So this weekend I went to Rhode Island Comic Con and had the great pleasure of meeting comic book artist Jim Steranko.
The man is a living legend, one of the medium’s greatest artists, and about a million times nicer than he has any right to be.
Anyway, while I was talking to him I told him about this blog and what I was trying to do. I asked him if he knew any obscure Golden Age superheroes that I could write about. He got a sly smile on his face, took out his pen, wrote a name on a piece of paper, and handed it to me.
He introduced me to the comic book hero Anteas the Bouncer.
Mr. Steranko, if you are reading this I want to thank you from the bottom of my decrepit heart. You are a king among men and I hope this becomes the greatest article I ever write.
Origin and Career
Anteas the Bouncer first appeared in his own titled comic in 1944.
He was published by Fox Feature Syndicate, the company that was most famous for giving us the Blue Beetle.
Fox was an interesting company. On one hand they published one of the first blatant Superman ripoffs in comic book history, on the other hand they made crazy heroes like the Anteas the Bouncer.
Despite his ridiculous name and appearance there was actually quite a bit of thought and talent that went into this guy.
He was written by a man named Robert Kanigher.
Not only did Robert write Wonder Woman for over 20 years, he actually wrote the first appearance of the Silver Age Flash: Barry Allen.
Anteas was also drawn by Louis Ferstadt, a man with few known credits but he did do some work on Plastic Man.
So the character had a pretty impressive team behind him, but why would they commit to something so ridiculous?
Well, the answer is pretty simple, Anteas is an actual figure from Greek mythology.
He’s featured prominently in the Legend of Hercules as the son of Gaia, or Mother Earth. While working on his 11th labor of collecting the golden apples of Hesperides, Hercules is confronted by the giant Anteas. While Hercules was strong there was a problem. As long as Anteas’ feet were on the ground he was invincible and even stronger than Hercules himself. If Anteas hit the ground he would rise again and his strength would be restored.
As you might have gathered from the totally not suggestive sculpture above (they’re just wrestling, honest), Hercules defeated Anteas by lifting him up off the ground and crushing him to death.
This particular piece of Greek mythology would inspire Robert Kanigher to create a modern take on the character, and the results were actually quite clever.
It turns out that Anteas’ had a family and they continued to survive thousands of years into the 1940’s and Anteas’ great, great, great (honestly I don’t know how many greats there are to go back that far, let’s just assume a lot) grandson actually shared the power of his ancient ancestor,
That’s him on the right with the beret and glasses and this is a part of his origin story.
He was driven away from being a superhero when he realizes the trouble his powers cause.
He became a sculptor who didn’t care much for the world and just wanted to make things.
Unfortunately, he made a sculpture of his famous ancestor so lifelike that it became a living being. Because that is how this stuff works.
The statue would drag Anteas Jr., yes that was the sculpture’s name, on various adventures and crime fighting forays. The sculpture possessed immense strength that was tied to the Earth just like his namesake while Anteas Jr., who had similar powers, fulfilled the role of a sidekick.
The adventures of the Bouncer were a mixed bag. One day he would be fighting standard gangsters and another he would be fighting clowns dressed like Satan
That being said, there was one particular gimmick to the character that was pretty cool.
The comic encouraged readers to send in letters to the studio along with pictures of themselves for a chance to be in the comic and accompany the Bouncer and Anteas Jr. on their adventures.
Think of it like an early version of a Kickstarter reward where being in the comic is offered as a reward tier. This led to some bizarre meta humor and fourth wall breaks in the comic where the Bouncer would acknowledge the winners and encourage readers to participate and buy the comic.
So what happened?
He’s the immortal spirit of a figure from Greek mythology who lives in a statue and fights crime by bouncing, he was just too perfect for this world.
Sadly the Bouncer and his sculptor sidekick only lasted five issues. Despite the audience participation gimmick, the talented writing, and halfway decent art, the comic couldn’t sell well enough to stay in print and it was cancelled. While he made a few appearances in other titles nobody seemed interested in reviving and/or reprinting the character.
The Bouncer was a ridiculous hero with a ridiculous backstory and a ridiculous gimmick. But despite all of that I like to think there was a genuine passion behind his creation and it looks like everyone involved worked hard on his stories.
In other words, he is the kind of dopey and sincere comic book character that is perfect for this kind of blog.
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