Recently, we showcased the top 10 heroes of Marvel and Timely’s Golden Age. Many of them still fight the good fight, while still others remain firmly etched in the collective memory, preserved as in amber.
Of course, the sheer number of costumed crime-fighters launched during the late 1930’s and into the 40’s means many heroes await rediscovery there in the periphery, no less worthy of appreciation. For many, their obscurity seems baffling, their exclusion from the modern table all but criminal. For others, it’s clear the world simply wasn’t ready for their spectacular strangeness, and likely won’t be for generations to come.
Today we recognize and celebrate some of this motley cabal. They’re odd and wonderful, and they all loathed Hitler. They’re just some of the Marvels not to be missed.
Nixing Teddy Roosevelt’s mantra of speaking softly and letting the big stick do the talking, radio operator Jerry Carstairs opted for a more active approach in combatting the Nazis. Using his knowledge of acoustics, Carstairs wired a costume with a microphone and speaker, turning himself into the loudest super hero of the war effort and an apt metaphor for the power of free speech. His sound and fury popped ear drums and toppled buildings. Created by John Compton and Carl Burgos, the Thunderer deafened his enemies with over-modulation and righteous indignation in two issues of Timely’s DARING MYSTERY COMICS before changing his name to the Black Avenger, retaining his costume but not his epic stereo system.
Leslie Lenrow and his ferret Nosie solved a number of crimes in and around New York’s Greenwich Village in 1940, earning both the ire and respect of the local constabulary. Already notable for his anti-crime articles, Lenrow weaseled his way into a number of police investigations, cheating death on numerous occasions thanks to his keen wits and a bullet-proof vest. The civilian crime-fighter soon labeled “Ferret” eventually lost his life when he came embroiled with a seemingly ordinary missing persons case. In tracking the employer of a missing woman, Lenrow uncovered a Nazi plot to murder Dr. Abraham Erskine, father of the super-soldier serum that eventually empowered Captain America. Lenrow was stabbed and killed by a spy in the conspiracy, his offices firebombed by the Nazis. Another hero of the Golden Age, a man called Angel, adopted Nosie the ferret and continued the good fight as the United States committed itself to the war effort.
Thomas Holloway spent much of his youth in a prison, raised as much by its warden—his widower father—as its inmates. Though he eventually became a wealthy surgeon, he also donned a cape and tights—but never a mask—as the crusading Angel. Holloway exhibited no superhuman powers aside from his own altruism and insight into the criminal mind. Though Paul Gustavson’s creation appeared in over 100 issues during the Golden Age, from the cornerstone MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS to ALL-WINNERS COMICS and DARING COMICS, he remains an artifact of the era. He resurfaced in Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s THE MARVELS PROJECT, though he doesn’t enjoy the popularity of robust contemporaries like Captain America and Steve Rogers.
Not to be confused with an adversary of the original Human Torch during his travails in 1943, the heroic Blue Diamond cut a swathe through the Third Reich like his namesake through so much candy glass in the spring of 1941. Archaeologist Elton T. Morrow developed superhuman strength and invulnerability from a mystical diamond. Morrow unearthed the curious shard during a dismally timed Antarctic expedition, ending up with slivers of the diamond in his chest after his ship took fire from a German U-boat. Thankfully, the rock actually originated as bark of the alien Lifestone Tree, so rather than Morrow sustaining a shrapnel wound, he was imbued with the same power as the Chosen Eight of Fate. Writer-artist Ben Thompson chronicled Blue Diamond’s Nazi-smashing adventures in two issues of DARING MYSTERY COMICS, though most of the character’s exploits came to light in the late 70’s.
Well before S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarriers rained from the heavens, an Inhuman cousin race of Bird-People enjoyed dominion over the clouds. There in their Aerie, a hidden city held aloft by anti-graviton technology, they observed the fate of a doomed Trans-Atlantic flight. One human soul survived, an infant child the so-called “Winged Ones” adopted as their own. They equipped the otherwise unremarkable lad with an anti-graviton suit and a pair of metallic wings so he might soar amongst his surrogate people. Naturally, he fought in World War II and joined the ranks of the Liberty Legion as the Red Raven. When he learned of the Bird-People’s intent to prey upon humanity’s weakness in the aftermath of their great war over land and sea, Red Raven sent the Aerie to the bottom of the ocean, placing himself and the avian race into suspended animation. Created by Joe Simon and Louis Cazeneuve, Red Raven saw his wings clipped early, seemingly before his adventures even began, his eponymous title transitioning to the Human Torch rather than continuing on. Though resurrected on several occasions in the decades since, he remains largely unknown to modern readers.
Much like Red Raven and the more popular Sub-Mariner, Rockman emerged during WWII from a hidden civilization unknown to the larger, land-dwelling civilization of Earth. Of course, Rockman and his people lived neither in the skies or the briny depths, but deep within the planet’s crust. The kingdom of Abyssmia originated as a subterranean settlement of North America’s earliest white colonists. There in the dark, the Abyssmians developed technology well beyond the scope of their cousins on the surface. They also shrugged off the need for air and became well accustomed to the high pressure of lower depths. Rockman himself displays superhuman speed and invulnerability, as well as a keen knowledge of unarmed combat. Upon emerging from his underground kingdom, he fought enthusiastically for the United States during the war. He appeared in the first four issues of Timely’s USA COMICS, drawn by Basil Wolverton. When reintroduced over 60 years later in THE TWELVE by J. Michael Straczynski and artist Chris Weston, much of Rockman’s curious origins were suggested as fictional, merely the delusions of an ill-fated miner named Daniel Rose, trapped in a disastrous collapse and imbued with his powers by the release of mutagenic gas.
Continue to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Marvel all year-long on marvel.com/75 and share your thoughts with us on Twitter using the hash tag #Marvel75