Let’s talk about sidekicks.
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,
and some have not.
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.
Origin and Career
The Green Lantern of the 1940’s was radically different from the Green Lantern we know today.
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.
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.
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.
The man was a Brooklyn taxi driver who drove Alan Scott around as needed.
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.
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.
Also, he was incredibly attached to his cab, who he named “Goitrude”.
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.
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.
Sadly, this meant that the new age of comics didn’t have time and room for a hard talking fast punching maniac like Doiby,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Origin and Career
The Invisible Hood made his first appearance in Quality Comics’ Smash Comics in August of 1939.
He was created by comic book artist and writer Arthur Pinajian, an Armenian author and writer who went by the pen name “Art Goodman”.
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.
But back to the Invisible Hood,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
His first post Golden Age appearance was in a DC comic book series called “The Freedom Fighters”.
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.
He was eventually given another reboot in the modern era in Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters.
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.
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.
ORIGIN AND CAREER
John Steele made his first and only Golden Age appearance in Daring Mystery Comics #1 in January of 1940.
He was created by legendary artist Dan Barry,
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Apparantly, this small time obscure character from a single story in the 1940’s, was America’s first super soldier.
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.
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.
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.
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,
Where it was revealed that he had actually been alive for an unkown amount of time and had fought in the American Civil War.
Being a super soldier working for an evil organization John inevitably came into contact with Captain America.
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.
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