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Golden Age Showcase: Captain Battle

Warning, there are some pretty awful depictions of Japanese people in this article.  

We all know who Captain America is right?

Image result for captain america

Good.

The phrase “success spawns imitators” is something that applies to all art, but it is especially true with comic books.

You have an super strong human who fights for truth and justice?

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Rip him off to huge success and have the inevitable court case bankrupt your company!

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The Superman/Captain Marvel story was one that played out a lot in the 1940’s and Captain America’s shtick of “soldier who goes off to Europe to fight thinly disguised Nazis”,

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was one of the most popular setups of the time…for pretty obvious reasons.

Today we’re going to look at a super hero so similar to Captain America that when the creators were deciding a name all they had to do was look at the next letter in the alphabet: Captain Battle.

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Origin and Career

Captain Battle was published by a company called Lev Gleason Publications, a company that is most famous for publishing the first true crime comic: Crime Does Not Pay.

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Our hero made his first appearance in another title Silver Streak Comics in May of 1941.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #10

The character was created by artist Jack Binder and writer Cal Formes.  Of the two, Jack is the only one who had a picture,

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Jack is also the more famous of the two, since he helped create another superhero for Lev Gleason Publications called Dardevil.  And no, it’s not THE Daredevil.

Image result for artist jack binder daredevil

Like most Golden Age heroes, Captain Battle’s origin story is quick and dealt with in a single page.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #10

He was a kid scientist in the first World War and lost an eye to the conflict.  He vowed that a war like that should never happen again (spoilers: that didn’t go so well) and resolves to use his inventions to stop conflicts from happening.

To help him he has inventions such as the “curvoscope”, a telescope that can see anywhere in the world…somehow.

Also, he has the help of a pretty lady secretary, because this is the 1940’s and apparently that was all women were good for.

Image result for 1940's secretary

In his first adventure Captain Battle fights off a race of giant birdmen who are attacking a group of battleships.  He uses this opportunity to showcase two of his other inventions: the Luceflyer jet pack and the Dissolvo gun.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #10

Full disclosure, I think “Luceflyer” is probably the coolest name for a jet pack I can think of.

These birdmen who are attacking the ships belong to a villain named “The Black Dragon” and are called “deaglos”.  They’re big, strong, and kind of intimidating,

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #10

wait no…no, no, no, no.  When you fly around and refer to your commander as “your cluckness” you lose all sense of foreboding and terror.

Naturally, Captain Battle swoops in and saves the day.  He showcases his Dissolvo gun on some of the birdmen and it is goddamn terrifying.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #10

This isn’t a one and done thing, the Dissolvo gets used pretty often throughout the series when Captain Battle decides to fight actual Nazis.

Call me old fashioned, but I’m willing to bet that using a weapon that dissolves your enemies into goo is a violation of the Geneva Convention and human decency.

The Captain is kidnapped and dragged before the Black Dragon, who attempts to turn the hero into a birdman.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #10

He discovers that the birds fear radio beams and uses this knowledge to kill them all in the final page.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #10

It’s worth mentioning that these creatures used to be humans, a point that the Captain brings up two issues later when he invents a serum that changes them back.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #12

He even picks up a subservient Asian man who helps him rescue all the other men.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #12

Captain Battle proved to be a popular hero, so popular that he wound up getting his own kid sidekick and cover appearances.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #13

Also, he fought Nazi cultist skull unicorns,

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #14

no…I am not joking.

This was the sort of stuff that would define Captain Battle’s career.  He fought real threats that were portrayed in strange occult ways in order to make them more intimidating and fantastic.

So what happened?

Captain Battle made his last anthology appearance in Silver Streak #21 in 1942 and his final solo appearance in 1943.  I guess having a superhero trying to stop WW2 from happening is kind of a bummer when the actual war just got bigger.

Lev Gleason Publications continued, but folded in 1956 after public outcry over excessive comic book violence and changes to the industry led to decreased sales.

While Captain Battle’s publisher went down the tubes the character did manage to live on.  While his post Golden Age career wasn’t as big or as flashy as some of his counter parts, he did get a movie.

It was called Captain Battle: Legacy War and…

let’s just say that Marvel probably won’t be banging down the door for the rights to this movie.

Captain Battle did actually make a return to comics in 2009 when Image Comics republished Silver Streak Comics in an effort to showcase what Golden Age comics could be if the creators were allowed more artistic freedom.

Image result for captain battle next issue project image comics

It was edited by Image founder Erik Larsen and if you’re reading this Mr. Larsen…I have some ideas you might like.

Captain Battle was a cheesy, over the top, impractical, and mildly racist superhero who was born out of a pretty blatant attempt to rip off more popular superheroes.  With that being said, he possessed a unique charm and flagrant disregard for convention and common sense that actually made him a bit endearing and a pretty cool superhero.

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Golden Age Showcase: Target and the Targeteers

 

You know what they say…comedy comes in threes.

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And I like to think that today’s superhero group took that lesson to heart, even though I’m willing to bet any comedy was unintentional.

Today we’re talking about the rather humorously named Target and the Targeteers.

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Origin and Career

This trio of superheroes was published by a company called Novelty Press, which was created in 1940 by Curtis Publishing.  If that name isn’t familiar all you need to know is that they publish the Saturday Evening Post.  If that name isn’t familiar then you probably recognize this cover.

Image result for saturday evening post

Novelty Press was created as a comic book imprint in order to take advantage of the comic book craze.  They were able to draw a lot of great Golden Age talent such as Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, and Basil Wolverton and their two most famous publications were the superhero series Blue Bolt,

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and the anthology series Target Comics.

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Despite sharing the name of the title, the superhero we’re talking about today didn’t appear until issue #10 in November of 1940.

Image result for golden age target comics

Yes that is him on the cover and I have to admit I don’t know what’s funnier: the testicular fortitude of a man who is willing to get shot by painting a giant target on his chest or how stupid the gangsters are for not aiming at the knees or face.

The hero was created by artist Dick Briefer under the pseudonym of Dick Hamilton. Image result for golden age dick brieferBriefer’s most famous work was with the Frankenstein character and is widely considered to be the first modern comic book artist to work with horror stories.

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 Back to Dick’s most famous superhero, Target’s first adventure had him sending an ominous message to criminals everywhere: “Live your life on the straight and narrow or I’ll find you”.  He does this by buying up advertising space on nationwide newspapers, radio space, and even hijacking the phone service.

Comic Book Cover For Target Comics v1 10 [10]

You know how in modern movies the bad guy can mysteriously deliver a message to every computer, television, and phone around the world?  It’s nice to know that this particular cliche isn’t so modern.

The Target’s ominous message doesn’t deter a group of gangsters from kidnapping a scientist who is developing a new explosive that other countries want.

Comic Book Cover For Target Comics v1 10 [10]

The gangsters reach the professor’s house, only to find that the Target is already there.

Comic Book Cover For Target Comics v1 10 [10]

On the face of it, it would appear that the hero has a very poorly designed costume for dealing with guns, but the comic explains that while the suit protects his chest and arms (thus leaving the face and legs unprotected) the target is there to draw enemy fire to the places where the bullets can’t harm him.

Comic Book Cover For Target Comics v1 10 [10]

I would commend the comic for attempting to use “Batman psychology” to explain why the hero made the decisions he made but no, in real life that man is dead.

The adventure ends in typical fashion.  The bad guys are stopped, the hero saves the day, and the reader is left wondering what’s next.

Comic Book Cover For Target Comics v1 10 [10]

The next issue not only delves into the Target’s backstory, it also reveals that he has two friends who share a similar death wish by dressing in similar costumes.

The Target’s civilian identity is Niles Reed.  He was an athletic prodigy who decided to become a metallurgist had a brother named Bill, who decided to become a lawyer.

Unfortunately, Bill was framed for murder and arrested.  In his rage, Niles decided to rescue his brother while disguised as a masked vigilante.

Comic Book Cover For Target Comics v1 11 [11]

While it’s a bit unclear it would appear that the cops accidentally shot Bill as he was trying to escape with his brother.  So in an interesting twist, Niles was responsible for his brother’s death.

Comic Book Cover For Target Comics v1 11 [11]

Later that evening Niles happens to stumble across two orphaned boys who were in a lot trouble with some gangsters for not paying protection money.  The three become friends and decide to dress up like superheroes using the same bulletproof costumes of Niles’ design.

Comic Book Cover For Target Comics v1 11 [11]

The origin story ended with the reveal that Bill had been framed by a crime boss named Hammerfist, who would become something of a recurring villain for the trio.

I’ll admit, there are some interesting points to this story.  The fact that the hero is actually responsible for his brother’s death coupled with him taking in two orphans who share similar tragic stories draw a lot of similarities to more popular heroes like Spider Man and Batman.

The rest of the trio’s adventures were all one shots with a very patriotic bent them.  The three did their duty and fought against America’s enemies, both at home and abroad.

Comic Book Cover For Target Comics v2 1 [13]

The post war years saw a return to form for the trio where they went back to waging war against criminals in the United States.

Comic Book Cover For Target Comics v8 4 [82]

So what happened?

The trio of crime fighters had a pretty long shelf life for the Golden Age heroes.  They lasted until issue #95 of Target Comics where their last adventure had them foiling criminals who were sabotaging advertising signs in order to extort an advertising firm.

Comic Book Cover For Target Comics v9 1 [91]

Yeah, maybe it was a good thing that they got cancelled.

The trio would disappear for a while until the Target made an appearance in AC Comics’ Men of Mystery series in 1999.

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The trio itself made a comeback in Dynamite Entertainment’s Project Superpowers series in 2008.

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Their backstories remained the same, only this time they all had super speed on top of their indestructible suits.

The Target and the Targeteers embodied everything that worked and didn’t work about the Golden Age of Comics.  On one hand they were goofy, wore silly costumes, and relied on some pretty bad science in order to survive and function.  On the other hand, they had one of the better origin stories I’ve read, they had a long run, and a lot of the things that made it into their stories such as the use of psychology to fight criminals would be use to great effect in other, more popular comic hero stories.

All in all, they weren’t that bad.

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Golden Age Showcase: Dr. Hormone

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so sorry.

When I started this blog nearly two years ago (holy crap!  It’s been two years!) I started this series to talk about the strange and peculiar superheroes of the 1940’s and 1950’s.  Sure, we’ve covered some weird ones,

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and ones who have gone on to have long and illustrious careers,

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and some heroes who had a cool idea behind them but either didn’t quite make it or were relegated to a life behind the scenes.

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But today…today is different.

This superhero is so obscure, strange, and downright silly that I feel ashamed to have not brought him to your attention sooner.  Thankfully, he was brought to my attention by a reddit commentator named “apocoluster” (thank you for that by the way) and this blog is better for it.

Today we’re talking about the one and only…Dr. Hormone.

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Origin and Career

The unfortunately named doctor made his first appearance in Dell Comics Popular Comics #54 in August of 1940.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #54 - Version 2

He didn’t even get a text advertisement on the cover, not the most promising start.

He was created a mysterious figure named Bob Bugg.

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I have no idea who this person is, no idea what he or she looked like, and no idea if that is an actual name or a pseudonym.

I’m willing to bet the actual creator wanted to keep his or her identity secret out of shame.

Like most Golden Age characters, his origin was quite simple and explained in a single page.

 Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #54 - Version 2

The man was on death’s door and managed to make himself younger again, thus cheating death.  I like to think this origin is a metaphor for the actual creation of this character.

So what does this character do with this revolutionary formula?  Go into business for himself and make millions?  Give it to the world for free out of the goodness of his heart?

NOPE!

This is the early 1940’s and America is soon to be at war.  Clearly, the best thing to do is to militarize this miracle formula and sell it as a weapon.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #54 - Version 2

The “we’re a stand in for continental Europe being oppressed by the Nazis but we can’t actually call them Nazis because America isn’t TECHNICALLY at war yet” country this time is the hilariously named Novoslavia, who is offering the princely sum of $25 million to whoever can provide their country with a means to defend them from the encroaching Eurasians.

The Professor decides to play war profiteer and brings his invention to Novoslavia, along with his granddaughter Jane.

Because countries on the brink of war are perfectly safe for little kids.

Sadly, their goods are stolen and they come up against the most evil and wretched enemy of all, incompetent and vindictive bureaucrats.

This takes the form of War Minister Rastinov who immediately throws the Doctor and his daughter into prison.  However, Jane manages to secure their release by slipping something into the war minister’s drink.

 Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #54 - Version 2

Remember, if you want to get on someone’s good side, always make sure they make an ass of themselves.

The Novoslovians award Docotor Hormone the prize, and prepare for war using his miracle serum.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #54 - Version 2

What I find hilarious is that the serum brings everyone to the age of 25, even babies.

Meanwhile, former war minister Assinov (not my joke) has defected to the Euraseans and proceeds to launch a full scale invasion of poor Novoslovia.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #54 - Version 2

Another thing I find interesting is how the Eurasians don’t really look like Nazis.  Instead they look a lot like the Soviet Army.

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The war goes poorly for the Novoslovians and their leader, General Battlesky (groan!) prepares to execute the Doctor and his niece via firing squad.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #55

but Dr. Hormone manages to save the day in the end by spraying all the Eurasians with a special hormone that makes everyone like each other again and stop the fighting.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #55

Assinov isn’t done yet though.  He manages to disguise himself as the Doctor and turn everyone into animals using the Doctor’s own hormones.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #56

I’m beginning to think that Doctor Hormone’s credentials might be a bit suspect.  Also, ethics are something of a concern.

The war is won when the Novoslovians turn Assinov’s human animal hybrids against Eurasia and thousands of human/rat hybrids sneak in and chew through their army’s ammo and swarms of human/locust hybrids swarm the enemy soldiers.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #57 - Version 1

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #57 - Version 1

That…is actually really dark and downright terrifying.

After defeating the vile forces of Eurasia, Dr. Hormone travels back home to America.  After a brief run in with new foes of the dreaded Nazians (really?) he comes across…

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #59

the KKK.

Hormone manages to save himself with an army of fleas, who manage to smother the flames and drive the clansmen to madness by biting them.  In fact, they’re driven so mad that they commit mass suicide.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #59

You sure this isn’t a horror comic?

His last adventure ended on a literal cliffhanger as the Doctor was attempting to stop a Nazian invasion of Texas.  Unfortunately, the Klan manages to find him and forces him down a bottomless pit where he and his niece fall through time and reach a mysterious voice that instructs them to wait.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #60

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #60

and…that’s it.

So what happened?

After the good Doctor took a left turn into insanity he never made another appearance.   I’m just going to assume he’s still below, waiting for the day where he might rise up and continue the story.

As for why he was cancelled it’s pretty easy to see why.  He was never a main attraction and I’m willing to bet that the kids didn’t take too kindly to the name.  Plus there’s the fact that the artwork…well it isn’t very good, even for time period.

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Also, while we’re on the subject of quality, why doesn’t the man have a costume?  I mean sure, I’m willing to bet the creator of this story was probably tired of drawing superhero costumes (assuming he or she was a working artist at the time) but come on!  You have a brilliant chemist who has manged to find a way to live forever, invents crazy chemical compounds that turn people into animals, and you’re going to dress him up in a suit!?

Poor form!

In all seriousness I actually do think this guy could make a halfway decent superhero in the modern era.  Hell, he’d actually make a kick ass super villain!

Dr. Hormone was the personification of almost everything crazy about the Golden Age of Comics.  He was weird, he had an annoying niece as a sidekick, and his adventures were filled with all sorts of insanity that would have gotten any normal person arrested and tried for crimes against humanity.

God, I love comics so much!

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Golden Age Showcase: Professor Supermind and Son

Let’s talk about families in comic books.

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Sure there are plenty of family figures in comic books.

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Heck, there are even a couple of actual families that have proven to be incredibly popular,

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but for the most part the purpose of being a family member of a superhero usually means your either an obstacle to the work of a superhero, or you’re dead.

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If you’re looking for someone to blame for this trope, blame Batman.

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Batman was the first superhero to have a clearly defined origin story and he was the first hero to have his parents tragically killed.

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In a way it makes sense for a superhero to not have his/her parents around when things like curfew, homework, and “you’re going out dressed like THAT?!” are a constant roadblocks.

While Batman was the first in the long and proud tradition of orphaned superheroes today’s blog post is about a father and son team who go around and fight crime together.

By which I mean the son does all the heavy lifting and the father sits back, tells his son what to do, and subjects his only child to dangerous experiments.

Today we are talking about Professor Supermind and Son.

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Origin and Career

Professor Supermind and his son made their first appearance in the Dell Comics anthology Popular Comics  #60 in Febuary of 1941.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #60

I don’t know who created him but apparently he was popular enough to be on the cover for the next couple of issues.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #64

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #65

The origin of this superheroic duo is straightforward and simple enough to be described in the first panel of every issue.

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The father’s name is Professor Warren, a super scientist who has created two of the greatest inventions mankind has ever witnessed.  The first is a television that can view anything in the world which was useful for both spotting where crime and for checking in on what I can only presume are his many ex wives and their new boyfriends.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #60

The second is an “energy builder” which he uses to zap his son with electrical power.  Following super hero logic this jolt of energy doesn’t kill him.  Instead, it grants him “electric power equal to a thousand horsepower”.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #63

I’m beginning to think that a lot of early comic book creators didn’t really know how science works.

The two men didn’t have much in the way of motivation outside of simply doing the right thing and each of their stories were pretty formulaic for the time.  The professor would see a problem going on through his television and send his son to stop it.

One of the better stories in my opinion was when the two fought of, what else, Nazis who were threatening to invade America.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #65

What’s really impressive about this story is the pair’s complete and total disregard for human life since they decide to collapse the tunnel and drown thousands of men unless the Nazis back off.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #66

I mean, I know that they’re Nazis and all, but killing so many people is a bit extreme.

Casual disregard for human life aside, the duo did have something resembling a nemesis outside of the dastardly Germans.  Apparently, the Professor had a former pupil who wanted the Professor’s inventions for himself.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #67

The man’s name was Sorel and he was the closest thing the series ever had to a super villain.

Funnily enough, Sorel was actually somewhat capable.  He even managed to sneak in to the Professor’s lab and use the power machine on himself.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #68

So what happened?

Despite having a fairly interesting idea and some halfway decent artwork for the time, the father and son team only made twelve appearances.

I don’t know what happened but I can make a pretty good guess.  Professor Supermind and his son started out as the cover story and as the first story in each anthology for a couple of issues and then started losing their cover appearances and first story positions to other characters.

It’s safe to say that they just weren’t as popular as Dell Comics hoped.

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Looking back it’s pretty easy to see why.  Each of the stories were pretty formulaic, the dialogue was wooden, and although the art wasn’t terrible the artist preferred to have the characters stand around and talk rather than act.

Sadly, there is very little chance for these two to make a comeback.  Dell Comics was hit pretty hard in the 1950’s and never really recovered.  They closed shop in 1972, although their legacy continues with the three superheroes Doctor Solar, Turok, and Magnus Robot Fighter.

Image result for turok, doctor solar, and magnus

Despite the fact that their stories are pretty boring once you get down to it, I do think that Professor Supermind and his son do have some potential.  As I stated at the beginning of the article, living biological parents are something of a rarity in comic books so there could be a place for a well written father son team.

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Golden Age Showcase: The Mad Monk

Let’s take a bite into the comic book industry’s version of vanilla ice cream and talk about Batman.

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Batman is one of the most popular superheroes in the world for a reason.  He’s got a great design, he’s got a cool story, he’s got tonnes of history, but most importantly…he has great villains.

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Yes, it seems pretty cliche to talk about how awesome Batman’s villains are but we all know that Poison Ivy is awesome,

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Mister Freeze is tragic and deep,

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and the Joker needs no introduction.

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But how does Batman manage to have so many great villains?

Easy, because he doesn’t kill them.

Batman’s aversion to killing criminals (even if the justice system he’s sworn to protect would have put the Joker to death a long time ago) and distaste at using guns is well documented.  With that being said, we’ve talked about how the Batman of the Golden Age wasn’t above using guns, or even killing criminals.

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The Golden Age Batman was a much darker and violent superhero than a lot of modern iterations and as a result, he either needed equally dark and violent villains or a small army’s worth of disposable henchmen.

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Today we’re going to talk about one of Batman’s first adversaries, a creature of the night who wasn’t just violent and unquestionably evil, but one of Batman’s first important villains: The Mad Monk.

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Origin and Career

The Mad Monk made his first appearance in Detective Comics #31 in September of 1939.

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He beat out the Joker by 8 months.

The character was created by Bob Kane and Garner Fox.

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Kane is the man who is widely credited with the creation of Batman (while he did play a part, a lion’s share of the credit does go to Bill Finger) and Fox is the man who helped create little known DC heroes like the Flash, Dr. Fate, and Hawkman.

The Mad Monk is special because he was the main villain for one of the first multi part stories in Batman’s career.  While the first super villain to face Batman in a multi issue series was the imaginatively named Dr. Death,

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The Mad Monk was a bigger, and much more mystical and terrifying, threat.

The Monk’s real name was Niccolai Tepes, a homage to historical crazy person and real life inspiration for the actual Dracula: Vlad Tepes aka “Vlad the Impaler”.

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The Mad Monk was a literal vampire complete with the need to drink blood, the ability to turn into a wolf, the ability to hypnotize people into a trance, and an assistant named Dala.

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While it is unknown why the Monk wants to kill Batman it is made apparent that the Monk does know his secret identity as Bruce Wayne when he kidnaps Bruce’s girl friend Julie Madison.

The Monk and Dala hypnotize her and use her to lure Batman into a trap in Paris where he has to fight a giant gorilla.

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After defeating the beast, Batman is captured and is trapped in a net dangling over a pit of snakes.  Because this is a comic book and nobody just wants to shoot their captured adversary.

Fun fact: This is the first time Batman ever uses the Batarang in comics.

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After escaping, Batman tracks the Monk to Transylvania (because of course) and confronts the villain in his mountain castle.  The Monk puts up a good fight by transforming into a wolf but Batman manages to knock the wolves out and escape.

The comic ends with Batman shooting The Mad Monk and Dala as they lie in their coffins.

If you ask me, this was a brilliant display of common sense.  While I think the idea for the Mad Monk is cool, I certainly wouldn’t want an immortal blood sucking creature  roaming the streets of Gotham or anywhere else in the world.

So what happened?

The Monk remained dead for a long time, probably because he was just two scary and dark for the censorship police known as the Comics Code Authority.

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But, like the vampires that he took his inspiration from, he would arise from the grave many years later.  In 1986 Gerry Conway, the co creator of the Punisher and the man who killed Gwen Stacy,

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reworked the original 1939 story into a modern origin for the Mad Monk in the 1980’s.

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In the new version the Mad Monk was a former plantation owner who owned slaves in post Civil War America.  He and his sister Dala were attacked by their slaves and turned into the undead in a voodoo ritual.

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Personally, I preferred the earlier version better.

The Mad Monk manged to turn Batman into a vampire but was eventually defeated by a wandering priest named Father Green.

The character would be given another fresh coat of paint in 2006 when a six issue mini series was published by DC Comics entitled Batman and the Mad Monk.

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It was pretty good.

The Mad Monk is a villain that has been mostly forgotten to history.  While he was a pretty one note character who didn’t have much staying power, and while he has been overshadowed by much more complex and interesting villains, he deserves a lot more attention and respect.

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He was one of Batman’s first true challenges and paved the way for the rogue gallery that keeps us coming back to Batman comics again and again.

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Golden Age Showcase: Doiby Dickles

Let’s talk about sidekicks.

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The sidekick’s job is to watch the main hero’s back and help in any way possible.  Sometimes this means providing support and help from afar and sometimes it means getting their hands dirty and joining the hero in his/her adventures.

More often than not, comic book publishers use sidekicks as a way to fill a need in the comic that the hero can’t fill.  In the case of Robin the Boy Wonder, it was a way for DC Comics to make one of their most popular heroes more kid friendly and accessible in a time where comic book superheroes were facing a lot of scrutiny.

Over the course of comic book history there have been plenty of other sidekicks.  Some have worked,

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and some have not.

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Today we’re talking about a Golden Age super sidekick that belongs in the “did not work” category, although if you ask me it’s a crying shame.

Today we’re going to talk about Doiby Dickles.

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Origin and Career

The Green Lantern of the 1940’s was radically different from the Green Lantern we know today.

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Instead of being an interstellar cop who got his powers from an advanced piece of alien technology, the Golden Age Green Lantern was a railroad engineer named Alan Scott who used a ring powered by magic.

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When popular heroes like Batman and Superman experienced a sales boost by adopting sidekicks, National Comics turned to legendary comic book creator Bill Finger to create a sidekick for Alan.

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I know I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: Bill Finger wasn’t just a big name for the Green Lantern, he also helped create a huge chunk of the Batman mythos we know and love today.

Doiby made his first appearance in All American Comics #27 in June of 1941.

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The man was a Brooklyn taxi driver who drove Alan Scott around as needed.

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He spoke with a thick Brooklyn accent, always wore a derby hat, and wasn’t afraid to get into a fight when he needed to.

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He had something of a temper as well and could swing a wrench with enough power to make him a force to be reckoned with.

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Also, he was incredibly attached to his cab, who he named “Goitrude”.

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In short, Doiby Dickles was an ill tempered, foul mouthed cab driver who was quick in a fight and wanted to do everything he could to help.

He was magnificent.

So what happened?

The Golden Age of superheroes ended and the ensuing Silver Age took more of a science fiction bent.

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This included a dramatic revamping of the Green Lantern series which shifted from the magic wielder Alan Scott to the galactic space cop Hal Jordan that we know and love today.

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Sadly, this meant that the new age of comics didn’t have time and room for a hard talking fast punching maniac like Doiby,

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so DC decided to ship him off into space and marry an alien princess named Ramia from the planet Myrg after saving her from a forced marriage to a man named Prince Peril.

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Doiby and Ramia would return to Myrg where Doiby would become it’s king.  The people of Myrg would go on to adopt Brooklyn accents and recreate the baseball field where the Brooklyn Dodgers played.

God, the Silver Age was weird.

While Doiby was no longer a member of the main supporting cast he did manage the odd guest appearance where he actually helped the Green Lanterns defeat Sinestro.

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Sadly, Goitrude was destroyed in the battle.  It’s one of the most heartbreaking deaths in all of comics.

While that was the extent of his Silver Age career, Doiby was nowhere near done as a character.  He would continue to have revival after unlikely revival, even into the modern age.

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He made an appearance with a superhero group known as “Old Justice”.

It was a joke group of old superheroes who made it their mission to keep the younger generation of superheroes in check and make sure they didn’t mess things up too much,

Naturally they became a thorn in the side of the more famous “Young Justice” superhero team, although in the end they did manage to put aside their differences and let the young ones do their jobs.

If you want to read more stories with Doiby in them, I recommend the Young Justice “Sins of Youth” story line.

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Doiby’s next adventure would be with Young Justice again, when they agreed to help him travel back to Myrg and defeat an alien race known as the Slag by playing a game of baseball.

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It’s worth mentioning that the team was only able to win by blatantly cheating.

Sadly, the baseball game was the last major appearance for Doiby Dickles.  The rest of his appearances are guest spots and flashbacks with Alan Scott.

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So, according to DC continuity, Doiby is still out there on an alien planet and is enjoying a long and happy life with an alien queen while ruling a race of Brooklyn accented extra terrestrials.

Shine on you crazy bastard, you deserve it.

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Golden Age Showcase: Invisible Hood

If you hang out in the social circles that I do the conversation inevitably turns into a debate about superheroes.

“Who would win in a fight?”

“What’s your favorite story arc/series?”

“How is Hollywood butchering our favorite superheroes THIS time?”

Another question that almost always comes up is “if given the chance, what superpower would you have?”.

Now, a lot of people give answers like strength and flight, but one of the most overlooked answers (pun intended by the way) is invisibility.

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The ability to not be seen is one of the most useful powers out there and many writers and artists have created characters that have been able to use the power with great effect.

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But let’s take a look at one of the earliest modern superheroes to use this power, and a man who fights crime in a full bodied robe: the Invisible Hood.

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Origin and Career

The Invisible Hood made his first appearance in Quality Comics’ Smash Comics in August of 1939.

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He was created by comic book artist and writer Arthur Pinajian, an Armenian author and writer who went by the pen name “Art Goodman”.

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Fun fact: Pinajian didn’t just do comic books.  He was a pretty successful painter as well and his current collection of work is valued at $30 million.

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But back to the Invisible Hood,

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the hero’s first adventure was a four page story where former private detective Kent Thurston receives a tip about a gang of hoodlums who are trying to sell some stolen jewels.

Comic Book Cover For Smash Comics #1

Kent becomes the Invisible Hood, gets the jewels back, manages to knock out several people with a “gas gun” (gotta keep it kid friendly), and literally pulls the rug out from underneath the criminals to save the day.

Comic Book Cover For Smash Comics #1

I have to say, that HAS to be one of the least efficient costumes to fight crime in.

You’ll notice that there isn’t a whole lot of invisibility associated with a hero called “The Invisible Hood”.  Well, our hero had the same thought in his next adventure, when he magically learns that there has been a professor named Hans Van Dorn working on a chemical that has the ability to turn things invisible.

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Boy do I love plot convenience!

Kent tracks the gang to the Professor’s room where the old man is more than willing to help.  Kent gets doused with the mysterious chemical and becomes truly invisible.

Comic Book Cover For Smash Comics #2

Boy do I love the total disregard for human safety and proper testing!

The Invisible Hood would go on to have over 30 appearances like this.  They were pretty standard adventures where he would confront various criminals and thwart their schemes.

So what happened?

Quality Comics was bought out by DC in 1956 and any momentum that the Invisible Hood had built was lost, which is a crying shame because he would have been a perfect fit for the zany science fiction adventures of the Silver Age of comics.

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Unlike our last superhero, the Invisible Hood did not go on to have a better career in the modern era.  He didn’t have a better back story, he didn’t have a whole mini series dedicated to his adventures, and he didn’t become a foundation for anything big in the DC universe.

But he did matter enough to be used in later comic books.

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His first post Golden Age appearance was in a DC comic book series called “The Freedom Fighters”.

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The group was created in the 1970’s as a way to give old Quality Comics characters their own team and series.  The Invisible Hood appeared with the group in a retelling of the group’s origin and, through a bunch of inter dimensional tomfoolery that DC is famous for, went to a parallel dimension in order to fight Nazis.

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He was eventually given another reboot in the modern era in Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters.

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Where it was revealed that the original Invisible Hood had died in 1974 and the current incarnation was his great great grandson who was also named Kent Thurston.

The modern version of Kent died as well in his first appearance.  He was killed by a traitor to the group before he retired from superhero work.

A rather sad but fitting end for a hero like that.

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Golden Age Showcase: John Steele

I’ll be honest folks.  Today’s hero showcase barely qualifies as a Golden Age superhero.  In fact, if you look at his only comic book appearance he barely qualifies as a superhero in general.

But this is a blog dedicated to the obscure and silly aspects of the early days of the comic book industry and they don’t get much more obscure than this character’s single appearance in a superhero anthology title surrounded by much more popular and successful heroes.

With that being said, while today’s hero didn’t make much of a splash in the 1940’s, he was reworked in the modern era to become one of the most important characters in the thriving Marvel Universe.

Today we’re talking about the superbly named John Steele.

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ORIGIN AND CAREER

John Steele made his first and only Golden Age appearance in Daring Mystery Comics #1 in January of 1940.

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He was created by legendary artist Dan Barry,

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Who was one of the premier artists of his time and one of the main creators and practitioners of an art style known as “New York slick”.

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I could try to list all of the stories and characters that used this particular style of art, but all you need to know is that this was the dominant art styles of the time and would only be replaced by the legendary Jack Kirby’s career at the new Marvel Comics.

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Barry created John Steele as a soldier fighting in World War 1, which just goes to show you that even though the United States wasn’t officially at war with Germany yet there were plenty of people who were happy enough to dig up the violence of the past to get a head start on the violence of the future.

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The story was pretty straightforward.  Steele gets trapped behind enemy lines, discovers an Allied spy who needs to get back to headquarters, and the two make their way back home.

Pretty straightforward, pretty direct, kind of boring.

So what happened?

John Steele would have faded into the deepest, darkest pit of obscurity if it wasn’t for comic book creator Ed Brubaker turning him into one of the most important characters in the entire Marvel Universe.

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In Mr. Brubaker’s limited series The Marvels Project it was revealed that John Steele was actually a superhuman with increased strength, durability, and longevity.

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Apparantly, this small time obscure character from a single story in the 1940’s, was America’s first super soldier.

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While that’s pretty cool it gets even better.  Brubaker’s story explains that, during the First World War, Steele was actually captured by the Germans and placed in suspended animation for years.

The Germans discoverd his mysterious powers and were determined to duplicate them for their own uses.

One of these scientists was Abraham Erskine, the man who developed the serum that gave Captain America his powers.

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It’s a pretty bold claim to make, and Brubaker would go on to give Steele one hell of a story to go with it.

In 1940, the laboratory holding Steele was destroyed in a bombing and Steele was brought out of suspended animation.

Being a red blooded American with a penchant for war and a hatred of all things German he did what all comic book superheroes do best: kill Nazis.

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He teamed up with Nick Fury and several other World War 2 superhero teams to fight the Red Skull, but refused to come home with his countrymen due to his anger at the atrocities committed by the Red Skull and his understandable desire to not be experimented on.

He continued to act behind enemy lines and actually uncovered an Axis plot that would have prevented the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but sadly his fellow superheroes could only lessen the damage.  He disappeared after the invasion of Normandy three years later.

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He would make his final appearance in the Secret Avengers comic books, this time as a member of a mysterious organization known as the Shadow Council,

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Where it was revealed that he had actually been alive for an unkown amount of time and had fought in the American Civil War.

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Being a super soldier working for an evil organization John inevitably came into contact with Captain America.  

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The two developed something of a fierce rivalry until Captain America captured him and managed to convince him to switch sides and spy on the Shadow Council on the inside.

Unfortunately, the Shadow Council learned about Steele’s new alliance and had him tortured and killed.  His last act was to warn the Avengers about the Council’s plans and he wound up dying as a hero.

Hey everyone!  If you enjoyed this article you might enjoy some of the other stuff we do.  Besides weekly articles like this we publish a bi weekly web comic about a family of super villains known as “The Secret Lives of Villains”.  We even have a book out and you can support us by picking up a copy here.

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Golden Age Showcase: Powerhouse Pepper

When many people hear the word “comics” they tend to think of superheroes.

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There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that comics can (and have been) so much more.

Now I will grant that I have probably not been doing a very good job in dispelling this stereotype, after all this blog has primarily talked about superheroes, but I like to think of this blog as a way to educate and inform people about parts of comic book history that are a bit obscure and totally crazy.

With that being said, let’s take a look at a character who isn’t really a superhero, but enjoyed a tremendous amount of success during the Golden Age of Comics: Powerhouse Pepper.

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Origin and Career

Powerhouse Pepper made his first appearance in Timely Comics’ Joker Comics #1 in April of 1942.

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I’m not going to lie, after looking at superheroes punching out Nazis for the past couple of weeks, this is a welcome relief.

The character was created by comic book legend, and a man with the kind of name that belongs in a funny comic, Basil Wolverton.

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Basil is considered to be one of the great humor artists ever, and was dubbed the “Michelangelo of Mad Magazine” by the New York Times in 2009.

While he is famous for creating the character “Lena the Hyena”,

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and for developing an iconic art style that didn’t just work for humor, but for horror as well,

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his signature creation was the dimwitted, super strong boxer with a heart of gold and a penchant for the ladies: Powerhouse Pepper.

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The character made his mark in a long series of 6-8 page stories that jumped around from titles such as Joker Comics,

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To Gay Comics,

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and even managed to get his own title for a little bit.

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As mentioned above, the man was a boxer and a very good one at that.  While he wasn’t really a superhero, he certainly appeared to have superpowers, up to and including super strength and durability.

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The man was a lovable and dimwitted oaf, unconcerned with petty things like money or fame.

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He did have a soft spot for the ladies and did his level best to be as polite and chivalrous as possible, even if it meant taking on opponents three times his size.

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I would say he’s a Popeye ripoff, but what really sets him apart from everyone’s favorite spinach eating sailor is his penchant for rhyming and alliteration in his dialogue.

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These stories are absolutely hilarious and Basil Wolverton’s creation deserves to go down in history as one of the greatest humor characters ever created.

So what happened?

Sadly, while Powerhouse has an impressive pedigree and the kind of history that should have made him into a timeless classic, the character’s exposure to modern day comic book audiences has been somewhat limited.

While you can find reprints of Basil Wolverton’s work, and there is a great website you can visit and view many of his appearances, Marvel has not bothered to reprint or promote any of the old Powerhouse Pepper stories.

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If you ask me, it’s a crying shame because from what I’ve been able to read, these stories are hilarious and still hold up today.

Hello everyone.  Normally this is the part of the article where I would ask you to support us on Patreon or donate to a Kickstarter.  We don’t have those but instead we have a printed edition of our bi weekly web comic “The Secret Lives of Villains” available on for purchase on Amazon here.