Tag Archives: Golden Age Superheroes

ALL TWENTY ALL-WINNERS ISSUES FROM THE 1940s

Mascot and guitarLast 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 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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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

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THE SPIRIT AND SOME OF HIS GREATEST FOES

Spirit baseSuperheroes rule pop culture right now and as usual Balladeer’s Blog readers have been letting me know it’s been awhile since I ran a blog post on the subject. Will Eisner’s iconic superhero the Spirit – who debuted in June of 1940 – rose from the grave of his secret identity, Private Investigator Denny Colt, after his apparent death when he got saturated in some chemicals of the supervillain Doctor Cobra.

Fan arguments still rage over whether or not the Spirit had any superpowers beyond his initial chemically-induced state of suspended animation which let him survive and rise from his grave days later. I’m of the school of thought that says the Spirit DID have superpowers, largely because I grow bored with alleged “super” heroes who are just regular shlubs who slap on a costume and fight crime. To me that’s more of a Pulp hero.

mascot sword and gun pic

BALLADEER’S BLOG

I don’t think it’s outrageous to attribute paranormal abilities to the Spirit. Just going by Will Eisner’s original stories let’s approach it this way:

GREATER THAN HUMAN STRENGTH – Taking this hero’s origin story at face value with no ret-conning necessary, when Denny Colt came to in his coffin he dug his way to the surface. It would require much more than the strength of a normal human to burst through the coffin lid AND force his way upward through six feet of soil. For all I know The Big Bang Theory guys may have once done a calculation on how much actual strength it would take to accomplish this feat.

EXTRAORDINARY RESILIENCY/ HEALING ABILITY – Early Spirit stories often show his body taking the kind of punishment that no non-powered human being could survive. The villains occasionally point out how impossible it is that the hero just keeps coming after all the damage they inflict on him. And again, taking his 1940 origin at face value his body would have had to have “healed” from the invasive procedures of embalming or similar treatments, before he woke up in his coffin.

Many fans feel that Frank Miller’s 2008 movie The Spirit took that too far by making his durability front and center and more like Wolverine’s notorious Healing Factor. Personally, I’m okay with it.

ROGUES GALLERY  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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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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