The Secret Lives of Villains #214

Strip 212 lettered.jpg

Advertisements

Golden Age Showcase: Captain Battle

Warning, there are some pretty awful depictions of Japanese people in this article.  

We all know who Captain America is right?

Image result for captain america

Good.

The phrase “success spawns imitators” is something that applies to all art, but it is especially true with comic books.

You have an super strong human who fights for truth and justice?

Image result for superman

Rip him off to huge success and have the inevitable court case bankrupt your company!

Image result for captain marvel dc

The Superman/Captain Marvel story was one that played out a lot in the 1940’s and Captain America’s shtick of “soldier who goes off to Europe to fight thinly disguised Nazis”,

Image result for captain america punching hitler

was one of the most popular setups of the time…for pretty obvious reasons.

Today we’re going to look at a super hero so similar to Captain America that when the creators were deciding a name all they had to do was look at the next letter in the alphabet: Captain Battle.

Image result for captain battle golden age superhero

Origin and Career

Captain Battle was published by a company called Lev Gleason Publications, a company that is most famous for publishing the first true crime comic: Crime Does Not Pay.

Image result for crime does not pay comic

Our hero made his first appearance in another title Silver Streak Comics in May of 1941.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #10

The character was created by artist Jack Binder and writer Cal Formes.  Of the two, Jack is the only one who had a picture,

Image result for artist jack binder

Jack is also the more famous of the two, since he helped create another superhero for Lev Gleason Publications called Dardevil.  And no, it’s not THE Daredevil.

Image result for artist jack binder daredevil

Like most Golden Age heroes, Captain Battle’s origin story is quick and dealt with in a single page.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #10

He was a kid scientist in the first World War and lost an eye to the conflict.  He vowed that a war like that should never happen again (spoilers: that didn’t go so well) and resolves to use his inventions to stop conflicts from happening.

To help him he has inventions such as the “curvoscope”, a telescope that can see anywhere in the world…somehow.

Also, he has the help of a pretty lady secretary, because this is the 1940’s and apparently that was all women were good for.

Image result for 1940's secretary

In his first adventure Captain Battle fights off a race of giant birdmen who are attacking a group of battleships.  He uses this opportunity to showcase two of his other inventions: the Luceflyer jet pack and the Dissolvo gun.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #10

Full disclosure, I think “Luceflyer” is probably the coolest name for a jet pack I can think of.

These birdmen who are attacking the ships belong to a villain named “The Black Dragon” and are called “deaglos”.  They’re big, strong, and kind of intimidating,

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #10

wait no…no, no, no, no.  When you fly around and refer to your commander as “your cluckness” you lose all sense of foreboding and terror.

Naturally, Captain Battle swoops in and saves the day.  He showcases his Dissolvo gun on some of the birdmen and it is goddamn terrifying.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #10

This isn’t a one and done thing, the Dissolvo gets used pretty often throughout the series when Captain Battle decides to fight actual Nazis.

Call me old fashioned, but I’m willing to bet that using a weapon that dissolves your enemies into goo is a violation of the Geneva Convention and human decency.

The Captain is kidnapped and dragged before the Black Dragon, who attempts to turn the hero into a birdman.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #10

He discovers that the birds fear radio beams and uses this knowledge to kill them all in the final page.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #10

It’s worth mentioning that these creatures used to be humans, a point that the Captain brings up two issues later when he invents a serum that changes them back.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #12

He even picks up a subservient Asian man who helps him rescue all the other men.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #12

Captain Battle proved to be a popular hero, so popular that he wound up getting his own kid sidekick and cover appearances.

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #13

Also, he fought Nazi cultist skull unicorns,

Comic Book Cover For Silver Streak Comics #14

no…I am not joking.

This was the sort of stuff that would define Captain Battle’s career.  He fought real threats that were portrayed in strange occult ways in order to make them more intimidating and fantastic.

So what happened?

Captain Battle made his last anthology appearance in Silver Streak #21 in 1942 and his final solo appearance in 1943.  I guess having a superhero trying to stop WW2 from happening is kind of a bummer when the actual war just got bigger.

Lev Gleason Publications continued, but folded in 1956 after public outcry over excessive comic book violence and changes to the industry led to decreased sales.

While Captain Battle’s publisher went down the tubes the character did manage to live on.  While his post Golden Age career wasn’t as big or as flashy as some of his counter parts, he did get a movie.

It was called Captain Battle: Legacy War and…

let’s just say that Marvel probably won’t be banging down the door for the rights to this movie.

Captain Battle did actually make a return to comics in 2009 when Image Comics republished Silver Streak Comics in an effort to showcase what Golden Age comics could be if the creators were allowed more artistic freedom.

Image result for captain battle next issue project image comics

It was edited by Image founder Erik Larsen and if you’re reading this Mr. Larsen…I have some ideas you might like.

Captain Battle was a cheesy, over the top, impractical, and mildly racist superhero who was born out of a pretty blatant attempt to rip off more popular superheroes.  With that being said, he possessed a unique charm and flagrant disregard for convention and common sense that actually made him a bit endearing and a pretty cool superhero.

Image result for captain battle golden age superhero

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.

Image result for batman

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.

Image result for batman rogues gallery

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

Image result for batman poison ivy

Mister Freeze is tragic and deep,

Image result for batman mister freeze

and the Joker needs no introduction.

Image result for batman the joker

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.

Image result for batman using guns

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.

Image result for batman killing

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.

Image result for batman the mad monk

Origin and Career

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

Image result for detective comics 31

He beat out the Joker by 8 months.

The character was created by Bob Kane and Garner Fox.

Image result for bob kane  Image result for gardner fox

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,

Image result for batman dr. death

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”.

Image result for vlad tepes

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.

Dala.png

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.

Image result for batman the mad monk gorilla

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.

Image result for batman batarang

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.

Image result for comics code authority

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,

Image result for gerry conway

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

Image result for gerry conway the mad monk

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.

Image result for gerry conway the mad monk

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.

Image result for batman the mad monk

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.

Image result for batman the mad monk

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.