Golden Age Showcase: Isbisa

Happy New Years everyone!

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After a week long break to celebrate the holidays we’re back and ready for another year of obscure comic book characters you’ve never heard of!

Now, since it’s a new year I thought it might be fun to do some branching out and try some new things.  So this year I thought I might focus more on the villains of the Golden Age.

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Now, over the course of researching a lot of Golden Age superheroes, I’ve learned that the early comic book scene wasn’t a very big fan of putting a lot of thought into their bad guys.  Usually the hero fought off hoards of gangsters enacting some sort of scheme

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or the Nazis trying to pull off some evil plot.

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Most of the time the villain that the hero would be fighting would often get his/her just comeuppance at the end of the story and be killed off.

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The point is that the bad guys don’t get a whole lot of attention in the Golden Age of Comics, but every now and then there is a villain who proves to be a long lasting and memorable threat.

Anyway, I thought we could start with a villain who managed to give an entire team of some of the most powerful superheroes a run for their money: Isbisa.

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Origin and Career

Isbisa made his first and only Golden Age appearance in All Winners #19 in 1946.

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What’s interesting is that while many of the comic books at this time were anthologies that told a series of short, unrelated stories about a whole cast of super heroes, this book was a complete story where a team of some of Timely’s greatest heroes would work together to defeat Isbisa as a common foe.

The book itself was written by comic book legend, and a man who deserves way more credit than he’s been getting, Bill Finger.

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Bill Finger is the man who is responsible for creating most of the Batman mythos, although for the purposes of this article let’s just say he’s the guy who created the Joker.

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So it’s safe to say Mr. Finger knew how to create a pretty good villain.

Isbisa started out as a humble museum assistant named Simon Meke.

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His goal was simple (as was most of the motivations for villains at the time): world domination, which he planned to accomplish by stealing a nuclear weapon.  In order to do this he adopted the super villain identity of “Isbisa”, which was an acronym for the six “Ages of Man” (Ice Age, Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Steel Age, Atomic Age).

Despite his lowly status, and the fact that he probably had no idea how to properly handle and manage a nuke, Meke was a smart man and realized that the superheroes of the All Winners Squad would be his greatest threat.

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He developed a plan to keep the team of Captain America, Bucky, the Sub Mariner, The Whizzer, The Human Torch, Toro, and Miss America busy while he could make off with the bomb.

His plan was actually pretty devious.  It involved hiring a group of gangsters and two small time super villains named “The Calcium Master”

(Drink your milk kids),

and Black Patch

to distract the heroes by committing various crimes while he robbed the place storing the bomb with his own special sleeping gas.

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In typical super villain fashion each of the crimes was committed with a certain theme and with plenty of clues for the heroes to use in order to figure it out.  Also, in typical comic book fashion the heroes were able to come together and save the day, capturing Isbisa and placing him into police custody.

So what happened?

Isbisa’s battle against the All Winners squad was his first and only Golden Age appearance.  However, this was not the last time he would appear to challenge his old foes.

His next appearance was in the 1970’s in Giant Sized Avengers #1 as a flashback.

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It turned out that two of the old members of the squad, the Whizzer and Miss America, had left the group after defeating Isbisa and were married.  They wound up joining the CIA and were placed on body guard duty at a nuclear test site.  Unfortunately, during one of the tests they were both exposed to a large amount of radiation and when Miss America gave birth to their first child they discovered that their son was lethally radioactive.

The two were forced to place their son in stasis, but unfortunately their son escaped and became the villain Nuklo.

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Nuklo was eventually defeated and contained, but not before being brought to the attention of Isbisa.

The now released super villain learned about Nuklo’s powers and conspired to use them to give himself nuclear powers.

He disguised himself as a psychiatrist, infiltrated the facility holding Nuklo, and managed to hook both of them up to a device that would transfer Nuklo’s power to himself.  The device worked and when the Whizzer confronted his old nemesis, Ibisia killed him.

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He was defeated by Vision and the Scarlet Witch and sent back to prison.

His final appearance was in a battle with She Hulk.

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Isbisa had managed to escape prison again and was disguised as a physics teacher named Doctor Sandeson.  He discovered a way to move super villains in and out of time and space and used this same energy to rejuvenate himself (it’s worth mentioning that She Hulk comics played fast and loose with things like time and space and breaking the fourth wall).

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She Hulk eventually triumphed and Isbisa managed to escape.  He hasn’t been heard from since.

Isbisa is something of a rarity in Golden Age Comics.  While there were plenty of capable superheroes in the Golden Age, and plenty of them were much deadlier and scarier than Isbisa, there weren’t a whole lot of consistent threats.  Usually a bad guy would last anywhere between a single issue or a couple, but Isbisa did manage to last and plague his mortal enemies for a terrifyingly long amount of time.

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Golden Age Showcase: Archie the Gruesome

So I’m a big fan of Captain America: Civil War and the comic book series it sprang from.

One of the big themes of the movie and the comic book series is how so many of the superheroes fight on Captain America’s side simply because he’s Captain freaking America.

I mean who wouldn’t want to charge the gates of Hell itself if you knew it was with this guy?

The reason I bring this up is because even back in the 1940’s Captain America was an inspiration to countless other heroes and even ordinary people.  I bring this up because sometimes even ordinary people can rise to do great things if they have the proper motivation and inspiration and that is something that comic books are great at showing.

Unfortunately, the person we’re talking about today is NOT one of those great people but dammit, he deserves some respect for trying.  Ladies and gentlemen: Archie the Gruesome.

Origin and Career

We’ve covered some pretty obscure old timey superheroes in this blog series but I think this guy takes the cake.  Archie the Gruesome had one Golden Age appearance as the cover character in 1942’s Comedy Comics #10.

Nobody really know who wrote him, nobody really knows who drew him, and he was relegated to a single five page origin story in the comic.

Archie was a street sweeper who was inspired to become a costumed hero after seeing his idol, Captain America.

He didn’t have any powers, he wasn’t part of some secret experiment, he wasn’t blessed/cursed by some sort of magic, he didn’t lose his parents in a tragic accident, he just wanted to do good and I’m going to show the same cover picture again because that is the only image I can find of him.

As you can see, his costume is a parody of Captain America’s, he’s using his broom as a weapon (clearly in an attempt to “clean up the streets”), and the way he’s drawn and presented is clearly meant to not be taken seriously.  His opponent was a fellow street sweeper named Big Joe who was Archie’s polar opposite, preferring to turn to a life of crime rather than a life of heroics.

So what happened?

Shockingly, Archie the Gruesome did not go on to wild fame and success and he disappeared after his first appearance.

However, he would go on to have a role in a limited comic book series published by Marvel in 2011 called All Winners Squad: Band of Heroes.

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The comic book series was a World War 2 comic about a group of old school super powered humans who were drafted into the Allied war effort and were placed into a squad known as “Special Unit, Enhanced Humans” but wound up calling themselves “The Crazy Sues”

They were led by Captain America (obviously) and Archie was their medic.

They didn’t give him much to do in the comic.  He was a capable medic, there was actually one point in the book where he was asked to pump a dying soldier full of morphine while another soldier finished him off, and it was widely assumed that he was killed in battle because the comic book series was cancelled after five issues out of the proposed eight were published and that is why we can’t have nice things.

Archie the Gruesome can easily be thought of as a joke character and most of that thinking would be correct.  However, Archie is a special character in comics and deserves way more credit than he gets.  He saw the world around him, he saw his favorite superheroes doing great things, and not only did he think that was awesome, he actively tried to emulate his heroes and make the world a better place.  He had no powers, no gadgets, and no money but he managed to be one of the truest and greatest heroes around.

Golden Age Showcase: The Whizzer

So after writing an article on the original Human Torch last week I did some more research into the superhero group he joined during WW2: The All Winners Squad.  I discovered that he had a team mate who had the most rediculous names in all of comics (and that is saying something) and what is possibly the greatest origin story ever written.

Ladies and gentlemen I present to you: The Whizzer

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Origin and career:

The Whizzer’s real name was Robert Frank.  Created in 1941 by artist Al Avison (and an un credited writer who may have have been Stan Lee) Robert gained the powers of super speed during a trip to Africa with his father.  When Robert was bitten by a cobra his father decided that the best way to save him, and I swear I’m not making this up, was to inject him with mongoose blood.

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Not only did this save his life but it also gave Robert super speed, because comic book logic in the 1940’s did not give a damn about anything.

Robert decided to adopt the name “The Whizzer” and become a costumed crime fighter.

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While his career as a solo costumed crime fighter was somewhat limited his true time to shine happened during WW2.  While battling a Nazi spy ring Robert Frank heard a radio broadcast from fellow hero Bucky Barns (yes, the one from Captain America) calling for a gathering of superheroes to kick some Nazi butt.  The Whizzer thought it would be a great idea and decided to join.  During this time he also met a fellow costumed hero named Miss America and they fell in love.

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At the start of the war the two heroes were part of a group called Liberty Legion that stayed behind in America to combat Nazi spies and would eventually head over to Europe to fight in the super hero group The Invaders, which would continue to exist after the war as the All Winners Squadron.

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After the war ended the All Winners Squadron was disbanded and the Whizzer and Miss America were married as Robert Frank and Madeline Joyce.  In 1949 the two began working as security agents for a top secret nuclear project that wound up being sabotaged by a former enemy of the All Winners Squadron and one of the first nuclear themed super villains, Isbisa.

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While the attack did not kill the two, the former Miss Liberty was pregnant at the time of the attack and when the baby was born it was dangerously radioactive.  After naming the boy Robert Frank Jr. the baby was placed in stasis in order to try to cure the child of his radiation poisoning.

After this incident Robert and Madeline decided to retire from the superhero life and travel the world.  However, all would not end well and while traveling Madeline would later die giving birth to a still born child who was even more radioactive than the first.  In his grief, Robert became a vagrant and wandered the Earth grief stricken and alone.

So what happened?

After a couple of decades as a homeless man the Whizzer was thrust back into the superhero life with the reemergence of his first son who had been placed in stasis years ago.  After the Avengers unearthed his son’s stasis pod the boy broke out and named himself “Nuklo”

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The radiation had mutated Robert Frank Jr.’s body to gigantic proportions and his massive strength, coupled with the years of isolation, caused him to lash out at the Avengers.  The Whizzer was able to stop his son but suffered a massive heart attack in the process.

Robert Frank was hospitalized for many months while his son was turned over to the U.S Army.  During this time Robert Frank Sr. became a depressed alcoholic.  During this time he met the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, who he thought were the second children his wife had given birth to before she died.

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Sadly this wasn’t the case and when The Whizzer recovered he was forced into retirement and placed into the care of Tony Stark.

After making a full recovery the Whizzer fought to gain custody of his son.  While this was going on his old nemesis Ibisba came out of hiding to fight the Whizzer one more time.  The fight killed the two super powered beings but wound up curing Robert Jr. of his condition allowing him to live a normal life.

While the Whizzer had one of the most unfortunate super hero names in comic book history and was a perfect example of Golden Age silliness there is no doubt that he was still a hero who did his job bravely and nobly.