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,
and ones who have gone on to have long and illustrious careers,
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.
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.
Origin and Career
The unfortunately named doctor made his first appearance in Dell Comics Popular Comics #54 in August of 1940.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another thing I find interesting is how the Eurasians don’t really look like Nazis. Instead they look a lot like the Soviet Army.
The war goes poorly for the Novoslovians and their leader, General Battlesky (groan!) prepares to execute the Doctor and his niece via firing squad.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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!?
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!
Happy President’s Day everyone!
For our non American readers, President’s Day is an American holiday held on the third Monday of every month. It was originally made a legal holiday in order to honor George Washington and Abraham Lincoln,
but depending on what state you live in it can either celebrate one of them, both, or every President who has been elected into office.
Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the position of President of the United States of America is probably not the most popular position of leadership in the world right now,
but let me make my position on the matter perfectly clear.
While it is important to realize that the position of President of the United States is a difficult one, and that we should honor the people who sacrifice their time and health to the job, the truth of the matter is that at the end of the day the President is an elected official who can, and should, only do so much.
At the end of the day the problems that we face as a society can only be solved when ordinary people come together to fix them and take action. Solutions are almost never the work of one great individual, but rather a collection of ordinary people.
Sadly, the slow and tedious work of millions is difficult to comprehend. So in order to make sense of it all we do two things. We celebrate the lives and achievements of a few men and women and we craft symbols and signs that we can rally around.
That is part of the reason why I like superheroes so much. They’re colorful, larger than life, and an easy way for people to relate to things and events that are much bigger than themselves.
In an increasingly complex and chaotic world, they are the walking solutions to many of our problems.
So let’s take a look at a Golden Age superhero who wasn’t just a superhero who represented the millions of men and women who fought in WW2, but a walking symbol of America as well: Uncle Sam.
Origin and Career
Uncle Sam became the personification of the American people and government during the War of 1812, although you probably recognize him more from his World War 1 recruitment poster.
According to legend, the character of Uncle Sam was based off of the real life Samuel Wilson, who was a meat packer from New York and a fervent American patriot.
Uncle Sam is up there with the bald eagle, baseball, and the flag as great American symbols and since he has such a violent history and is often associated with war it only makes sense that when America decided to get involved during World War 2, they co opt the ever loving crap out of him.
Naturally he found a home in comic books and in July of 1940, Quality Comics published National Comics #1 hit the stands with Uncle Sam leading the charge against the Axis.
I don’t know what I like more, the fact that Uncle Sam’s hat hasn’t blown away in the wind, or that they have a LITTLE KID RUNNING ACROSS AN AIRPLANE WING ATTACKING A FULLY GROWN MAN ARMED WITH A PISTOL!
Boy, child safety laws were pretty lax back then.
Like every hero, Uncle Sam needed an origin story. It turned out that the folks at National Comics were content to keep him as a vague symbol of American government and way of life, only this time he was going to get his hands dirty and join the fight against crime and injustice. It turned out that Uncle Sam was the spirit of a fallen soldier from the American Revolution and continued to appear whenever his country needed him to fight.
With any other company or creator this probably would have turned into a silly little farce, but this version of Uncle Sam was written by Will Eisner.
If you don’t know who Will Eisner is, all you need to understand is that the comic book industry’s version of the Oscars is named after him.
Anyway, this version of Uncle Sam did his patriotic duty and fought off, what else, the forces of evil and tyranny that just so happened to look like the Nazis.
His superpowers were whatever the story needed and he had a kid sidekick named Buddy Smith who accompanied Uncle Sam on his many dangerous adventures.
So what happened?
He spent 45 issues beating the enemies of America, and freedom loving people everywhere, to a pulp.
Then Quality Comics went belly up in 1956 and was bought out by DC.
DC’s Uncle Sam would go on to be a pretty big supporting character in the DC universe. He became the leader of the Freedom Fighters, a group of old Quality Comics characters that were brought together in a Justice League type of arrangement.
His origin was retooled a bit. Now he was a spiritual entity that was summoned by the Founding Fathers in an occult ritual that bound the “Spirit of America” to the body of a dying patriot.
He’s had a steady presence in the DC universe ever since the 1970’s.
In 1997 DC’s greatest imprint, Vertigo Comics, gave Uncle Sam a two issue mini series written by Steve Darnell and drawn by Alex Ross.
My hat is off to Vertigo for taking a pretty goofy character and treating him with respect and giving him a meaningful story.
He appeared in the DC event comic Blackest Night.
and was dramatically revamped as a mortal black man in the New 52 reboot.
Uncle Sam is an interesting character. On one hand he’s goofy, colorful, and the kind of un ironic display of patriotism that would make a lot of people cringe. On the other hand he’s a symbol of a violent and destructive superpower that has a nasty habit of sticking its nose in business that it has no right to be in.
Personally, I’m more inclined towards the first interpretation. Whether you love him or hate him, there is no denying that the man is pure Americana and I can’t think of a better symbol of the effort and determination of the American people.
Sure, you can call me corny and cheesy but you know what? I’m okay with that.
Happy New Years everyone!
After a week long break to celebrate the holidays we’re back and ready for another year of obscure comic book characters you’ve never heard of!
Now, since it’s a new year I thought it might be fun to do some branching out and try some new things. So this year I thought I might focus more on the villains of the Golden Age.
Now, over the course of researching a lot of Golden Age superheroes, I’ve learned that the early comic book scene wasn’t a very big fan of putting a lot of thought into their bad guys. Usually the hero fought off hoards of gangsters enacting some sort of scheme
or the Nazis trying to pull off some evil plot.
Most of the time the villain that the hero would be fighting would often get his/her just comeuppance at the end of the story and be killed off.
The point is that the bad guys don’t get a whole lot of attention in the Golden Age of Comics, but every now and then there is a villain who proves to be a long lasting and memorable threat.
Anyway, I thought we could start with a villain who managed to give an entire team of some of the most powerful superheroes a run for their money: Isbisa.
Origin and Career
Isbisa made his first and only Golden Age appearance in All Winners #19 in 1946.
What’s interesting is that while many of the comic books at this time were anthologies that told a series of short, unrelated stories about a whole cast of super heroes, this book was a complete story where a team of some of Timely’s greatest heroes would work together to defeat Isbisa as a common foe.
The book itself was written by comic book legend, and a man who deserves way more credit than he’s been getting, Bill Finger.
Bill Finger is the man who is responsible for creating most of the Batman mythos, although for the purposes of this article let’s just say he’s the guy who created the Joker.
So it’s safe to say Mr. Finger knew how to create a pretty good villain.
Isbisa started out as a humble museum assistant named Simon Meke.
His goal was simple (as was most of the motivations for villains at the time): world domination, which he planned to accomplish by stealing a nuclear weapon. In order to do this he adopted the super villain identity of “Isbisa”, which was an acronym for the six “Ages of Man” (Ice Age, Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Steel Age, Atomic Age).
Despite his lowly status, and the fact that he probably had no idea how to properly handle and manage a nuke, Meke was a smart man and realized that the superheroes of the All Winners Squad would be his greatest threat.
He developed a plan to keep the team of Captain America, Bucky, the Sub Mariner, The Whizzer, The Human Torch, Toro, and Miss America busy while he could make off with the bomb.
His plan was actually pretty devious. It involved hiring a group of gangsters and two small time super villains named “The Calcium Master”
(Drink your milk kids),
and Black Patch
to distract the heroes by committing various crimes while he robbed the place storing the bomb with his own special sleeping gas.
In typical super villain fashion each of the crimes was committed with a certain theme and with plenty of clues for the heroes to use in order to figure it out. Also, in typical comic book fashion the heroes were able to come together and save the day, capturing Isbisa and placing him into police custody.
So what happened?
Isbisa’s battle against the All Winners squad was his first and only Golden Age appearance. However, this was not the last time he would appear to challenge his old foes.
His next appearance was in the 1970’s in Giant Sized Avengers #1 as a flashback.
It turned out that two of the old members of the squad, the Whizzer and Miss America, had left the group after defeating Isbisa and were married. They wound up joining the CIA and were placed on body guard duty at a nuclear test site. Unfortunately, during one of the tests they were both exposed to a large amount of radiation and when Miss America gave birth to their first child they discovered that their son was lethally radioactive.
The two were forced to place their son in stasis, but unfortunately their son escaped and became the villain Nuklo.
Nuklo was eventually defeated and contained, but not before being brought to the attention of Isbisa.
The now released super villain learned about Nuklo’s powers and conspired to use them to give himself nuclear powers.
He disguised himself as a psychiatrist, infiltrated the facility holding Nuklo, and managed to hook both of them up to a device that would transfer Nuklo’s power to himself. The device worked and when the Whizzer confronted his old nemesis, Ibisia killed him.
He was defeated by Vision and the Scarlet Witch and sent back to prison.
His final appearance was in a battle with She Hulk.
Isbisa had managed to escape prison again and was disguised as a physics teacher named Doctor Sandeson. He discovered a way to move super villains in and out of time and space and used this same energy to rejuvenate himself (it’s worth mentioning that She Hulk comics played fast and loose with things like time and space and breaking the fourth wall).
She Hulk eventually triumphed and Isbisa managed to escape. He hasn’t been heard from since.
Isbisa is something of a rarity in Golden Age Comics. While there were plenty of capable superheroes in the Golden Age, and plenty of them were much deadlier and scarier than Isbisa, there weren’t a whole lot of consistent threats. Usually a bad guy would last anywhere between a single issue or a couple, but Isbisa did manage to last and plague his mortal enemies for a terrifyingly long amount of time.