Category Archives: Superheroes

BEST OF 2020: SEPTEMBER

Balladeer’s Blog’s end of year retrospective resumes with this look at September’s best:

DuneAMERICA: PART OF THE DUNE FRANCHISE – America’s equivalents of the Harkonnens and other Houses. Click HERE.

TWENTY MORE SENSATIONAL FAILED PREDICTIONS – The latest list of predictions which failed big-time. Click HERE.

DEMOCRAT SLOGANS – A humorous look at the attitudes and policies of Democrats. Click HERE.

THE FIRST TWENTY HULK STORIES FROM THE 1960s – The Hulk takes on the Leader, the Gargoyle, the Circus of Crime and more. Click HERE.

FOOL KILLER: JULY 1911 – The Fool Killer whacks bloated rich pigs like J.P. Morgan, William A Clark, astrologers and others. Click HERE.

DEMOCRATS AND CORPORATE FASCISM – A look at the Democrats and their embrace of corporate fascism. Click HERE.

Blue Bolt coverSUPERHERO PANTHEON OF NOVELTY PRESS – Forgotten 1940s superheroes like the White Streak, Twister, Sub-Zero Man and the Green Sorceress. Click HERE.

CIVIL RIGHTS ICON CLARENCE HENDERSON SAYS TRUMP DID MORE FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR IN FOUR YEARS THAN BIDEN DID IN NEARLY FIFTY. The title says it all. Click HERE.

VENUS IN FURS: AN OPERA VERSION OF THE 1870 NOVEL – Another look at an opera adaptation of an unexpected work. Click HERE. Continue reading

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SUPERHEROES FROM PELICAN PUBLISHING

Green GiantSuperheroes dominate pop culture these days and Balladeer’s Blog’s readers always let me know about it when they feel I’ve gone too long without an article about them.

In honor of the shortest day of the year today here is a look at the shortest run of superheroes ever. Remember how Atlas/ Seaboard was publishing for less than a full year? Well Pelican Publishing’s superheroes came and went in ONE MONTH.

Green Giant coverTHE GREEN GIANT

Secret Identity: Mr Brentwood, a stock broker. No first name was given.

First and Last Appearance: Green Giant Comics #1 (1940 – the month is not known)

Origin: Unknown.

Powers: The Green Giant wore a high-tech “gravity-defying” device in his belt, a device which enabled him to grow to hundreds of feet in size and to fly. He was also bullet-proof and possessed massive super-strength.

Green Giant first page

“WHEN I THINK ABOUT FIGHTING CRIME I TOUCH MYSELF.”

Comment: In his only adventure, Mr Brentwood was advised by his firm’s partner named John Preston (how did HE rate a first name) that criminals were dealing in counterfeit stocks.

Our hero donned his costume and corralled all the members of the crime ring, even swimming after a departing ship to capture the ringleader Sam “Smiley” Gleason. (Okay, Gleason was just rubbing it in to our poor hero by having a first name, last name AND a nickname.) Continue reading

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BEST OF 2020: MAY

Balladeer’s Blog’s year-end retrospective continues with this look at May’s best:

Lady MollyLADY MOLLY: DETECTIVE – Baroness Orczy’s female detective from 1910, solving a murder mystery involving a woman in a “big hat.” Click HERE.

TWENTY MORE “ANCIENT” SCIENCE FICTION STORIES – From hundreds of years ago onward, here are tales about genetically modified humanoid giants stalking the land, machines in the 1800s rebelling against humanity and so much more! Click HERE.

TRANSGRESS WITH ME: MAY FOURTH – Another daring and iconoclastic look at ideas which threaten the powers that be. Click HERE.

SUPERHERO PANTHEON OF FOX FEATURES – A look at forgotten superheroes of long ago. Click HERE.

Magical world of AniaTWIN PEAKS IN POLAND: THE MAGICAL WORLD OF ANIA – The disappearance of a troubled young woman leads to a series of nightmarish goings-on. Click HERE.

JAWBREAKERS: GRAND BIZARRE – The latest volume of the mercenary superhero team created by independent comics legend Richard C Meyer. Click HERE.

TWENTY COLD WAR ATTACKS ON U.S. AIRCRAFT – Plenty of violent encounters during the Cold War. Click HERE.

Consolations in TravelCONSOLATIONS IN TRAVEL (1830) ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION – A trip to assorted planets in our solar system. Click HERE.

SATANIC PANIC 2: ANTI-TRUMP HYSTERIA – The absurd overreactions to everything Trump ever did and said will likely be remembered in the same spirit as the bogus Satanic Panic of the 1980s or the periodic Red Scares. Click HERE.

THE DEATH TRAP (1908): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION – A creature feature type of battle with a monster in the Chicago sewer system. Click HERE. Continue reading

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IRON MAN VS THE BLACK KNIGHT

robert downey jr iron manHere at Balladeer’s Blog I like to listen to you readers. Many of you have enjoyed my takes on the earliest adventures of Marvel Comics characters like the Avengers, X-Men, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk. The MOST popular so far was my look at the first 20 Iron Man stories in the 1960s, so here is a bonus I.M. blog post picking up where that original one left off.

tales of suspense 59TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #59 (November 1964)

Title: The Black Knight

Villain: The Black Knight (Nathan Garrett)   

Comment: This issue of Tales of Suspense allows for a lot of side notes about the evolution of Marvel Comics’ particular iteration of the Black Knight figure AND the nature of the Marvel vs DC competition of the time. 

           The reason that Marvel Comics began pairing up some of its heroes in one particular comic book was because of a new agreement with their rivals at DC. Each had agreed, “arms limitation”-style, to limit the number of titles they published per month for a time. Instead of having two separate comic books for Iron Man and Captain America, Tales of Suspense featured both heroes in individual adventures.

            Similarly, instead of having separate comic books for the Hulk, Giant-Man & the Wasp and the Sub-Mariner, they shared Tales to Astonish in different combinations for a time. Strange Tales was likewise shared by Dr Strange, Nick Fury and the Johnny Storm Human Torch.

All of this stayed within the title-limitation arrangement made with DC while still allowing many of Marvel’s most popular characters to remain on newsstands along with Spider-Man, Thor, the Avengers, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.

iron man vs black knightSynopsis: The Black Knight (Nathan Garrett), usually a supervillain opponent of Giant-Man & the Wasp, was in prison following the recent clash between the Avengers and Baron Zemo’s original Masters of Evil, of which he was a member. The Knight’s winged horse Elendil at last located its master’s cell window, allowing him to retrieve some chemicals from its saddle-bag. With those chemicals the Black Knight dissolved the bars of his cell, mounted Elendil and flew off, wanting revenge. Continue reading

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SON OF SATAN: MOST HALLOWEENISH COVERS

masc graveyard smallerBalladeer’s Blog’s Month-long celebration of Halloween nears its end for 2020 as I take a look at the most seasonal covers of the 1970s Marvel Comics series Son of Satan. The latest Marvel television show, Helstrom, is a very watered-down and weak version of their horror character Daimon Hellstrom, the son of Satan and a mortal woman. (They didn’t even use both “L’s” in the name Hellstrom for the series title, as if h-e-l-l is too shocking for public use.)

Marvel later renamed Daimon from Son of Satan to the catchier “Hellstorm” – a play on his last name. From what I’ve read the tv show doesn’t even commit to him being Satan’s son. Wimps. He FIGHTS Satan, for crying out loud, so where’s the harm!

Son of satan 1MARVEL SPOTLIGHT Vol 1 #12 (October 1973)

Title: The Son of Satan

Villain: Satan

Comment: Daimon Hellstrom and his half-sister Satana (click HERE) were both born of human mothers but with Satan as their father. Satana followed their father’s evil path but Daimon rebelled, fighting against their father and his minions and even trying to become a priest at one time.

In his secret identity Daimon was a professor of parapsychology and religion plus he served as an exorcist. When he held up both hands with three fingers up on each hand (the sign of the trident) he mystically transformed into his Son of Satan regalia complete with a pitchfork.

That pitchfork was made of nether-metal and through it the Son of Satan generated Hellfire (like Ghost Rider wielded) and used it to fly (like Hot Stuff – rimshot). This foe of demonic forces also had an infernal chariot pulled through the sky by three Satanic horses named Amon, Hecate and Set. Continue reading

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GHOST RIDER: THE MOST HALLOWEENISH COVERS

Halloween Month hurls toward its conclusion with another seasonal post. The Marvel Comics juggernaut is THE power in pop culture these days so here is another look at one of their horror characters from their 1970s heyday.

spotlight 5MARVEL SPOTLIGHT Vol 1 #5 (August 1972)

Title: Ghost Rider

Villain: Satan

Comment: Ah, the sweet simplicity of the original Ghost Rider stories! Daredevil biker Johnny Blaze makes a deal with the devil: Johnny’s soul in exchange for Satan curing the cancer in the body of Blaze’s mentor “Crash” Simpson.

We all know how deals with the devil go, and Satan cures Simpson’s cancer but the aging daredevil motorcyclist dies in an accident during his next show. When Satan comes to claim Johnny’s soul, Blaze’s true love Roxanne Simpson (Crash’s daughter) interferes and negates the infernal contract.

The stymied devil can’t take Johnny to Hell but can inflict a kind of “Hell in nightly installments” on him by cursing him to become a monstrous fiery-skulled figure every night from then on.

NOTE: Convoluted additions about soul-reaping or about Johnny’s Ghost Rider form really being a specific demon named Zarathos, or past Ghost Riders did not come along til years later. The first Ghost Rider movie should have kept it simple like this and started adding the complications beginning with the second film. Continue reading

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EARLY BLADE THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1973-1983)

Blade black & whiteAs Halloween Month continues here’s a look at the very early years of  the Marvel Comics horror character Blade the Vampire Slayer, who debuted in 1973. In retrospect I prefer the original “look” for this dynamic figure: the long coat, the bandolier of six teakwood knives and the green-hued “photo-optic visor” aka goggles aka biker shades. I’ve never liked swords for vampire slaying so the wooden knives used by Blade back then appeal to me more.

We’ll skip over the stories about Eric Dickersonalleged legal fights with the original creator of Blade, fights that eventually necessitated the changes in Blade’s look and trademark weaponry. Suffice it to say that the 1970s Blade strikes me as an “Indiana Jones of horror” with a vintage Pulp Magazine vibe. And football player Eric Dickerson would have made a perfect cinematic Blade if a movie had been done in the early 1980s, right after Raiders of the Lost Ark. With Pam Grier as Safron Caulder and Oliver Reed as Deacon Frost.

Drac 10TOMB OF DRACULA Vol 1 #10 (July 1973)

Title: His Name Is … Blade

Comment: The very first appearance of the original Blade came in the 10th issue of Tomb of Dracula, along with Ghost Rider one of Marvel’s longest lasting horror comics of the 1970s. The title villain/ antihero was THE Dracula from Bram Stoker’s novel.

Blade made his badass debut by saving innocent British victims from three vampires who served Dracula. After killing the trio, Blade trailed Drac himself to a luxury liner loaded with the wealthy and the powerful. The vampire king planned to use the partying passengers as a blood supply AND as a cadre of Renfields to further his plans.

Eric Dickerson 2Our vampire slayer arrived in time to save all but a few of the “beautiful people” from Dracula.

After a battle royal between Blade and Drac, the Count escaped while Blade evacuated the surviving passengers to save them from explosives planted on the ship by one of Dracula’s thralls.    Continue reading

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THE SUPERHERO PANTHEON OF GREAT PUBLICATIONS

Superhero cosplay has begun to rival and even exceed monster cosplay at Halloween time. Here’s another forgotten pantheon of superheroes.

Fire Eater 2FIRE-EATER

Secret Identity: Mike O’Malley

First Appearance: Choice Comics #1 (December 1941)

Origin: Circus performer Mike O’Malley devised special pills that gave him superpowers then set out to fight crime as the superhero called Fire-Eater.

Fire EaterPowers: Fire-Eater, as his name would imply, could “eat” and suck in large flames as well as blow fire-blasts from his mouth. He was also impervious to fire and was skilled at unarmed combat.

Comment: This hero performed his circus tricks AND fought crime under his masked identity. As Mike O’Malley he kept a low profile and had a girlfriend named Louise Peters, the Head Nurse at State Hospital.

Madame StrangeMADAME STRANGE

Secret Identity: Never revealed

First Appearance: Great Comics #1 (November 1941)

Origin: Scientifically developed to fight spies and other forces of evil, Madame Strange went on missions to safeguard America.

She often traveled under the guise of a reporter.

Madame Strange 2Powers: Madame Strange was strong enough to rip iron bars out of a jail cell’s window, was bullet-proof and could run at greater than human speed. She was also an expert at unarmed combat and was skilled with a riding crop AND at knife-throwing. In addition this superheroine had her own personal plane from which she could drop bombs.

Comment: In her very first story Madame Strange was already a well-known figure. She stopped a ring of Imperial Japanese agents from sabotaging Pearl Harbor, eerily prescient since this would have been written just a few months before the real-life attack on that naval station. Continue reading

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THE FIRST TWENTY X-MEN STORIES FROM THE 1960s

Here’s another blog post for this superhero-hungry world:

Xmen 1THE X-MEN Vol 1 #1 (September 1963)

Title: X-Men

Villain: Magneto 

Synopsis: In Upstate New York, at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, a covert institution for mutants, Professor X (Charles Xavier, PhD) gives his five students a classical education in addition to secretly training them on the use of their mutant powers.

Magneto, a powerful mutant villain, uses his massive magnetic powers to seize Cape Citadel military base in the U.S. He issues public threats to Homo Sapiens about the growing numbers of mutants, or Homo Superior, being born each year.

Assuming normal humans will hound them to extinction out of fear, he is pre-emptively declaring war on humanity in the name of mutant kind, with the seizure of Cape Citadel the opening action of that war.

NOTE: Despite later retcons to Magneto’s personality, in these early appearances his thoughts make it clear he is just using his claims of “protecting” mutants as the excuse to realize his ambition to take over the world.

Professor X, saddened that humanity’s First Contact with the mutants among them is a hostile encounter, sends his X-Men to drive Magneto out of Cape Citadel. Continue reading

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NOVELTY PRESS SUPERHERO PANTHEON

You demanded more superheroes, you got ’em! Here is Balladeer’s Blog’s look at the neglected figures from Novelty Press.

TWISTER

Secret Identity: Bob Sanders

First Appearance: Blue Bolt Comics Vol 2 #1 (June 1941)

Origin: After getting carried up into the funnel of a tornado which killed his parents, teenager Bob Sanders learned he had somehow (you know comic books) acquired tornado powers. He donned a costume and fought crime as the superhero called Twister.

Twister 2Powers: Twister could spin around so quickly that he could generate, control and become part of a tornado strong enough to send cars and trucks flying. By punching villains while spinning around he could k-o them through walls. In addition, by breathing in a lungful of air, this hero could exhale it as gale force winds.

Somehow, Twister’s powers enabled him to construct and use a Cyclone Gun which shot intensely powerful bursts of air.   

Comment: At one point a Twister story tried justifying this hero’s powers by saying he was a direct descendant of Odysseus. But all Odysseus did was temporarily control the winds in a bag as a gift from the god Aeolus. Why didn’t they say Twister was descended from Aeolus instead?

White StreakWHITE STREAK

Secret Identity: Manowar/ Dan Sanders

First Appearance: Target Comics #1 (February 1940)

Origin: Manowar, called White Streak by the media, was an android left behind by the lost civilization of Utopia thousands of years ago. The Utopians destroyed themselves with war so they left their super-powered android in suspended animation to come to the aid of the next civilization if war caused by greed again threatened destruction.

White Streak picWhen the South American dictator Don Ruizen of Bolita went to war with his neighboring countries over oil, the Utopian robot Manowar activated itself in the volcano where it was hidden. After defeating the armies of the warmongering Don Ruizen, the android moved to America, from then on battling the forces of evil as White Streak.

Powers: White Streak had superhuman strength, invulnerability, the power of flight and could shoot rays of white energy from his eyes. That last ability prompted the press to give him his nom de guerre.

Comment: This android superhero was programmed to blend in with human beings and adopt the language and customs around him. He accomplished this so well he often used the secret identity Dan Sanders, FBI Agent.      Continue reading

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