With the bulk of Balladeer’s Blog’s light-hearted superhero blog posts featuring Marvel Comics characters, DC fans have been demanding some love. I previously looked at the Justice Society, so this time here’s my take on their overlooked Golden Age heroes.
Secret Identity: Larry Jordan
First Appearance: Detective Comics #60 (February 1942)
Origin: District Attorney Larry Jordan became disgusted with the way so many criminals escaped conviction in the courts. He adopted the costumed identity of Air Wave and set out to fight crime on his own terms.
Powers: Air Wave was in peak physical condition and was more agile than an acrobat. He excelled at unarmed combat and wore special boots which let him glide or skate along power lines and phone lines. He also had radios in his costume’s earpieces. In addition, his trained parrot Static served as his mascot.
Comment: This hero appeared in nearly 80 adventures from 1942 to 1948.
Secret Identity: Rex Darrell
First Appearance: More Fun Comics #37 (November 1938)
Origin: Globetrotting mercenary pilot and trouble-shooter Rex Darrell was better known under his costumed identity the Flying Fox. He was a hero for hire around the world.
Powers: The Flying Fox was a phenomenally skilled fighter pilot and was in peak human condition. He was as agile as an Olympic athlete and was a master of armed and unarmed combat.
Comment: This hero was a nice combination of costumed crusader and the many pilot heroes of Golden Age comics.
Secret Identity: None
First Appearance: Detective Comics #3 (May 1937)
Origin: Hope Hazard was a federal agent who earned a reputation as one of the best.
Powers: Hope was in excellent physical condition and was a master of armed and unarmed combat. In addition she was a marksman with her handgun and was also a highly skilled investigator.
Comment: Hope Hazard wasn’t above using her beauty as a weapon against her foes.
Secret Identity: John Chambers
First Appearance: More Fun Comics #71 (September 1941)
Origin: Newsreel cameraman John Chambers was taught the formula 3X2(9YZ)4A by his legal guardian Professor Gill. This endowed him with super-powers and let him battle the forces of evil as Johnny Quick.
Powers: Johnny Quick could run, fly and otherwise move at incredible speeds after reciting Professor Gill’s aforementioned formula.
Comment: John Chambers worked as a cameraman for Sees-All Tells-All News. Johnny Quick rivaled DC’s other speedster the Flash in popularity and lasted into the 1950s.
Secret Identity: Mike Gibbs
First Appearance: Adventure Comics #84 (March 1943)
Origin: Reporter Mike Gibbs was stationed in Paris when the Nazis invaded France in 1940. Witnessing their atrocities he coordinated activities with Marie Hwart, a French Underground captain. Now using the name Guerilla, he fought the Nazis in Europe and eventually took on Imperial Japan in the Pacific Theater.
Powers: Guerilla was in excellent physical condition and was a master of unarmed combat. He also expertly wielded a lance, a sword and assorted guns in his actions against the Axis Powers.
Comment: Readers were told that Guerilla had been in action for a few years already before his first appearance in Adventure Comics.
Secret Identity: Jim Harper
First Appearance: Star-Spangled Comics #7 (April 1942)
Origin: Policeman Jim Harper grew up in the dangerous part of town called Suicide Slum. As an adult he donned a costume, called himself the Guardian and took action against the crimelords who still ruled that ghetto.
Powers: The Guardian was in peak physical condition, excelled at unarmed combat and carried a shield that was bullet-proof and could withstand other large levels of punishment. He also wore a helmet to protect against head injuries.
Comment: Rather than endanger just ONE youngster by making them his sidekick, the Guardian endangered an entire group of youngsters by letting them fight beside him as the Newsboy Legion.
Secret Identity: King Standish
First Appearance: Flash Comics #3 (March 1940)
Origin: Millionaire playboy King Standish wanted some action in his life so he adopted the costumed persona of the King and waged a war on crime.
Powers: The King was athletic, very nimble and had a knack for unarmed combat. He was a marksman with his handgun and excelled at burglary skills like picking locks. Disguise was another of his specialties.
Comment: The King eventually faded among all the other costumed millionaire playboys of Golden Age comic books and was done adventuring by 1943.
Secret Identity: Libby Lawrence
First Appearance: Boy Commandos #1 (December 1942)
Origin: Libby Lawrence (Americanized version of her last name) was a native of Poland who fled to Holland when the Nazis invaded. When they reached Holland she fled there, too, swimming the English Channel to reach Great Britain. This escapade gave her a certain amount of international celebrity and when she traveled to America a Philadephia newspaper hired her as a reporter.
A descendant of Paul Revere named Tom Revere recognized Libby’s extraordinary character and gave her a mystical miniature replica of the Liberty Bell. Whenever Tom sensed danger he would ring the Liberty Bell, making Libby’s replica vibrate. She would then go into action as the costumed Liberty Belle.
Powers: The vibrations of the Liberty Bell replica which Libby had incorporated into her belt buckle triggered an adrenaline rush and other biochemical reactions inside her. Her physical abilities surged to the utmost that a human female can possess. She excelled at unarmed combat and was more agile than an Olympic gymnast.
Comment: Liberty Belle starred in over 50 adventures between 1942 and 1947.
Secret Identity: Johnny Everyman
First Appearance: World’s Finest Comics #15 (September 1944)
Origin: Johnny Everyman – a likely alias if you’re trying to take this hero seriously – worked as a tireless agent of good will and understanding among all races while simultaneously kicking the butts of hatemongers around the world. During World War Two, Everyman acted on behalf of all the Allied Nations, then after the war became an operative for the U.N. as well as the East and West Association, “dedicated to furthering understanding between peoples.”
Powers: Everyman was in phenomenal physical shape, boasting muscles usually not seen outside of bodybuilding competitions. He excelled at unarmed combat and spoke over a dozen languages. Backed up by the power and money of the organizations which sent him on his missions this hero was a force to be reckoned with across the globe.
Comment: I can’t believe Everyman is so forgotten today. His adventures were fairly entertaining considering they were written mostly as lessons for children promoting understanding among people of different colors and cultures. In the U.S. he fought against people who were violently harassing Chinese communities based on Chinese villains in movies. After the war he fought for peace between black and white gangs and tackled the KKK.
Overseas he prevented countless wars from breaking out, making him a REAL Peacekeeper, unlike the inappropriately named Charlton Comics character. Part troubleshooter and part global ambassador, Everyman may sound cornball as hell but his tales were actually more subtle than the preening of those self-righteous buffoons of today who call themselves SJWs.
Secret Identity: Jonathan Law
First Appearance: Star-Spangled Comics #1 (October 1941)
Origin: Millionaire mystery author Jonathan Law decided to take his obsession with crime-solving to the next level. He adopted the costumed identity of Tarantula and battled the forces of evil.
Powers: Tarantula was in peak physical condition and excelled at unarmed combat. He used a gun which fired web-fluid to trap his foes. He also had high-tech suction cups on his gloves and the bottoms of his boots to let him climb up walls and walk along ceilings.
Comment: Obviously this hero’s costume looks a lot like the Wesley Dodd Sandman’s second costume, but with a cape.
Secret Identity: Valerie Vaughn
First Appearance: Sensation Comics #84 (December 1948)
Origin: Wealthy socialite Valerie Vaughn developed an international reputation as a daredevil, performing incredibly risky stunts on land, at sea and in the air. Wanting even more danger she became a crime-buster who wrote about her escapades in her newspaper column Lady Danger.
Powers: Somehow, Lady Danger was strong enough to effortlessly lift and throw around full-grown men. In addition to her greater than human strength she was incredibly skilled at all manner of martial arts and was an expert in all firearms as well as explosives. Virtually any action-oriented skill had been mastered by this adventurous woman, like parachuting, scuba-diving, etc.
Comment: Lady Danger sometimes had a male sidekick in the form of private investigator Gary Grath, who became her love interest.
Secret Identity: Gary Concord Jr
First Appearance: All-American Comics #8 (November 1939)
Origin: Using a chemical foam formula his father invented to create a champion to battle dictators, warmongers and other evildoers, Gary Concord Jr gained superpowers which he used as Ultra-Man.
Powers: Ultra-Man was over a foot taller than average men and possessed super-strength.
Comment: This hero has no relation to the Japanese Ultraman, of course.
Secret Identity: Never revealed
First Appearance: All-Star Western #58 (May 1951)
Origin: In Spanish-owned California during the early 1800s a Don who owned an estate called Hawk Hill acquired the affectionate nickname “Don Caballero” because of his determination to protect the community from all manner of evildoers.
Powers: Don Caballero was remarkably physically fit and possessed almost superhuman skill with a sword. He also excelled at unarmed combat and was incredibly agile.
Comment: This hero called his sword El Capitan and was basically a mask-free version of Zorro.
Secret Identity: Merry Craemer
First Appearance: Star-Spangled Comics #81 (June 1948)
Origin: Merry Craemer was the daughter of notorious felon “Flyfoot” Craemer and wanted to combat the kind of criminals her father had been. She donned a costume and fought crime as Gimmick Girl, the Girl with 1,000 Gimmicks.
Powers: Gimmick Girl was physically fit, very agile and excelled at unarmed combat. She used a variety of gimmicks which she concealed in her costume like sneezing powder, a gun which shot glue, jacks, steel yo-yos, firecrackers, etc.
Comment: Decades before Harley Quinn came Gimmick Girl! This superheroine was the adopted sister of the Star-Spangled Kid. Her archenemy was a supervillain called Gimmick Guy.
Secret Identity: Paul Kirk
First Appearance: Adventure Comics #73 (April 1942)
Origin: Big game hunter Paul Kirk was becoming bored after having successfully hunted down all manner of dangerous game all around the world. When his friend Police Inspector Donovan got killed he decided to hunt the most dangerous game – criminals. He fought crime as the costumed Manhunter.
Powers: Manhunter was in peak physical condition and was extremely agile. He was superb at armed and unarmed combat. Manhunter showed the same hunting and tracking skills and tirelessness against criminals that he had previously shown against big game animals.
Comment: In the Silver Age DC Comics did stories about an entire organization of Manhunters made up of clones of Paul Kirk.
Secret Identity: Robert Crane, MD
First Appearance: Star-Spangled Comics #7 (April 1942)
Origin: When Doctor Robert Crane got mortally wounded by armed robbers he had his assistant transplant his brain into an experimental robot that the pair were devising. The operation was a success and Crane’s brain from then on controlled the super-powered android body. He opposed evil as Robotman.
Powers: Robotman had massive super-strength, could run as fast as an automobile and was invulnerable to much damage. His eyes could see for miles and at magnified levels. His ears could detect sounds from several miles away.
Comment: This hero created a talking robotic dog mascot for himself called Robbie. Robotman’s original series lasted until 1953.
Secret Identity: Lee Travis
First Appearance: Detective Comics #20 (October 1938)
Origin: Lee Travis, the young publisher of the Globe Leader newspaper, donned a costume and began fighting crime as the Crimson Avenger.
Powers: The Crimson Avenger was in peak physical condition, was a master of unarmed combat and possessed more agility than an acrobat. He also wielded a gun which fired knockout gas.
Comment: This superhero debuted in Detective Comics months before Batman’s first appearance in issue 27.
Secret Identity: Shiera Sanders
First Appearance: As Shiera Sanders – Flash Comics #1 (January 1940). As Hawkgirl – All-Star Comics #5 (July 1941)
Origin: Shiera Sanders was the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian princess. In 1940 America she met Carter Hall, the reincarnation of the Egyptian prince she had once been married to. He was also the superhero Hawkman. Eventually, Shiera took to using mystic wings that were similar to those used by that hero and she became Hawkgirl.
Powers: Hawkgirl could fly via the mystic wings she took from her husband Carter’s collection of antiquities. She was in peak physical condition and was a master of unarmed combat. She had the agility of an acrobat, which she used in combination with her flying skills to great effect during battle.
Comment: Like Hawkman, Hawkgirl became a member of the Justice Society of America.
THE ORIGINAL AQUAMAN
Secret Identity: Never revealed
First Appearance: More Fun Comics #73 (December 1941)
Origin: The original Aquaman was the son of two human parents. His mother died when he was still an infant. His father was a world-famous undersea explorer and at one point discovered the ruins of what he believed to be Atlantis. He engineered a water-proof home from one of the remaining structures and spent years studying the lost city’s historical and scientific secrets. Eventually he used those secrets to endow his son with super-powers that let him take on the forces of evil as Aquaman.
Powers: Aquaman could breathe underwater as well as on land. He was strong enough to move unhindered in the extreme pressure of the ocean’s depths and could swim at great speeds. He was able to communicate with all forms of sealife and had a sea-lion mascot called Ark.
Comment: This alternate origin for Aquaman made him a bit less of a ripoff of Sub-Mariner, who debuted in 1939. His yellow gloves are the only costume difference with the Silver Age Aquaman. I’m surprised that this original Aquaman never joined the Justice Society. Certainly in background he was as different from his later namesake as were the original Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Atom, Red Tornado and Flash. At any rate, this Aquaman’s archenemy was the modern day, high-tech pirate called Black Jack.
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