If the Golden Age Wonder Man is remembered at all these days, it’s for the hail of lawsuits the Superman rip-off drew from DC the moment Wonder Comics #1 hit the stands in early 1939.
According to comic book legend, the entire imbroglio began when Victor Fox – a DC Comics accountant who came across Superman’s early sales figures and, to quote Joe Simon, “liked what he saw” – hired the legendary Will Eisner- Jerry Iger shop to create a character that hewed as close to the Man Of Steel as possible. Will Eisner complied, and 11 months after Superman revolutionized the American comic-book industry Wonder Man leapt into the fray.
DC, as you might expect, was none too pleased and filed an immediate injunction against the use of the character. Victor Fox lost his case after Will Eisner reputedly refused to lie about the character’s creation in court, although some sterling detective work by an enterprising blogger recently shed some new light on Eisner’s role in the whole shebang. At any rate, Fox Publications’ Wonder Man disappeared from sight and DC went on to sue such Superman acolytes as Master Man, Steel Sterling and – most famously or infamously depending on your viewpoint – the original Captain Marvel.
Even without the legal brouhaha, however, it’s doubtful that Wonder Man would have lasted long against the long underwear competition. Although Eisner was already technically superior to Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1939, the Wonder Man story lacks even an iota of the imagination and excitement of those early Action Comics tales. I guess that just illustrates the difference between a work-for-hire hack job and two hungry talents pursuing the dream of a lifetime.
From Wonder Comics #1 (Fox Publications), here’s Will Eisner’s Wonder Man.