The fact that DC sued Victor Fox’s Wonder Man out of existence didn’t stop another enterprising publisher from claiming a variation of the name a few years later.
The publisher in question, our good friends at Better/Nedor/Standard, unveiled “Brad Spencer, Wonderman” in the 1944 one-shot, The Complete Book Of Comics And Funnies. Spencer’s origin, drawn by the great Bob Oksner, involved a liberal use of a “secret current” that granted the hero super-strength and invulnerability.
Aided by his girlfriend and armed with a flame pistol, Spencer fought such villains as Dr. Voodoo (I think every Golden Age publisher had a villain named Dr. Voodoo) and the Immortal Emperor from the planet Lilith.
The nefarious Emperor wasn’t Spencer’s only nemesis from space. Many of Wonderman’s adventures – which ran for about three years – bore a greater resemblance to Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers than any brightly-colored man of steel.
Today’s story marks Wonderman’s final adventure on the printed page, as the publisher moved on to genres that were more appealing to post-war audience. It notably features a robot sidekick named “Roboroy” that is apparently nearer and dearer to Brad’s heart than Wonderman’s long-suffering girlfriend.
Super-hero comics are such a boy’s club, amirite?
From Wonder Comics #20 (Standard, October 1948), here’s “The Robots Of The Demon Star.” The scripter and penciller are not credited, but the Grand Comics Database states that the good-girl influenced art was inked by a name that should be familiar to Silver Age Marvel fans: George Roussos.
After a month of horror comics lightened only by the darkest of humor, I thought it was high time to change it up a bit and present the entirely gore-free adventures of Standard Comics’ “Kathy,” an adorably average teenager who made Patsy Walker look like a high school Hellcat.
Of course, Kathy did possess a certain attribute Archie, Betty and their Golden Age imitators could not match – the artistic talents of a young buck by the name of Frank Frazetta!
Like his contemporaries, Frazetta did a little bit of everything as he rose up the ranks: funny animals, romance, space opera, hillbilly humor and … yes … Archie rip-offs. As always, his talent elevates the work in question.
(Although the script, by a sadly uncredited writer, is agreeably wacky.)
From Thrilling Comics #69 (Standard, December 1948), here’s “Cake Fake” as pencilled and inked by Frazetta.
A Pre-Code horror story truly worth its salt needs a healthy dose of barely concealed sexual tension. A five-page “quicky” that involves multiple blood transfusions between a dashing, lovestruck protagonist and a beautiful damsel in distress certainly fulfills the requirement.
The fact it is beautifully drawn by Nick Cardy only adds to the fun.
The Time Bullet’s Four-Star Fright Fest continues with “Nothing Can Save Her” from Adventures Into Darkness #9 (Standard, April 1953).
Here’s a “tasteful” pre-Code horror story about a scheming rat exterminator – is there ever any other kind? – who overlooks a key point in his devious plan to earn a quick million.
“The Rat Man” originally appeared in The Unseen #9 (Standard, March 1953). The art is by Jack Katz of The First Kingdom fame.
The good folks over at Better/Nedor/Standard/Whatchamacallit knew that striking covers sold comics back in the halcyon days of newsstands and magazine racks.
That is why the majority of their publications featured eye-catching illustrations from one of the greatest cover artists of the day, Alex Schomburg.
Once hooked, however, readers usually found the contents a bit more slapdash than Schomburg’s covers promised. Although Standard Comics featured the early work of such talents as Richard E. Hughes and George Tuska, the stories themselves appeared to have been put together quickly and rarely rise above assembly-line quality.
(At least until the publisher started employing the likes of Alex Toth, Mort Meskin and Jerry Robinson later in its existence…)
There are always exceptions to the rule, however, and I often find myself surprised by the gems that can be found in early Better/Nedor/Standard comics. The following story – taken from the same issue as the Schomburg cover reproduced at the top of this post – definitely delivers the goods, even if The Black Terror and Tim never mount a single flying torpedo to combat the Nazi menace.
From The Black Terror #6 (Standard, May 1944), here’s The Terror Twins’ titanic struggle against “The Invincibles.” The writer and artist are not credited.
Here’s a slight – but fun – ghost story that’s considerably enlivened by the legendary Alex Toth and inker Mike Peppe.
“The Blood Money Of Galloping Chad Burgess” originally appeared in The Unseen #5 (Standard Comics, June 1952).
After super-heroes like Doc Strange, The Liberator and American Crusader lost their popularity in the late ’40s, the publishing house known at various times as “Better,” “Standard” and “Nedor” decided to sex up their product a bit by casting their lot with the always-popular Jungle Girl genre. Super-heroine Miss Masque was subsequently tossed from her berth at Exciting Comics in favor of the more scantily clad Judy Of The Jungle, a character created and drawn by Ralph Mayo.
The plan must have worked, because Judy soon took over the cover slot and received the benefit of Alex Schomburg’s typically attractive – and provocative – “good girl art.”
Aside from featuring Mayo’s attractive art, one of Judy’s adventures was illustrated by a young gun named Frank Frazetta. If you ever thought Frazetta would be the perfect artist to helm a jungle girl comic … well, let’s just say other people obviously found the idea equally appealing.
From Exciting Comics #59 (Better Publications, January 1948), here’s “The Deadly Quest” as pencilled and inked by Frank Frazetta.
The Black Terror and Tim take on The Scar, a master criminal who … um … had a scar on his face.
Hey, they can’t all be as memorable as Lex Luthor or The Joker you know! At least this guy had enough style to whip up a halfway decent death trap!!
The story originally appeared in Black Terror #8 (Better/Standard/Nedor, November 1944). The writer and artist are not credited.
As a bonus, here’s Alex Schomburg’s cover to Black Terror #8.
With a shelf life that spanned 16 years, Supermouse was one of the longest lived super-heroes of the Golden Age … right along with such better known crusaders as Plastic Man, Captain Marvel, Batman and some guy from the planet Krypton who wore his underwear outside of his pants.
The character, who debuted the same month as Terrytoons’ Mighty Mouse in 1942, was also the very first super-powered animal to appear in a comic book, beating out Hoppy The Marvel Bunny and numerous other competitors by several weeks.
So who better to continue our Christmas week extravaganza than The Big Cheese himself, especially when he’s pit against a greedy toy maker out to destroy the very spirit of selflessness and generosity that play such a pivotal role in the December holiday?
From Santa’s Christmas Comics #1 (Standard Comics, December 1952), here’s “A Super Merry Christmas.” The writer and artist of this tale are not credited.
Here’s a Fighting Yank story illustrated by the all-star team of Jerry Robinson (pencils) and Mort Meskin (inks). If you study the figures closely, it’s apparent just how great an influence Meskin exerted on a young Steve Ditko.
“The Return Of Fingers” originally appeared in The Fighting Yank #27 (Better/Nedor/Standard, January 1949).
As a special bonus for you faithful Time Bulleteers, here’s the original cover of The Fighting Yank #27, illustrated by the one and only Alex Schomburg!