With less than a month now until the 4th of July here’s a look at the first twenty stories of the Harvey Comics superhero called the Spirit of 76. For more than two dozen Harvey superheroes CLICK HERE
THE SPIRIT OF ’76
Secret Identity: Gary Blakely, West Point Cadet
First Appearance: Pocket Comics #1 (August 1941)
Origin: Gary Blakely, scion of an American family which had distinguished themselves on the battlefield in every conflict from the Revolutionary War onward, was a Cadet at West Point. By chance he uncovered a Fifth Column plot by Nazi agents to blow up the academy. He adopted the costumed identity of the Spirit of ’76, foiled the Axis plot and resolved to continue fighting evil afterward.
Powers: The Spirit of ’76 was in peak human condition, was exceptionally agile and was very skilled at both armed and unarmed combat. His costume was bulletproof and he wielded his saber expertly in battle. This hero lasted until 1948, so he faced Communist villains instead of Nazi villains after World War Two was over.
POCKET COMICS #1 (August 1941)
Title: Cadet Blakeley, Spirit of 76
Villains: Nazi saboteurs led by Herr Hoch
Synopsis: West Point Cadet Gary Blakely discovers a Nazi plot to blow up West Point. Donning a costume and armed with a sword, he calls himself the Spirit of 76 and takes down the spy ring.
Comment: You have to admit, there’s something appealing about a superhero whose secret identity is that of a West Point Cadet.
Gary kept his activities a secret even from his roommate Tubby Reynolds. Yes, Tubby.
POCKET COMICS #2 (September 1941)
Title: The Spirit of 76 Battles Satan
Villain: Satan, the nom de guerre for one of Ponce de Leon’s Conquistadors who drank from the Fountain of Youth but found it transformed him into a horned, red-skinned man-monster. Thus cursed and now immortal, he plotted evil against mankind for over 400 years. Harvey Comics used this Gothic villain as the headliner of his own series for a time, Fu Manchu style. In this crossover story the fiend faced the Spirit of 76.
Synopsis: Under orders from Hitler himself, “Satan” sabotages a ceremonial fly-by over West Point, killing all the pilots. He then poisons to death a Colonel at the Academy. The Spirit of 76 defeats the villain and his men when they start machine-gunning down a crowd at a performance of Faust. He also thwarts the former Conquistador’s attempt to use artillery against U.S. vessels on the Hudson River and to attack West Point with a tank.
Comment: Duchess Tana, a beautiful blonde woman who is charming all the Cadets, turns out to be Satana, an evil accomplice of Satan. The Spirit of 76 ultimately resists her charms and turns her over to the authorities.
POCKET COMICS #3 (November 1941)
Title: The Diabolical Satana
Synopsis: Satana uses her hypnotic powers to escape prison and returns to the decaying Upstate New York Mansion called Eagle’s Nest, where she and Satan were headquartered last issue. The Spirit of 76 tracks her there but falls into into a trap launched by her and her thugs.
He escapes with his life but Satana discovers his secret identity and tries blackmailing him into helping her sabotage the West Point arsenal. In the end the villainess winds up shot to death by the police, taking our hero’s secret with her.
POCKET COMICS #4 (January 1942)
Title: Those Who Would Destroy Our Beloved Country
Villain: Don Swan, a wealthy playboy and paid Nazi sympathizer.
Synopsis: A high-living playboy named Don Swan loves flaunting his speedboats and planes while needling West Point Cadets. In reality he is deep in debt and the Nazis are paying him to help them run a propaganda network in New York state.
Swan’s estate has a secret underground river entrance to the Hudson River, and the villain uses his seaplane to airdrop Nazi propaganda leaflets all over New York. The Spirit of 76 thwarts Don Swan’s attempt to murder five of his fellow Cadets and make it look like accidental drowning. He also defeats the three Nazi agents helping the playboy, and in the end Don Swan himself is killed in a swordfight with our hero.
GREEN HORNET COMICS #9 (October 1942)
Title: Enemies of the U.S.A.
Villains: An Imperial Japanese spy ring
Synopsis: Tubby’s beautiful (of course) sister, Susan Reynolds, becomes a supporting character and naturally gets the hots for the mysterious Spirit of 76 while not realizing he’s really her brother’s fellow West Point Cadet Gary Blakely.
In this story Susan, Tubby and Gary’s cousin Dennis wind up as reluctant sidekicks in the Spirit of 76’s battle with an Imperial Japanese spy ring. Our hero defeats the many agents of the ring when they try to smuggle top secret submarine plans out of the country. An Upstate New York farmer winds up being in cahoots with the spies.
GREEN HORNET COMICS #10 (December 1942)
Title: General’s Compliments
Villains: A Nazi U-Boat operation
Synopsis: When the General serving as West Point’s superintendent selects outstanding Cadets Gary Blakely and Tubby Reynolds to travel by ship to South America for some special training, Tubby’s sister Susan coincidentally winds up on the same ship with them. The civilian ship gets torpedoed by a Nazi U-Boat off the coast of Brazil, leaving just our three main characters as the only survivors.
The trio make it by life-raft to an uncharted island. Gary becomes the Spirit of 76 and discovers that a Nazi radio unit operates from that island, monitoring the airwaves to lead their U-Boat allies to civilian ships to sink. Our hero defeats the spies and the U-Boat, and STILL Tubby and Susan don’t figure out that he’s really Gary.
GREEN HORNET COMICS #11 (February 1943)
Title: West Point Treason
Villains: Nazi spies
Synopsis: Gary and Tubby, continuing their mission for the general, wind up accused of treason when it seems they were willing to sell the Top Secret info they received to the highest bidder. As they await trial, Nazi spies bust them out of prison to try to get the secrets they hold.
The Nazis steal the secret War Plans that Gary and Tubby have and leave them knocked out. Recovering first, Gary becomes the Spirit of 76 and with Susan’s help prevents the spies from getting the plans to Germany via U-Boat and also calls in a bomber to wipe out the sub. It is revealed that Gary and Tubby were part of a counter-intelligence operation run by the general to smoke out the Nazi spies. Susan and Gary kiss, and, per the old trope, Susan recognizes that Gary kisses exactly like the Spirit of 76 does and now knows his secret.
GREEN HORNET COMICS #12 (April 1943)
Title: Four Hours To Doom
Villains: A Nazi spy ring
Synopsis: Tubby falls for Frieda, a mysterious beauty who winds up being part of a Nazi spy ring. The Spirit of 76 gets involved and learns that Frieda’s colleagues have planted explosives on a troop ship. Our hero mops up most of the spies, leaving just Frieda and the chief.
The Spirit of 76 commandeers a blimp and reaches the imperiled ship in time to save it from the bombs and to kill the spy chief. Frieda is mortally wounded saving Tubby’s life because she fell for the big galoot after all. To toss another cliche on the fire, all this has made Gary two hours late for his date with Susan who, even though she shares his secret identity with him, is unreasonably angry and attacks him with a vase.
GREEN HORNET COMICS #13 (July 1943)
Title: The Rahn Nolte Emerald
Villains: Nazi Agents
Synopsis: At the “Rix Carlton” Hotel (instead of the Ritz Carlton) a fugitive anti-Nazi author will be unveiling the famous Rahn Nolte Emerald. (It’s a comic book. Just go with it.) When both the author and the jewel disappear the Spirit of 76 investigates.
Our hero defeats all the Nazi Agents, who planned the double-coup of killing the dissident author AND using the emerald to finance more of their spy operations. In the end, the surprise leader of the spies turns out to be Mercury, a 1940s stereotype of a black janitor, who immediately starts speaking in an erudite manner when his cover is blown.
NOTE: As another interesting bit, this 1943 comic book has the Spirit of 76 say “I still can’t believe that an American Negro turned traitor! Why, they’re the most loyal group of Americans we have!” The janitor is revealed to really be Captain Sidi Ahran, a Muslim agent of the Nazis.
GREEN HORNET COMICS #14 (September 1943)
Title: The Gallant Royal Air Force
Synopsis: We learn that Gary and Susan are now engaged. He and Tubby have been sent by West Point to be student observers with the Royal Air Force on a few bombing missions over Europe. On one such mission the plane they’re on gets shot down in France.
The Spirit of 76 helps the French Underground get Tubby, the British airmen and a French Underground married couple safely to a UK ship in the English Channel. And still Tubby does not guess that Gary is the Spirit of 76.
GREEN HORNET COMICS #15 (November 1943)
Title: Land of Sorrow and Bloodshed
Villains: The German military
Synopsis: In another unlikely use of West Point Cadets, Gary and Tubby are assigned to secretly smuggle war plans into the Soviet Union and give them to a mysterious Russian fighter pilot Colonel Ilya Diabelov. The transport plane is shot down over Russia, as is Colonel Diabelov’s fighter.
Gary becomes the Spirit of 76 and he and Tubby then meet the Colonel, who turns out to be a beautiful blonde woman. She helps our hero blow up a Romanian dam, causing a flood which wipes out a Nazi invasion force that was set to launch a sneak attack on Turkey. Colonel Diabelov falls for the Spirit of 76 and starts kissing him, setting up a potential love triangle.
Comment: At this point Tubby adds nothing to the stories, so they should have eliminated him, especially since he STILL doesn’t realize Gary’s really the Spirit of 76. If they just had U.S. Military Intelligence know that Gary is really the costumed hero, they could send him on these missions while letting him preserve his secret identity as a West Point Cadet.
GREEN HORNET COMICS #16 (January 1944)
Villains: The German Military
Synopsis: With Tubby left behind in an Allied hospital (thankfully), Colonel Diabelov and the Spirit of 76 crash land in Germany enroute to turn the war plans over to Stalin. We go through tiresome fakery again as our hero pretends he’s going to sell the plans to the Nazis but turns the tables and winds up getting German defensive plans.
He busts the Colonel out of the cell the Nazis put her in and they steal a plane which they fly to Russia. Gary and Ilya get awarded the Soviet Star and the Colonel is teary-eyed that she’ll never see our hero again.
GREEN HORNET COMICS #17 (March 1944)
Title: Family Ties
Villains: A Nazi U-Boat crew
Synopsis: Still on their return journey to America, Gary Blakely and Tubby Reynolds get shot down over the Atlantic Ocean along with their pilot, a German who became a naturalized American citizen. When the captain of the U-Boat which picks up the trio winds up being the German’s cousin he tells the captain he was really spying for the Fatherland and has information for Hitler.
The captain has his crew lock up Gary and Tubby while the U-Boat heads back toward Germany. The naturalized American further convinces his cousin that he can lead him to a convoy of Allied ships to sink. Gary becomes the Spirit of 76, so Tubby is now in on the secret like he should have been long ago. Those two escape from their cell and mop up most of the Nazi crew. The naturalized American then helps them turn the U-Boat over to the British Navy.
GREEN HORNET COMICS #18 (May 1944)
Title: The Hidden Land of the Djamars
Villains: The Imperial Japanese Army
Synopsis: Now in North Africa, Gary and Tubby learn they are to be flown by Brits from there across India and China to Australia next. While flying over the fictional nation of Djamar, which borders both India and China, the plane’s engines malfunction, forcing them to land.
Princess Djina, who is attracted to Tubby, talks her father into allowing our heroes and British air crew safe passage by land across their country. While there the Spirit of 76 thwarts a planned Japanese invasion to establish airfields. He also talks Djamar into joining the Allies in the war with Japan.
GREEN HORNET COMICS #19 (July 1944)
Title: Dangerous Voyage
Villains: The Imperial Japanese Navy and Air Force
Synopsis: Gary and Tubby leave Hawaii on an allied Chinese vessel headed for America’s west coast. Japanese planes attack along the way. Gary dons his Spirit of 76 costume and defeats the planes then leads the ship in its destruction of a Japanese submarine.
Tubby meanwhile gets into mind-numbingly stupid antics with a kangaroo trained to box. I wish I was kidding but I’m not.
GREEN HORNET COMICS #20 (September 1944)
Title: Tiny Bigoyle
Villains: Nazi Agents
Synopsis: Gary and Tubby have been getting course credit at West Point for a lecture tour of America’s stateside military bases with a briefing on how things stand overseas following all their recent travels. At their latest base they meet Susan, who is now a Sergeant in the WACS. They also meet female wrestler “Tiny” Bigoyle, a muscular blonde woman who wants to join the WACS but keeps getting rejected over her weight.
While there, Gary must become the Spirit of 76 to defeat a Nazi spy ring which is trying to steal plans for a new arresting device for barrage balloons. When even a presumed female FBI Agent turns out to secretly be a German spy it takes the Spirit of 76 and the exceptionally strong Tiny to haul in the spy ring. A few weeks later, when Gary and Tubby are visiting the furloughed Susan at the Reynolds Estate on Long Island they hear that Tiny got to be a WAC after all.
GREEN HORNET COMICS #21 (November 1944)
Title: The Crooner Spy
Villain: Hank Wonatra. Yes, really.
Synopsis: The Spirit of 76 investigates when Axis submarines keep getting advanced word on the positions of U.S. vessels so they can sink them en masse.
It turns out that America’s top crooner Hank Wonatra is really an Italian Spy. Our hero informs military brass and then feeds Wonatra phony information to set up any Axis subs listening to Wonatra’s latest broadcast over Armed Forces Radio. The Axis subs are led into a trap and the Spirit of 76 exposes and outfights Hank Wonatra so he can be arrested.
GREEN HORNET COMICS #22 (January 1945)
Title: Death Rides Patrol
Villains: Imperial Japanese spies and military forces
Synopsis: Cadet Gary Blakely is sent to help U.S. Marines who have been holding out against the Japanese for weeks on the fictional island called Tongo. I would hope that means they know now that he’s the Spirit of 76 but who can tell with Golden Age comic books?
Spies try to stop him from reaching Tongo but he does anyway, then goes John McClane on the asses of the Japanese military. At last, he leads the Americans to victory.
GREEN HORNET #23 (March 1945)
Title: Jungle Fighting
Villains: Imperial Japanese army
Synopsis: Gary is sent to parachute down onto another fictional Pacific Island. Americans have held the place for weeks but one by one more men keep disappearing. He becomes the Spirit of 76 and probes the jungle for clues.
It turned out that from their hideout in a presumed-extinct volcano the Japanese soldiers have been planting explosives all around the island to re-activate the volcano and kill all the American troops. If any men spotted them they killed them immediately and disposed of the bodies. Our hero thwarts the Japanese plans.
GREEN HORNET COMICS #24 (May 1945)
Title: The Black Samurai
Villain: The Black Samurai
Synopsis: On a mission in India, Cadet Blakely must become the Spirit of 76 to recover stolen documents that are vital to the war effort. The documents were stolen by the Black Samurai and his warriors.
Our hero works alongside India’s spy Ras Singh, another Harvey Comics character, to kill the Black Samurai in battle, shut down his unit and safeguard war plans for the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations.
WELL, THAT’S TWENTY STORIES! I’LL FEATURE MORE ANOTHER TIME.
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