April 1, 2023 · 12:01 am
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. Continue reading →
February 11, 2023 · 12:08 am
Balladeer’s Blog’s escapist, light-hearted superhero blog post for the weekend takes a look at the superheroes from Harry A. Chesler ‘s publishing company.
Secret Identity: Bill Norton, Police Scientist
Origin: Tired of being relegated to the scientific end of crime solving, Police Scientist Bill Norton decides to seek out some action. He devises a flame-thrower pistol for himself plus a costume and starts fighting crime as the Dragon in his series titled Alias the Dragon.
First Appearance: Skyrocket Comics #1 (March 1944).
Powers: The Dragon had the strength and agility of a very athletic man. He wielded a pistol which could shoot fire like a flame-thrower and the dragon-scale cape of his costume was bullet-proof. In addition this hero was a first-rate scientist in criminology.
Comment: The Dragon was one of those Golden Age superheroes who didn’t care if he killed the criminals he fought. As Bill Norton our hero serves under Captain Donovan, no first name given. This character’s willingness to kill and his flame-thrower gimmick can’t help but remind a Bad Movie Fan like me of Robert Ginty’s two-movie character the Exterminator.
Secret Identity: Lauren Mason, wealthy socialite
Origin: Lauren Mason’s family line included practioners of the mystic arts, but the only spell-casting Lauren herself ever employed was a magic conjuration employing the words “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” (I guess her delivery made all the difference.) Chanting those three words transformed her, Shazam-style, into the super-powered Yankee Girl.
First Appearance: Either Red Seal Comics #17 (July 1946) or Dynamic Comics #23 (November 1947). There is still some dispute.
Powers: Continue reading →
January 14, 2023 · 12:01 am
This weekend’s light-hearted and escapist superhero blog post looks at the neglected superheroes of Holyoke Comics.
Any of us could stick a drawing pencil up our butt and draw a better picture.
Secret Identity: Drake Gorden, MD
Origin: While on a passenger ship in the South Seas Dr Drake Gorden was swept overboard during a typhoon. He washed ashore on an uncharted island inhabited only by a monk formerly from Tibet. The monk decreed Doctor Gorden to be worthy of the Egyptian black diamond he guarded. That jewel bestowed super-powers on Gorden, who returned to the U.S. and fought crime as Doctor Diamond.
First Appearance: Cat-Man Comics # 1 (May 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1942.
Powers: The black jewel granted Doctor Diamond the strength of fifty men and an impressive degree of invulnerability. Continue reading →
December 31, 2022 · 12:01 am
For this weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero post, Balladeer’s Blog will feature MLJ, the company that later became Archie Comics.
Secret Identity: Paul Patton, newspaper reporter and news photographer.
Origin: When his co-worker Ruth Ransom got kidnapped, Paul Patton felt he could fight crime AND enhance his journalism career by first donning a costume and thwarting criminals as the Fox and then getting a “scoop” on those adventures, complete with photos. And this was decades before Peter Parker made a living with news photos of his exploits as Spider-Man.
First Appearance: Blue Ribbon Comics #4 (June 1940). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1942.
Powers: The Fox was at the peak of human condition. He had acrobatic skills greater than Olympic athletes and was a master of all forms of unarmed combat. His stealth skills were the equal of any burglar or ninja. The white eye-lenses on his mask permitted him to see in the dark. Continue reading →
December 17, 2022 · 3:54 am
This weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero blog post takes a look at the Golden Age superhero line-up from Nedor.
Secret Identity: Rance Raleigh, owner of an antique and curio shop
Origin: In Raleigh’s store was a portrait of the Duke de Chantreigh, sometimes said to be an ancestor of Rance. When that portrait would frown it was a supernatural sign that danger was coming. Rance would then suit up as the Cavalier and go into action. The first time was when Jake Miles, who was investigating munitions factory sabotage was hit by a truck outside Raleigh’s shop before he could tell him what he had discovered.
First Appearance: Thrilling Comics # 53 (April 1946). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1948
Powers: The Cavalier possessed the strength of a normal athletic male but was highly skilled with a sword and at unarmed combat. In addition he often used esoteric weapons and relics from his shop, just like the Golden Age Hawkman would wield artifacts from his museum. Continue reading →
December 3, 2022 · 12:01 am
This weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero blog post examines the Golden Age superhero pantheon of the company called Centaur Comics.
Secret Identity: Drake Stevens
Origin: Drake Stevens’ father, Ornithology Professor Claude Stevens, was murdered and when the police were getting nowhere Drake donned a costume equipped with various technical gimmicks and set out to bring the killers to justice.
As always happens in comic books Drake decided to continue fighting crime under his new nom de guerre Air Man.
First Appearance: Keen Detective Funnies #23 (August 1940). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1941.
Powers: Air Man’s costume boasted feathers filled with an experimental anti-gravity gas as well as a jet-pack. In addition to that he sported guns plus a Chemical Belt loaded with egg-shaped explosives. On top of that Air Man was highly skilled at unarmed combat and had Olympic-level gymnastic abilities.
Comment: Air Man was one of those Golden Age superheroes who didn’t hesitate to kill off his adversaries when the situation called for it.
Secret Identity: Lucille Martin, novelist
Origin: Returning from a trip to China on board a luxury liner, Lucille Martin was given a priceless statue by a Chinese woman named Lotus. She was told to guard the statue from some men who were pursuing Lotus and by way of payment the Chinese woman also gave her a blue ring.
When the men pursuing Lotus killed her, Ms Martin accidentally discovered that the ring gave her super-powers. She donned a costume, called herself the Blue Lady and brought Lotus’ murderers to justice as the start of a crime-fighting career.
First Appearance: Amazing-Man Comics #24 (October, 1941). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1942.
Powers: Accidentally breaking the blue-bird shaped gem on the Oriental ring released a gas which bestowed upon the Blue Lady the strength of ten men, invulnerability and the ability to teleport via blue mists. She could also generate those blue mists to hide in and to disorient her opponents. In turn, other gasses were the Blue Lady’s weakness. Continue reading →
November 19, 2022 · 12:00 am
This weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero blog post will examine the early years of Marvel Comics, which was called Timely Comics back in 1939.
Their first superhero series was titled Marvel Comics, which was changed to Marvel MYSTERY Comics beginning with the second issue.
MARVEL COMICS Vol 1 #1 (October 1939)
Title: The Human Torch
Synopsis: A human-looking android is created by scientist Phineas Horton and made known to the public. Bizarrely enough, the android’s body bursts into flames upon contact with the air (it’s the little things, really) so this misnamed Human (Android) Torch is sealed up tight to prevent it from running amok.
This figure escapes, learns to control its ability to “flame on” and “flame off”, and defeats the crime boss Anthony Sardo and his gang. When Phineas Horton hints at using his android creation to make money, the Torch rebels and flies off to function in the world on his own. Continue reading →
August 27, 2022 · 12:01 am
For this weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero post, Balladeer’s Blog will look at the first twelve months of Batman stories.
DETECTIVE COMICS Vol 1 #27 (May 1939)
Title: The Case of the Chemical Syndicate
Villains: Alfred Stryker and his thugs
NOTE: This was the very first appearance of Batman.
Synopsis: Wealthy Bruce Wayne is relaxing with Commissioner Gordon at the latter’s home. Gordon discusses with Bruce the reported sightings of a figure called the Batman. Bruce pretends to be as puzzled as the commissioner is.
A phone call summons Gordon to the Lambert Mansion, where the son of the chemical company tycoon is being held on suspicion of murdering his father. The commissioner invites Bruce to tag along (?) and he does so.
The Lambert son (no first name is ever given for him and his father) insists he’s innocent and that his father was receiving threats from a criminal syndicate muscling in on the family’s firm, Apex Chemical Corporation. The dead man’s partner Steve Crane starts getting threats now and wants police protection.
Bruce Wayne secretly decides to give Crane extra protection as Batman. That night, our hero clashes with multiple hired killers, tossing one of them off the roof of a building during their fight. Batman also has to evade the police, who want the vigilante arrested. Continue reading →
June 25, 2022 · 2:32 am
With the 4th of July Holiday rapidly approaching, Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at one of the patriotic superheroes of the World War Two Era – in this case Minute-Man, whose nom de guerre came from the famed Revolutionary War militiamen.
Secret Identity: Private Jack Weston, U.S. Army
First Appearance: Master Comics #11 (February 1941) His final Golden Age appearance came in 1944.
Origin: Private Jack Weston at Camp Blaine was selected by General Milton to secretly become America’s costumed operative Minute-Man, sent on missions of vital national security on a minute’s notice like the Minutemen called to action in the Revolutionary War.
Powers: Minute-Man was in peak physical condition and possessed the agility of an acrobat. He was a master of unarmed combat in addition to being well-versed in commando techniques.
Comment: Jack Weston was later promoted to Lieutenant in order to give his secret identity more flexibility, but General Milton remained the only one privy to Minute-Man’s real name. Jack’s father Robert was killed in action during World War One.
STORY 1: The Origin of Minute-Man
MASTER COMICS #11 (February 1941)
Synopsis: General Milton gives Private Jack Weston his secret assignment to be the costumed operative called Minute-Man. The hero thwarts a ring of masked spies from an unknown country (but clearly Germany) who want to discourage America from entering World War Two.
Minute-Man saves a train-load of new soldiers from plunging over a cliff, then stops the foreign spies from blowing up an entire U.S. Army training base. Continue reading →
November 22, 2021 · 12:36 pm
While we all await further details and clarification from yesterday, let’s indulge in a look at an often neglected character from escapist fantasy – the superheroine Red Ann from Nedor Publications.
Secret Identity: Ann (last name never revealed). She was created by Jerry Robinson so Ann Robinson would make a good name for her.
Origin: When Ann was in her early twenties she was a beautiful lady pursued by several men. She married an older but not elderly man named Bart (no last name ever given). On their honeymoon in Maine (Maine?) a gang of thugs employed by a supervillain called the Voice murdered Bart before her eyes, then drove off, leaving her there in tears.
After Bart’s funeral, Ann’s desire for revenge against the Voice prompted her to cut all ties with her family and friends, even former suitors. She taught herself marksmanship with handguns and learned how to fight. Adopting the costumed identity of Red Ann she set out to take down the Voice’s criminal empire and kill him for the murder of her husband. Continue reading →