Confession time. I’m sitting in an airport terminal in Portland Oregon (long story) and I’ve been so busy that I nearly forgot to write an article this week.
Thankfully I’ve got about two hours to kill before my flight leaves so today we’re going to talk about the first superhero who was able to stretch his body and use it as a super power.
Today we’re going to talk about Thin Man.
Origin and Career
The Thin Man first appeared in Mystic Comics #4 in June of 1940.
He was created by artist Polish artist Klaus Nordling (I was unable to find a picture) and an unknown writer.
As for origins, Thin Man was the first super hero who was able to stretch and mold his body into various shapes.
What really sets him apart from a various number of heroes is that while Plastic Man got his powers from a lab accident,
and Reed Richards got his powers from cosmic rays,
Thin Man got his powers from a group of advanced humans living in a forgotten valley in the Himalayas.
Thin Man’s identity was Bruce Dickenson, a scientist who was exploring the Himalayas and discovered the entrance to a forgotten kingdom called Kalahia.
After he faints, Bruce discovers that the inhabitants of Kalahia have the ability to change their shape and size at will and that for some reason they decided to give him this ability without his knowledge or consent.
What I really love about this story is how they completely disregard world changing revelations such as the existence of aliens on Mars and multiple dimensions and head straight to the crime fighting.
Bruce convinces the elders of Kalahia to allow him to travel back to his home, accompanied by the daughter of one of the elders named Ollala, because this is the Golden Age of comics and you only need three panels to do anything.
As you can see above, Bruce builds a highly advanced propeller driven plane that he uses to murder people, because the casual murder of suspected criminals is totally justified and doesn’t require any explanation.
The rest of the story involves Thin Man and Olalla foiling a group of mobsters who are trying to collect protection money from a taxi driver.
Thin Man uses his advanced technology and his ability to become as thin as a piece of paper to foil the hoodlums and bring the boss to justice.
I like to think that if his adventures had continued that plane would have wracked up one hell of a body count.
So what happened?
Sadly, this origin story would be Thin Man’s first and only Golden Age appearance.
However, Thin Man’s career would get a second wind in the 1970’s when he became part of the World War 2 era Marvel team known as the Liberty Legion.
He’s on the right of the panel in the green and yellow suit.
Long story short, the Liberty Legion fought a lot of Nazis and Nazi related schemes.
Thin Man would later reveal to Captain America that he lost his family and connection to his powers after Olalla had returned to her home shortly before it had been discovered and destroyed by a Nazi villain named Agent Axis.
After Agent Axis gloated that he could not be harmed or prosecuted due to his position as a Nazi scientist working for the United States, Thin Man got angry and snapped his neck. He was arrested by Captain America and sent to prison.
In the 2004 series The New Invaders Thin Man was pardoned by the United States government with the purpose of equipping the new version of his old team with Kalahian technology.
Unfortunately this turned out to be a ruse by the Red Skull, who was disguised as the Secretary of Defense at the time.
Thin Man would wind up creating a warship called The Infiltrator which was a massive battleship designed to be able to cloak itself from any scanner and teleport across dimensions.
The ship wound up sacrificing itself to destroy a doomsday device and saving the world from a villain named U Man.
I don’t know if Thin Man was on board the ship or not when it exploded.
Thin Man is an interesting hero for a number of reason. First, he was the first superhero who could stretch himself and change his form at will, setting the precedent for other heroes such as Reed Richards and Plastic Man. Also, he was the ambassador of a new and different world within the Marvel universe, and if they had not been destroyed by the Nazis I’m willing to bet that they would have become an integral part of the Marvel Universe.