Triumph Of The Spirit

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Captain Triumph debuted in 1943, a bit late to capitalize on the initial super-hero boom. Unlike such early birds as the The Arrow and The Clock, the good Captain outlasted the faddish interests of the ’40s audience and hung on until the end of the decade, headlining several issues of Quality’s Crack Comics in the process.

Created by Alfred Andriola, Captain Triumph’s origin was more unique than most of the era. Lance Gallant vowed to fight the forces of tyranny after his twin brother, Michael, was murdered by Nazis. Unknown to the surviving Gallant, however, The Fates decided to aid the grieving brother’s quest.

Lance soon discovered that Michael’s ghost still walked the Earth, and that the two could combine into the super-powered Captain Triumph whenever the surviving brother touched his birthmark.

Despite his mystic background, Captain Triumph mostly fought down-to-earth criminals in well-crafted tales that employed a bit more characterization than most Golden Age slug-fests.  His rather simple costume also probably aided the Captain’s longevity, as he didn’t quite look like your garden variety super-hero.

The following story introduces a femme fatale who claims to be Michael’s widow, a claim that is obviously false but nevertheless leaves the Gallant brothers in an interesting quandary. Reed Crandall’s typically slick art completes the package.

“The Man Who Robbed The Dead” originally appeared in Crack Comics #53 (Quality, March 1948).

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Skull And Crossbones

I’m a bit too staid when it comes to spending an entire day talking like a pirate, but I’ll take any excuse for posting a wild and wooly tale of piracy on the seven seas illustrated by the one and only Reed Crandall.

So here’s the swashbuckling Captain Daring vs. “The Alliance Of Evil” by Crandall and inker Les Zakarin. The story originally appeared in Buccaneers #27 (Quality Comics, May 1951).

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Daring Adventures

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Every so often an enterprising soul decides it’s high time for pirates to make a comeback in popular culture, with results varying from wildly successful (a number of Errol Flynn swashbucklers, the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise) to instantly forgettable (ummm … just about everything else?).

After post-war audiences grew disenchanted with super-heroes, Golden Age comic-book publishers gave the pirate genre a turn at the plate. In 1950, Quality Comics kicked poor Kid Eternity to the curb and rebooted the erstwhile hero’s book into a swashbuckling anthology titled “Buccaneers.”

Buccaneers starred the very Flynn-esque Captain Daring, whose short fling with stardom (the character, along with the title itself, only lasted nine issues.) benefited greatly from the artistic efforts of one of the industry’s finest pencillers: Reed Crandall.

Here’s the origin of Captain Daring from Buccaneers #19 (Quality Comics, January 1950). The art is by Crandall.

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The Opposite Number

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Although Blackhawk fought his share of colorful villains in the Golden Age, the fictional aviator never developed much of a rogues gallery because few of his opponents survived beyond a single story!

The sociopathic King Cobra and his Squadron Of Rattlesnakes  – the Nazis’ response to Blackhawk and his international team of swashbucklers – certainly had the potential to be formidable arch nemeses, but … well, you’ll just have to read the story to find out why their names don’t live on in infamy.

(Here’s a three-word hint: “Golden Age justice.”)

The following story, written and drawn by the legendary Bill Woolfolk and Reed Crandall, originally appeared in Military Comics #19 (Quality, 1943).

Like many Golden Age comics, the tale contains dated  racial stereotypes that modern sensibilities rightfully find offensive.

(Namely, the now infamous Chop-Chop.)

Although I generally try to post stories that either avoid or minimize such characterizations, it’s also not this blog’s intention to whitewash the past. Who knows what future generations will think of social conventions and attitudes that we currently find acceptable?

With such caveats in mind, enjoy the story!

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Little Big Man

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Ray Palmer and Henry Pym may be better known to modern-day fans, but Darrel Dane is undoubtedly the biggest little super-hero in comics history.

One of many costumed crime-fighters created by Will Eisner, the Golden Age Dollman premiered in Feature Comics #27 (December, 1939) and remained the magazine’s headliner for nearly a decade. He also starred in his own quarterly comic for eight years.

That’s a run that neither the Atom nor the Ant-Man – in any of their myriad incarnations – have ever matched. (Arguably because DC and Marvel never quite utilized the “David vs. Goliath” gimmick of Doll Man quite as imaginatively as Quality, which assigned such legendary artists as Lou Fine and Reed Crandall to the feature.)

Dane’s time in the spotlight ended when Quality Comics went out of business in 1956. He re-emerged 17 years later in the classic JLA storyline, “Crisis On Earth X!” Since that time, Doll Man and his Quality cohorts have appeared off and on in various permutations of The Freedom Fighters and Dane’s codename is currently held by another individual.

Even though Doll Man’s heyday has long passed, the old stories still exist to prove a small hero can stand tall amid a mountain of super-heroes. From Feature Comics #47, here’s “School Of Crime” illustrated by Crandall.

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The Blonde Bomber

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The Time Bullet is alive if not necessarily kicking … a state of existence that also happens to describe the topic of today’s post: Lady Blackhawk!

Zinda Blake debuted in 1959 – the same year that DC introduced a certain Maid Of Might – but never achieved the same notoriety as other female characters of the era or even the aviatrix’s own distaff counterpart, Blackhawk.

The reasons for her also-ran status are painfully evident. By the late ’50s, the Blackhawk character was far removed from his WWII heyday and DC isn’t exactly known for its treatment of properties acquired from defunct publishers. (Cases in point: Captain Marvel, the Charlton Action Heroes and the infuriating Milestone debacle.) A newly introduced heroine in a comic far removed from DC’s A-list isn’t exactly riding the fast track  to stardom.

Complicating matters, Zinda’s most notable story-line involved her abduction and subsequent subjugation to a fourth-rate villain. By the time that saga played itself out, no one – not even the characters in the book itself – seemed to care.

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The comic was finally put out of its misery by the end of the 1960s. Although the Blackhawk team would subsequently be dusted off for an unsuccessful revival or two, Zinda Blake wasn’t seen again until the “classic” Zero Hour event in 1994. Supposedly lost in the mists of time for decades, the still-youthful Lady Blackhawk settled into a supporting role in Guy Gardner: Warrior that lasted until the Green Lantern spin-off met its eventual demise.

Lady Blackhawk returned from limbo once again in 2004 when Gail Simone added the character to the Birds Of Prey line-up. Re-purposed as a tough-talking, two-fisted throwback from another era – a much less meat-headed version of Mark Millar’s Captain America – Zinda stole more than her share of scenes until Birds Of Prey was canceled. After that high point, the heroine once again found herself  … abducted and brainwashed by a fourth-rate villain.

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The more that things change …

There is the possibility of a happy ending, however. DC is cleaning house once again to undo the last set of changes intended to forever alter their fictional universe. As a consequence, Gail Simone is returning to Birds Of Prey along with Barbara Gordon, Black Canary, Huntress and – last but not least – Lady Blackhawk. In celebration of Simone’s feisty interpretation of the character, the Time Bullet is proud to present the secret, Golden Age origin of Zinda Blake.

Golden Age, you ask? Didn’t Lady Blackhawk premiere in 1959?

Yes … and no. During the Quality Comics era, a young woman who looked and acted very much like the Zinda Blake we know and love flew to Blackhawk Island – guns a’ blazing – and pronounced herself a member of the team. As is often the case with Golden Age heroines, this mysterious aviatrix showed a lot more moxie than her Silver Age successor. Heck, she wasn’t even brainwashed!

So, to introduce a character who may – or may not – have inspired everybody’s favorite gun-slinging gal in a mini-skirt, here’s “The Blonde Bomber” from Military Comics #20. The art is by the great Reed Crandall.

* As a note of warning, the following story does contain racial stereotypes that are undoubtedly offensive to the modern eye. However, these sort of depictions were common throughout society at that time and there’s no value in pretending that such prejudices never existed. In fact, given the way certain racial groups are portrayed in modern stories like Kick-Ass, maybe we should take a closer look at what’s considered acceptable these days. American culture has not traveled quite as far as everyone would like to believe …

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