Tag Archives: Golden Age 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, but changed to Betty next time she appears) 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

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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

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PRIZE COMICS SUPERHERO PANTHEON

Readers can’t get enough superhero articles! Since I aim to please here is another breakdown of the superheroes from a Golden Age pantheon, in this case from Prize Comics.

Airmale pictureAIRMALE

Secret Identity: Kenneth Stevens, College Biology Professor

First Appearance: Prize Comics #34 (September 1943)

Origin: Professor Kenneth Stevens was working on a “flight fluid” when he cut his hand in a lab accident. The fluid he was working on spilled into the wound and spread like an infection throughout his body, granting him superpowers. Wearing a colorful costume, he battled crime and Axis supervillains as Airmale. (Yes, Airmale.)

Airmale and StampyPowers: Airmale was lighter than air and could fly at high speed. He could also simply walk or stand on air when he desired. The hero devised a gravity belt to regulate the pull of gravity on his body so that he could walk around just fine in his civilian identity. Airmale excelled at unarmed combat.

Comment: As if the name Airmale wasn’t campy enough, this figure granted his teenage nephew Bobby Stevens a lesser version of his own power of flight and let him fight at his side as Stampy. No, I’m not kidding.   

Doctor FrostDOCTOR FROST

Secret Identity: None

First Appearance: Prize Comics #7 (December 1940)

Origin: As a baby, this future superhero was the sole survivor of a ship that sank off the northern coast of Alaska. Inuit people recovered him from a floating chunk of ice and presented him to Professor Carlson. As the boy grew to adulthood the professor gave him superpowers and sent him to New York City to fight crime as Doctor Frost.

Doctor Frost picPowers: Doctor Frost was immune to extreme cold and could shoot cold rays from his hands to freeze opponents or objects. He could also create ice constructs like bridges across water or the air and could wrap himself in layers of ice thick enough to survive explosions. This hero was reasonably good at unarmed combat.

Comment: This fun hero deserves to be rediscovered in a big way. His archenemy was Vulcan, a heat-powered semi-humanoid villain who lived in the Earth’s core and wanted to destroy the surface world. Doctor Frost also took on menaces like gangsters, a mad scientist and his invisible army plus a supervillain called the Leader, decades before the Hulk’s similarly named foe. Continue reading

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SUPERHERO PANTHEON OF FOX FEATURES SYNDICATE

Superheroes continue to dominate pop culture right now and Balladeer’s Blog’s readers let me hear it when I go too long without a superhero blog post. Here is my look at the Fox Features Syndicate heroes from the Golden Age.

Dynamo Fox Features picDYNAMO

Secret Identity: Jim Andrews, electrical scientist

First Appearance: Science Comics #1 (February 1940)

Origin: Jim Andrews risked his life to contain a potentially deadly accident at the electrical lab where he worked, inadvertently gaining superpowers from the incident. He donned a costume and fought the forces of evil as Dynamo.

Powers: Dynamo could use his electrical powers to shoot electric rays from his hands, to fly, to surround himself with a force field and to magnify his own strength.

Comment: In his very first appearance this hero went by the nom de guerre Electro, but in his remaining 24 adventures called himself Dynamo instead. 

Black Lion picBLACK LION

Secret Identity: George Davis, big-game hunter

First Appearance: Wonderworld Comics #21 (January 1941)

Origin: George Davis’ career as a big-game hunter had brought him wealth and fame. Having met all the challenges of hunting members of the animal kingdom he decided to go after the most dangerous game of all: human criminals. To that end he donned a costume and took on supervillains and Nazi agents.

Powers: The Black Lion was at the peak of human condition and had the agility of an Olympic gymnast. He was also an expert at unarmed combat and could outfight multiple opponents at once. His totem animal the lion gave him superhuman healing ability. Continue reading

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THE WRAITH: HALLOWEEN SUPERHERO

Halloween month hurls toward its conclusion as Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at another vintage superhero ideal for the season.

Wraith rising picTHE WRAITH

Secret Identity: Gary Kennedy, dead policeman

First Appearance: Mystery Men # 27 (October 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1942.

Origin: When police officer Gary Kennedy and his brother are shot to death by Silky Weaver and his subordinate gangsters, Gary dies swearing by Heaven above to avenge his and his brother’s deaths. He returns from the grave several nights later and makes good on his vow.

Afterward, the newly-christened Wraith continues to rise from his grave to deal out justice to evildoers on behalf of their dead victims, whose souls beg him to take action.

Powers: Continue reading

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DOCTOR MENSANA: AUSTRALIAN SUPERHERO

One of Balladeer’s Blog’s biggest hits was my examination of Australian-made comic book heroes like Dark Nebula, Vixen, Crimson Comet, Niteside and the super-team called the Southern Squadron. Here’s another, and for my full look at Aussie super-types click HERE

Doctor Mensana

Dr Mensana in one of his two super-powered forms.

DOCTOR MENSANA 

Debut Year: 1941 

Secret Identity: None. He openly used his real name, but the public often tagged him with nicknames like “the Samson of science” or “the man of Mind Plus.”

Origin: Sporting both an MD and a PhD the good Doctor Mensana used his unrivaled genius to create pills which could make him super-strong AND endow him with telepathic powers in addition to even greater intelligence than he already possessed. 

Powers: When our hero swallowed one of his M-Plus (M+) or Mind-Plus pills his already formidable brilliance was multiplied many times over. His cranium would grow and he would also boast telepathic and psionic powers. When Dr Mensana swallowed one of his S-Plus (S+) or Strength-Plus pills he would instantly bulk up with muscles and possess incredible super-strength. Continue reading

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CAPTAIN TERROR: MARVEL SUPERHERO OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR AND WORLD WAR TWO

Captain TerrorMarvel Comics rules the superhero roost right now, and with the movie business being what it is that means they pretty much rule blockbuster cinema, too. We have all seen Marvel’s superhero characters dominate the big screen in a way not seen since Cowboy stars of long ago.

Balladeer’s Blog has done plenty of articles about the 1970s comic book serials on which the 21st Century’s Marvel Cinematic Universe was based. I’ve also examined plenty of short-lived World War Two-era superheroes from now defunct comic book companies.

Not only that but regular readers here will remember that I’m an obsessive geek for the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. All that being said, I’m amazed that until yesterday I never knew about the existence of a Marvel Comics (Called Timely Comics in the World War Two Era) superhero who fought in the Spanish Civil War before making a comeback against the Nazis when World War Two broke out. Here’s his complete Golden Age saga.  

Captain TerrorCAPTAIN TERROR

Secret Identity: Dan Kane, millionaire playboy and yachtsman

Origin: During the Spanish Civil War, American millionaire and sport seaman Dan Kane adopted the costumed identity of Captain Terror to fight against future dictator Francisco Franco and his fascists. After the war ended in a victory for Franco’s side, Kane returned to his public life and let the world speculate on what had happened to his alter ego Captain Terror. Continue reading

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DELL SUPERHERO PANTHEON

Superheroes rule pop culture right now and readers demand more superhero items whenever I go too long without one. Here’s a look at yet another neglected pantheon of comic book heroes who don’t get the attention that Marvel and DC do.

PhantasmoPHANTASMO

Secret Identity: Phil Anson

Origin: A young American ran off to Tibet in 1915 and spent 25 years studying with the Grand High Lamas to learn some of their mystic secrets. After mastering them he returned to the U.S. to fight the forces of evil.

First Appearance: The Funnies #45 (July 1940). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1941.

Powers: Phil Anson only had superpowers in his astral body. He would go into a trance – during which his vulnerable physical form would be guarded by his sidekick, bellhop Whizzer McGee. While in this trance Anson’s astral form, Phantasmo, could fly, had massive super-strength and could grow to giant size as well as turn invisible.

Comment: Phantasmo had a kind of “Superman crossed with the Spectre” appeal.

nukla-good-.jpgNUKLA

Secret Identity: Matthew Gibbs, Air Force Pilot

Origin: While flying a U-2 spy plane over Communist China, Matthew Gibbs and his aircraft were hit by multiple Red Chinese experimental nuclear missiles. In the aftermath, Gibbs was able to reassemble his body, which now possessed extraordinary nuclear powers. He donned a costume and began working for the CIA as the superhero Nukla.

First Appearance: Nukla #1 (October 1965)

Powers: Nukla could shoot controlled nuclear explosions from his fingertips as well as render his body immaterial at will.

Comment: As was the case with Timely/ Marvel Comics, Dell went from having World War Two spawn many of their Golden Age heroes to having the Cold War spawn many of their Silver Age heroes. And since Nukla sounds like a female figure this hero could be a woman if revived today. Continue reading

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JUSTICE SOCIETY REVIEWS: LINKS

Wonder Woman and HawkgirlThank you to readers who reminded me that I did not follow up my examination of the World War Two-era Justice Society of America stories with my usual collection of links. I always did that after similar items like The Celestial Madonna Saga, Panther’s Rage, The Kree-Skrull War and most recently Adam Warlock’s encounter with the Magus, Thanos and Gamora.

In addition to examining these WWII stories I added detailed ways that I would have script-doctored them for a more sophisticated age.

All Star 3THE FIRST MEETING OF THE JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA (December 1940)

Gathered together for the very first time, the JSA members each share an introductory story about themselves (braggarts). The government informs them it has a vital mission for them in the next issue.

My Revision: Since it’s their first meeting I would have had the JSA – including the original female Red Tornado – recount their origin stories to each other. CLICK HERE  

All Star 4FOR AMERICA AND DEMOCRACY (March 1941)

The government sics the Justice Society of America on the Greyshirts, a Nazi-sympathizing group sabotaging America’s industries in case the U.S. enters the war.

My Revision: I had the heroes acting as a team, not on individual missions and once again used the female Red Tornado instead of the awful Johnny Thunder. CLICK HERE

All-Star 5THE MYSTERIOUS MISTER X (June 1941)

A masked man calling himself Mister X organizes America’s criminals into guilds and unions to make them more efficient.

My Revision: I had the JSA acting as a team in 3 adventures against Mister X and used the Red Tornado again instead of Johnny “Jar Jar” Thunder. Plus I used Hawkgirl instead of Hawkman. CLICK HERE Continue reading

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JUSTICE SOCIETY 26: WORLD WAR TWO WRAPS UP

Mister Terrific 2Balladeer’s Blog’s examination of the Justice Society’s Golden Age stories continues. FOR PART ONE CLICK HERE 

I will review the original issue and then detail how I would “script-doctor” the story for modern audiences.

All Star 27ALL STAR COMICS #27 (Winter 1945 – On sale date Nov 13th)

Title: A PLACE IN THE WORLD

Heroes: WONDER WOMAN (Original), DOCTOR MIDNITE, FLASH (Original), WILDCAT, HAWKMAN (Original), JOHNNY THUNDER, GREEN LANTERN (Original)

Villains: ASSORTED GANGS OF CRIMINALS (I would revise it to have PER DEGATON, the JSA’s Nazi foe, as the villain) 

Per DegatonSynopsis: In very late 1945 some superhero comic books featured their last few World War Two-centered stories, with the implication being that they had happened earlier in the year when the war still raged. Others moved on into the Post-War Era while others were a mixture, like this Justice Society tale. Continue reading

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