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[personal profile] alschroeder3 posting in [community profile] scans_daily
Oh, there were plenty of precursors to super-heroes out of Britain--the Scarlet Pimpernel, Sherlock Holmes, Bulldog Drummond and others. But after Superman premiered, who was the first British superhero? And was it by anyone who is famous in the history of comics?


Although there is some discussion of how much Bill Finger and Bob Kane had influence in the same characters, Jerry Robinson was--at the very least-- instrumental in the creation of Robin, the Joker, Two-Face, and Alfred Pennyworth.

But he didn't work only for DC/National Comics. For Lev Gleason/Comics House publications, starting with the second issue of the Golden Age Daredevil comics he created the English hero...London!

Here's the splash page of his first adventure. Even without the signature, the style is unmistakable to anyone familiar with his style.


It starts with a certain BBC newscaster, the fiance of the Prime Minister's niece...


Why name a hero after a city? Well, if you think about it, it makes as much sense as naming a hero after a country, a la Captain America--and the Americans of the time had great admiration for what London was enduring from the bombings of the Luftwaffe. "London can take it" was a watchword of the time...and it made London (the hero) rather unique.

In the course of the story, Marc Holmes reverts to his secret identity as London (a business suit with a cape and cowl, with an elaborate "L" as a symbol), and saves the kidnapped Prime Minister---who looks just like Churchhill, albeit with a mustache.


London was a nonpowered "super" hero, a la Batman...but he often functioned as a Scarlet Pimpernel type, infiltrating Germany and foiling Nazi plots. A few issues later, he founded the "L" campaign--for Liberty...within Germany.


London alternately acted like a costumed hero, a Resistance fighter, and a secret agent.


Oddly enough, he rarely had adventures WITHIN England, much less London, at least in his early adventures...


In one of his best adventures, he stopped a costumed German executioner from executing Britain's greatest spy, in an action sequence VERY similar to Robinson's work on Batman's fighting sequences...


Of course, Britain's greatest spy was a beautiful woman, named Leslie...whom he made his partner in adventure. (Dian, the niece of the Prime Minister was either forgotten or they broke up.) It's a little like the ending of most of the later James Bond movies.


Many Americans creating British heroes tend to make them noblemen, or related to the nobility. There is no hint of that with Marc Holmes, although obviously his last name was inspired by Sherlock. Nor is his Britishness as exagerrated and burlesqued as, say, Percy Pinkerton in SGT. FURY.

Robinson, I believe, pencilled one more London tale---introducing a villain called the Boar, a nazi spy with a boar he sicced on those who crossed his path--and there were two additional tales, by another, lesser, artist, imitating Robinson's style--one continuing his fight with the Boar. Then London--as a comic series--was no more.

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