The Golden Age of Comic Books was a period in comic book history that saw the American comic book come into its own as an art form and saw the introduction of what we would today call “superheroes”. Although the exact start date can be debated most people agree that the Golden Age began with the publication of Action Comics #1 in June 1938, an anthology series featuring a strange new creation by two men named Jerry Seigel and Joel Shuster simply named “Superman”
This superhero able to move “faster than a speeding bullet” became immensely popular and helped kick off the Golden Age of Comics and a boom in superhero titles. Some of these new superheroes would go on to become industry giants.
Some would start out as the creation of one comic book company and would later be either sold off, bought, or merged with one of the industry giants to become future comic book mega stars.
And others would continue to survive as important characters but either undergo drastic changes to their character in later years or continue to survive without the iconic pop culture status of their peers.
But there were other superheroes, a lot of them actually, who didn’t survive past the Golden Age. Whether it was because they didn’t have the staying power to survive the over saturation of the market (like I said, there were A LOT of superheroes) or because they fell victim to the forces of censorship and the Comics Code Authority (this is an article for another day but for now all you have to know is that the Comics Code Authority was a set of rules and censors that was put in place to “protect” children from obscene and violent images that could turn them into delinquents) there were hundreds of superheroes that had their own comic book series that simply vanished off the face of the earth.
This series is dedicated to those superheroes, the obscure and crazy heroes that only lasted a few issues and were probably created in a haze of some massive drinking binge or some other illicit substance. So let’s start this series off with a little known “hero” created by Timely Comics (the company that would later become Marvel Comics in the 60’s) known only as
Origin and career:
The Vagabond was first introduced in the anthology series USA comics #2 in 1941. This is the cover.
Despite the awesome insanity that must have gone into the conception of the comic and the character (“Hey Bob! I have this great idea for a comic where we have a guy dressed up as a clown and he’s part of a comic where Hitler invades New York!” “BRILLIANT”) his backstory is surprisingly straightforward. The Vagabond is the costumed identity of a police officer named Pat Murphy (there is a debate on whether or not he’s actually an FBI agent by the name of Walter Carstairs but we’ll go with this for now). Fed up with the rise of crime in his home city of Middleton Pat decides that he needs to fight crime by hiding his face.
The Vagabond has no superpowers other than his fists. Basically he’s Batman, only instead of a rich playboy he’s a cop and instead of a dark and imposing bat he’s a hobo. Although to be fair, when you’re a criminal facing off against this
not even the Batman can match the sheer terror this face can inspire.
Despite his somewhat normal origin, the Vagabond’s short career was the kind of mad filled fever dream that can only be created when a writer is desperate to meet a deadline and sniffed a gallon of ether to meet his deadline (this probably didn’t happen but hey, writers are a crazy bunch). While he didn’t do much other than beat up some goons in a bar his costume and identity demanded that he speak with a mock upper class accent and use words like “tally ho” and “yoinks” in his everyday speech. Also, and I swear I am not making this up, in an attempt to protect his every day identity, he began to refer himself as “Chauncey Throttlebottom the Third”. It is at this moment I’d like to re stress that this is from the same company that would later become Marvel Comics, a company that produced some of the greatest heroes the world has ever seen, and one of their first heroes went by the name “Throttlebottom”.
So what happened?
The Vagabond lasted only three issues, I guess the idea of a crime fighting bum just didn’t catch on too well, even with a name like “Throttlebottem” (will I ever get tired of saying that name? NOPE!). It is believed that Patrick had difficulty maintaining two separate identities and eventually adopted the hobo persona on a full time basis, exploring one of the most difficult and challenging aspects of being a costumed hero. He did manage to make a guest appearance in a later issue of the Avengers where he helped fight back an army of Nazis (clowns fighting Nazis? AAAAHHH!!) but for the most part he was simply too good for this world and faded into obscurity.
So that’s the first issue of our Golden Age showcase. If you enjoyed this post please let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or Twitter (@CambrianComics) and if you have any requests or want to learn more about a particular Golden Age super hero do not hesitate to ask.