Tag Archives: Comic Books

HILLMAN PERIODICALS SUPERHERO PANTHEON

Balladeer’s Blog’s readers demanded another detailed look at superheroes from a forgotten publishing company. Here are the often neglected heroes of Hillman Periodicals.

Dash Dixon 2DASH DIXON

Secret Identity: None, but he was called Dash Dixon the Man of Might so some sources list him as Man of Might with Dash Dixon given as his secret identity. He was publicly known, however.

First Appearance: Miracle Comics #1 (February 1940)

Origin: When police officer Dash Dixon was guarding a scientist named Doctor Lorenz, he agreed to be a human guinea pig for the doctor’s “Perpetual Life Rays” in his enclosed Perpetual Life Cabinet/ Coffin, in which he was also fed chemicals intravenously. Those rays and chemicals gave Dash superpowers with which he fought crime on special assignments from the Commissioner.

Dash Dixon Man of MightPowers: Dash Dixon, the Man of Might, possessed the strength of fifty men, could leap incredible distances, was invulnerable to harm and could live forever. (Originally he had the strength of just three men but that was changed to fifty. You know comic books.)

Normally the Perpetual Life Rays would wear off after a period of 24 hours but Dr Lorenz provided a pliable metal uniform for this hero to wear. The uniform contained the rays within his body, making his powers permanent.

Comment: Obviously staying in his uniform all the time would present problems that young readers of comic books might be oblivious to. I’d have thrown in the development that Dash was mortally wounded by villains trying to kill Dr Lorenz, who used his Perpetual Life Rays on Dixon to save his life.

The superpowers would be a bonus but in order to stay alive he had to remain in the uniform all the time, allowing for lots of the angst and tragedy that modern superheroes thrive on.  

Black AngelBLACK ANGEL

Secret Identity: Sylvia Manners

First Appearance: Air Fighters Comics #2 (November 1942)

Origin: Wealthy and connected British society woman Sylvia Manners kept a secret underground hangar in her aunt’s castle. (What, you mean your aunt doesn’t own a castle?) When Nazi bombers began wreaking havoc on Great Britain during World War Two she adopted the costumed identity of Black Angel and took to the air to do battle with them.

Powers: Black Angel was in peak human condition and excelled at both armed and unarmed combat. She was also a deadly fighter pilot and commando. This heroine used a handgun and also wielded a blow-pipe that shot poison darts, which she called “silent death.” Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Superheroes

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

21 Comments

Filed under Superheroes

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

38 Comments

Filed under Halloween Season, Superheroes

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

20 Comments

Filed under Superheroes

LEV GLEASON SUPERHERO PANTHEON

Readers just cannot get enough superhero blog posts, so since it has been two weeks since I last did one of these, here is a look at the Lev Gleason pantheon of superheroes.

Blackout Lev GleasonBLACKOUT

Secret Identity: Basil Brusilof, MD

First Appearance: Captain Battle #1 (June 1941)

Origin: Once, when Dr Brusilof was in the experimental lab of the Belgrave, Yugoslavia hospital where he worked, a Nazi bombing run blew up that lab. Basil gained superpowers from the accident and fought crime and the Axis Nations under the name Blackout.

Powers: Blackout’s body became coal-black from the explosion which gave him his powers. The mysterious black gases/ energies that his body generated gave him massive super-strength, invulnerability and the ability to fly by shooting the gases/ energies from his feet like thrust from rocket engines. Similarly, from his hands he could shoot concussive blasts of those same gases/ energies.

In addition, this hero could see in the dark and his blackened body provided perfect camouflage for night-time attacks on the Nazis.

Comment: This hero should not be confused with the Holyoke superhero called Blackout.

London 2LONDON

Secret Identity: Mark (Marc) Holmes, radio newscaster

First Appearance: Daredevil Comics #2 (August 1941)

Origin: While covering the Blitz, suave newscaster Mark Holmes decided that his fellow Brits needed extra inspiration to maintain their spirit of defiance against the Nazis. He adopted the costumed identity of London and battled Axis Agents plus criminals.

London 3Powers: London was in the peak of human condition and excelled at unarmed combat. He also possessed the agility of an Olympic gymnast. In addition, this hero was a crack shot with the handgun he carried.

LondonComment: This superhero may SOUND run of the mill, but there’s just something about the name “London” plus the great font for the letter “L” on his forehead that makes him more appealing to me than other “regular guys in a costume” heroes.

On top of that, there’s the wartime morale appeal, especially with his Blitz-referencing catch-phrase “London can take it!”   Continue reading

24 Comments

Filed under Superheroes

HARVEY COMICS SUPERHERO PANTHEON

Though Harvey Comics eventually became better known as the publisher of such comics as Casper the Friendly Ghost, Wendy the Witch, Hot Stuff and others, they had a large number of superheroes in the 1940s. Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at some of those heroes.  

Human MeteorTHE HUMAN METEOR

Secret Identity: Duke O’Dowd, cab driver

First Appearance: Champ Comics #6 (April 1940)

Origin: When Duke O’Dowd was serving overseas in the French Foreign Legion he earned the friendship of Wah Le, ruler of a lost, super-scientific city in Tibet. Judging Duke worthy, he gave him a high-tech belt which granted him superpowers. O’Dowd used those powers to fight crime as the Human Meteor.

Powers: The Human Meteor’s belt possessed “radium emanations” which let him fly at incredible speeds and protected him from all metal weaponry, including bullets and shells. The belt also granted him a degree of superhuman strength via its “electric energizer”. Wooden weapons could penetrate the Human Meteor’s protective force field, or “contra-magnetic field” as Wah Le called it. An “explosatom gun” was briefly used by the Human Meteor. 

Comment: Wah Le’s super science included a televox which enabled him to monitor the Human Meteor’s adventures from Tibet as well as give him advice via a wrist television device. This hero’s sidekick was a white shoeshine boy named Toby.

Black OrchidBLACK ORCHID

Secret Identity: Judy Allen, Private Investigator

First Appearance: All-New Short Story Comics #2 (March 1943)

Origin: Private Detective Judy Allen adopted the costumed identity of Black Orchid in order to take on especially dangerous or connected criminals.

Powers: Black Orchid was in peak physical condition and excelled at unarmed combat. She was also more agile than an Olympic gymnast and was a highly skilled criminologist.

Scarlet nemesis and black orchidComment: Judy Allen’s partner at her Private Detective practice was Rocky Ford. In an amusing twist he was secretly the superhero called the Scarlet Nemesis. Ridiculously, even though Black Orchid and the Scarlet Nemesis worked together several times they never figured out that the other costumed figure was their own investigative agency partner. Some “detectives”. 

(If you’re wondering, the Scarlet Nemesis had no super-powers either, but his costume included a forehead light-beam like miners wore. He could use that light to temporarily blind adversaries.) Continue reading

34 Comments

Filed under Superheroes

SUPERHERO PANTHEON OF FOUR STAR PUBLICATIONS

As always in these superhero-crazed times, readers let me hear about it when I go too long without a post like this. Here is Balladeer’s Blog’s look at the neglected superheroes from Four Star Publications.

GrenadeTHE GRENADE

Secret Identity: Bruce Corbet, reporter

First Appearance: Captain Flight Comics #5 (December 1944)

Origin: Nazi agents accidentally killed Daily Star reporter Bruce Corbet’s brother Danny while searching for Bruce’s notes regarding a top secret War Department development. Since the Nazis killed Danny with a hand grenade he adopted the nom de guerre the Grenade and donned a costume to seek revenge.

Powers: The Grenade was in the peak of human condition. He was as agile as an Olympic gymnast and excelled at unarmed combat. In addition he sported hand grenades which he could hurl with deadly accuracy. 

Comment: I’d have added some knock-out grenades or harmless smoke grenades to the explosive grenades this hero carried with him, just for some variety.  A beautiful lounge singer was the Grenade’s love interest in his civilian identity. Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under Superheroes

THE FIRST TWENTY AVENGERS STORIES FROM THE 1960s

As always, Balladeer’s Blog listens to you readers! You wanted a look at the first twenty Avengers stories similar to my recent look at the first twenty Captain America stories from the 1940s, so here we go:

Avengers 1THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #1 (September 1963)

Title: The Coming of the Avengers

Villain: Loki

Synopsis: Loki sits imprisoned on the Isle of Silence in Asgard. He cannot leave but is determined to get revenge on his archenemy Thor. Sending his astral body to Earth/ Midgard he uses an illusion spell to trick the Hulk into seeming to destroy a railroad line.  

           Rick Jones, just an ordinary teenager back then, is still the Hulk’s friend and wants to round up superheroes to corral the Hulk before the army moves in and possibly kills the green-skinned brute. He and his fellow Ham Radio Operators (LMAO), called the Teen Brigade, send out a radio summons.

           Loki arranges for Thor’s secret identity of Dr Donald Blake to hear the message, but the radio waves are also picked up by Tony Stark/ Iron Man (in his original clunky armor) as well as Ant-Man (Hank Pym, PhD) and his crime-fighting partner the Wasp (Janet Van Dyne).

           While Iron Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp battle the Hulk, Thor suspects Loki’s involvement when an illusory image of the Hulk is used to lure him to the site of the ongoing fight. Thor flies to Asgard and tries to reach the Isle of Silence but must overcome Rock Trolls, Frost Giants and Silent Ones set upon him by Loki. Continue reading

24 Comments

Filed under Superheroes

THE FIRST TWENTY CAPTAIN AMERICA STORIES IN THE 1940s

Balladeer’s Blog’s readers always remind me that they can’t get enough superhero articles, so here we go again. With the Fourth of July Holiday coming up, I figured I’d look at the earliest stories of the Timely Comics (later called Marvel Comics) red, white & blue hero Captain America.

Captain America 1CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS Vol 1 #1 (March 1941)

Story 1: Meet Captain America

Villains: Assorted Nazi saboteurs

Synopsis: Voluntary guinea pig Steve Rogers is subjected to the Top Secret Super-Soldier Treatment and becomes Captain America. With his trusty shield, Cap defeats Nazi saboteurs up and down the East Coast, becoming a media sensation. At Camp Lehigh, army mascot James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes walks in on Private Steve Rogers switching from his uniform to his Captain America costume. Cap agrees to risk the teen’s life by making him his costumed sidekick.

Captain America earlyStory 2: Case Number 2

Villains: Sando and Omar, apparent mutants

Synopsis: Steve Rogers and J.B. Barnes are stationed now at Fort Bix. With the help of FBI Agent Betsy Ross (yes, Betsy Ross) they become involved in the case of stage psychics Sando and Omar. Sando uses psychic powers to cause the mentally challenged Omar to “see” (really produce) visions in a crystal ball depicting disasters occurring, the first night at Fort Bix, the next night at a nearby bridge.

           The disasters really occur, and Captain America, Bucky and Betsy eventually expose Sando as Nazi Agent Sando Von Krantz, a probable mutant who used his psychic powers to fill his stooge Omar’s mind with the disasters shown in the crystal ball. Somehow Omar’s powers caused those disasters to come true. (Hey, it’s a comic book.) Sando and Omar are captured, and Betsy pleads for mercy for the simple-minded Omar.

Story 3: The Soldiers’ Soup Continue reading

40 Comments

Filed under Superheroes

SUPERHERO PANTHEON OF SPARK COMICS

Superheroes still dominate pop culture right now and readers just keep demanding more and more articles about them. Here is a look at the heroes from another defunct comic book company, in this case Spark Publications.

AtomanATOMAN

Secret Identity: Barry Dale, nuclear scientist

First Appearance: Atoman #1 (February 1946)

Origin: While working at the Atomic Institute, scientist Barry Dale was exposed to so much radium and uranium that he absorbed “the power of the atom.” Barry’s powers manifested themselves when agents who wanted to sell America’s nuclear secrets to the highest bidder tried to kill him over his refusal to help them. With his new superpowers he donned a costume and fought the forces of evil as Atoman.

Powers: Atoman possessed massive super-strength, could fly, run at super-speed, was invulnerable and had “atomic vision” (x-ray vision). In addition he could heat his body to such a degree that he could weld objects together with his bare hands.

Comment: This hero boasted that he could “smash mountains, wipe out whole cities” and “travel for thousands of miles in one leap.” He was also convinced he was just the first of many atomic-powered beings which the nuclear age would spawn. I guess to prove he wasn’t just another Superman imitation, Atoman claimed he would “help all people, regardless of race or creed or nationality” instead of fighting for “truth, justice, and”… you know.

Golden LadGOLDEN LAD

Secret Identity: Tommy Preston, student

First Appearance: Golden Lad #1 (July 1945)

Origin: Young Tommy Preston was working in his grandfather’s neighborhood antique shop when he discovered an ancient relic called the Aztec Heart of Gold. Yes. In an antique shop. (WRITER: Hey, Editor, do items like Aztec artifacts wind up in antique shops or in museums? EDITOR: You’re joking, right?  WRITER: Yeah, uh … joking. Who wouldn’t know the answer to that, right? Ha, ha, ha!)

        Anyway, the Aztec Heart of Gold holds the mystic power of “the blood of a thousand martyred Aztecs.” This relic bestowed superpowers on “pure hearted” people who were “devoted to justice.” And so Golden Lad was born!    Continue reading

20 Comments

Filed under Superheroes