Continuing on our series discussing the previous lives and careers of The Twelve we’re going to look at the one of the basic and standard superhero archetypes of the 1940’s: Mister E (good Lord even writing that just makes me want to groan).
Origin and Career
Mister E debuted in February of 1940, along with his future teammate The Laughing Mask, in Daring Mystery Comics #2.
I’m going to level with you, almost everything about Mister E is boring.
His origin story? He’s a rich athlete named Victor Jay who decides to fight crime.
His motivations? He’s bored.
His costume? You can find the same design on half a dozen pulp and super heroes of the time.
It’s a small wonder he only lasted one issue. That being said the villain he faced was pretty cool.
That is a picture of the Vampire, a mad scientist who was the mortal enemy of Mister E (it’s never explained why) who had developed a drug that would cause his victim’ heart to explode. Mister E would stop the Vampire from taking over an oil company run by a man named J.P Snead. At the end of the comic Mister E captured the Vampire, who promptly escaped, allowing the hero to wonder if the Vampire and himself would meet again, gearing up for a re match that would never occur.
So what happened?
Like many previous superheroes on this list Mister E would only last one issue until he was revived in 2007 for J. Michael Straczynski’s The Twelve.
Like his fellow super heroes Mister E spent time in Europe fighting the Nazis and was captured after a failed assault on Berlin. It’s interesting to note that since Mister E didn’t have super powers he was viewed more as a tourist rather than a super hero,
and his revulsion at the Witnesses’ description of the crimes committed at Auschwitz seemed to reinforce that idea.
Like everyone else he was placed in cryogenic storage and wasn’t discovered until 2007 and while he would play a pretty passive part in the main story Mister E would have one of the most heartbreaking and emotional side stories in the entire comic.
One of the great things about The Twelve is Straczynski’s ability to create great characters to tell a great story and make a point. In the case of Mister E this was a moment where Straczynski’s talents were put to exceptional use.
It turned out that Victor Jay wasn’t Mister E’s real name, it was Victor J. Goldstein. He was Jewish but decided to hide the fact in order to fit in and be accepted into modern high society.
For anyone who is a fan of Golden Age comic books this is something that is incredibly jarring. Not only does Straczynski use a medium of story telling where its heroes are supposed to stand above petty racism like this but it is especially shocking when you consider that so many of the early comic book creators were Jewish.
Siegel and Shuster
even Stan Lee was the son of Jewish immigrants (his real name was Stanley Lieber before he had it changed)
Mister E would attempt reconnect with his now 68 year old son, who disowned his father by claiming he was a coward for not owning up to his heritage.
However, at the end of the comic Mister E would later learn that his wife had passed away and he vowed to never be a superhero due to the extreme emotional and mental cost it placed on him and his family.
While Mister E wasn’t much of a super hero and didn’t get to save the day he was put to fantastic use as a commentary on 1940’s America and the culture that spawned the industry we all know and love.