A few weeks back Balladeer’s Blog took a look at over three dozen 1940s superheroes from Marvel Comics (called Timely Comics back then). This time around here’s a look at several of their one-appearance wonders from that same time period.

phantom bulletPHANTOM BULLET

Created By: Joe Simon

Secret Identity: Allan Lewis

Appeared In: Daring Mystery Comics #2 (February 1940)

Origin: Millionaire Allan Lewis often slummed as a reporter for The Bulletin when stories caught his eye. While investigating some unsolved murders committed by seven-fingered men he met a scientist who had developed a high-tech gun that he believed criminals wanted to steal from him. The scientist was killed but managed to pass along his invention to Allan Lewis, who donned a costume and took on villains as the Phantom Bullet.

Powers: The Phantom Bullet was in peak human condition and excelled at armed and unarmed combat. The experimental gun he wielded compressed moisture from the air into ice bullets which melted, evaporated and left no traces in the evildoers whom he shot to death. That was why the media dubbed him the Phantom Bullet.

Comment: The murders in the Phantom Bullet’s debut were masterminded by former explorer Alvarez Monez. As part of his extortion/ theft/ murder ring he commanded a Lost Race he had captured in Africa. That Lost Race had seven fingers and were part human, part ape, so naturally he called them … Bird-Men. (?)

Rather than wear a mask, this hero disguised his features with makeup when he went into action. That makeup included an exaggerated nose.

thin manTHE THIN MAN

Created By: Klaus Nordling

Secret Identity: Bruce Dickson

Appeared In: Mystic Comics #4 (August 1940)

Origin: Scientist Bruce Dickson was climbing Mount Kalpurthia in the Himalayas when he discovered a cave that led to the hidden, futuristic valley called Kalahia. Determining Dickson to be a noble and altruistic person, the valley’s Council of Elders instructed the man in their advanced science and taught him their mystic power of altering his physiology to make himself thinner and longer.       

Bruce and a Kalahian woman named Olalla fell in love and convinced the Council to permit them to go to the outside world where Dickson could use his new powers against the forces of evil.

Powers: The Thin Man could make his body thin enough to slip under a door or between cracks in a fence while still packing the strength of a heavyweight boxer. He could also stretch and bend his body into different shapes. He piloted a futuristic StratoPlane, which the Council of Elders permitted him to build with Kalahian technology. Among other features that plane sported video screens for observing anywhere on Earth.

Comment: The Thin Man pre-dated Plastic Man by a full year. Despite his supposedly enlightened mind he casually killed criminals by the carload. In his lone appearance he took down Clip Walton, a gangster who ran a protection racket for cab drivers.


Created By: Jack Alderman and Melville Henry

Secret Identity: Lon Crag

Appeared In: U.S.A. Comics #5 (June 1942)

Origin: Exceptionally talented high school artist Lon Crag fervently desired to become a hero to take on all the evil in the world, like his idol Captain America. While the teen was drawing a picture of Menelaos a powerful supernatural entity contacted Lon and granted him superpowers. He used those powers as Roko the Amazing.

Powers: Upon uttering the word “Illium” Lon Crag could transform back and forth between his teen identity and his adult, beefed-up superhero identity, Roko. As Roko he could fly, possessed the cunning of Odysseus, the fighting prowess of Agamemnon and the invulnerability of Achilles. Unfortunately, he was also vulnerable in his heel like Achilles. This hero possessed a degree of super-strength. Roko also wielded a magic shield which sported a Greek triskelion logo (NOT an Aryan symbol, like some sources claim).

Comment: Obviously, Roko the Amazing was Marvel/ Timely’s attempt to imitate Billy Batson/ Captain Marvel over at Fawcett Comics.

laughing mask picTHE LAUGHING MASK

Created By: Maurice Gutworth and Will Harr

Secret Identity: Dennis Burton

Appeared In: Daring Mystery Comics #2 (February 1940)

Origin: Dennis Burton was an Assistant District Attorney who tired of corrupt politicians and judges letting criminals go. He donned a costume complete with a phosphorescent mask and took to the streets to pursue vigilante justice.

laughing maskPowers: The Laughing Mask was in peak physical condition and was an expert at unarmed combat. He was an uncanny marksman with the pair of .45s he took into action with him. His eerie glowing mask was worn to unnerve his opponents. When standing in darkness the only part of him visible would be the mask, making him look at first like a floating head. The mask also let him see in the dark.

Comment: This hero blew away all but one of his criminal foes in his debut. After this adventure Dennis Burton showed up later wearing a different costume and using a new nom de guerre – the Purple Mask. Under that name he made two appearances.

red ravenRED RAVEN

Created By: Louis Cazeneuve and Joe Simon

Secret Identity: None

Appeared In: Red Raven Comics #1 (August 1940)

Origin: A plane full of people crashed into the floating, anti-gravity powered cloud-island called Sky-Island by the scientifically advanced race of Bird-Men who lived there. The only survivor was a male child and the king of the Bird-Men decided to raise him as his own son. When he reached adulthood the king gave him a pair of artificial red wings that let him fly like the Bird-Men did with the natural wings they were born with. As Red Raven he was sent back to the world below to combat the forces of evil.

Powers: The Red Raven could fly at nearly supersonic speed and his artificial wings were very durable. He was more agile than an acrobat and excelled at unarmed combat. He could call upon the superior technology of Sky-Island to aid him in his mission.

Comment: Though he made only one appearance in the Golden Age, Marvel Comics brought back the Red Raven several times in the Silver and Bronze Ages. In his 1940 adventure he defeated wealthy gold hoarders who were trying to cause another global depression.   

american avengerAMERICAN AVENGER

Created By: Vince Alascia and George Klein

Secret Identity: Don Caldwell

Appeared In: U.S.A. Comics #5 (June 1942)

Origin: Twenty-One year old American Don Caldwell had been attending college in Argentina. While there he had mastered all the skills of the gauchos and had excelled at sports and both armed and unarmed combat. He graduated and planned to return to the U.S. but one of his Argentine friends as well as a very old man who personally knew the 19th Century folk hero called the Gaucho persuaded him to stay in Buenos Aires and battle Axis spies.

Don and his co-conspirators stole a standing statue of the Gaucho and started a rumor that the statue had come to life in order to combat the Axis presence in South America. Naturally it was really Caldwell in a gaucho costume striking as the American Avenger in those adventures.

Powers: The American Avenger was in peak human condition and was more agile than an acrobat. He was a master of armed and unarmed combat and was especially proficient with a whip, bolo and a lasso.

Comment: A ring of Nazi spies fell to this hero in his only story.

eternal brainETERNAL BRAIN

Created By: Robert Golden

Secret Identity: Professor William Carmody

Appeared In: Red Raven Comics #1 (August 1940)

Origin: Inspired by THE Charles Lindbergh’s (real-life) invention of the heart-pump (back then called an “artificial heart”), scientist William Carmody invented a scientific device that would let the human brain function forever as long as it was removed from the body prior to death.

Minions of the Mongolian leader Ulan arrived to kidnap Carmody’s daughter Mary, who had previously refused to become one of Ulan’s wives. Carmody was shot during the kidnapping and, near death, had his assistant Jim Fitzpatrick perform the operation to remove his brain and place it in the high-tech casing, from which it wielded psionic powers. Now calling himself the Eternal Brain, Carmody used his powers to help Jim destroy Ulan and rescue Mary.   

eternal brain picPowers: The Eternal Brain was able to communicate through audio speakers on the device in which it resided. It also possessed globe-spanning telepathy and could temporarily paralyze opponents thousands of miles away through psychically taking control of their minds. It was also able to psychically monitor events around the world.

Comment: While trying to rescue Mary Carmody, Jim Fitzpatrick wielded an electric sword invented by Professor Carmody. Mary was horrified by her father’s fate and vowed to hate Jim forever for his role in making her father a detached brain, even though it was what her father wanted. Presumably, if this had become a series, her feelings toward Jim and toward her father’s condition would have softened over time.

How can you NOT love the weirdass premise of this character?


Created By: Al Gabriele

Secret Identity: Never revealed

Appeared In: Human Torch Comics #2 (September 1940)

Origin: Mantor, a man from the Middle East, learned various mystic arts and used them to take on the forces of evil.

Powers: Mantor employed a variety of magical gestures which let him shoot flames, create temporary Tulpas of himself or others, transform matter, move objects via telekinesis and teleport objects to himself.

Comment: “Fezzes are cool.”   

young avengerYOUNG AVENGER

Created By: Howard Purcell

Secret Identity: William Bryon

Appeared In: U.S.A. Comics #1 (August 1941)

Origin: High school teen William Bryon was visited one night by a shadowy being similar to the one that visited BOTH 1940s Timely Comics superheroes called Marvel Boy. This being granted William superpowers and a costume and sent him on missions against the forces of evil as the Young Avenger.

Powers: Young Avenger possessed the strength of several men and a degree of invulnerability.

Comment: This hero fought Nazi saboteurs in his only adventure. Intriguingly, there was a kind of “Peter Parker and Aunt May” feel to the relationship and interactions between William Bryon and his mother, who had no idea he was a superhero.

taxi taylor picTAXI TAYLOR

Created By: Unknown

Secret Identity: Jim Taylor

Appeared In: Mystic Comics #2 (April 1940)

Origin: Independent Taxi Driver Jim Taylor was also a gifted mechanic, inventor and struggling entrepreneur. He designed what he called the Wonder Car, a versatile vehicle that he tried selling to the U.S. War Department. The government rejected the project so Jim built it himself in his spare time. He wound up piloting it himself, too, to foil foreign spies called “Swastikans” and decided to keep using the Wonder Car to battle evildoers.

Powers: Taxi Taylor had no superpowers but was very talented at mechanical sciences. His Wonder Car could reconfigure itself physically, changing from a cab to an airplane to a submarine as needed, all at the command of the interior controls.

taxi taylorThe vehicle had a six-inch thick steel hull, contained high-tech sensors and built-in defense systems plus it could pick up and broadcast radio transmissions. It could also shoot magnetic repulsor rays, snare objects magnetically, shoot chemicals or water to fight fires, as well as absorb and eject water at sea.

Comment: I understand the War Department official who rejected Jim Taylor’s Wonder Car project later worked in the music industry, where he refused to sign a young band called the Beatles.


Created By: Steve Dahlman

Secret Identity: Lagaro of Korug

Appeared In: Daring Mystery Comics #6 (September 1940)

Origin: The ancient civilization of Korug possessed futuristic technology but one day collapsed under the waves. (It’s not clear if it was an island or part of a mainland area which broke off and fell into the sea.) The sole survivor of that lost civilization was Lagaro, called Dynaman in the outside world. He roamed the world looking to combat the forces of evil.

Powers: Dynaman could fly, lift 7 tons and possessed a large degree of invulnerability. He had an extraordinary mind which was able to psionically understand any language spoken to him as well as recall everything he saw or read with perfect clarity.

Comment: In his lone Golden Age story this hero battled the Gurban army, which wielded primitive weaponry and had harnessed long-lost dinosaurs as mobile attack vehicles. 


Created By: Joe Cagno and Al Carreno

Secret Identity: Victor Jay

Appeared In: Daring Mystery Comics #2 (February 1940)

Origin: Wealthy sportsman Victor Jay was inspired by the proliferation of costumed crimefighters to indulge in the ultimate sport of taking on criminals. He adopted the costumed identity of Mister E and battled the underworld from then on.

Powers: Mister E was in peak physical condition and was more agile than an acrobat. He was an expert at unarmed combat.

Comment: In his lone appearance this hero was referred to having been in action for awhile, even having an archenemy called the Vampire. That villain was not a real vampire, just a black-cloaked and black masked criminal who used the name as his alias. The Vampire was a mad scientist who, among other scientific weapons, used a gas that caused the victim’s heart to burst. 

marvel boy yellowMARVEL BOY

Created By: Bob Oksner

Secret Identity: Martin O. Burns

Appeared In: U.S.A. Comics #7 (February 1943)

Origin: High school student Martin O. Burns was on a field trip to a museum with other students when a mummy case accidentally tipped over and fell on him, injuring him and opening up a cut on his body. Some ancient, arcane fluid from the mummy dripped onto the teen’s body, seeping into his wound. That night a shadowy being (see Young Avenger and the OTHER 1940s Marvel Boy) visited Martin, gave him a costume and told him the fluid had given him superpowers with which to combat evil.

Powers: Marvel Boy could lift 7 tons, run over 120 miles per hour and could fly at super-speed. He also had a degree of invulnerability.

Comment: The shadowy being told this hero he was now strong like Hercules, swift like Mercury, and wise like … Abraham Lincoln. I’m not kidding. Who knew Abe was one of the Twelve Olympians?

phantom reporterTHE PHANTOM REPORTER

Created By: Sam Cooper and Robert O Erisman

Secret Identities: Dick Jones and Van Engen

Appeared In: Daring Mystery Comics #3 (April 1940)

Origin: Dick Jones, who in college was an All American Fullback, champion boxer, wrestler and fencer, worked as a reporter for The Daily Express. He also had another life in which he was millionaire socialite Van Engen. Between his reporter and tycoon identities he had all the resources he needed to help his third identity, the costumed Phantom Reporter, fight crime.

Powers: The Phantom Reporter was in peak physical condition, was a master of every form of unarmed combat and was a skilled investigator. His mask glowed in the dark, a feature which Timely Comics oddly thought was cool (see the Laughing Mask and the Fiery Mask).

Comment: In his lone appearance, no explanation was given for the Phantom Reporter’s two civilian identities. Unless you count blatant imitation of the Shadow.       

super slaveSUPER SLAVE

Created By: Paul Gustavson

Secret Identity: Never revealed.

Appeared In: Mystic Comics #5 (March 1941)

Origin: In 1941 a fisherman called Cappy and his daughter Jean were shipwrecked. On the island where they washed up they found a magic bracelet which, when rubbed, conjured up an 8 foot tall, white male genie who told Cappy and Jean that they had freed him after 1,000 years in the bracelet. Oh, and he was now their slave. The genie used its powers to save the duo from various dangers and criminals.

super slave picPowers: Super Slave could grow to dozens of feet tall or shrink himself down to a few inches in height. He was bullet-proof, was able to part the waters of the sea and presumably would have demonstrated other abilities if this had become a series.

Comment: Hey, how come THIS superhero has never appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Oh … right. Well, if it helps, there’s a reference to Super Slave appearing from within a green mist when he’s summoned so just change his handle to the Green Mist and voila!   

captain dashCAPTAIN DASH

Created By: Ben Thompson

Secret Identity: Never revealed.

Appeared In: Comedy Comics #9 (April 1942)

Origin: Captain Dash lived in 31st Century New York City and was the head of New York’s Security Air Fleet.

Powers: Captain Dash was in peak human condition and was very skilled at both armed and unarmed combat. Thirty-first Century science had made Dash and other humans of his time a bit stronger and healthier than we are in the 21st Century. He flew rocket aircraft capable of flying from New York to London in half an hour and wielded a variety of rayguns and other futuristic weaponry. His costume had built-in antigravity technology. Captain Dash had a lifespan of at least 165 years, like others of his time period.

Comment: Unlike his subordinates, Captain Dash wore a mask, presumably because of the dangers his position presented to his loved ones.

soldier of fortuneSOLDIER OF FORTUNE

Created By: Larry Antonette

Secret Identity: John Steele

Appeared In: Daring Mystery Comics #1 (January 1940)

Origin: John Steele was an American mercenary fighting for the Allies in World War Two long before the U.S. itself would enter the war. No explanation was given for his super-strength during his lone appearance.

Powers: This hero was strong enough to tear off the hatch of a tank with his bare hands. He excelled at armed and unarmed combat.

Comment: On the battlefield, Soldier of Fortune encountered a French spy using the codename “Marie Antoinette.” He helped her get her mysterious information to a general.

moon man timelyMOON-MAN

Created By: Fred Guardineer

Secret Identity: Never revealed.

Appeared In: Mystic Comics #5 (March 1941)

Origin: Never revealed. In his one story, Moon-Man was referred to as having been in action for awhile already. He struck only on the nights of the full moon.

Powers: Moon-Man was in peak physical condition and was very skilled at unarmed combat. He carried a handgun with him into action, was a master of many sciences and was very wealthy. He operated out of a penthouse apartment that had a secret passageway to his hidden car. That car displayed no high-tech gadgetry during this story, but simply conveyed Moon-Man to his destinations.

Comment: In his lone adventure, Moon-Man avenged dozens of children who were poisoned nearly to death by tainted meat being sold to orphanages by the crimelord Boss McGool. This hero battled McGool and his pair of thugs. Bizarrely, Moon-Man spent most of his time terrorizing McGool’s secretary Nadia to get her to testify against her boss.

3 xs


Created By: Newt Alfred and Robert Erisman

Secret Identities: Unknown.

Appeared In: Mystic Comics #1 (March 1940)

Origin: A group of tubby men who wore 3X underwear formed a crime-fighting team called the Three X’s. I’m KIDDING! A trio of experts in the spirit of the I Love A Mystery threesome were freelance investigators who often solved crimes that left the police baffled.

Powers: 1X was a hard-boiled, meat and potatoes detective who led the trio. 2X was a scientific genius and inventor who wielded a Disintegrator Raygun he had made. 3X was the beefy, hulking muscle man of the group.

Comment: In their only adventure the Three X’s defeated the Green Terror and his cult. I like to think that, years later, one of the X’s left the team and the remaining pair founded Dos Equis. But I’m kind of weird. Stay thirsty, my friends!                













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Filed under Superheroes


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    Moon Man should have more than 1 story.

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    The Laughing Mask would have been better in a pulp.

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