An example of the clinically realistic way superhero comics depict the onset of mental illness.
We're all familiar with the long-discredited Golden Age trope in which exposure to radioactive elements gives people beneficial super-powers. But even then, there were comic-book characters who weren't so lucky when exposed to radiation, voluntarily or otherwise. In the "voluntarily" category, for example, we have Professor Henry Ross, who just wanted to invent a cure for death.
( 'But in so doing, he created Frankenstein's monster' )
Since people seemed to like my post on the American Crusader, I thought I'd post another Thrilling Comics character that I like and has been reinvented several times, The Woman In Red.
The Woman In Red is actually credited as the first female masked crime fighter, beating out Wonder Woman, Mary Marvel, and Phantom Lady, and herself was only beaten as first female superhero by one month by Fantomah. Though she never made a cover appearance, she was a regular feature in Thrilling Comics starting issue #2, with her last appearance in issue #46.
Her real identity was Peggy Allen, a policewoman who was frustrated by the limits of her job and created a secret identity. She was aided by the police commissioner, who considered her his operative, and informed her of strange cases, arranged for her undercover investigations, and occasionally kept the regular cops out of the way, who were unaware that they had a vigilante on their payroll.
Peggy's gender almost never came up, outside of some of her disguises and taunts by villains. The joke made in the last panel of this story is the most I can really think of - well, that and occasionally showing her legs.
Warning for racism.
( Thrilling Comics #5 )
When a recent request for more golden age characters came, I immediately thought of this guy, who's actually appeared in various comics in the modern age, including a webcomic called Heroes Inc. and even had a bit of a shout-out by Grant Morrison in Multiversity. I'm not sure why this character always stuck with me. Maybe it's because I like the name, maybe I find his costume simple but memorable, maybe it's because I like the idea of a patriotic hero with Superman level powers. Or maybe it's because his origin really, really should have just killed him.
But don't take my word for it. Take a look at his origin yourself.
Warning for female abuse.
( Thrilling Comics #19 )
Recently there've been several requests for more obscure Golden Age superheroes. I hear and obey! Let's start off with the origin story of a super-mage originally hailing from Middle-Kingdom era Egypt.
( In which the part of Satan will be anachronistically played by Set )
I discovered this Golden Age action hero (created by Bob Powell for Hit Comics in 1940) via the Tumblr blog F**k Yeah Warrior Women and immediately fell in love with her. Attorney (later District Attorney) Betty Bates enjoyed a ten-year run (unusual for a non-superpowered, supporting character), and it's no wonder: in addition to her legal know-how, she was a skilled detective, knew jiu-jitsu, and was handy with her fists too. In the following story (public domain, scans courtesy of ComicBookPlus.com), we see her stand up to sexual harassment, speak truth to power, and foil a kidnapping. As if that weren't awesome enough, the story conveniently comes with a "context is for the weak" panel!
( 'Bates is the name--MISS Betty Bates!' )
( 'Bates is the name--MISS Betty Bates!' )
In 1949, the relatively unknown cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman, coming off a run of his one-page gag strip Hey, Look! for Timely, shopped his work around and received his first EC assignment. No, it wasn't on one of their horror titles; those wouldn't be launched until the following year. Nor were they publishing war or satire comics yet. Rather, Kurtzman's EC debut was as illustrator of Lucky Fights It Through, a giveaway 16-page educational comic about syphilis...with a two-fisted cowboy setting, since western comics were in then.
( 'That ignorant, ignorant cowboy' )
"Most superheroic pseudonyms are intended to be understood metaphorically. Iron Man isn't really a man made of iron. Green Lantern isn't a piece of verdant camping equipment, and, by and large, the Beast is in fact a lovely fellow. When it comes to superheroes whose names can be taken literally, or, better yet, at--ahem--face value, there's no more outstanding example than the Eye."
--Jon Morris, The League of Regrettable Superheroes, 46.
( Eye don't know how the writer-artist came up with this )
In this issue, Boy King and Giant--now assisted by the king's long-lost twin Richard aka "Muggsy" and his gang--return to what they do best: fighting Nazis!
( 'Precious records kept on the backs of living men!!' )
In the previous issue, Hitler ordered the construction of a mechanical T. rex to stop the Giant and wreak havoc on New York, and dispatched the Crane to pilot it. It seems Giant has met his match. Or...has he?
( 'Well--taste THIS chicken's wing!' )
In which the Nazis attempt to outdo Nostradamus in the golem department.
( 'You are not enchineers,' shouts Hitler in German-accented English, 'you are clumsy plumbers!' )
When we left off, the accordion-armed Nazi agent Crane had just tossed a bomb at our heroes. Now on with the story...
( In which Boy King proves himself better at fighting than thinking )
The votes are in, and while Nightmare and Sleepy put in a good showing, the Boy King and the Giant are, by one vote, whom you'd most like to see. So, from Clue #2 (February 1943), here's the continuing story of our brave Swisslakian refugees.
( 'If Nostradamus buried the giant, why it means he was buried for thousands of years!' Uhh... )
At last we come to the final story in the public-domain Clue Comics #1 (Hillman, Jan. 1943), starring a monkey-costumed superhero and his sometimes-sapient, sometimes-not parrot sidekick. No relation to sparkly vampires of any sort.
( 'I'm a little leery about takin' orders from a crackpot in a monkey suit...' )