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.

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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.

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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.

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But back to Dynamite Thor.

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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

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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,

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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.

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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,

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

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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.

Golden Age Showcase: Spider Queen

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You know what we need to talk about more on this blog?  Female superheroes.

The way I see it, if we’re going to talk about female superheroes we should go all the way with it.  We need something daring, something obscure, something so original and new that it has stood the test of time and has never shared any background or history with any other established character.

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Huh, that’s a woman swinging from a thread, in a strange costume, and calling herself “Spider Queen”.

This sounds familiar, but I just can’t quite place it.

Origin and career

Spider Queen was published by Fox Features Syndicate, the same company that gave us the original Blue Beetle.

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The Spider Queen first appeared as a back up story in a comic book called The Eagle in September of 1941.

Comic Book Cover For The Eagle #2

The story names a person called Elsa Lesau as the creator.  It would be fantastic if this character was actually created by a woman, but sadly I can’t find any pictures of her.  Also, Elsa may have been a pen name for a writer/artist duo named Louis and Artuo Cazeneuve who were two brothers from Argentina who did a lot of work for Fox and would go on to successful careers as comic book artists.

And this is where I would have a photo of them but alas, Google is a cruel mistress.

It’s worth mentioning that the Golden Age of comics wasn’t very good with things like creators’ rights and giving credit to the people who deserved it so it’s all very up in the air.

Anyway, the Spider Queen was a mild mannered assistant named Sharon Kane.  She worked as an assistant for her husband, a chemist who designed weapons until he was killed by “enemies of the country”.

Comic Book Cover For The Eagle #2

While sifting through the stuff in the lab, Sharon uncovers a formula for a super strong, super sticky thread like substance similar to spider silk.

Comic Book Cover For The Eagle #2

Once she realizes that with great power comes great responsibility, Sharon takes the formula, crafts her own wrist mounted spray guns that she can use to swing across buildings, and dons a costume to become a “sworn enemy to all wrongdoers”.

Isn’t it amazing how “scientist with a fascination with bugs” is such a common trope, especially in comics?  It’s not like anyone’s turned this idea into anything successful.

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Anyway, over the course of her career The Spider Queen simply contented herself with punching out goons and other small time criminals.  There may have been a budding romance with a detective named Mike O’Bell, but that didn’t pan out because…

So what happened?

She only lasted three issues, and since she was only a backup character she didn’t get a chance to develop as a hero or as a person.

Comic Book Cover For The Eagle #3

The character would have been doomed to comic book purgatory if it wasn’t for the folks at Marvel resurrecting her in a 1993 mini series starring a superhero team known as the Invaders.

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In a rather interesting twist, Spider Queen was actually a villain.  In fact she wasn’t just a villain but a Nazi as well.

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To be fair, they give her some justification by explaining that she’s only with the Nazis because they’re fighting the same group of people that killed her husband, but still…nazis.

Plus they gave her costume the 90’s comic book treatment.

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Eh, personally I’m on the fence about it.

So that’s the history of the original Spider Queen, but you’re probably wondering if Spider Queen has any thing to do with Marvel’s flagship hero, Spider man.  After all, I have been dropping subtle hints about it throughout the article.

The answer is yes, Spider Queen and Spiderman did meet.  That being said, it got a bit…weird.

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Long story short, this new Spider Queen was a woman named Adriana Soria who was a failed S.H.I.E.L.D experiment in 1945.

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She has super strength, a sonic scream, and the ability to control people with an “insect gene” which allows her to turn people into spider monsters.  One of her victims is Peter Parker.

We’ll ignore the “spiders are not insects” thing and focus on the fact that Peter actually becomes pregnant while in his spider form, dies, and is reborn as a new Spider Man with organic web shooters instead of mechanical ones.

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ew.

This version of the Spider Queen would come back as a semi regular Spider Man villain in a couple more stories but other than the fact that this new villain was more of a body horror, all powerful lady spider that’s really all you need to know.

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The Spider Queen was an interesting super heroine.  Sure she didn’t have a very long career as a hero, and her time as a villain was both short and very weird, but I like to think she was a real trailblazer.  She was the first super hero to utilize web shooters as a gimmick and would have one of the most interesting transitional careers as a super villain.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

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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

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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.

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