Silver Streak’s pet falcon called Whiz (but later Zoom), once got blood from the superhero and gained similar powers, too.
Silver Streak’s girlfriend was radio news broadcaster Kitty Doyle, who thankfully never needed a blood transfusion.
Secret identity: Jonathan Battle, scientist
First Appearance: Silver Streak Comics #10 (May 1941)
Origin: John Battle was a veteran of World War One back when it was still called the World War or the Great War, having lost an eye in combat. After the conflict ended he became a scientific whiz and was determined to try preventing another global war or at least fight aggressor nations. Going by his Army rank of Captain Battle he undertook that mission.
Powers: Captain Battle was in peak human condition and excelled at unarmed combat. He was also a brilliant strategist and inventor. This hero used super-weapons of his own creation like a Dissolvo-Gun disintegrator, a super-gyrocopter and a jetpack which let him fly at hundreds of miles per hour. In addition Captain Battle used a Curvoscope, which let him view events anywhere on Earth.
This hero operated out of his remote mountaintop laboratory headquarters.
Comment: Captain Battle had a secretary/ love interest named Jane Lorrain plus a pair of sidekicks called Captain Battle Junior and “Nathan Hale.”
Secret Identity: Bart Hill
First Appearance: Silver Streak Comics #6 (September 1940)
Origin: As a child, Bart Hill witnessed his parents’ brutal murder and vowed revenge on the killers and all malefactors like them. Over the years he underwent intense physical training and became a master with a heavy boomerang, then donned a costume to fight the forces of evil as Daredevil.
Powers: Daredevil was in peak human condition, was an expert at unarmed combat and was superhumanly agile. He was exceptionally skilled at using a boomerang as a weapon, a talent he was taught by Aborigines in Australia.
Comment: Daredevil’s backstory and costume went through a few changes between 1940 and 1943. At first readers were told he was so traumatized by witnessing his parents’ murder that he lost the ability to speak, but that notion was later abandoned.
At first it was said that the killers had scarred the little boy’s chest with a brand shaped like a boomerang and THAT was why he obsessively trained with a boomerang. In 1943 it was explained that he had learned his mastery of the boomerang from Australian Aborigines instead.
Daredevil’s costume very early changed from blue and yellow to blue and red. His first several adventures pitted him against Lev Gleason’s archvillain the Claw, a grotesquely mutated Axis Japanese evildoer.
Daredevil was one of the longest-lasting Lev Gleason characters, making regular appearances all the way until 1951. His girlfriend was Tonia Saunders, whom he rescued once as Daredevil and then fell in love with.
Secret Identity: Chuck Chandler, student
First Appearance: Boy Comics #3 (April 1942)
Origin: Chuck Chandler, a teenage Cadet at Custer Military Academy, a prep school, was furious when Nazis caused the deaths of both his parents. Seeking revenge he donned a costume, called himself Crimebuster and took on Nazi Agents as well as other supervillains.
Powers: Crimebuster was in terrific physical condition and had nearly superhuman agility. He excelled at unarmed combat, often taking on multiple opponents at once. This hero was often helped by his trained monkey sidekick Squeeks.
Comment: The Crimebuster stories continued long after all the other Lev Gleason superheroes had vanished into history. Though Chuck Chandler stopped wearing his mask and costume after the November of 1950 issue, he continued adventuring in civilian clothing until 1955.
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