This weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero post here at Balladeer’s Blog examines Canadian-made superheroes from the 1940s. When imports of American comic books were banned in Canada in late 1940 to try trimming their trade deficit, writers and artists north of the border filled the gap with some unjustly neglected characters.
NELVANA OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
Secret Identity: Alana North
First Appearance: Triumph-Adventure Comics #31 (August 1941). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1947.
Origin: Nelvana was the daughter of a mortal woman and Koliak, god of the northern lights. When she became an adult, she took to using her powers as a demigoddess to battle the forces of evil.
Powers: Nelvana could fly at the speed of light, turn invisible, shoot heat rays from her hands and disrupt radio and other communications. In addition, she possessed the power of telepathy.
Comment: Nelvana was one of the superheroines to be in print before Wonder Woman herself. Nelvana has been on postage stamps in Canada and is still synonymous with Canadian-made comic books of the Golden Age.
Secret Identity: Phil Dauntless
First Appearance: Lucky Comics #1 (June 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came around mid-1944.
Origin: While serving as a fighter pilot in World War Two Europe, Phil Dauntless stole the Flying Fish, a virtually indestructible experimental plane/ submarine from the Nazis. Nazi spies framed Phil for treason, causing him to adopt the costumed identity of Black Wing as he went on to fight crime and Axis villains while seeking evidence to clear himself.
Powers: Black Wing was in peak physical condition and excelled at unarmed combat. He was also a superb pilot and had the advantage of flying the high-tech craft he had stolen from the Nazis.
Comment: Black Wing had two sidekicks – his love interest Dizzy and his co-pilot Hap. After a few issues Black Wing and Hap overhauled the Flying Fish to be wingless like a rocketship.
Secret Identity: None
First Appearance: (Canada’s) Better Comics #1 (March 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came around 1946.
Origin: Iron Man was the last surviving member of a subaquatic race in the South Pacific. His people died in a horrendous seaquake and this hero lived in a slightly ruined castle that survived the cataclysm. He mostly fought pirates on the high seas until he met a Canadian military Major and his son & daughter.
After Iron Man saved the trio from Nazis, he joined the Allied war effort against the Axis Nations.
Powers: Iron Man possessed incredible super-strength and near iron-hard skin. He could breathe in or out of the water and could swim at incredible speeds. On land this hero could also leap for long distances.
Comment: Iron Man was the first purely Canadian-created superhero to see print after the December 1940 ban on importing comic books from America due to wartime financial policy.
Secret Identity: Classified
First Appearance: Joke Comics #12 (1942). His final Golden Age appearance came in issue #18 in 1943.
Origin: Super Commando was the most skilled and deadly commando among Canada’s forces in Europe.
Powers: This hero was in peak human condition and was a master of armed and unarmed combat. Super Commando excelled at all the skills necessary for commandos in the field and was an expert marksman with the two pistols he took into battle with him. His helmet afforded maximum protection.
Comment: Among Super Commando’s adventures he led a raid on a Nazi radio station and supply dump, rescued a “General Durand” from German custody, destroyed a Nazi tunnel being built under the English Channel, saved a civilian leader in Belgium, led an assault on a U-Boat base, and abducted a Nazi rocket scientist in Holland.
Secret Identity: Trixie Rogers
First Appearance: Joke Comics #4 (1942). Her final Golden Age appearance came around 1946.
Origin: Factory worker and cartoonist Trixie Rogers came into possession of a magic cape and went on to use the powers it granted her to combat the forces of evil.
Powers: The Wing could fly at high speeds and hover at will. She was also as strong as a human female could possibly be and more agile than an acrobat. In addition, this heroine was an expert at unarmed combat.
Comment: Comic book historians always note that in Joke Comics #17 the Wing came to the rescue of the tied-up male superhero Nitro in a crossover story.
THE BLACK KNIGHT
Secret Identity: Little Bill
First Appearance: Rocket Comics V2 #4 (September 1943).
Origin: Somehow, a young modern-day boy called Little Bill was able to transform into an 8-foot tall knight in black armor by saying the word “Umbra” out loud.
Powers: The Black Knight possessed a degree of super-strength. His mystic armor made him impervious to most attacks, and the spikes on his gauntlets made his punches incredibly damaging.
Comment: This superhero has left behind tantalizingly little information.
THE PENGUIN/ BLUE RAVEN
Secret Identity: Bruce Baron
First Appearance: Wow Comics #15 (July 1943). His final Golden Age appearance came around 1946.
Origin: Wealthy socialite Bruce Baron took to adventuring, crime fighting and spying under the costumed identity of the Penguin, later changed to the Blue Raven.
Powers: The Penguin/ Blue Raven was a master detective and excelled at unarmed combat. He was as agile as an acrobat and was a deadly marksman with his handgun.
Comment: This superhero was unmasked during a few of his adventures but made a point of killing the perpetrators before they could tell anyone his secret identity.
Secret Identity: Cosmo Grant
First Appearance: Name-It Comics #1 (January 1942). His final Golden Age appearance came around 1946.
Origin: Cosmo Grant, the son of a wealthy inventor, carried on his father’s work and increased the family fortune. He invented a helmet which granted him superpowers and also invented other weaponry. He donned a costume and fought Axis villains and other menaces.
Powers: Cosmo’s helmet granted him superstrength, made him bulletproof and let him fly. His atom-gun fired explosive Cosmokordite pellets. For long-distance flights Cosmo invented an aircraft called the Bullet.
Comment: Cosmo’s sidekick was his old college friend Tom “Hoot” Hadden, an agent in HIS Majesty’s (England had a King at the time) Secret Service.
POLKA DOT PIRATE
Secret Identity: Lynne (last name unknown)
First Appearance: Dime Comics #25 (August 1945). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1946.
Origin: Never revealed.
Powers: The Polka Dot Pirate could fly and possessed a degree of superstrength. Sometimes she would wield weapons like a billy club or sword. She also owned a small sailboat.
Comment: This superheroine patrolled the waterfront of fictional Queen City. Her two human sidekicks were a Harbour Police cop named Russ Somers and a 12 or 13-year-old boy named Ricky Somers.
Secret Identity: Terry King (soon changed to Terry Allen with no reason given)
First Appearance: Dime Comics #14 (October 1943). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1946.
Origin: When police chemist Terry King is framed for a double murder, he adopts the costumed identity of Nitro and, after corralling the real killers, continues to fight crime in his superhero identity.
Powers: Nitro was in peak physical condition, was an expert at unarmed combat and was as agile as an acrobat. His scientific acumen also helped in his crusade.
Comment: The police wanted to arrest Nitro to put a halt to his vigilante activities. In one story, several criminals formerly jailed by Nitro formed the Crooks of Canada Corporation to get revenge against him.
Secret Identity: None
First Appearance: (Canada’s) Better Comics #3 (April 1944). His final Golden Age appearance came in August 1946.
Origin: Outdoorsy Winnipeg physician Brok Windsor was vacationing in the forests of Lake of the Woods at the border of Manitoba, Ontario and the American state of Minnesota. One day on the lake itself, Dr. Windsor sails into a mysterious mist and disappears into another dimension Bermuda Triangle style.
His boat reaches the Land Beyond the Mist, an island named Chaqua. The island grants him superpowers like it does with all its inhabitants, but Brok learns from a native islander named Torgon that those powers kill anyone who fails to drink from the Blue Spring at the Haunted Rocks of Antigrowth.
Torgon leads Brok Windsor to the spring, thus saving Brok’s life. The two become allies against the primitive AND futuristic menaces and monsters of the island as Brok searches for a way to return home.
Powers: The island of Chaqua caused Brok to grow to just over 7 feet in height (Torgon was 12 feet tall from being on the island longer) and granted him a degree of superhuman strength. In addition, Dr. Windsor and Torgon wielded ray-guns called Flash Guns as well as other weaponry common on Chaqua. Brok could speak several languages.
Comment: It’s a shame that such a creative series lasted for just 2 years and 4 months.
Secret Identity: Speed Savage (Yes, really.)
First Appearance: Triumph Comics #7 (April 1942). His final Golden Age appearance came in June 1946.
Origin: Private investigator and sportsman Speed Savage secretly donned a costume and sought greater thrills fighting crime and Axis villains as the White Mask.
Powers: This hero was in peak human condition and was a master of all methods of unarmed combat. In addition, the White Mask was incredibly agile and a skilled driver with any wheeled vehicle. He wielded two pistols and was a deadly accurate marksman.
Comment: For his 8 earliest adventures, White Mask wore a costume that resembled those worn by old Pulp heroes (above right) before switching to the more modern-looking costume (above left). In 1944 he was in a crossover story with Captain Wonder.
Secret Identity: Betty Babble
First Appearance: Star Studded Comics #1 (May 1945). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1946.
Origin: When a costar of movie starlet Betty Babble was framed for blackmail and murder, she adopted the superhero identity of Commandette, “the female commando” to clear him, and so began a career of crime fighting.
Powers: Commandette was an expert at various martial arts, including jiu-jitsu. In addition, she was in peak physical condition and was extremely agile, having formerly been a stuntwoman.
Comment: It’s hard to believe such a promising character did not go on to a longer run.
Secret Identity: Lance (no surname ever revealed)
First Appearance: Freelance Comics #1 (July 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came around 1947.
Origin: As a child, Freelance grew up in a fictional hidden tropical jungle in the Arctic (decades before Marvel Comics introduced their similar Antarctic jungle called the Savage Land). When he was old enough, he at last returned to the outside world. By the time he completed his higher education World War Two had been raging for nearly two years.
Lance returned to the hidden jungle to consult with the hidden people who had raised him, completing the last leg of his journey in his own plane. At last, the ruler granted the young man permission to join the global conflict, which he did using the nom de guerre Freelance.
Powers: The tribe who raised this hero after his father died gave him slightly more than human strength and extraordinary resiliency & stamina.
Comment: Freelance had two sidekicks – Big John Collins, a modern-day pirate who reforms after our hero defeats him in a fight – and Natasha, a sexy Russian spy. Freelance had adventures in Africa, Iraq, C.B.I. and the Far East as well as Europe.
After the war ended, this hero pursued die-hard Axis agents around the world before fighting crime in the Northwest Territories. During his Golden Age run, Freelance appeared in roughly 100 stories.
Secret Identity: Randolph Steele
First Appearance: Active Comics #1 (February 1942).
Origin: When his brother Danny Steele is killed by Nazi agents, Randy Steele uses his scientific genius to create a battle suit which grants him superpowers. Operating from his hidden laboratory beneath Home City, he fights Nazi agents and criminals alike.
Powers: Thunderfist’s armor provided him with super strength, let him fly and made him immune to electricity. He can run at super-speed and his helmet comes with a deployable gas mask and an underwater breathing mask. His gauntlets pack a powerful energy burst which gives his punches extra oomph.
Comment: In his secret identity, Thunderfist worked as a reporter, scientist and circus strongman. Now THAT’S a Renaissance Man!
Secret Identity: Bob Victor
First Appearance: Triumph Comics #7 (May 1942).
Origin: When wealthy Bob Victor’s parents were killed by a criminal while traveling in the Himalayas, a Yogi raised the child for 20 years in the Temple of Aidni. Over time, three gods granted Bob superpowers and he returned to Canada to fight the forces of evil as Captain Wonder while hiding behind a good-timing millionaire playboy facade.
Powers: Captain Wonder had “the strength of 100 men”, was bulletproof, could fly, and could move at superspeed through the air and under the sea.
Comment: This superhero once did a crossover story with White Mask.
Secret Identity: None
First Appearance: Dime Comics #25 (February 1946). Her final Golden Age appearance came later that same year.
Origin: Adventurous Betty Burd, an athletic and successful young writer and Olympic archery medalist, decided to live in the jungle for several months while writing about her exciting adventures and survival experiences.
Powers: Betty Burd was in peak physical condition, was an expert at unarmed combat and possessed the agility of an acrobat. She used her bow and arrows with uncanny accuracy and adapted quickly to hostile environments.
Comment: This heroine was Canada’s answer to the countless jungle goddesses from American comic books of the time period. Betty fought the usual poachers, gunrunners, plunderers and other villains spreading evil in the jungle.
Secret Identity: Jack Steel
First Appearance: Grand Slam Comics Vol 3 #9 (August 1944). His final Golden Age appearance came around 1947.
Origin: Considered mortally wounded at the Battle of El Alamein, Canadian soldier Jack Steel was selected for an experimental treatment that granted him superpowers. He went on to use those powers against the Axis Nations.
Powers: Commander Steel possessed superstrength, a degree of superspeed and a healing factor which let him recover from any wound.
Comment: When World War Two ended, Commander Steel fought the forces of evil as an agent of the International Police Service.
Secret Identity: Kent Marlow MD
First Appearance: Wow Comics #24 (December 1944). His final Golden Age appearance came in April 1946.
Origin: After a blow to the head, psychiatrist Kent Marlow began having prophetic dreams about coming crimes. Adopting the costumed identity of the Dreamer, he took to thwarting those crimes in advance, sometimes taking deadly action.
Powers: In addition to his precognitive dreams, the Dreamer excelled at unarmed combat and was a marksman with the two handguns he took into battle with him.
Comment: Many of the Dreamer’s adventures were two-part stories. In some cases, the problems of his patients induced his premonitory dreams.
Secret Identity: Classified
First Appearance: Joke Comics #21 (?)
Origin: Major Domo lost both arms during World War Two. Afterward he teamed up with a short man named JoJo to form one long body with JoJo’s arms fitting through their shared costume while JoJo rode on Major Domo’s back. The pair go into action in their joint form. It’s similar to the premise of the kung fu movie Crippled Masters.
Powers: Major Domo had powerful legs and JoJo had powerful arms. They also had the element of surprise against foes who didn’t realize they were two separate people.
Comment: Believe it or not, Major Domo had several published adventures and a half-decent Rogues Gallery of villains. He and JoJo were special agents of the United Nations.
Secret Identity: Never revealed
First Appearance: Star Studded Comics #1 (1945). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1946.
Origin: An unknown woman died in an auto accident while rushing to tell a man named John that his daughter, whom he thought was dead, was alive in an orphanage. She came back from the dead as a ghost but continued her efforts to do good.
Powers: Ghost Woman could teleport and turn invisible. She could also turn intangible and walk through solid objects. She could touch solid objects by concentrating and, as a supernatural being, was a potent physical (metaphysical?) threat to other supernatural figures.
Comment: In her debut story Ghost Woman fought off a pack of werewolves in a graveyard in order to save their potential victim.
Secret Identity: Gordon Bell
First Appearance: Active Comics #1 (February 1942). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1946.
Origin: When Gordon Bell’s father, a World War One hero, was on his deathbed he supernaturally bequeathed superpowers on his son so he could battle Canada’s enemies in World War Two as well as combat other villains.
Powers: The Brain could mentally focus the powers he gained into the ability to fly and a degree of superstrength. He was also capable of remote vision.
Comment: In his very first story, readers were told that the Brain had been active against the Nazis since 1939.
Secret Identity: Lee Pierce
First Appearance: Commando Comics (? 1942).
Origin: When scientist Lee Pierce was drafted into the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War Two, he used his recently developed chemical formula to become invisible in order to carry out special missions against the enemy.
Powers: Lee Pierce’s invisibility formula would render him unseen for up to three hours before he needed more of it. The Invisible Commando was well-trained in hand-to-hand combat, marksmanship, piloting and demolitions work.
Comment: Getting wet while invisible would undo the formula’s effects and make any part of his body that got wet visible immediately.
Secret Identity: Jim Stearne MD
First Appearance: Wow Comics #26 (April 1945). His final Golden Age appearance came around 1950 in Super Duper Comics.
Origin: Physician Jim Stearne investigated and combatted monsters and other supernatural menaces around the world. He drifted into this vocation and his pseudonym Mr. Monster when investigating killings that turned out to be committed by inhuman figures.
Powers: Mr. Monster was in peak physical condition and excelled at unarmed combat. He was an uncanny marksman with the handgun he took into action with him. His protective helmet included night-vision goggles and he also wielded a light of such intensity even vampires could be slowed down by it.
Comment: This character developed a huge cult following over the decades and in 1984 a new Mr. Monster comic book series began, with the son of the original adopting the Mr. Monster identity and weapons.
Secret Identity: None
First Appearance: Better Comics #? Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1946.
Origin: Starra lived on the other-dimensional island called Chaqua in the Land Beyond the Mist. Her mother had passed away and her ghost was haunting the island, which led to the adult Starra meeting Brok Windsor, who became her love interest.
Powers: As an inhabitant of Chaqua Island, Starra had slightly above human levels of strength and was an expert fighter both unarmed and with her dagger. In addition, she was more agile than an acobat.
Comment: Starra returned with Brok Windsor to his home in Winnipeg when he finally found a way out of the Land Beyond the Mist.
Secret Identity: Jim Casey
First Appearance: Real Boy’s Stories (February 1946). His series ran for at least 7 more installments.
Origin: Former soldier Jim Casey was serving as a bodyguard for atomic scientist Professor A.B. Coo. Agents from an unnamed country invaded Coo’s laboratory. They forced the professor to use Jim Casey as a human guinea pig in his new Atomic Machine, which had successfully made animals grow to enormous size.
The device didn’t react well to a human test subject and exploded. Rather than make Jim grow to the size of a giant, the machine granted him the strength of a gigantic man. Casey used his superstrength to defeat the foreign agents and became Atomic Man, a superpowered operative for Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Soviet Union. Those nations named him “the worldwide protector of atomic knowledge.”
Powers: Atomic Man possessed the strength of a King Kong-sized man and the four countries he worked for provided him with a variety of atomic ray-guns and a nuclear-powered aircraft.
Comment: Among his adventures, this superhero battled foreign spies, a kaiju-sized ape, an army of 9-foot tall giants from the North Pole, prehistoric monsters and a secret underground civilization. The professor’s daughter, Annis Coo, was Atomic Man’s love interest.
Secret Identity: Rod Rooney
First Appearance: Star Studded Comics #1 (1945). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1946.
Origin: Private investigator Rod Rooney was alienating the local police force by always showing them up on difficult cases. They yanked his P.I. license, so he secretly adopted the costumed identity of the Red Rogue and continued solving impossible crimes and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
Powers: Red Rogue was in good physical condition and excelled at unarmed combat. He was reasonably athletic and agile, and was a world class criminologist.
Comment: The bare-legged look for superheroes always makes me laugh.
Secret Identity: Jim Gordon
First Appearance: Lightning Comics #11 (October 1944). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1945.
Origin: Jim Gordon, a reporter for the Morning Trumpet newspaper, became the costumed hero called Dartman in order to fight crime without endangering his loved ones.
Powers: Dartman was in peak physical condition and was as agile as an acrobat. He was a master of unarmed combat and was a marksman with his custom-made handgun, which shot the tiny darts that gave him his nom de guerre. Dartman also swung around the rooftops with a rope and grappling hook.
Comment: One of this superhero’s most memorable villains was the Piper.
Secret Identity: Never revealed
First Appearance: Joke Comics #18 (1945). His final Golden Age appearance came in Joke Comics #24.
Origin: The Blade was a pirate in the days of the Spanish Main who wound up in suspended animation for centuries from seeping gas in a cave he entered. Brought back to consciousness in 1945 he joined the fight against the Axis Nations.
Powers: This hero was in peak human condition and was phenomenally skilled with a sword. Even unarmed he was a dangerous opponent.
Comment: I don’t know why the Blade bothered wearing a mask, since everyone who knew him was long dead by 1945.
Secret Identity: Mike Sands
First Appearance: Active Comics #28 (March 1946)
Origin: Well to do Mike Sands became the costumed vigilante called Top Hat to combat the rackets in Canada.
Powers: Incredible agility, very skilled at unarmed combat.
Comment: Top Hat practiced the superhero custom of endangering youngsters by partnering with his “ward” – a boy called Tales (not Tails), who was Hispanic and wore a sombrero.
Secret Identity: Never revealed
First Appearance: Lightning Comics #10 (August 1943). His final Golden Age appearance came in December of that year.
Origin: An unknown man adopted the costumed identity of Captain Daring and fought crime plus Axis villains.
Powers: Captain Daring was very skilled in unarmed combat and was very agile. This hero also flew a personal autogyro.
Comment: Another “Captain” from Canadian comic books was Captain Victory (detective Perrie Sterling), who had no superpowers and irresponsibly went into action with his costumed teen assistant Rocky – going by his real name.
Captain Victory’s costume (seen at right) included a mask as well as a Union Jack on his torso & boots.
Secret Identity: None
First Appearance: Active Comics #13 (September 1943). His final Golden Age appearance came in May 1944.
Origin: King Fury was voluntarily enclosed in a large glass tube by scientist Dr. John Tone and bombarded with his Strength Rays, thus gaining bronze skin and superpowers. He became an operative for the Allied Nations.
Powers: This superhero possessed a degree of superstrength and was proficient at armed and unarmed combat.
Comment: King Fury’s romantic interest was Dr. Tone’s daughter Tonee.
FOR MY LOOK AT AUSTRALIAN-MADE SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE.
57 responses to “CANADA’S GOLDEN AGE SUPERHEROES”
This is a trove of fascinating characters!! These were new to me as was the fact that comics were banned to help reduce the trade deficit!
Yeah, the wartime pinch was being felt in Canada at the time. Thanks for the kind words!
You are welcome!!
Ha, yes but it takes a lot of comics to equal the value of just a few cars. 😉
That is true!
Hmmm! I feel cheated. We never got these very interesting heroes over here!
I know how you feel! Several of these should have become as big as Batman or Wonder Woman.
Great shared! All are fantastic ☺️
You’re too kind!
You also 👍because you reviewed my book
Now you’re getting fancy!
I taught you now I am free 😁😁😳😳😳😳🥺🥺😲😲🤯😬😬😬🙄🙄🙄🥴🥴🤭🤭🤭🤭
Wow! I can’t keep up.
Then what I have to do! Teach you everyday😁
Ha! It looks like you may have to!
Yes I like to teach also.😛😛😛😛
You need to with me and emojis.
Ha ha 🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪😂😂😂🤐🤐🤐😋😋🤣🤣🤣😘😘😘😇😇😭😭🤔🤔🤔how many do you need
I don’t think there are enough.
You are so good at those.
😬😬😬😬😬🤪🤪🤪🤪but I am sure you laugh to see all.
Yes I do!
You are hilarious!
Yes I am 😁😁
Excellent! I had only ever heard of Nelvana and Freelance.
I’m always glad to spread the word.
I love Godlen Age heroes and never heard of any of these!
I’m glad to have introduced them to you.
Canadian companies were stupid for not continuing with these characters over the years.
More women than I expected.
Realy striking designs for some of them!
Yes, I agree.
Major Domo is off the wall.
Perfect! A lot of lore and relevant info laid out side by side!
Interesting! I had no idea Canada ever bothered with superheroes.
I’m always happy to spread the word.
So many women! I love it!
That is good to hear!
I wasn’t familiar with any of these! The funny thing is that it was a team of Canadian heroes, Alpha Flight, that first got me reading comics back in the 80s, although, I mean, as a Marvel comic, I don’t suppose they were really a legit Canadian book. But for my Canadian history class in college, I wrote a term paper about Alpha Flight in general (and the relationship between the twins Aurora and Northstar, in particular) as an extended allegory about the relations between Quebec and the rest of Canada and between Canada and the United States. So I got that out of it anyway.
Great comment! I had only ever heard of Nelvana until I started looking into Australian-made and Canadian-made heroes years ago. In my view Alpha Flight should count since both Chris Claremont and John Byrne were Canadian.