Today we’re going to dive into the deep end of obscure and interesting Golden Age superheroes.
A lot of people tend to think the comic book industry is overwhelmingly dominated by what is referred to as “The Big Two”.
and today that is certainly true considering that today Marvel and DC account for almost 70% of the comic book retail market.
But that wasn’t always the case, especially in the early days of the comic book industry. When Action Comics #1 hit the stands in 1938
it was so successful that it spawned a whole host of imitators and rival publishers who realized that there was some serious money to be made.
One of these new competitors was publisher Ned Pines.
While Pines Publishing started out it originally published pulp magazines, cheap disposable text based magazines that told lurid stories about shady and intriguing individuals and were the precursors to the modern comic book.
Pines saw all the money that comic books were making in the 1930’s and in 1939 he started his own comic book imprint called Standard Comics.
Standard Comics would become the parent company for two other comic book publishing titles: Better Publications and Nedor Publishing.
Despite the fact that a lot of people don’t know about Standard Comics they were incredibly proficient during the Golden Age of Comics and today we’re going to talk about one of their first and most successful heroes: Captain Future.
Origin and career
Captain Future originally appeared in what would become one of Standard Comics’ longest running titles: Startling Comics #1.
The hero was created by comic book artist and writer Kin Platt.
and was based off of a pulp magazine character that was also published by Standard Publications.
The comic book Captain Future was originally mild mannered research scientist Dr. Andrew Bryant. When pressured to create something that could be sold for profit or lose his job Dr. Bryant attempted to “cross infrared light and gamma rays” in an attempt to create a short wave radio signal. The experiment fails and explodes in his face.
For some reason the explosion gives him super strength, enhanced senses, flight, and the ability to shoot electricity from his hands instead of killing him. After foiling a group of robbers attempting to clean out his company’s cash Dr. Bryant decides to become “The Man of Tomorrow” and calls himself Captain Future.
In his first adventure Captain Future manages to foil a plot by the mysterious “Knights of the Purple Plague” to rob a shipment of gold from a cargo ship.
What I personally find interesting is how Captain Future doesn’t immediately endear himself to the police, who are actually quite suspicious of him at first and try to charge him with murder.
The story has a happy ending with Captain Future bringing the Knights of the Purple Plague to justice and even manages a small measure of revenge against the police.
Captain Future would go on to be the main story in the Startling Comics title for an impressive 40 issues. Most of them would be similar to his first adventure, where he would use his powers to defeat the “gangsters of the week” who were attempting to steal something or take over the world, pretty standard villain stuff.
What’s interesting was that while Captain Future was nearly invulnerable with his super powers he could lose them if the conditions were right or the villains had the right kind of tech.
Also, Captain Future’s power supply was finite and required Dr. Bryant to charge himself up like a battery in order to become Captain Future.
Author’s Note: You may notice that this article has a lot of complete comic book pages in it. That is because I discovered a website called Comic Book Plus, which is an archive of a ton of Golden Age comics. If you would like to read more of Captain Future’s adventures and some of Standard Comic’s other titles feel free to check him out here.
So what happened?
Sadly, Standard Comics didn’t change with the times and went defunct in 1956.
However, many of Standard’s old heroes passed into the public domain (Captain Future is free for anyone to use if any one is interested) and they have found life in other publisher’s work.
Captain Future would have three guest appearances with many of his former colleagues. First, in 2003’s Sentinels of America #1 published by AC Comics.
Second, in Alan Moore’s Terra Obscura which was published in 2004.
And finally, Dynamite Publishing created a title called Project Superpowers which was created specifically to bring many of the more popular Golden Age heroes back into the modern day, including Captain Future.
Captain Future was a real “Man of Tomorrow”. He had an interesting power set and was just flawed enough to keep readers interested in his stories for years. It’s safe to say that if it wasn’t for the unfortunate gutting of the superhero industry in the 1950’s, Captain Future could have become a much more famous and recognized character.
This was fun, I think we could definitely do more obscure comic book characters from Standard Comics later.