Tag Archives: superheroes

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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LONDON: NEGLECTED SUPERHERO FROM WORLD WAR TWO

This blog post was requested by several readers of Balladeer’s Blog. They loved the concept of Jerry Robinson’s Golden Age character from Lev Gleason’s publications and wanted to know more about him, so here is a look at ALL the stories in his sadly brief run. 

London picLONDON

Origin: While covering the Blitz during World War Two, suave newscaster Marc 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.

Powers: 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.

Daredevil 2STORY ONE – Daredevil Comics #2 (August 1941)

Title: London

Synopsis: Despite this being the very first published adventure of the superhero called London, the story establishes that he is already well-known from his escapades during the actual Blitz, September 1940 to May 1941. In his secret identity of Marc Holmes, our main character plugs his alter ego’s heroics during his nightly radio broadcasts.

mascot sword and gun picMeanwhile, Dian, a fictional niece of Winston Churchill escapes a Concentration Camp in Nazi-occupied Holland with a dissident educator named Franz. When the pair arrive in the city of London their escape is covered by Marc Holmes, an old friend of the niece and of Churchill.

Under cover of a blackout during a Luftwaffe bombing raid, Churchill himself is kidnapped by the treacherous Franz and some fellow spies. Our hero London battles and captures a few of the spies but three of them get away with the Prime Minister still their captive. Continue reading

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THE FIRST TWENTY HULK STORIES FROM THE 1960s

I could never do enough superhero posts to keep up with the demand! Here is another one combining my Top Twenty for 2020 theme – the first 20 Incredible Hulk stories from the 1960s.

Hulk 1THE INCREDIBLE HULK Vol 1 #1 (May 1962)

Title: The Hulk

Villain: The Gargoyle (Yuri Topolov)

Synopsis: In the desert far outside Desert Base in the American Southwest, Dr Bruce Banner’s creation – the first Gamma Radiation Bomb – is being tested. General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross keeps leaning on Bruce to hurry with his preparations while his daughter, Bruce’s girlfriend Betty Ross, tries to calm him down. 

mascot sword and gun picShortly before the bomb can be set off, Banner sees through his binoculars that a teenager (Rick Jones) has driven into the dangerous area on a dare. He tells his assistant Igor Drenkov to halt the countdown but Drenkov, a Soviet Agent, spitefully decides not to. Bruce gets Rick Jones to a bunker just in time but is caught in the Gamma Bomb’s explosion himself.

Rick gets Banner back to Desert Base where they pretend Bruce also got to the bunker in time since Bruce doesn’t trust others to study the Gamma Radiation’s effect on him. That night Dr Banner transforms into a huge, hate-filled gray (yes, gray) monster. Continue reading

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FICTION HOUSE SUPERHERO PANTHEON

Another post for this superhero-crazed world. It’s a look at another forgotten pantheon of heroes.

LIGHTNING

Secret Identity: Jeff Larkin

First Appearance: Jumbo Comics #14 (April 1940)

Origin: Jeff Larkin, the son of an American Army General, secretly invented a belt which, when activated, gave its wearer super powers. He donned a costume and fought the forces of evil as the superhero called Lightning.

Powers: Lightning’s power belt enabled him to fly and to shoot lightning bolts from his hands. It also granted him a degree of super-strength.

Comment: When the U.S. entered World War Two Fred Larkin enlisted in a unit under his father’s command, but kept his identity as Lightning a secret.  

COMMANDO RANGER

Secret Identity: Never revealed but created by Jock Lawrence, which would have been a great name for him.

First Appearance: Rangers Comics #13

Origin: Prior to becoming Commando Ranger in 1943 this man had been an Olympic boxer, had climbed Mount Everest, had helped against the plague in the Congo and had served as a fighter pilot in another nation’s armed forces before the U.S. entered World War Two.

He then spent two years studying under the Lamas in Tibet, mastering their disciplines. Returning to the war, he was assigned to serve as a masked and costumed operative against the Nazis on mainland Europe. This assignment was given to him by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.

Powers: Commando Ranger had perfect bodily control, could endure incredible levels of pain and was honed to the peak of physical condition. He had mastered all methods of unarmed combat and was an expert with guns, explosives and especially his winged knife.

Comment: Commando Ranger’s calling cards bore the sign of the winged dagger, the same logo on his costume. This hero’s love interest was a mysterious French woman who led the French Underground unit called La Bastille.    Continue reading

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THE FIRST TWENTY THOR STORIES FROM THE 1960s

The world cannot get enough superhero articles. Readers demanded another one so here is a look at the first 20 stories of the Marvel Comics version of Thor.

Thor 1JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY Vol 1 #83 (August 1962)

Title: Thor The Mighty and the Stone Men

Villains: Kronans (Stone Men)

Synopsis: Brilliant and famous doctor and surgeon, Donald Blake MD, has traveled to Norway on vacation. While he is there an alien race of Stone Men called the Kronans, using Saturn as a staging post, invade the Earth.

The lame (as in limping with a cane) Doctor Blake hides in a nearby cave where he finds a hidden chamber containing an alternate walking stick. An inscription on the cavern wall indicates that the stick can bestow the power of the Norse thunder god Thor.

When Blake fails to move rocks which have fallen across the cave entrance by using the walking stick as a lever, he lashes out in frustration, striking the bottom of the stick against the rocks. This triggers his transformation into Thor while the enchanted walking stick becomes Thor’s legendary hammer Mjolnir.

NOTE: As Thor’s adventures went along, Marvel Comics ultimately decided that Donald Blake really WAS the ancient Norse god Thor, but that his father Odin had wiped his memory and forced him to live as the lame Donald Blake to teach the cocky god humility. The lesson apparently learned, we’re told Odin made Blake take this Norway vacation so he could find the cane/ Mjolnir and return to being Thor in order to save Earth from the Stone Men. 

Back to the story, as Thor, our hero easily removed all the rocks blocking the cave entrance and watched as Earth fighter jets were driven off by the Kronan spaceships, whose force fields protected them from all the Earthlings’ missiles and bombs. Continue reading

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THE FIRST TWENTY IRON MAN STORIES FROM THE 1960s

Robert Downey Jr as Iron ManBalladeer’s Blog continues its Top Twenty Lists for 2020 while simultaneously providing another item for this superhero-hungry world. It’s the first 20 Iron Man stories, beginning in 1963.

Iron Man 1TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #39 (March 1963)

Title: Iron Man Is Born

Villains: Wong Chu and his Red Guerillas

Synopsis: Tony Stark is living the dream. He’s a multi-millionaire, women consider him very handsome and he has all the inventive genius of a new Thomas Edison but without the litigiousness. He has multiplied the fortune he inherited from his parents many times over through the value of his tech and weapons creations instead of through the ruthless big business savvy shown by his late father.

After Tony demonstrates his latest inventions for the Defense Department to an audience of Generals he is flown to Vietnam to watch his devices in action in the field. This will help him refine them for the front-line troops.

While accompanying a squad of soldiers through the jungle, Stark accidentally triggers a Viet Cong booby trap and the subsequent explosion kills his soldier escorts. Tony himself is left with a piece of shrapnel lodged dangerously near his heart and inching closer by the day.

Wong Chu, the North Vietnamese Warlord, is holding the injured millionaire captive in the village he rules with an iron fist. Wong Chu knows that Tony Stark has only days to live but lies to him and tells him he will set him free if he devises a high-tech weapon for him and his VC forces. Continue reading

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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

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GRAVEYARD SHIFT VOLUME THREE IS NOW AVAILABLE

Graveyard Shift volume 3

You loved the first GRAVEYARD SHIFT story … You shrieked with rapturous delight over GRAVEYARD SHIFT VOLUME TWO … Now prepare yourselves for the THIRD Volume of Jon Malin and Mark Poulton’s “monsters as superheroes” team.

Jon Malin, one of the iconoclastic comic book outlaws pursuing his creative vision free from the toxic corporate influence of the Big Two publishers, teams up once again with Mark “Hawkman” Poulton and new teammate Aaron Alfeche.

Graveyard Shift logo tshirt

This third adventure for Graveyard Shift will feature more of the horrors and spectacle of the previous epics as the team tries to save the entire world from a werewolf infestation. This job is so big that the team must join forces with three NEW heroic supernatural creatures. Continue reading

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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

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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

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