Category Archives: Superheroes

SHANG-CHI: HIS FIRST TWELVE ADVENTURES

With the first trailer for the next Marvel Comics movie, Shang-Chi, out already, here’s a look at the first twelve  Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu stories.

shang chi picFirst, a little background information. In the early 1970s Marvel was experimenting with hybrid titles that would combine the old and the new by fusing licensed properties with unique Marvel twists.

The most famous and longest-lasting example was Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu. In 1973 Marvel licensed the use of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu plus other characters from the Fu Manchu tales. Rather than just churn out a Fu Manchu comic book series “the House of Ideas” instead combined it with the Kung Fu craze of the time and created Shang Chi, the son of Fu Manchu.

Shang Chi, as a surrogate Bruce Lee, and Sir Denis Nayland-Smith, as a surrogate Braithwaite from Enter: The Dragon, were the core of the new series. Shang Chi started out as an operative of his evil father Fu Manchu, but realized the error of his ways and threw in with Sir Denis and his team to battle his father’s malevolent schemes.

FOR STORIES TEAMING IRON FIST AND SHANG-CHI CLICK HERE.

shang chi 1SPECIAL MARVEL EDITION #15 (December 1973)

Title: Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu

Villain: Fu Manchu

Synopsis: One night Shang-Chi, the son of the insidious Dr Fu Manchu, penetrates the Mayfair home of his father’s old enemy Dr Petrie and, though he hesitates when he sees how old the sleeping man is, kills him as ordered. A wheelchair-bound Sir Denis Nayland-Smith, Fu Manchu’s archenemy, arrives in the bedroom too late to save his longtime ally Dr Petrie but is holding a gun on Shang-Chi.

Shang effortlessly disarms Sir Denis and turns to leave, only to be amazed at the way Nayland-Smith is weeping over the dead doctor. He engages Denis in a conversation about why the Britisher has opposed his father for so many decades. Shang-Chi is disturbed by the passionate conviction with which Nayland-Smith describes his father’s global activities, activities that Fu has kept hidden from his son.

mascot sword and gun pic

BALLADEER’S BLOG

What really piques our hero’s curiosity is when Sir Denis shows him how Fu Manchu had him abducted recently in Burma and tortured until he could no longer walk, thus confining him to a wheelchair. Conflicted, Shang-Chi goes to Honan, China to visit his mother and question her about his father’s true nature. She informs him that what Nayland-Smith said is true, but she had hoped her son would not learn the truth until he was much older. (Shang was around 18-19 years old as this series started.)

Determined to confront his father about his lies, Shang-Chi fights his way through his father’s international headquarters, decorated in priceless Chinese artwork and other fineries. After overcoming all of the guards barring his way, our hero faces a gorilla that has been biologically mutated by Fu Manchu. Even this creature is overcome. Continue reading

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FIRST TWENTY SPIRIT OF SEVENTY-SIX STORIES FROM THE 1940s

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 

Spirit of 76THE 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 1POCKET 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.  Continue reading

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FIRST TWENTY BLACK CONDOR STORIES

Awhile back, Balladeer’s Blog examined a few dozen Golden Age superheroes from Quality Comics. Here’s a look at the first twenty stories of the number one entry on that list – the Black Condor.

black condor picBLACK CONDOR

Secret Identity: Senator Thomas Wright

First Appearance: Crack Comics #1 (May 1940)

Origin: Click HERE.

Powers: The Black Condor could fly at extraordinary speeds and was in peak physical condition. He was more agile than an acrobat and excelled at unarmed combat. In addition, he was a marksman with his handgun which fired powerful Black Energy rays.

black condor another picCRACK COMICS #1 (May 1940)

Title: The Man Who Can Fly Like A Bird

Villains: Gali Kan and his Mongolian bandits.

Synopsis: Using his power of flight to battle evildoers all over Asia, the Black Condor becomes world-famous, though some people doubt the veracity of the “sightings” of this flying man. At last, our hero gets the opportunity to avenge the death of his parents on Gali Kan and his men while simultaneously saving a city in India from their depradations. 

crack 2CRACK COMICS #2 (June 1940)

Title: The Man Who Can Fly

Villain: Rajah Ali Khan

Synopsis: The Black Condor saves Andrea Kent and her brother Denny from the evil plans of the Rajah Ali Khan, who seeks to seize their inheritance through a forced marriage to Andrea.

Our hero overcomes the Rajah and all his troops.

NOTE: In this story, which introduced the Black Energy ray-gun, the pistol’s rays simply paralyze large groups of the Rajah’s men and don’t destroy them. Continue reading

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MARVEL’S ONE-APPEARANCE HEROES FROM THE 1940s

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. Continue reading

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ALL TWENTY ALL-WINNERS ISSUES FROM THE 1940s

Mascot and guitar

Balladeer’s Blog

Last week’s look at over two dozen 1940s superheroes from Marvel Comics (called Timely Comics back then) was very popular. This time around here’s my breakdown on several issues of All Winners Comics, featuring a mixed bag of their biggest heroes of the time. The one and only STAN LEE, already a master of self-promotion in the 1940s, makes cameo appearances in a few issues.

For information on the superheroes in these adventures click HERE.

all winners 1ALL WINNERS COMICS #1 (June 1941)

Story 1: Carnival of Fiends

Heroes: Human Torch (original) and Toro

Villain: Mr Matzu

Synopsis: The Human Torch and Toro clash with the espionage network of Japanese Imperial Spy Matzu when he tries to sabotage Chinese-Americans who are holding a fundraiser for their native land’s military efforts against Japan’s occupation forces.

Comment: America had not yet entered the war, so this is an interesting piece. It’s set in New York City.

Story 2: The Order of the Hood

Hero: The Black Marvel

Villains: The Order of the Hood

Synopsis: In Los Angeles, a cloaked and hooded gang of bank robbers use machine guns and a solar death ray to rob banks and slaughter anyone in their way. The Black Marvel repeatedly clashes with them and defeats them in the end.

Comment: After the villains capture the Black Marvel they do a pirate television broadcast to show them executing the hero, but he turns the tables on them. There were indeed television broadcasts at the time, but going out to thousands instead of millions like today.

Story 3: The Case of the Hollow Men Continue reading

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MARVEL COMICS’ 1940s SUPERHEROES

AwsBalladeer’s Blog takes a look at those often forgotten Marvel Comics characters from the Golden Age, when the company was known as Timely Comics. Unlike Captain America, Bucky, Sub-Mariner, etc these figures never became big hits in the Silver or Bronze Ages. But Marvel did try retconning some of them to fit in with the modern day.

blonde phantomBLONDE PHANTOM

Created By: Stan Lee, Charles Nicholas and Syd Shores

Secret Identity: Louise Grant

First Appearance: All-Select Comics #11 (September 1946) Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1949.

Origin: Wanting to fight crime and foreign spies without endangering the lives of people close to her, Louise Grant, secretary for private investigator and former OSS man Mark Mason, donned a costume and fought the forces of evil as the Blonde Phantom.

Powers: The Blonde Phantom was in peak human condition and was more agile than an Olympic gymnast. She was a master of unarmed combat and was also incredibly proficient with her .45 handgun. In addition, this heroine was an expert investigator.

Comment: For a time, the Blonde Phantom was assigned to missions by a figure calling itself Father Time (no relation to the 1940s superhero of that name). That mysterious figure had Grim Reaper qualities and sicced the Blonde Phantom on evildoers whose deaths he had ordained.

Louise Grant’s boss Mark Mason had the hots for the Blonde Phantom but overlooked his secretary Louise, who downplayed her beauty in her secret identity.

blazing skullTHE BLAZING SKULL

Created By: Bob Davis

Secret Identity: Mark Todd

First Appearance: Mystic Comics #5 (March 1941) His final Golden Age appearance came in May of 1942.

Origin: Reporter Mark Todd was covering the war between China and the Imperial Japanese invasion forces before the U.S. entered World War Two. Taking shelter from a Japanese bombing, Todd entered a cave which was the entrance to the subterranean lair of the Skull Men, a mystic race of skull and flame-headed humanoids who kept their existence unknown to the world. The Skull-Men taught Mark Todd some of their secrets, which granted him superpowers with which he fought the forces of evil as the Blazing Skull.

Powers: The Blazing Skull was strong enough to lift 10 tons, could make his head appear to be nothing but a skull surrounded by flames and was immune to fire and heat. He could completely control flames and also possessed a healing factor which let him recover from almost any injury.

Comment: This figure was one of the Golden Age superheroes conjured up by a godlike Rick Jones to battle the Kree soldiers of Ronan the Accuser during the Kree-Skrull War in 1972. Continue reading

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FAWCETT SUPERHEROES

For this weekend’s light-hearted look at vintage superheroes Balladeer’s Blog will examine the characters of Fawcett Comics. They were another company whose heroes wound up absorbed into the DC black hole and mangled to fit in the new continuity of whatever “Crisis” DC is up to these days.  

mr scarletMISTER SCARLET

Secret Identity: Brian Butler

First Appearance: Wow Comics #1 (December 1940) His final Golden Age appearance came in 1948.

Origin: District Attorney Brian Butler grew disillusioned with how many criminals could slip through loopholes in the legal system. To fight crime more efficiently he donned a costume and took to the nighttime streets as Mister Scarlet.

Powers: Mister Scarlet could fly, was an expert at unarmed combat and was as agile as an acrobat. He also used a ray-gun which shot non-fatal energy blasts. Comically enough, no explanation was ever provided for this hero’s ability to fly or how he got his ray-gun.

Comment: This Fawcett hero had a very imaginative Rogues Gallery of supervillains, many of whom would periodically team up against him as the Death Battalion. Brian Butler’s secretary Cherry Wade knew about his dual identity. Mister Scarlet joined the superhero fad for endangering youngsters by taking on a costumed teen sidekick called Pinky.

mary marvelMARY MARVEL

Secret Identity: Mary Bromfield (really Batson)

First Appearance: Captain Marvel Adventures #18 (December 1942) Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1954.

Origin: One day Mary Bromfield learned that her wealthy parents weren’t her real parents. She had been adopted and separated from her twin brother Billy Batson. When she and Billy were reunited, she learned that, like him, if she said S.H.A.Z.A.M. she would transform into a superhero like him per the same magic spell.

Powers: Mary Marvel had massive super-strength, super-speed and could fly. She had a large degree of invulnerability and advanced intelligence.

Comment: In Mary’s case S.H.A.Z.A.M. stood for the grace of Selena, the strength of Hippolyta, the skill of Ariadne, the speed of Zephyrus, the beauty of Aurora and the wisdom of Minerva. Her arch-enemy was Georgia Sivana, the mad scientist daughter of Captain Marvel’s archenemy Doctor Sivana. Continue reading

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THE SHIELD: HIS FIRST TWENTY STORIES

Balladeer’s Blog’s readers have made it clear they love these light-hearted superhero posts on weekends, so here we go with the first twenty stories of the MLJ character the Shield. 

ShieldTHE SHIELD

Secret Identity: Doctor Joe Higgins, a chemist.

Origin: On his deathbed Joe’s father Tom revealed to him the secret of a chemical formula he had been working on. That formula could bestow superpowers on a normal human being. As Joe grew older he got his PhD in chemistry, finished his father’s formula and used it on himself, gaining superpowers. He devised a special costume and fought the forces of evil as the Shield, a super-powered operative of the FBI. 

First Appearance: Pep Comics #1 (January 1940). His final Golden Age appearance came in late 1945. 

shield picPowers: The chemical formula that the Shield rubbed onto his skin followed by bombardment with flouroscopic rays endowed him with massive super-strength plus invulnerability and the ability to leap enormous distances. His name came from an acronym for the areas of the human anatomy affected by his chemical formula: S – Sacrum H – Heart I – Innervation E – Eyes L – Lungs D – Derma. The Shield also wore an indestructible costume which encased his torso like a shield.

Comment: The Shield was America’s first star-spangled superhero, beating Captain America into print by more than a year. He eventually had a youthful sidekick called Dusty and a private detective sweetheart named Betty Warren. His archenemy was the Vulture. His adventures continued until December of 1945. Only J Edgar Hoover knew the Shield’s secret identity. Yes, J Edgar Hoover was the head of the FBI, proving that even back then the FBI was a crooked and politically corrupt organization.

pep 1PEP COMICS #1 (January 1940)

Title: The Shield, G-Man Extraordinary

Villains: A Stokian spy ring

Synopsis: The Shield is given his first assignment. He must destroy a spy ring from the fictional nation of Stokia after the ring blows up a munitions factory, sabotages commercial shipping and assassinates U.S. military personnel. Our hero defeats all of the villains and survives their explosion of the Hotel Braganza. 

NOTE: This is the first time readers see the Shield attach wires from his earpieces to telephone wires so that his enhanced hearing can “bug” the room of his targets. Continue reading

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THE CLOCK: THE FIRST TWENTY STORIES FROM THE 1930s

Clock chaseBefore Batman, before Captain America and even before Superman himself, came the Clock, written and drawn by George E Brenner. The Clock was the first masked crimefighter in comic books, debuting in 1936, while the much more popular Batman didn’t come along until 1939. I’m not pointing that out to diss Batman, but to point out what a shame it is that the Clock seems to have been forgotten by most of the world. The figure is pretty much the middle character between Pulp heroes like the Shadow and the Moon Man and comic book superheroes. The Clock’s influence on Will Eisner’s iconic character the Spirit is obvious.

clock and pugTHE CLOCK

Secret Identity: Brian O’Brien

First Appearance: Funny Pages Vol 1 #6 (November 1936) His final Golden Age appearance came in 1944.

Origin: Brian O’Brien was born into the wealthy O’Brien family of New York City. The adventurous youth loved flying in early biplanes and served in World War One as a fighter pilot. After the war he went to college where he became an All-American Fullback, then moved on to Law School. Following graduation he was a fixture on the High Society polo scene while eventually becoming a District Attorney.

O’Brien gained a reputation as a crusading anti-crime figure but ultimately the extensive corruption in New York City politics and law enforcement frustrated any true attempts at reform. He retired from his D.A. career and, while seemingly returning to his carefree socialite life, secretly adopted the masked identity of the Clock to fight crime through bypassing the city’s systemic corruption. At first only his father knew about his dual identity.

clock fightPowers: The Clock was the prototype for the countless non-powered costumed crimefighters to come. He was in peak physical condition and was a master of unarmed combat. He possessed the agility of an Olympic gymnast and was a marksman with the handgun he carried into action with him. In addition he was a master detective and investigator whose knowledge of the law helped him compile evidence against his foes. 

              This hero’s mask had white eyeholes which allowed him to see in the dark and its fabric would filter out the effects of the knockout gas and teargas his tie-pin could shoot at opponents. The Clock’s cane was a durable weapon in combat plus it featured a few gadgets, like being able to fire its round top at opponents with the force of a bullet. His hat sported a metal lining to help minimize damage from blows to the head and he sometimes wore body armor under his suit and tie. Clock time-bombs which filled entire rooms with knockout gas or tear gas were on occasion employed by this figure.

              O’Brien called himself the Clock just to fit his Pulp-style calling cards which said “The CLOCK has struck” and similar phrases. In later years he would have sidekicks like Pug, an ex-boxer and Butch, a tomboyish teenage girl.        

clock pics1. FUNNY PAGES Vol 1 #6 (November 1936) – #9 (March 1937)

Title: The Clock Strikes

Villains: The Slick Martin Gang 

Synopsis: The Clock handles his first case, tracking down a gang of three bank robbers, outfighting and capturing them all and leaving his calling card identifying himself as the Clock. He also phones Police Captain Kane and tells him where to find the bound and unconscious Slick Martin and Butch.

              In the edgy ending, our hero turns Killer Katz, the gang member who shot a man dead during the gang’s most recent robbery, over to a vengeful mob led by the brother of the slain man. They beat him to death and the newspapers are all speculating on who the Clock may be. We get our first glimpse of our hero’s fairly plush secret office as he writes down the details of this case.    Continue reading

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QUALITY COMICS SUPERHERO PANTHEON

mascot sword and gun pic

BALLADEER’S BLOG

Okay, regular readers definitely let me hear it over the way I skipped doing a light-hearted superhero post last weekend. I’m taking a look at the Quality Comics characters as they were in the Golden Age before they got absorbed by the black hole of DC Comics, into which the IPs of other publishers have been mangled to fit their latest “Crisis” nonsense. The days when they had the heroes of each newly acquired company set on an alternate Earth sound much more fun, but I’m not a comic book expert.

the rayTHE RAY

Secret Identity: Happy Terrill

First Appearance: Smash Comics #14 (September 1940) His final Golden Age appearance came in 1943.

Origin: While covering a scientist named Dr Styne as he tested his experimental lighter than air craft, New York Star reporter Happy Terrill rode along but got exposed to solar radiation and struck by lightning. (I hate when that happens!) This freak accident gave him superpowers with which he fought crime as the Ray.

Powers: The Ray could fly, shoot solar energy and electricity from his hands and turn his entire body into energy if needed. He drew power from light so extended periods shut off from all light sources would leave him powerless.

Comment: Like so many other Golden Age superheroes, the Ray was co-created by Will Eisner.   

lady luckLADY LUCK

Secret Identity: Brenda Banks

First Appearance: The Spirit Section (June 1940). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1950.

Origin: Brenda Banks was the daughter of wealthy mine owner Bickford Banks. Growing bored with her luxurious life as a socialite, she secretly studied all manner of unarmed combat and donned a costume to fight the forces of evil as Lady Luck, in honor of her Irish heritage. Continue reading

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