Call Him The Streak

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The Silver Streak, a super-speedster who was beaten to the newsstands by All-American Publications’ The Flash by a mere two months, had one of the stranger debuts in Golden Age history, which is really saying something when you consider the era included such oddities as Speed Centaur.

The story begins with the long forgotten Rhoda Publications, which decided to jump into the comic book game by offering a title named after the owner’s beloved Pontiac Silver Streak. Although the book prominently featured one notable creation, Jack Cole’s monstrous Claw, none of the characters in the comic were particularly silver or streaky.

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After two issues, the title was taken over by Lev Gleason Publications, which decided to introduce a Silver Streak character to headline the book.

That “character,” however, turned out to be a souped-up race car rather than a man or woman possessing super-speed. As detailed in Silver Streak Comics #3 (Lev Gleason, March 1940),  the Silver Streak was owned by a mysterious swami whose efforts to win races were continually thwarted by a mad scientist who sent monstrous insects to destroy the car.

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The Golden Age, right?

Undeterred, the swami mesmerizes an unnamed cab driver to guide the Silver Streak to victory. When the car is destroyed yet again by a giant bug – an attack that also kills the hapless cab driver by the way – the swami stops kidding around and unleashes powers that makes one wonder why he messed around with racing cars anyway.

He raises the cab driver from the dead and gives him a rebuilt Silver Streak to gain vengeance. The story ends with the reanimated driver, who now possesses super-strength, foiling part of the mad scientist’s confusing master plan with the promise of further battles to come.

That “origin” story was drawn by Jack Binder, but when the Silver Streak returned in the fourth issue the feature boasted a new creator – Jack Cole – and an entirely new concept. The race car and swami were gone forever, and the cab driver suddenly became a fleet-footed super-hero bound and determined to bring am end to the mad “Doc” and his giant insects.

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Little changed for The Silver Streak from that point forward, other than the addition of the requisite teen sidekick and a super fast pet falcon. The character’s adventures lasted until 1945, about the time the majority of Golden Age super-heroes sped off into the sunset.

The following story originally appeared in Silver Streak Comics #5 (Lev Gleason, June 1940). The story was written and drawn by Cole, who adds a nice essay about the nature of heroism on the opening splash page.

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Daredevil Battles Hitler

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Frank Miller’s Holy Terror – a typically over-the-top and controversial account of a Batman-esque character’s response to a 9-11 level terrorist attack – has been described by the cartoonist as “a piece of propaganda” that was at least partially inspired by the Golden Age comics that prominently featured patriotic super-heroes cheerfully punching out Hitler, Mussolini or Hirohito.

(In fact, critics have decried Miller’s apparent blanket condemnation of Muslims as hateful and prejudiced, much as how contemporary audiences view the World War II depiction of America’s enemies in comic books, films, radio and just about every other form of media from that era.)

As a point of reference, I thought it would be interesting to sample a story from one of the most famous “propaganda” comics of the 1940s: Lev Gleason’s Daredevil Battles Hitler, a title published before America’s entry into the war that clearly reflected the publisher’s personal antipathy toward fascism.

The comic featured Gleason’s breakout character, Daredevil, teaming up with other characters’ in the publisher’s stable in an epic battle against Hitler and the German dictator’s allies – which apparently included Jack Cole’s monstrous Claw.

From Daredevil Battles Hitler #1 (Lev Gleason Publications, July 1941), here’s  – surprisingly enough – “Daredevil Battles Hitler.” The story is believed to be written and drawn by the great Charles Biro.

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