Golden Age Showcase: Target and the Targeteers

 

You know what they say…comedy comes in threes.

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And I like to think that today’s superhero group took that lesson to heart, even though I’m willing to bet any comedy was unintentional.

Today we’re talking about the rather humorously named Target and the Targeteers.

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Origin and Career

This trio of superheroes was published by a company called Novelty Press, which was created in 1940 by Curtis Publishing.  If that name isn’t familiar all you need to know is that they publish the Saturday Evening Post.  If that name isn’t familiar then you probably recognize this cover.

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Novelty Press was created as a comic book imprint in order to take advantage of the comic book craze.  They were able to draw a lot of great Golden Age talent such as Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, and Basil Wolverton and their two most famous publications were the superhero series Blue Bolt,

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and the anthology series Target Comics.

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Despite sharing the name of the title, the superhero we’re talking about today didn’t appear until issue #10 in November of 1940.

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Yes that is him on the cover and I have to admit I don’t know what’s funnier: the testicular fortitude of a man who is willing to get shot by painting a giant target on his chest or how stupid the gangsters are for not aiming at the knees or face.

The hero was created by artist Dick Briefer under the pseudonym of Dick Hamilton. Image result for golden age dick brieferBriefer’s most famous work was with the Frankenstein character and is widely considered to be the first modern comic book artist to work with horror stories.

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 Back to Dick’s most famous superhero, Target’s first adventure had him sending an ominous message to criminals everywhere: “Live your life on the straight and narrow or I’ll find you”.  He does this by buying up advertising space on nationwide newspapers, radio space, and even hijacking the phone service.

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You know how in modern movies the bad guy can mysteriously deliver a message to every computer, television, and phone around the world?  It’s nice to know that this particular cliche isn’t so modern.

The Target’s ominous message doesn’t deter a group of gangsters from kidnapping a scientist who is developing a new explosive that other countries want.

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The gangsters reach the professor’s house, only to find that the Target is already there.

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On the face of it, it would appear that the hero has a very poorly designed costume for dealing with guns, but the comic explains that while the suit protects his chest and arms (thus leaving the face and legs unprotected) the target is there to draw enemy fire to the places where the bullets can’t harm him.

Comic Book Cover For Target Comics v1 10 [10]

I would commend the comic for attempting to use “Batman psychology” to explain why the hero made the decisions he made but no, in real life that man is dead.

The adventure ends in typical fashion.  The bad guys are stopped, the hero saves the day, and the reader is left wondering what’s next.

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The next issue not only delves into the Target’s backstory, it also reveals that he has two friends who share a similar death wish by dressing in similar costumes.

The Target’s civilian identity is Niles Reed.  He was an athletic prodigy who decided to become a metallurgist had a brother named Bill, who decided to become a lawyer.

Unfortunately, Bill was framed for murder and arrested.  In his rage, Niles decided to rescue his brother while disguised as a masked vigilante.

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While it’s a bit unclear it would appear that the cops accidentally shot Bill as he was trying to escape with his brother.  So in an interesting twist, Niles was responsible for his brother’s death.

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Later that evening Niles happens to stumble across two orphaned boys who were in a lot trouble with some gangsters for not paying protection money.  The three become friends and decide to dress up like superheroes using the same bulletproof costumes of Niles’ design.

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The origin story ended with the reveal that Bill had been framed by a crime boss named Hammerfist, who would become something of a recurring villain for the trio.

I’ll admit, there are some interesting points to this story.  The fact that the hero is actually responsible for his brother’s death coupled with him taking in two orphans who share similar tragic stories draw a lot of similarities to more popular heroes like Spider Man and Batman.

The rest of the trio’s adventures were all one shots with a very patriotic bent them.  The three did their duty and fought against America’s enemies, both at home and abroad.

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The post war years saw a return to form for the trio where they went back to waging war against criminals in the United States.

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So what happened?

The trio of crime fighters had a pretty long shelf life for the Golden Age heroes.  They lasted until issue #95 of Target Comics where their last adventure had them foiling criminals who were sabotaging advertising signs in order to extort an advertising firm.

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Yeah, maybe it was a good thing that they got cancelled.

The trio would disappear for a while until the Target made an appearance in AC Comics’ Men of Mystery series in 1999.

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The trio itself made a comeback in Dynamite Entertainment’s Project Superpowers series in 2008.

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Their backstories remained the same, only this time they all had super speed on top of their indestructible suits.

The Target and the Targeteers embodied everything that worked and didn’t work about the Golden Age of Comics.  On one hand they were goofy, wore silly costumes, and relied on some pretty bad science in order to survive and function.  On the other hand, they had one of the better origin stories I’ve read, they had a long run, and a lot of the things that made it into their stories such as the use of psychology to fight criminals would be use to great effect in other, more popular comic hero stories.

All in all, they weren’t that bad.

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Golden Age Showcase: Professor Supermind and Son

Let’s talk about families in comic books.

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Sure there are plenty of family figures in comic books.

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Heck, there are even a couple of actual families that have proven to be incredibly popular,

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but for the most part the purpose of being a family member of a superhero usually means your either an obstacle to the work of a superhero, or you’re dead.

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If you’re looking for someone to blame for this trope, blame Batman.

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Batman was the first superhero to have a clearly defined origin story and he was the first hero to have his parents tragically killed.

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In a way it makes sense for a superhero to not have his/her parents around when things like curfew, homework, and “you’re going out dressed like THAT?!” are a constant roadblocks.

While Batman was the first in the long and proud tradition of orphaned superheroes today’s blog post is about a father and son team who go around and fight crime together.

By which I mean the son does all the heavy lifting and the father sits back, tells his son what to do, and subjects his only child to dangerous experiments.

Today we are talking about Professor Supermind and Son.

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Origin and Career

Professor Supermind and his son made their first appearance in the Dell Comics anthology Popular Comics  #60 in Febuary of 1941.

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I don’t know who created him but apparently he was popular enough to be on the cover for the next couple of issues.

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Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #65

The origin of this superheroic duo is straightforward and simple enough to be described in the first panel of every issue.

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The father’s name is Professor Warren, a super scientist who has created two of the greatest inventions mankind has ever witnessed.  The first is a television that can view anything in the world which was useful for both spotting where crime and for checking in on what I can only presume are his many ex wives and their new boyfriends.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #60

The second is an “energy builder” which he uses to zap his son with electrical power.  Following super hero logic this jolt of energy doesn’t kill him.  Instead, it grants him “electric power equal to a thousand horsepower”.

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I’m beginning to think that a lot of early comic book creators didn’t really know how science works.

The two men didn’t have much in the way of motivation outside of simply doing the right thing and each of their stories were pretty formulaic for the time.  The professor would see a problem going on through his television and send his son to stop it.

One of the better stories in my opinion was when the two fought of, what else, Nazis who were threatening to invade America.

Comic Book Cover For Popular Comics #65

What’s really impressive about this story is the pair’s complete and total disregard for human life since they decide to collapse the tunnel and drown thousands of men unless the Nazis back off.

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I mean, I know that they’re Nazis and all, but killing so many people is a bit extreme.

Casual disregard for human life aside, the duo did have something resembling a nemesis outside of the dastardly Germans.  Apparently, the Professor had a former pupil who wanted the Professor’s inventions for himself.

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The man’s name was Sorel and he was the closest thing the series ever had to a super villain.

Funnily enough, Sorel was actually somewhat capable.  He even managed to sneak in to the Professor’s lab and use the power machine on himself.

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So what happened?

Despite having a fairly interesting idea and some halfway decent artwork for the time, the father and son team only made twelve appearances.

I don’t know what happened but I can make a pretty good guess.  Professor Supermind and his son started out as the cover story and as the first story in each anthology for a couple of issues and then started losing their cover appearances and first story positions to other characters.

It’s safe to say that they just weren’t as popular as Dell Comics hoped.

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Looking back it’s pretty easy to see why.  Each of the stories were pretty formulaic, the dialogue was wooden, and although the art wasn’t terrible the artist preferred to have the characters stand around and talk rather than act.

Sadly, there is very little chance for these two to make a comeback.  Dell Comics was hit pretty hard in the 1950’s and never really recovered.  They closed shop in 1972, although their legacy continues with the three superheroes Doctor Solar, Turok, and Magnus Robot Fighter.

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Despite the fact that their stories are pretty boring once you get down to it, I do think that Professor Supermind and his son do have some potential.  As I stated at the beginning of the article, living biological parents are something of a rarity in comic books so there could be a place for a well written father son team.

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Golden Age Showcase: The Mad Monk

Let’s take a bite into the comic book industry’s version of vanilla ice cream and talk about Batman.

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Batman is one of the most popular superheroes in the world for a reason.  He’s got a great design, he’s got a cool story, he’s got tonnes of history, but most importantly…he has great villains.

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Yes, it seems pretty cliche to talk about how awesome Batman’s villains are but we all know that Poison Ivy is awesome,

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Mister Freeze is tragic and deep,

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and the Joker needs no introduction.

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But how does Batman manage to have so many great villains?

Easy, because he doesn’t kill them.

Batman’s aversion to killing criminals (even if the justice system he’s sworn to protect would have put the Joker to death a long time ago) and distaste at using guns is well documented.  With that being said, we’ve talked about how the Batman of the Golden Age wasn’t above using guns, or even killing criminals.

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The Golden Age Batman was a much darker and violent superhero than a lot of modern iterations and as a result, he either needed equally dark and violent villains or a small army’s worth of disposable henchmen.

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Today we’re going to talk about one of Batman’s first adversaries, a creature of the night who wasn’t just violent and unquestionably evil, but one of Batman’s first important villains: The Mad Monk.

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Origin and Career

The Mad Monk made his first appearance in Detective Comics #31 in September of 1939.

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He beat out the Joker by 8 months.

The character was created by Bob Kane and Garner Fox.

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Kane is the man who is widely credited with the creation of Batman (while he did play a part, a lion’s share of the credit does go to Bill Finger) and Fox is the man who helped create little known DC heroes like the Flash, Dr. Fate, and Hawkman.

The Mad Monk is special because he was the main villain for one of the first multi part stories in Batman’s career.  While the first super villain to face Batman in a multi issue series was the imaginatively named Dr. Death,

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The Mad Monk was a bigger, and much more mystical and terrifying, threat.

The Monk’s real name was Niccolai Tepes, a homage to historical crazy person and real life inspiration for the actual Dracula: Vlad Tepes aka “Vlad the Impaler”.

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The Mad Monk was a literal vampire complete with the need to drink blood, the ability to turn into a wolf, the ability to hypnotize people into a trance, and an assistant named Dala.

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While it is unknown why the Monk wants to kill Batman it is made apparent that the Monk does know his secret identity as Bruce Wayne when he kidnaps Bruce’s girl friend Julie Madison.

The Monk and Dala hypnotize her and use her to lure Batman into a trap in Paris where he has to fight a giant gorilla.

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After defeating the beast, Batman is captured and is trapped in a net dangling over a pit of snakes.  Because this is a comic book and nobody just wants to shoot their captured adversary.

Fun fact: This is the first time Batman ever uses the Batarang in comics.

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After escaping, Batman tracks the Monk to Transylvania (because of course) and confronts the villain in his mountain castle.  The Monk puts up a good fight by transforming into a wolf but Batman manages to knock the wolves out and escape.

The comic ends with Batman shooting The Mad Monk and Dala as they lie in their coffins.

If you ask me, this was a brilliant display of common sense.  While I think the idea for the Mad Monk is cool, I certainly wouldn’t want an immortal blood sucking creature  roaming the streets of Gotham or anywhere else in the world.

So what happened?

The Monk remained dead for a long time, probably because he was just two scary and dark for the censorship police known as the Comics Code Authority.

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But, like the vampires that he took his inspiration from, he would arise from the grave many years later.  In 1986 Gerry Conway, the co creator of the Punisher and the man who killed Gwen Stacy,

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reworked the original 1939 story into a modern origin for the Mad Monk in the 1980’s.

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In the new version the Mad Monk was a former plantation owner who owned slaves in post Civil War America.  He and his sister Dala were attacked by their slaves and turned into the undead in a voodoo ritual.

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Personally, I preferred the earlier version better.

The Mad Monk manged to turn Batman into a vampire but was eventually defeated by a wandering priest named Father Green.

The character would be given another fresh coat of paint in 2006 when a six issue mini series was published by DC Comics entitled Batman and the Mad Monk.

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It was pretty good.

The Mad Monk is a villain that has been mostly forgotten to history.  While he was a pretty one note character who didn’t have much staying power, and while he has been overshadowed by much more complex and interesting villains, he deserves a lot more attention and respect.

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He was one of Batman’s first true challenges and paved the way for the rogue gallery that keeps us coming back to Batman comics again and again.

Golden Age Showcase: Doiby Dickles

Let’s talk about sidekicks.

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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,

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and some have not.

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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.

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Origin and Career

The Green Lantern of the 1940’s was radically different from the Green Lantern we know today.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The man was a Brooklyn taxi driver who drove Alan Scott around as needed.

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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.

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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.

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Also, he was incredibly attached to his cab, who he named “Goitrude”.

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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.

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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.

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Sadly, this meant that the new age of comics didn’t have time and room for a hard talking fast punching maniac like Doiby,

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Golden Age Showcase: Invisible Hood

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.

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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.

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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.

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Origin and Career

The Invisible Hood made his first appearance in Quality Comics’ Smash Comics in August of 1939.

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He was created by comic book artist and writer Arthur Pinajian, an Armenian author and writer who went by the pen name “Art Goodman”.

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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.

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But back to the Invisible Hood,

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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.

Comic Book Cover For Smash Comics #1

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.

Comic Book Cover For Smash Comics #1

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.

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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.

Comic Book Cover For Smash Comics #2

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.

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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.

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His first post Golden Age appearance was in a DC comic book series called “The Freedom Fighters”.

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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.

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He was eventually given another reboot in the modern era in Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters.

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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.

President’s Day special: Uncle Sam

Happy President’s Day everyone!

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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,

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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.

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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,

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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So what happened?

He spent 45 issues beating the enemies of America, and freedom loving people everywhere, to a pulp.

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Then Quality Comics went belly up in 1956 and was bought out by DC.

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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.

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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.

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He’s had a steady presence in the DC universe ever since the 1970’s.

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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.

Image result for dc comics uncle sam vertigo

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.

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and was dramatically revamped as a mortal black man in the New 52 reboot.

Image result for uncle sam new 52

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.

Image result for uncle sam dc comics

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.

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Sure, you can call me corny and cheesy but you know what?  I’m okay with that.

Image result for uncle sam dc comics

Golden Age Showcase: The Fin

You know who doesn’t get nearly enough respect in the comic book world?  Superheroes who live and work in the water.

Image result for water based superheroes

I mean really, we live on a planet that has water covering over 70% of our surface and so many people like to treat genuine and well established heroes like Aquaman and Namor as jokes.

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With that being said, there has been a lot done over the past decade to rectify this.  Aquaman has been getting a lot of attention from the DC higher ups,

Aquaman: Rebirth #1

and despite everything I’ve been saying, Namor has actually been an integral part of the Marvel stories since the beginning as comic’s first anti hero.

Image result for namor the submariner anti hero

 

my point is, that there has been a lot of work and effort put in to making characters like these fun and badass and that deserves a lot of respect.

So let’s take the idea that water based heroes can be taken seriously and throw it out the window by taking a look at…the Fin.

Image result for timely comics the fin

Origin and career

The Fin made his first appearance in Daring Mystery Comics #7 in April of 1941.

Image result for daring mystery comics #7

He was created by Massachusetts native and comic book legend Bill Everett.

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The man has a reputation as one of the greats, especially when you consider that his resume includes the creation of Daredevil,

Image result for bill everett daredevil

and Namor the Submariner.

Image result for bill everett namor

I guess the guy really liked the ocean.

Back to the Fin,

Image result for timely comics the fin

the man’s real identity was Peter Noble, a United States naval cadet who found himself in the unfortunate position of being on a sinking submarine,

Peter manages to escape and eventually discovers an underwater cave where he manages to find air, edible plants, and a strange race of creatures calling themselves Neptunians.

Peter fights their ruler, a creature named Ikor, in single combat and realizes that he can breathe underwater because of reasons.

He also becomes their king after killing Ikor with his gun (that somehow manages to work after being underwater for a long time) and the Neptunians begin to worship him as a reincarnation of one of their noble ancestors named “The Fin”.

Peter then asserts his dominance by proclaiming that he is now their king and intends to rule with an iron fist…or just for as long as it takes for him to find a way back home.

The story ends with Peter returning to the sub and fashioning a “slick costume” in order to go off and have an adventure.

Somewhere, a shark is laughing his tail off.

The Fin would have one final Golden Age adventure in the following issue of Daring Mystery Comics where he fought a U-Boat captain calling himself the Barracuda.

Image result for timely comics the fin

Special mention needs to be given to just how evil the Barracuda is.  He’s got he mustache. the monocle, and has no problem killing women and children.  

Seriously, the Red Skull would be looking at this and go “damn, that’s a bit much”.

Naturally the Fin swoops (swims?) in and saves the day by giving the villain the beating of his life.

He then calls in the Navy and the story ends with the day saved and the villains brought to justice.

So what happened?

The Fin would never have another Golden Age adventure, but not for the reasons you might think.

Normally a lot of these types of characters were cancelled after World War 2 ended due to lack of reader interest, but the Fin was left in the dust BECAUSE of the war.

See, thanks to the fight against the Axis powers, the United States launched a massive campaign to collect material for the war effort.  This meant things like saving metal and paper were given a lot of attention.

Image result for world war 2 paper shortage

The U.S also implemented a strict rationing system for everything you could imagine from gas to sugar and, most importantly for the comic book industry, paper.

So thanks to rationing and mailing costs Timely Comics had to put a damper on Daring Mystery Comics.  While they did start back up again in 1944 the damage was done and the Fin was no more.

However, like many of his fellow patriots in spandex the Fin would find new life in the later years.

His first post war appearance was in Avengers #97 in 1972 where a likeness of his character, along with a few other Golden Age greats, helped defend Earth during the Kree-Skrull war.

Image result for the fin avengers 1972

That was his only appearance for a long time until 2004 where the Fin would become a much more fleshed out and meaningful character in the  All New Invaders series and the unfinished All Winners Squad: Band of Heroes mini series.

He was an ally of the main characters and part of a military team called “The Crazy Sues”, a special group of enhanced humans gathered by the Allies to defeat the Nazis.

Image result for marvel comics the crazy sues

He was not the talkative type.

Image result for the fin and nia noble

Besides his team he also decided to get married to a human/Atlantean hybrid named Nia Noble and assumed his place as the king of Neptunia.

Image result for the fin and nia noble

Despite his background status and small time appearances, the Fin was given a validation of sorts when he appeared in the Marvel Handbook in 2004.

Image result for the marvel handbook 2004

I’ll be honest, when I was first doing research into the Fin at the start of the article I was a bit skeptic and only wanted to write about him as a joke.  At first glance, I don’t think it’s too hard to see why.

Image result for the fin marvel

Looking at him now, with the benefit of research and hindsight, I see him as more of a tragic hero.  Sure he was goofy and had a weird costume, but he was created by a great of the industry and went on to have a fair amount of time in the spotlight.

It’s safe to say that he deserves a place in the pantheon of water themed superheroes.

Golden Age Showcase: Dynamite Thor

Full disclosure, I discovered this superhero after reading an article for Cracked.com.

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The article was about crazy Golden Age superheroes and the author, a gentleman who goes by the name of Seanbaby, has a pretty cool list of obscure old school heroes.

Anyway, on to the article and if Seanbaby does wind up reading this, I just want to say thank you.

Today we’re going to to talk about the most explosive superhero in all of comics, a man so explosive that his name combines the Norse god of thunder and a highly dangerous explosive: Dynamite Thor.

Image result for dynamite thor

Origin and career

Dynamite Thor made is first appearance in Weird Comics #6 September of 1940.

Comic Book Cover For Weird Comics #6 - Version 2

He was created and written by a man named Wright Lincoln and is Mr. Lincoln’s only credited superhero.

He was published by Fox Features Syndicate, a company that was famous for two reasons.  First, their owner was an incredibly outspoken and boisterous man named Victor S. Fox.

Image result for victor s fox

Apparently, before he became a comic book publisher he had made a living as the head of a shipping company, was arrested for stock fraud, and a book keeper for the company that would become DC Comics.  Also, he had a penchant for smoking cigars and calling himself “The King of Comics”

The man deserves his own article if we ever decide to do that.

Second, they were the original publishers of the superhero Blue Beetle.

Image result for fox comics blue beetle

But back to Dynamite Thor.

Image result for dynamite thor

This hero’s actual name is Peter Thor, a wealthy mine owner and apparent explosives expert.

Here is his origin story.

Comic Book Cover For Weird Comics #6 - Version 2

And that’s it.

Say what you want about Golden Age comics, at least they’re damn efficient with setting up their characters.

As you might be able to guess from the name, Dynamite Thor likes to use dynamite…a lot.

Does he need to get someone’s attention?  Dynamite.

Comic Book Cover For Weird Comics #6 - Version 2

Destroy a ship killing and/or stranding countless numbers of people?  Dynamite

Image result for dynamite thor

Need to put out a fire?  You guessed it…dynamite.

Comic Book Cover For Weird Comics #6 - Version 2

Believe it or not, this actually isn’t as stupid as it seems, although to be fair it is pretty stupid.  It turns out that you can use explosions to put out fires so…good for the writer I guess.

Dynamite Thor was also seemingly impervious to explosives, something that is a pretty useful skill to have when you chuck dynamite everywhere.  Apparently this meant he was also immune to high G forces because his obsession with dynamite allowed him to do this,

Image result for dynamite thor

which is probably the most unfortunate way to fly that I have ever seen.

You would think that this ability to resist explosions would allow him to be practically invulnerable but nope, he was just as injury probe as you and me.

Image result for dynamite thor

His supporting cast is nothing really new or creative.

He had a girlfriend named Glenda who he had to keep in the dark about his secret identity for no other reason than that’s what superheroes do,

Comic Book Cover For Weird Comics #7

and he fought your standard assortment of foreign spies and gangsters.

Really, aside from the obsession with explosives and the high death toll he must have racked up, he was pretty boring.

So what happened?

Absolutely nothing happened, he disappeared from the comic book scene entirely after five pretty standard and kind of boring stories.

Fox Comics would declare bankruptcy in 1950 and its most famous creation, the Blue Beetle, would be bought by Charlton Comics,

 Image result for charlton comics blue beetle

and eventually acquired by DC Comics into the hero we know today.

Image result for dc comics blue beetle

How could he be rebooted?

The question here really isn’t “how can he be rebooted?” it’s more “can he be rebooted in such a way to make him interesting?”.

Sure, Dynamite Thor is an explosives expert and he seems to be invulnerable to explosives, but someone with that particular skill set would cause waaaay too much collateral damage to be considered a hero (although that could be an interesting theme to play around with), so he would more than likely be rebooted as a villain.

The problem here is that there are a lot of halfway decent super villains such as DC’s Shrapnel,

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and Marvel’s Nitro,

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who have explosion based powers, which means that Dynamite Thor would probably struggle to stand out.

Maybe he could be a business man who has advanced knowledge of chemistry and physics and uses it to develop better explosives which he uses to commit crimes?  Or maybe he could be a disillusioned military veteran who was in a bomb disposal unit and watched his entire squad die?  The trick isn’t updating his powers, it’s making that update interesting enough for modern readers.

Dynamite Thor was a strange, very obscure hero who lives on in articles like these.  He had a pretty interesting power, used it in hilarious ways, and only lasted a couple of issues before fading into obscurity.  Basically, it’s heroes like these that make the comic book landscape vast enough and interesting enough to keep researching.

Comic book showcase: ?????

Happy Holidays everyone!

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Since it is the week before Christmas, and since we plan on taking Christmas week off from the blog, I thought it would be nice to talk about one of the most powerful superheroes in all of comic books.

He’s big, he’s red, he knows if you’ve been naughty or nice, and he’s listed as one of the most powerful mutants in the entire X-Men franchise…it’s SANTA CLAUS!

Image result for marvel santa claus

Origin and Career

Unlike most of the characters we talk about on this blog, this guy has had a long and illustrious career, and he didn’t even start off in comic books.

If you want to learn about the history of Santa, there are a couple of things you have to understand.  For starters, many people use the names “Santa Claus”, “St. Nick”, “Kris Kringle”, and “Father Christmas” interchangeably.

All those names are actually talking about different people throughout history.

The Santa Claus that we know was made popular in the 1930’s as a figure who was used to sell Coca Cola.  This was where we get the idea of a jolly man dressed in red with a big white beard and a red nose.
Image result for santa claus coke

But that image was based off of an earlier drawing by famed political cartoonist Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly in 1881, who drew an incredibly popular illustration of the famous poem “A Night Before Christmas”.

Image result for thomas nast santa

This is where we get the idea of Santa with his reindeer and his fascination with giving out toys.

But THAT image was taken from old European Dutch traditions about a jolly old man named “Sinterklaas”, a jolly old man who travels around on Christmas dressed in red and giving out candy to good little boys and girls.

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This is where we get the idea of Santa and his elves, since this version of Santa was accompanied by two beings called “Zwarte Piet” who help Santa hand out candy to the children.

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It’s worth mentioning that this version of Santa has his origins with the Norse god Wotan, who would ride around on his eight legged horse Sleipnir around this time of year.

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It’s also worth mentioning that “Santa” and “Father Christmas” are actually two different people because Father Christmas looks like this.

Image result for father christmas a christmas carol

He’s still a pre Christian figure, just a bit different from the tradition of Santa.

But the real origin of Santa comes from the early Christian St. Nicholas.

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St. Nicholas was originally Nicholas, a 4th century Christian bishop of Myra in what is now known as Turkey.

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In the Eastern Orthodox tradition he is the patron saint of children, the falsely accused, repentant thieves, barrel makers, and a whole bunch of cities and nations that are too numerous to count.  He’s a pretty popular saint.

The legend goes that the bishop had a friend who had the bad luck of only having daughters.  Back then, the family of the bride was required to provide a payment to the family of the groom called a dowry as a sign of good faith and friendship.

Unfortunately, if the bride couldn’t provide a dowry the bride couldn’t be married, and the life of an unmarried woman back then was a very difficult one.

When Nicholas heard this he decided to do something about it and late one night he baked a bunch of gold coins into a loaf of bread, climbed up to the chimney of his friend’s house, and threw the loaf down the chimney.

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and that is where we get the origin of Santa sending presents via chimney.

So what happened?

Oh, Santa Claus is still around, giving gifts and spreading good cheer.

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In fact, he has been so good at it that during WW2, Adolf Hitler had Santa captured in an effort to strike at the morale of America.

Thankfully, Roosevelt had Captain America and Nick Fury of the Howling Commandos rescue Santa.

It was later revealed that Santa is actually the most powerful mutant/superhero ever created.  His abilities are widely varied from longevity, to super speed, to the ability to manipulate his size in order to fit down a chimney of any size.

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Santa has appeared in several adventures with famous Marvel and DC superheroes,

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Image result for santa marvel universe

but it’s worth mentioning that he hasn’t always been a source of good cheer over the years.

Image result for santa marvel universe

Image result for santa marvel universe

Probably the best example of this was when he sold his entire gift making operation to Hydra because he was fed up with all the anger and lack of faith, although it did give us this.

Image result for santa sells out to hydra

Despite all the misadventures and silly stories, Santa has remained a force for good in comic books and the world in general  His friendliness, kindness, and generosity have inspired people to live better lives and to be kind to each other during the Christmas season,

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something that is sorely needed in times like these.

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Merry Christmas everyone, and see you all next year.

Golden Age Showcase: Anteas the Bouncer

So this weekend I went to Rhode Island Comic Con and had the great pleasure of meeting comic book artist Jim Steranko.

Image result for 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.

Comic Book Cover For The Bouncer #13

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.

Comic Book Cover For The Bouncer [10]

He was published by Fox Feature Syndicate, the company that was most famous for giving us the Blue Beetle.

Image result for golden age 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.

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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.

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Not only did Robert write Wonder Woman for over 20 years, he actually wrote the first appearance of the Silver Age Flash: Barry Allen.

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Anteas was also drawn by Louis Ferstadt, a man with few known credits but he did do some work on Plastic Man.

Image result for golden age plastic man comic

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.

Image result for antaeus 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.

Image result for antaeus greek mythology

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,

Image result for anteas the bouncer

That’s him on the right with the beret and glasses and this is a part of his origin story.

Comic Book Cover For The Bouncer #11

He was driven away from being a superhero when he realizes the trouble his powers cause.

Comic Book Cover For The Bouncer #11

 He became a sculptor who didn’t care much for the world and just wanted to make things.

Comic Book Cover For The Bouncer #11

Unfortunately, he made a sculpture of his famous ancestor so lifelike that it became a living being.  Because that is how this stuff works.

Comic Book Cover For The Bouncer #11

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

Image result for anteas the bouncer

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.

Comic Book Cover For The Bouncer [10]

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.

Image result for anteas the bouncer

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