Monday, November 9, 2009

Apology and Nighthawk vs Green Skull

As it has been brought to my attention that my time lines made heavy use of copyrighted material, they are being taken down. To do them properly for publication in a true scholarly fashion would require revising them from the start. Maybe someday. When I started working on them, it was meant to be more of a tool than anything else, putting various stories, characters and legends into context with some actual history, something many of the time lines don't really do. I thought the end result was kind of cool and that others might get a kick from it. The prevalence and variety of the Wold Newton Time Lines with overlapping and duplicate information with little documentation led me to seeing it as being a bigger game among fans than anyone claiming specific ownership. I was wrong and I apologize. And, so these are coming down and back into my files as a personal tool.

In their place, I am going to put up various text stories taken from public domain comics, a couple of them of some very obscure characters. I think people will get a kick from them.

This one is the first adventure of the Nighthawk vs. the Green Skull. It's from Dynamic Comics #3, 1942 published by Chesler. The two characters would later appear in an actual comic story published by Harvey. Scans of Dynamic Comics #3 can be found at The scans of this particular comic came from fiche so for readability's sake, I re-typed it. Enjoy.


“Oh,” yawned Jane as she stared at the planes that lined the airfield of the Curry Airplane Company. “Dad,” she asked, “how much longer must we stay here?”

“Another hour,” replied her father. “The British officials will soon arrive to take the planes.”

Suddenly Jane laughed. “Dad,” she said, “will you do me a favor?”

“Sure,” he replied.

Jane gulped, and then a silly grin gathered at the corner of her lips. “Let me write good luck on the motors of the planes?”

“Alright,” laughed her father.

Jane, her Father, and Jack Filan, in reality the Nighthawk, the most feared enemy of crime, walked over to the plane.

Jack watched Jane as she began to write on the hoods of the motors. Suddenly he chuckled to himself. “What a silly kid. SHE’S USING LIPSTICK!”

As Jane was busy writing, other hands were working near the northgate. A heavy club crashed down on the watchman’s head, and a silent band of men entered the airfield. Silently they made their way to the hangar nearest the plane.

“What the!” exclaimed the Green Skull, leader of the intruders as he saw Jane writing on the planes. “We got to work fast! The Nazis are waiting for the planes.”

“Okay baby,” he yelled, “school is closed. Put down that pencil.”

Jack turned and saw the Green Skull and his gang. One of the thugs tried to hit him with a club, but Jack ducked and sent a terrific blow to the gangster’s jaw, sending him spinning into the others.

For a moment, Jack’s sudden attack startled the thugs and in that second Jack swiftly raced past them. “Don’t worry Jane,” he yelled, “I’m going fort the police.”

Jack dashed into a hangar, and quickly changed into his Nighthawk uniform.

As the thugs were about to board the planes and take off, there in front of them stood a husky, masked figure.

“It’s Nighthawk!” yelled the Green Skull. “Get him!”

Instantly, Nighthawk charged into the gangsters sending a steady stream of blows into them. When suddenly, a heavy club crashed on his head.

It was about an hour later, that Jack came to. The planes and all were gone. “They’ve kidnapped Jane,” he cried. “I’VE GOT TO FIND THEM!” Jack was worried. It was almost impossible to decide which way the thieves had gone when suddenly he spied small red spots on the concrete runway. More and more of them, all heading north.

He began to run in that direction. Every once in a while he stopped on a concrete roadway, saw what he wanted on the roadway and raced on.

Suddenly Nighthawk stopped. Below him was a valley. He looked carefully and saw a well camouflaged hangar in the valley. Slowly, he crept toward it.

Inside the hangar stood the planes. Near them a Nazi officer was talking to Jane and her father. “Mr. Curry, you and your daughter will soon leave for Germany where you will manufacture planes. Refuse and your daughter dies!” The commander turned to the only orderly in the hangar and said, “Get the flyers!”

The orderly walked out and made his way toward a cave nearby. As he entered, Nighthawk slipped up the entrance and looked inside. “What luck,” he exclaimed, “the whole Nazi gang is here.” Quickly he looked around and saw a huge boulder. He rolled it over to the entrance of the cave and sealed the Nazis inside.

Nighthawk turned and raced to the hangar. A well aimed blow easily took care of the commander.

As soon as Jane could catch her breath, she asked, “How were you able to follow us?”

“Well,” grinned Nighthawk, “when you wrote ‘Good Luck’ you used lipstick. When the planes took off, the motor got hot and slowly melted the lipstick which left a trail for me to follow.”

“Well, I must go after the Green Skull,” and with that he raced into the woods.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Speed Comics #34

Centaur and Harvey Comics liked doing text stories in their comics, often featuring characters that starred in strips. So, most of the text stories are coming from these companies. Speed Comics was an anthology title, originally starring Shock Gibson in a slightly different form. Eventually, he was joined by Captain Freedom (who edged him out of the cover spot) and the Black Cat. The covers would often be by Simon & Kirby or Alex Schomburg and as often the case were often more interesting looking than the actual stories inside. Especially Schomburg who specialized in providing all-star jam-packed action on the cover, showing the heroes all together in climactic battle with the enemy. At other companies, readers usually just had to wonder exactly what was the adventure behind the cover, making it up in their heads. Not so at Harvey! In the text stories, they started providing a little feature called "the Story behind the Cover".

Here's one such from Speed Comics #34, 1944. The whole comic can be read at Enjoy.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Captain Freedom takes Berlin!

Captain Freedom debuted in Speed Comics #13, May of 1941 (an oddity, most of the patriotic Axis-smashing heroes debuted before America's involvement in WWII). In issue 16, he'd take over the cover spot and remain there until the end of his run although some of the covers teamed him up with the other major stars of the title.

Despite this and some wonderful covers by Simon & Kirby and Alex Schomburg, he never really caught on enough to carry his own book nor leave a legacy. So far, attempts at bringing back some of the GA heroes of Harvey comics have focused mainly on the Black Cat with Shock Gibson making an appearance or two. Probably two good reasons for this. One, his costume changed almost with each issue, there was really no good iconic look for him. Two, nothing really stood out about him, he was made up of various elements from other characters. He was given the generic job of newspaper publisher and then saddled with a kid gang who generally served as impetus for his adventures and suspected his real identity.

This little story may be one of the more unique and interesting things ever done with him. Speed Comics #26 was published in 1943 and depicts him in one of his better costumes. In the text story, it reveals that he has a super-fast aircraft of his own design which he uses to quickly fly to Germany to help soldiers take Berlin! Hitler's own final fate depicted here is eerily prescient.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Amazing Man: Death Looks in a Mirror

Amazing Man was one of, if not THE, biggest stars produced by Centaur. Among one of the earliest heroes to jump on the Superman bandwagon, he was also an early creation by Will Everett who would become more famous for Namor, the Sub-Mariner and a host of other aquatic heroes (and who strangely had nothing to do with the Shark, Centaur's resident underwater hero). Amazing Man's abilities came from one of those hidden mystic Tibetan retreats but he was not a mystical hero such as Chandu but a very physical and violent one, echoing early Superman and Wylie's Hugo Danner.

Even if Aman, as he was sometimes called, didn't originally last beyond America's entry into WWII, his legacy was long lasting. In the 1960s, Pete Morisi would lift many story elements for his more contemplative philosophical hero Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt. Marvel would also go to the same well for the origin and back story of Iron Fist. More recently, they acknowledged that past by introducing a mystery man called the Green Mist into the Iron Fist canon, another name that Amazing Man was sometimes called. In between, DC would introduce an African American hero called Amazing Man in the pages of All-Star Squadron who would cast his own extensive legacy. Malibu comics would bring back a version of the original in the pages of The Protectors, a re-imagining of the Centaur characters on one team. And, then, there is also DC's charming 'Mazing Man.

Amazing Man also gave readers one of the first true great super-villains, the Great Question. He opposed Aman from the start and under several different names and guises, he fought Amazing Man in almost every story up to the end of the run. As the Great Question he dressed in robes and with his face covered by a hood with a question-mark on it AND he possessed powers, some of which dwarfed Aman's own. He stands unique.

In addition to his strips, Amazing Man was regularly featured in small text stories. This is from issue 19 of Amazing Man Comics, 1941. More of the comic can be found at:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dr. Darkness!

Text stories in comics could generally be broken down into several categories. Some characters only appeared in text stories and were generally of the same genres of pulp fiction of the day: adventure, western, detective, etc. Centaur often had several of their ongoing adventure characters who had their own strips appear in text stories and some of them have some wonderful art by great Fred Guardineer. Sci-fi hero Dan Hastings was one of these and whose adventures in text and strip would span comic companies. Then you had the superheroes who appeared in their own strips but also text stories. Centaur's own Amazing Man was one of those. Harvey had their stories-behind-the-covers that told of the amazing adventure that was on the cover but not in the book otherwise.

It was odd to see a masked hero appear only in an text story and only in that one. Yet, as far as I've been able to ascertain, we do have two such cases, once with Mystery Man and here with Dr. Darkness. I've yet to come across other stories with either character. It's possible other stories were planned but just never made it into print. Neither is a bad little story.

Dr. Darkness appeared in 1940 in Keen Detective Funnies #24. More of the comic can be seen at

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Philip Jose Farmer RIP

Philip Jose Farmer wasn't the first person to have the idea of bringing various characters from different stories. Such ideas date back to the stories of Jason & the Argonauts and King Arthur and the Round Table Knights. The juvenile dime novels would mix literary and historical figures with their fictional heroes. Indeed one that starred a Captain Nemo very different from the one from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island would be one of the things that Farmer would endeavor to reconcile by postulating the existence of no less than three men calling themselves Captain Nemo. One example of early cross pollination of characters in various media, in a 1940's tale of the Whizzer, the hero must bring the turn of the century safecracker and gentleman thief Raffles out of retirement.

Still, Farmer approached the idea with an almost near fanaticism of inclusion of every fictional story and character existing under one sky, with Doc Savage and Tarzan at the core. This passion is clearly echoed in the works All-Star Squadron and Young All Stars by Roy Thomas who brought in references to Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Edgar Allen Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, and Philip Wylie's Gladiator. And, there's Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. A beauty of Farmer's work is not so much that he created a story as much as a timeline and geneology and pseudo-biographies of Tarzan and Doc Savage, treating it with the eye of a historian and archaeologist. And people, continued with it after him, bringing in newer works and period pieces as well as science fiction television shows, characters from books in other languages, etc. While not all of the timelines can possibly be true, we have conflicting accounts of Holmes crossing swords with Dracula or meeting up with the Phantom of the Opera, but at the core is Farmer's timeline and geneologies. The timeline that I am presenting here is but one of the many Wold Newton based timelines out there, bringing in elements of various ones across the web, editing out some of the superfluous and much later accounts (such as the works in Marvel comics). There are a few other changes as well as I disagree or have my own theories that differ from the other historians (such as Holmes surely is not responsible for all the adventures attributed to him out there, a few must have been handled by other detectives that for some reason or another get attributed to the Great Detective).

Farmer's other influence on comics is less sure, it's my own conjecture. Farmer is widely attributed by his critics as bringing sexuality to science fiction. Not pornography per se (though there are sections of Greatheart Silver, that wouldn't get printed as a letter in Penthouse forum), but he brought an earthiness to the sterile genre, recognizing the baser instincts and drives that motivate mankind. "Behind every great man is a woman" is a saying that works on several levels. The need to impress and provide for, to preen and strut before those we are attracted to probably accounts for 90% of a man's endeavors. The first suspect in a murder is a spouse. Deeds great and small, good and evil, can mostly be traced back to the simple truth of that there is someone we want to have sex with.

Even when writing stories with pulp and film characters, he brought that sensibility to them. In "The Day King Kong Fell" his narrator theorizes over the sexual drive of the giant ape that lead him to kidnap Ann Darrow and the possibility of his consumating that relationship (the gorilla's penis being quite a bit smaller than a man's, thus proportionately increasing the size may not actually make it out of the realm of possiblity) which might explain why the erstwhile hero John Driscoll dropped her like a hot banana later according to the story (not too dissimilar to Alan Moore's account of the Dracula, Myna and Harker relationship and why she is no longer married at the start of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). In A Feast Unknown, he sends up the pulp characters, the violence of the pulps, as well as the overt sexuality in some and the repressed denial of sexuality in others. The end result is a book featuring avatars of Tarzan and Doc Savage, afflicting them with a sexual-psychotic disorder (unable to get erections except through acts of violence) which is culminated by the "heroes" fighting nude with full erections and a battle decided when one castrates the other. When he got the chance to write an official Doc Savage novel, Escape from Loki, he does not resist the chance to deflower the hero.

It is interesting that while he felt the need to explore such areas with the more "normal" characters, he felt the need to malign other characters that already exhibited more passion and had more outre adventures. Through his various biographies and his Holmes-Watson pastiche The Aventure of the Peerless Peer, he tied the characters of G-8 and the Spider and the Shadow together, by asserting that G-8 was delusional and had a breakdown after the war becoming BOTH heroes. Because he was delusional, many of the adventures he was reputed as to having during WWI could be just in his head.

It's not too far of a leap to see how modern comics and creators seem to approach characters with that same mindset. Alan Moore's work often concentrates on sexuality and a sub-theme seems to be supporting that all sexual relationships are normal. Howard Chaykin often brings fetish elements to his works, his mini Twilight is a look at DC's sci-fi characters with the same revisionist sensibilities that Farmer explored. Lately, it has been increasingly popular for such themes and sensibilities to show up in all books as opposed to the fringe books. Identity Crisis brought in rape, madness and graphic murder for a book starring characters used to sell stickers, underwear, and cereal to kids. Black Canary dresses like a hooker for a cussing Batman in All-Star Batman and Robin. Farmer already did it guys. We've had our giggles, let's move on.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mystery Man by Will Eisner

Mystery Man is a bit different from many of the masked heroes of the time in that he not only appeared just once, but also only in a text story. Add to that, his creator is credited to be no other than Will Eisner! Through his studio, Eisner has a long list of characters that he contributed to in their creation and is known for not only his groundbreaking work on The Spirit, but also the work of later years, always pushing the language and storytelling of comics and art, merging the narrative of words with art. Thus, it's strange to see a story that's all text with just a few illustrative panels. It's also far more straightforward than much of the work that he later became known for. If not for the credit, I wonder if anyone would have been able to attribute the story? Are there uncredited Will Eisner stories and creations out there? Notice the name of the villain is given as Dr. Death in the artwork, but Mr. Death everywhere else.

Mystery Man appeared in 1939 appropriately enough in Mystery Men Comics #5 by Fox. More of the comic can be seen at