Monday, July 12, 2010

Golden Age Heroes - Daredevil

For modern comic book aficionados and those who may have seen the Ben Affleck movie, there is a Marvel Comics hero created in 1964 named Daredevil, the man without fear. Although he's blind, an accident in his youth endowed him with superhuman senses that more than make up for the loss of his vision. But that's not the guy I'm highlighting today. This particular Daredevil was created by the Golden Age publishing company Lev Gleason in 1940. As a young man Bart Hill's parents are murdered because of an invention created by his father. The boy is tortured, branded with a boomerang shaped iron on his chest and left speechless - handicapped in much the same way as the later Daredevil, and scarred by the murder of his parents like Batman. Swearing to wage a war on crime for what was done to his parents, when Bart has grown to adulthood he adopts a colorful costume (initially yellow and blue but later red and blue like the illustration) and, using a boomerang as a weapon, begins his campaign against the lawless. Later he would regain his voice (without explanation) and then there was a change in origin stories that had him growing up in the Australian outback and trained in the use of the boomerang by aborigines. He also got a group of street urchins named the Little Wiseguys who eventually took over Daredevil's comic. Daredevil started life in the pages of Silver Streak Comics and was later given his own title. A fairly successful character in the Golden Age, he lasted for ten years before disappearing from the comic pages. He was later revived by AC Comics as Red Devil - because Marvel now owned the Daredevil name - and more recently by Dynamite Comics as The Death-Defying Devil for their Project Superheroes. The action figure was made from a Superpowers Collection Red Tornado and the head from a Lex Luthor. The spiked belt (probably one of the strangest fashion accessories in the history of superhero comics) was made from sharpened pieces of plastic sprue and inserted into drilled holes in the belt.
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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Golden Age Patriotic Heroes - V-Man

In honor of this being the 4th of July I wanted to present a patriotic hero and V-Man seemed just the guy. If you look closely at the cover art for V Comics No. 2 you'll see the dot dot dot dash that is Morse code for V in the upper left hand corner. This was also the sign Prime Minister Winston Churchill used to flash, with a cigar clenched between his teeth, a cane in one hand and the V-sign raised by the other. It was the symbol of victory for England and the other allied powers. Born in the early, bleak days of 1942 V-Man himself was intended by Fox Features Syndicate to represent this spirit of victory. Starting life as American Jerry Steele, he freed POW's from the Nazis but was apparently captured and executed. Somehow through herbal remedies he was revived and swore an oath called the V-pledge which apparently endowed him with enhanced physical abilities, a snappy costume and a miniature radio ring (Apple IPOD eat your heart out). He was aided in his campaign against the Nazis by three teen sidekicks called the V-Boys who wore sweaters with a large V on their chests. While V-Man only lasted two issues of his own comic, he made appearances in the Big 3 comic with Blue Beetle and Flame and apparently a few other comics. The action figure for V-Man was made using a Toy Biz Silver Surfer body and the head from a Punisher. The cape was cut from the fabric of a kids T-shirt. Happy Independence Day to all...-
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Friday, July 2, 2010

Golden Age Villains - Black Death

The Black Death was a villain in a Woman in Red story from Thrilling Comics #10, published in November 1940 by the Better/Standard/Nedor house. It's difficult to find really interesting costumed villains in Golden Age comics some times so I really liked this one. In the story he was actually a character in a stage play which was in rehearsal. After a certain line is delivered the disguised actor is suppose to fire a gun loaded with blanks at another actor but, and you probably already guessed it, the gun was actually loaded with real bullets. When they find the actor who was playing Black Death backstage he claims not to remember anything. Turns out the theater owner was the real killer wearing the Black Death disguise and had drugged the actor playing the part. His motive seemed a bit obscure to me but had something to do with the female star of the show, who he had also kidnapped - what some guys won't do to get a date. Anyway, the Woman in Red solves the case and brings to justice a really interesting villain. The suit looks like it was made from Black patent leather and is highlighted by the skull on the chest and the facial features which resemble a skull. To my knowledge this was Black Death's only appearance. The figure was a Toy Biz Marvel Silver Surfer painted to match the character.
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Golden Age Heroine - Woman in Red

After reviewing my previous posts it has come to my attention that I have yet to feature a golden age heroine. I did feature a villainess (one of Blue Beetle's), but not one of the good girls. So here she is - along with one of her villains as a bonus feature - the Woman in Red. She was actually the first "superheroine," first appearing in March 1940. (OK so a certain school of purists claim that no one without an actual superpower or two qualifies a a superhero or heroine, but then that would also exclude Batman and a number of others - also a character named Fatomah, Mystery Woman of the Jungle was published a month before the Woman in Red, but she fit more into the jungle girl genre than superhero genre). Anyway, the Woman in Red was from the Better/Standard/Nedor house and first appeared in Thrilling Comics, the feature character of which was Doc Strange (not to be confused with the later Marvel character of Doctor Strange). Whew!! Got all that?? At any rate the Woman in Red was another one of those police people who didn't seem to think the law was catching the criminals and took the law into her own hands with a disguise and an automatic. Her real name was Peggy Allen, a policewoman who seemed to work directly for the police commissioner and be sent out on cases by him. Not sure how that was suppose to work. She actually had a pretty good run for essentially a second-string character, lasting until 1946 in Thrilling Comics and appearing in a couple of issues of America's Best Comics to boot. Due to the very nature of the strip she was mostly a private detective in a costume, but was certainly not shy about using the automatic she carried. The Woman in Red was revived by AC Comics for their vault of heroes story line and also by Dynamite Comics for their Project Superpowers. The action figure was created by using a Marvel Jean Grey figure, on which I painted the mask, gloves and shoes, and then exercising my (admittedly meagre) sewing skills to create the cloak and hood she wore. In the comic this garment seemed to conceal rather than accent her figure, setting the Woman in Red apart from a number of the other female heroines of the Golden Age. Next up will be one of her more interesting villains - Black Death.
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