Golden Age Showcase: Sun Girl

It’s October folks!

The days are getting shorter, the leaves are changing, and the weather is getting cooler.

Normally, most forms of entertainment start churning out the horror and scary stuff around this time, and in the near future we won’t be so different.  However, I thought it might be nice to give the sun one last hurrah and talk about a bright and colorful superhero from days of yore.

She’s also a lady so here’s another chance to showcase a hero that didn’t get a whole lot of attention back then.

This is Sun Girl.

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Origin and Career

Sun Girl made her first appearance in her self titled series Sun Girl #1 in August of 1948.

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While the writer of the comic is uncredited, the art was done by a man named Ken Bald.

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Ken Bald was actually one of the more prolific and successful artists of the Golden Age and did a lot of work as a staff artist at Timely Comics where he drew many of Timely’s most popular heroes.  He is also known for his comic strip work, such as a strip based off of the 1970’s tv show Dark Shadows.

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A couple things of note.  First, hooray we actually managed to tie in some horror into an October post!  Second, if the name Dark Shadows isn’t familiar to younger readers all you need to know is that they tried making a modern movie based off it starring Johnny Depp.

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It wasn’t well received.

Anyway, in an age where comic book super heroines were surprisingly independent and capable Sun Girl…was not.  Her civilian name was Mary Mitchell and she started life as the secretary and love interest of the original Human Torch.  When the Human Torch’s original sidekick Toro takes a leave of absence she insisted that she becomes Torch’s sidekick despite having no superpowers.  The Torch is not pleased and responds with stereotypical 1940’s male talk.

But…she knows judo so that fixes everything I guess?  Also, she had a “sun beam” gun that shot bright flashes of light.  Honestly, there were better superheroines out there at this time.

Her lack of powers and crazy weapons didn’t stop her from having something of a career.  After her three issue solo series she appeared in the Human Torch series for three issues,

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and she guest starred in Captain America and Submariner books.

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Thankfully, during her short career she wasn’t entirely useless.  She would often bring a more human and compassionate side to her superhero work and was able to make an impact on the Human Torch’s career.  Perhaps her biggest achievement was helping the Torch prove a wrongfully accused man innocent.

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So what happened?

Toro came back from his leave of absence and Mary went back to being the Human Torch’s secretary.  Then the comic book industry went kaput and Timely Comics re branded to eventually become Marvel Comics and the Human Torch became a character who didn’t need a secretary.

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However, Sun Girl didn’t just fade away into obscurity and become a tiny little footnote in comic book history.  She had enough fans and people who remembered her to bring her into the modern era.  The first appearance of the new and improved Sun Girl was in Superior Spider Man Team Up #1 in June of 2013.

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Right off the bat the new Sun Girl has a more independent and interesting origin.  She’s an engineer named Selah Burke who developed a suit that gives her the ability to fly and two light blasting pistols.  Also, she’s the daughter of Edward Lanksey, an out of work college professor who became a super villain.

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Her next appearance would be as part of the Marvel Comics team called the New Warriors in 2014.

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Sun Girl is an interesting comic book super heroine, but not for the reasons you might expect.  She didn’t have any extraordinary powers, she didn’t have a very long career, and she didn’t have the impact on popular culture that many of her other female colleagues had.  With that being said, she was smart, courageous, always willing to do the right thing, and has one of the most comprehensive and fulfilling post Golden Age careers of any female superhero.

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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),

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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: The Human Top

We’ve covered a lot of stupid on this blog post from insect controlling lawyers to bird politicians but today we’re going to talk about a hero that beats them all when in comes to sheer lunacy.  I present, the Human Top.

Origin and career

While he may not look like much, the Human Top’s career started off with a literal bang.  He first appeared in Red Raven Comics #1 in August of 1940.  His story was written by comic book writer and artist Dick Briefer.

Interestingly enough, this issue also held the first appearance of another super hero we’ve talked about on this blog: Mercury.

The Human Top was originally named Bruce Bravelle, a man who volunteered as a human guinea pig for one Dr. Davis.

The good Doctor was attempting to find a way for humans to feed off of electricity (Golden Age science was weird) and naturally the experiment went wrong when Bruce was accidentally struck by lightening.

Since this is a superhero comic, the wrath of God doesn’t kill Bruce but gives him the ability to spin up to speeds of 250 miles per hour.

What’s really interesting about this Human Top is that his powers weren’t based off of something like the Speed Force or divine intervention.  His ability to spin comes from opposing electrical currents which he can create by either crossing his wrists or by getting shocked from an outside electrical source.  While I don’t think the writer had a really keen grasp on how electricity works it is interesting to see a Golden Age hero who’s powers were based purely off of science instead of magic.

Professor Davis dubbed Bruce “The Top” and suggested that he go out and fight crime, since that’s all the motivation a super hero needed back in the 1940’s.

In his first adventure the Human Top foiled a bank robbery when it was revealed that the bank’s president, a man named Horace Vanderveer,

attempted to frame the Human Top and escape with the money.  Fortunately, the Human Top stopped the greedy bank president and the day was saved.

The hero would go on to have one more adventure in March of 1942, published in Tough Kid Squad Comics.

It is worth mentioning that the Human Top would also get a costume redesign for his second appearance.

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In his final adventure the Human Top would defeat a masked train robber named the Red Terror.

The Red Terror had a gang of armed goons, a couple of pet lions, and a rocket powered zeppelin which he used as a getaway vehicle after orchestrating a series of train wrecks.  However, the Human Top stopped him and he was sent plummeting to his death at the end of the story.

So what happened?

Bruce Bravelle would never have another comic book story.  However, he is still treated as mainstream cannon in the Marvel comic book universe and while Bruce is no more the name and idea behind the Human Top would continue.

The first reiteration of the name would be used by a super villain calling himself “The Human Top” and would appear in Tales to Astonish #50 in 1963.

He was a mutant named Darren Cross and he was an Antman villain.  He would later re name himself Whirlwind and he was successful enough to appear in other media as well, including his most recent appearance in the excellent Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon.

But the Human Top would be reborn yet again in 1978 as part of Marvel’s Kid Commandos team that was published under the Invaders title.

His name was David Mitchell and he worked with Toro, the sidekick of the Golden Age Human Torch (who was a cyborg instead of a boy) and Bucky Barnes himself.

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They fought Nazis, as almost all Golden Age superheroes fighting in World War 2 were required to do.

The Human Top is one of the more ridiculous ideas to come out of the Golden Age of comics.  The idea that spinning in circles really fast is a super power is less of a cool idea and more something to make you giggle as you imagine the hero/villain having to stop and vomit from the motion sickness.  However, while the super powers of the Human Top may seem a bit ridiculous, it is important to recognize the creative passion and drive behind heroes like these and admire them for the silly and amazing creations they are.

Golden Age Showcase: The Human Torch

So after a long look at the first superhero team put together by what would eventually become DC comics I thought it would be nice to take a break and look at some of Marvel’s heroes from the Golden Age.

Now it should be noted that before Marvel Comics became the Stan Lee powerhouse publisher that we all know and love they were originally known as Timely Comics.  It’s important to know this to avoid any potential confusion.

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With that being said, let’s take a look at one of the their earliest and most popular superheroes, one of the biggest names that Timely had on their roster of superheroes: The Human Torch.

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No, not that one.

Origin and Career

The Golden Age Human Torch was rather unique in that he wasn’t actually human.  He first appeared in Marvel Comics #1 in 1939 and was an android developed by a scientist named Phineas T. Horton.

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While demonstrating his latest creation at a press conference his robotic creation decided to demonstrate a massive design flaw at the worst possible time.  It turned out that when his skin was exposed to oxygen the robot would burst into flame all while remaining unharmed.  Unsurprisingly people were terrified of this strange robot and demanded it’s destruction.

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Not that hard as to see why.  Anyway, Dr. Horton couldn’t bear to destroy his creation and attempted to encase the robot in concrete.  However, a crack in the encasement allowed the Torch to escape and in its confusion it laid waste to a large portion of New York.  After nearly killing his creator the Human Torch vowed to control his powers and to use them to benefit humanity.

After building a special oxygen damper the Human Torch adopted a more human persona and enrolled in the NYPD as a man named Jim Hammond.  During this time he had what was probably his most notable claim to comics fame, his encounter and subsequent fight with Timely’s great anti hero: The Sub Mariner.

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The fight was a hit and the two would later become on again off again rivals/frenemies.

After his first battle with Namor the Human Torch would fulfill his patriotic duty and head off to Europe to go kick some Nazi butt.  Before he would do that he would pick up a sidekick named Thomas “Toro” Raymond, the son of two nuclear scientists who had mutated into…someone who could control and manipulate flames in the same way the Human Torch could.  I’d also like to take this moment to mention that one of their biggest foes was a super villain named “Asbestos Lady”.

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That’s both of them with their WW2 superhero team comprising of Namor, Captain America, Bucky Barnes, Miss. America, and the Whizzer (we will be doing articles on all of them) and they kicked a serious amount of ass in both Europe and the Pacific.  Probably the most notable achievement was when the Human Torch immolated Hitler and ended the war.

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So what happened?

The All Winner’s squadron was disbanded in 1949 after defeating the world’s first nuclear terrorist but the Human Torch continued to survive.  After a brief solo career he and Toro were kidnapped by mobsters and were doused with a chemical that paralyzed him and blew out his flame.  Believing him for dead the mobsters buried the Human Torch in the desert and sold Toro to the Soviet Union.  But in 1953 a nuclear bomb tested near his burial revived him and he returned stronger than ever.

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Sadly, his power was to great and too unstable so in 1955 he flew out to the desert and blew himself up so he wouldn’t hurt anyone.

The Golden Age Human Torch would remain destroyed for the rest of the 1950’s.  However, superheroes would make a roaring comeback with the publication of Stan Lee’s Fantastic Four #1 in 1961 with an all new, and all human, Human Torch.

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Thanks to the revitalization of the genre the company now known as Marvel just couldn’t leave one of their greatest heroes by the wayside, so in the 1960’s a villain called The Mad Thinker rebuilt the original android and programmed him to fight the Fantastic Four.

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Naturally the robotic Human Torch was too much of a hero to remain under the control of a supervillain for long so he would eventually free himself from the Mad Thinker’s control only to be extinguished, had has hist body stolen by another evil robot name Ultron, and turned into a little known hero called Vision in 1975.

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However, it turned out that this WASN’T the case and the Vision’s body was actually made up of spare parts from the Human Torch.  The real Torch was revived, lost his powers, and would go on to be a mentor and guiding hand for most of the Marvel Universe before blowing himself up again in order to stop a H.Y.D.R.A sleeper agent named Tara.

The Human Torch would continue to exist as a robotic android in one variation or another up until the modern day. He was one of Marvel’s first and greatest superheroes, and continues to be a mentor and inspiration to most of the Marvel Universe.