Tag Archives: superheroes

FIRST TWENTY DEFENDERS STORIES FROM THE 1970s

To me there’s nothing like the ORIGINAL societal context in which fictional heroes were introduced, so I’ve examined 1930s, 1940s and 1960s superhero characters, often reviewing their first 20 stories. Here are the first 20 Defenders stories from the 1970s.

Marvel Feature 1MARVEL FEATURE Vol 1 #1 (December 1971)

Title: The Day of the Defenders

Villain: The Omegatron

Defenders Roster: Doctor Strange (Stephen Strange, MD), the Hulk (Bruce Banner, PhD) and the Sub-Mariner (Prince Namor McKenzie)

Comment: The Defenders were originally far different from the mere “street level” heroics that fans of Marvel Television adaptations associate with the team’s name. In 1971 Marvel had just one Avengers team in addition to the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. The Defenders often fought to save the entire world or even the entire universe or multiverse.

Doctor Strange and the Hulk had been around since the 1960s. The Sub-Mariner was introduced in 1939 (so BEFORE Aquaman), back when Marvel Comics was called Timely Comics. 

Synopsis: The sorcerer Yandroth, an old one-off foe of Dr Strange, has been spending his years since his defeat at Strange’s hands mastering science as thoroughly as he had previously mastered sorcery. He is on his death bed after having devised a scheme to ensure that the world will be destroyed shortly after he dies.

With typical villain bluster, Yandroth has Dr Strange summoned to his death bed and taunts him about his plans and tells him that in five hours the entire Earth will be destroyed by his creation the Omegatron unleashing every nuclear and biological weapon in the world. Before passing away, the villain reveals that he used BOTH sorcery AND science to create the Omegatron, ensuring that it cannot be defeated by JUST sorcery or JUST science. It will require the proper combination of the two.

Marvel feature 1 splash pageKnowing he has no chance of stopping this menace with his magic alone, Dr Strange mystically summons the Sub-Mariner, Monarch of Atlantis, to his side and explains the situation. Since even Namor’s realm of Atlantis will be destroyed by the Omegatron he allies himself with Stephen.

The Sub-Mariner suggests that Dr Strange also enlist the immensely powerful Silver Surfer to fight beside them. The sorcerer conjures up an image of what the Surfer is up to at that very moment. He and Sub-Mariner see that the Silver Surfer is, for the umpteenth time, trying to penetrate Galactus’ barrier which keeps him banished on Earth. Once again the Surfer fails and plummets back to Earth.

Since the Silver Surfer will need hours to recover from his crash landing back on our planet, Doc and Namor instead summon the Hulk to help them. Our heroes track down the Omegatron to an abandoned lighthouse in the northeastern United States. Continue reading

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DAREDEVIL: THE FIRST TWENTY STORIES FROM THE 1960s

Here’s a look at the first twenty Daredevil stories from the 1960s. These days Daredevil is mostly known for the dark and brooding element that the legendary writer and artist Frank Miller brought to the character, along with that whole Ninja element of DD’s background. 

dd 1DAREDEVIL Vol 1 #1 (April 1964)

Title: The Origin of Daredevil

Villain: The Fixer

Synopsis: At Fogwell’s Gym, a red and yellow costumed figure calling himself Daredevil barges in on the thugs and underlings of the Fixer (Roscoe Sweeney), the criminal behind the fixing of boxing matches at various levels. The hoods don’t want to tell Daredevil where the Fixer is and a huge fight breaks out. Our hero defeats the thugs with his agility, his red billy-club and – as we will learn shortly – his radar senses.

Daredevil has a flashback to his origin: he is really Matt Murdock whose father Battling Jack Murdock was a struggling boxer. To earn enough money to raise his son and send him to college, Battling Jack learned to play the game and throw fights when ordered to by the Fixer. Jack forbade his son to ever fight, which made Matt the object of ridicule by his peers so the younger Murdock trained himself in the martial arts (later retconned to being trained by Ninjas).

One day in his teens Matt heroically shoved a blind man from in front of a crashing toxic waste truck, saving his life but letting himself get hit by that vehicle. The nuclear waste and toxic chemicals in the truck blinded Matt Murdock but also gave him radar senses that more than compensated for the loss of his vision.

NOTE: In a tongue-in-cheek way, the creators of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles always implied that some of the toxic materials from that same truck poured into the sewer, mutating four turtles and a rat. Though they weren’t part of the Marvel Comics universe that Ninja Turtles joke went further still with the way that the evil group the Foot, fought by the TMNT, was an obvious take on the Hand, an evil group opposed by Daredevil.  Continue reading

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FIRST 20 CAPTAIN AMERICA STORIES FROM THE 1960s

Regular readers have let me know they are going through Marvel withdrawal right now because WandaVision just isn’t giving them enough of a fix. Last year I looked at Captain America’s first 20 stories from the 1940s. Now here’s a look at his first 20 solo stories from the 1960s.

tales of suspense 59TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #59 (November 1964)

Title: Captain America

Villain: Bull

Comment: After being thawed out from his suspended animation in Avengers #4, Captain America had been serving as a member of the team while trying to adjust to the way he had lost twenty years preserved in ice. Now he was getting his first Silver Age solo stories. Jack Kirby was drawing Cap’s stories, just as he had during the 1940s when he co-created the character. 

Synopsis: Alone on monitor duty at Avengers Mansion one night, Captain America was helping to pass the time by looking through old World War Two scrapbooks and memorabilia. He still missed his late partner Bucky. (NOTE: It was not until decades later that Marvel retconned events so that Bucky had survived as the Winter Soldier.)

Elsewhere in New York City, a gangster called Bull and his dozen or so men have learned that it’s Cap’s turn on monitor duty. With the other Avengers (Thor, Iron Man, the Wasp and Giant-Man) elsewhere, Bull and his men decide it’s their best chance to mount a raid on Avengers Mansion and make off with some of the Top Secret tech and national defense secrets in the place. 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

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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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BEST OF 2020: SEPTEMBER

Balladeer’s Blog’s end of year retrospective resumes with this look at September’s best:

DuneAMERICA: PART OF THE DUNE FRANCHISE – America’s equivalents of the Harkonnens and other Houses. Click HERE.

TWENTY MORE SENSATIONAL FAILED PREDICTIONS – The latest list of predictions which failed big-time. Click HERE.

DEMOCRAT SLOGANS – A humorous look at the attitudes and policies of Democrats. Click HERE.

THE FIRST TWENTY HULK STORIES FROM THE 1960s – The Hulk takes on the Leader, the Gargoyle, the Circus of Crime and more. Click HERE.

FOOL KILLER: JULY 1911 – The Fool Killer whacks bloated rich pigs like J.P. Morgan, William A Clark, astrologers and others. Click HERE.

DEMOCRATS AND CORPORATE FASCISM – A look at the Democrats and their embrace of corporate fascism. Click HERE.

Blue Bolt coverSUPERHERO PANTHEON OF NOVELTY PRESS – Forgotten 1940s superheroes like the White Streak, Twister, Sub-Zero Man and the Green Sorceress. Click HERE.

CIVIL RIGHTS ICON CLARENCE HENDERSON SAYS TRUMP DID MORE FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR IN FOUR YEARS THAN BIDEN DID IN NEARLY FIFTY. The title says it all. Click HERE.

VENUS IN FURS: AN OPERA VERSION OF THE 1870 NOVEL – Another look at an opera adaptation of an unexpected work. Click HERE. Continue reading

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BEST OF 2020: AUGUST

Balladeer’s Blog’s year-end retrospective continues with this look at August’s best:

Latitude Zero posterLATITUDE ZERO (1969) – Long unavailable, this Japanese and American sci-fi monster tale features an underwater civilization and stars Joseph Cotten and Cesar Romero as good and evil scientists, respectively. Click HERE.

JASMYNE CONTOURS, A MARTIN LUTHER KING PERSON OF COURAGE, TAKES ON DEMOCRAT HYPOCRISY – Click HERE.

DJANGO: AN OPERA VERSION OF THE ORIGINAL 1966 MOVIE – Another look at adapting an unexpected work in opera form. Click HERE.

SHARYL ATTKISSON EXPOSES THE BIASES OF SELF-PROCLAIMED “FACT CHECKERS” – It’s no secret that “fact checkers” are really anything but. Click HERE.

Mandarin appearsTHE FIRST TWENTY IRON MAN STORIES FROM THE 1960s – Cold War and Vietnam War-era stories featuring the armored superhero. Click HERE.

LAS VEGAS, NM AND THE DODGE CITY GANG – The tawdry TRUE tale of a wild western town and the violent outlaws who tried to run the town and its vicinity. Click HERE.

DEMOCRATS STEP UP THEIR WAR ON THE REST OF US – Violence, riots, vote fraud and more as Democrats become the combined Nazis and Mafia of our time. Click HERE.

THE KINDRED (1987) – A review of the oddball 1987 horror film from Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow. Click HERE Continue reading

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BEST OF 2020: JULY

Balladeer’s Blog’s end of year retrospective continues with July’s best:

Not Dangerous Dan TuckerDANGEROUS DAN: NEGLECTED GUNSLINGER – Another look at a forgotten gunslinger whose life was at least as exciting as any of the big names from the old west. Click HERE.

DEFY DEMOCRAT TYRANTS THIS FOURTH OF JULY – A look at the Democrats’ many offenses against the rest of us, while they consider themselves fit to dictate the conditions under which we live. Click HERE.

SUPERHERO PANTHEON OF HARVEY COMICS – Decades ago Harvey focused on superheroes like the Human Meteor, Black Cat, Spirit of 76 and Doctor Miracle plus so many others. Click HERE.

RipleyAMERICA: PART OF THE ALIEN FRANCHISE – With Democrats as the Xenomorphs, Republicans as Weyland-Yutani Corporation and the rest of us as the humans trying to survive. Click HERE.

JOHN BULL – The neglected British gunslinger whose real name is still unknown. Click HERE.

SUPERHERO PANTHEON OF FOUR STAR PUBLICATIONS – Forgotten 1940s and 1950s superheroes like the Grenade, Torpedoman, Yankee Girl and Red Rocket. Click HERE.  

Maverick movieMAVERICK (1994): MOVIE REVIEW – A detailed look at the movie and the James Garner television series which preceded it. Click HERE.

MARTIN LUTHER KING PERSON OF COURAGE LEO TERRELL ENDORSES TRUMP – Trump doubled his share of the African-American vote from 2016, getting the largest share of that vote of any nominal Republican in several decades. Click HERE.

MORE COOL BUT NEGLECTED FOOTBALL HELMETS – From teams like the Railsplitters, the Electrons and more! Click HERE. 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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BEST OF 2020: JUNE

Balladeer’s Blog’s end of year retrospective continues with this look at June’s best:

Five Hundred CaratsINSPECTOR LIPINZKI: RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1973) – The best episode of Season Two involved this detective investigating the spectacular theft of a huge diamond. Click HERE.

DEMOCRATS HAVE A PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE … WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT – It often seems like in America you’re only as free as the most intolerant Democrat allows you to be. Click HERE

THE ARTIFICIAL MAN (1884): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION – The tale of an artificially designed human being. Click HERE.

Captain America OneTHE FIRST TWENTY CAPTAIN AMERICA STORIES OF THE 1940s – The Golden Age adventures of the red white and blue superhero. Click HERE.

JOURNALISTS AGREE THAT DEMOCRAT BIAS HAS KILLED THEIR PROFESSION’S CREDIBILITY – The title says it all. Click HERE.

PRIZE COMICS SUPERHERO PANTHEON – Another 1940s group of superheroes who are all but forgotten. Click HERE.

riots cartoonVICTIMS OF THE DEMOCRAT RIOTERS SPEAK OUT – The victims of color who suffered through the Democrat riots this year were ignored by the Democrats’ media outlets. Click HERE.

FOOL KILLER: MAY 1911 – James Larkin Pearson’s version of the Fool Killer continues his career. Click HERE.

DEMOCRAT VOTE FRAUD SCANDALS IN NEW JERSEY AND WISCONSIN – Yes, even in June more and more Democrat vote fraud scandals were making the news. Click HERE.

DEFECTIVE DETECTIVES (1971) – A BBC show with Max Carrados the blind detective and others. Click HERE. Continue reading

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