Golden Age comic book superheroes you either never knew about or are long forgotten

Golden Age Superheroes from The Black Terror, The Shield, Bulletman and Bulletgirl, and Miss Masque!

There are names everyone associates when you hear the word superhero… Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Iron Man and more. But I bet you never heard of Air Wave, Bulletman and Bulletgirl, The Black Terror or Miss Masque. These were the comic books your grandparents and great-grandparents may have read. These were the characters that led to the Avengers, Justice League, Fantastic Four, Teen Titans, and the X-Men.

It’s safe to say these characters were created in the era when the world was in turmoil… Al Capone and his criminal empire, G-Men, World War I and II, the stock market crash, and more. The politics and news of the world influenced the creation of these colorful characters to inspire young people for “truth, justice, and the American Way.”

A majority of these heroes were not aliens, mutants, or superhuman for that matter. Many of them just donned a mask to fight against evil, not underlying theme or vendetta, just that. For example, The Black Terror from Exciting Comics. His outlandish, stylized “pirate” persona was designed to strike fear into the villains he faced.

The Black Terror

The Black Terror‘s secret identity was pharmacist Bob Benton, who formulated a chemical he called “formic ethers”, which gave him various superpowers. He used these powers to fight crime with his sidekick, Tim Roland, together known as the “Terror Twins.” His love interest is secretary Jean Starr, who initially despises Benton and loves the Black Terror, later discovers that they’re the same person.

According to Jess Nevins’ Encyclopedia of Golden Age Superheroes, “The Black Terror has enemies ranging from Nazis to mad scientists like Thorg (he of the “million dollar death ray”), the femme fatale Lady Serpent (who has a hypnotic glance), and the Japanese scientist Hanura and his “electro-hypnotizer”, which is used to assassinate American generals and admirals.” With the popularity of superheroes fading in the late 40s, the Black Terror’s series ended with issue #27 (June 1949).

You can see many similarities in this one comic to many others of the day. A kid sidekick, a love interest, and villains that ranged from mad scientists, femme fatale, and of course, enemies from the Axis powers during World War II. You could look at any comic book from the Golden Age and find the same formula throughout.

Sure, they’re a little campy and, compared to today, quite misogynistic in their portrayal of women. Women were either sex objects, danger prone, or sidekicks. There were a few comics that had women as the main character, but even those had their controversies. Take, for example, the story of Miss Fury.

Miss Fury

The character’s real identity is wealthy socialite Marla Drake. She has no innate superpowers, but gains increased strength and speed when she dons a special skintight catsuit when fighting crime. The panther skin was bequeathed to her by her uncle, who said that it was used by an African witch doctor in voodoo ceremonies. (It’s like a combination of Catwoman and the Black Panther in one!) Although Miss Fury was popular, the revealing outfits worn by the female characters provoked some controversy at the time. When Marla Drake was drawn wearing a bikini in 1947, 37 newspapers dropped the strip in response. The Miss Fury strip ran until 1952.

Miss Fury combats several recurring villains, including mad scientist Diman Saraf and Nazi agents Baroness Erica Von Kampf and General Bruno. Drake was also involved in a love triangle with her former fiancé, Gary Hale, and Detective Dan Carey. (See the recurring theme here!) A complicated figure, Marla doesn’t seem to like being a superhero, resenting the need for a secret identity and the danger it poses. She is sometimes accompanied by an albino Brazilian named Albino Joe. This provides another controversy from the Golden Age comics, the fact that racial discrimination was quite obvious within these pages.

The villains were focused on the Axis Powers from World War II (German, Japanese) and then the “Communist Threat” of the 40s and 50s (Chinese, Russian) so many of these villains were portrayed with exaggerated features as much of the propaganda did at this time in history. Although it does take away from the comics themselves, they have to be taken in context with this time period.

I think one of the broad characterizations you can see in the Golden Age of Superheroes is the “flag waving, patriotic” heroes that filled the pages. More than 30+ different characters representing the United States of America and the “American Fighting Spirit” filled the pages with red, white, and blue. Most of these characters did their fighting with their fists. Punching out Hitler seemed to be an American pastime in the Golden Age. The names were also quite colorful from American Eagle and Captain Freedom to Fighting Yank, The Shield, and V-Man (as in “V for Victory”). Even Uncle Sam got his own comic book fighting the scourge of Nazi and communist threats to America.

Lash Lightning Comics - Comic Vine
Lash Lightning

As I said before, a lot of these superheroes were ordinary people who through genius intellect and wealth or a mystic object or a chemical formula gained super powers. It was very broad and quite basic but in their concepts, but some were just out of this world. For example, meet Lash Lightning. In 1940, explorer Robert Morgan is delving into an Egyptian pyramid when he encounters an ancient mystic called The Old Man of the Pyramids. The mystic teaches Morgan ancient secrets, and gives him the Amulet of Annihilation, on the condition that he uses his powers to fight evil. Morgan’s powers include super-strength, super-speed, flight, the ability to generate electricity and radiate “lightning heat,” and a measure of invulnerability (Sounds a lot like Shazam, a.k.a. the original Captain Marvel, doesn’t he?) His powers can be recharged by electricity. Returning to the United States, Morgan dons a costume and changes his name to Lash Lightning (as opposed to maintaining a secret identity). His emblem is a triangle with a thunderbolt emerging from each of its three sides. His early foes include the Mummy, an insane college professor wrapped in bandages infused with radium, and the mad scientist Mastermind. His recurring villains also include a werewolf, the zombie-raising Dr. Diablo, and the Maestro, who wears a bee costume. Crazy, huh?

I don’t think we’ll ever see any of these heroes on the silver screen or even the TV screen anytime soon. They are from a bygone era. Although, Dynamite Entertainment did a series of books called Project Superpowers where these old heroes were suspended in time, awakened in the world today to fight a new threat. It was a rebirth for these Golden Age heroes and great to read! I’d definitely recommend checking it out!

Although many of the Golden Age heroes still exist in today’s mainstream comics, their legacy with the lost heroes of the Golden Age will never be forgotten. As awkward and politically incorrect as these comic books are, they are still an amazing look into the history of comics as well as our own national identity.

# # #

Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is available through Lulu and other booksellers. Get ready for The Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series, coming soon, and the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates.

How far have we gone to ban Dr. Seuss?

Banned' Dr. Seuss Books Delisted on eBay After Selling for Thousands
The six Dr. Seuss books that will no longer be published by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, including And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry StreetIf I Ran the ZooMcElligot’s PoolOn Beyond Zebra!Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer.

I have spoken here often about free speech and the First Amendment. As a writer, I am a firm believer in this sacred institution. I stand by the adage that “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend your right to say it.” That said, have we (as a country and a society) gone over the edge with political correctness that we are banning Dr. Seuss?

I grew up reading Dr. Seuss, watching the TV specials, the movies, etc. His books have been an institution and a focal point in children’s literature. And yet, we are examining everything to the point of lunacy for political, racial, and social content, forcing it from our lives.

Like any parent, the first books I bought, read, and gave to my children were Dr. Seuss. We didn’t look at it through the lens of political correctness, we looked at it as an easy way to teach our kids about the environment (The Lorax) or counting and colors (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish) or even behaving themselves while having fun (The Cat in the Hat). Are we also going to erase all the movies and TV specials based around Dr. Seuss?

I applaud the New York Public Library (NYPL) who took a stand against this audacity, saying, “As public libraries do not censor material, the very few copies we have of the six Dr. Seuss titles in question will remain in circulation until they are no longer in acceptable condition,’’ the NYPL said in a statement. “At that point, we will not be able to replace them, as the books are out of print. So, eventually, they will no longer be available to borrow.” This is the cost of our political correctness.

I think we are continuing to have this conversation on sensitivity in literature, especially anything written in the early 20th century. Is some of it insensitive to race and culture? Absolutely. They, like any form of entertainment of that time period, is a product of that time. It needs to be looked at through that spectrum, not the lens of today’s “cancel culture” who think anything and everything that is racially or socially insensitive needs to be eliminated. Remember these words:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it…”

George Santayana, Spanish philosopher

We cannot simply erase the past, thinking it will create a better future. If we don’t learn from that history, we will just make those same mistakes all over again. Why can’t we just look at something and appreciate it for the sentiment and not outright cancel it?

Sorry for the rant, but back to Dr. Seuss… I understand some of the imagery in “If I Ran the Zoo” and “And to think I Saw It on Mulberry Street” are racially insensitive. We didn’t have such a world view when Theodore Geisel wrote and drew these books. The imagery is what it is, but to ban the books outright is, well, fascist. It’s the same thing that Adolph Hitler and the Nazi’s did to books written by Jews or that didn’t portray the Aryan image as they wanted it. So now, we’re doing it to anything that the “PC Police” say is insensitive to whatever race, religion, or creed.

We don’t need to ban books. We need to look at them through the lens of the time they were written, understand why they were written, so that we can have a conversation and learn what not to write or how to act. How can we understand the evil of racial injustice without “To Kill a Mockingbird” or the plight of runaway slaves without “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and yet these books are being banned because of “racially insensitive language.” Do we ban rap music that uses the same language? No, and we shouldn’t so why ban books?

You can’t write a story about the south or any history without using somewhat bad language. I found myself in such a conundrum while writing my latest novel, Corsair and the Sky Pirates. The novel is a steampunk historical fiction set in the late 1800s, early 1900s. I have a very diverse group of characters, and the language back then was not PC. I will not use the “N-word” or anything like that, but I wanted to convey the repugnance of the villains in how they treat people. How do I do that without using such foul language? These are the issues that writers face today, because we want to reach our audience without jeopardizing our relationship with them.

So please, can we stop banning books! If it’s not your cup of tea, don’t buy it, read it, watch it or listen to it. If you want to understand what effect banning books has on society, read “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, “1984” by George Orwell, or “V for Vendetta” by Alan Moore. Then maybe, you’ll understand why we shouldn’t do it.

# # #

Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.

Stop trying to justify “political correctness” by bashing fantasy classics

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write this week, then I heard about an American science fiction author bashing J.R.R. Tolkien as racist. When I read the article, it became even more laughable because he claimed that he was racist because of the way he portrayed Orcs as an “inferior” race.

Yes, you read that right. The greatest fantasy author of all times is a racist and a bigot because he made a make-believe race that were considered inferior by most people, i.e. those who read Tolkien and the author himself. Never in my life have I heard anything so ridiculous and self-serving. These comments seem to be coming from a man trying to sell his own books, because he sure doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Now, before I go any further, I want to inform you that I hate political correctness. I am “old school” for lack of a better word. I don’t agree with changing words just because you don’t like them. To me, free speech is everything. If you don’t like it, then don’t read it, watch it, or listen to it. However, I hate stupidity and he’s just downright stupid.

The author (who will remain unnamed as I will not promote him in any way, shape or form) said Tolkien “depicted evil creatures such as Orcs as ‘worse than others’ and said this had ‘dire consequences for society.'” Sorry, what? Is President Trump planning to turn away immigrants because he’s afraid they’ll join the dark lord Sauron to destroy America? Gimme a break!

Okay, first you have to understand what Orcs are… They’re mostly evil. Some like Warcraft depict Orcs as neutral or evil–like some do in D&D–but most portray them as evil. It’s part of what Orcs were meant to be.

Remember, Tolkien created Orcs, so all of us fantasy authors go by his writings for reference. Beyond that, it is well known that Tolkien was one of the most staunch critics of racism, fascism, and Nazism. It is well documented in his writings.

Now, here is where he gets really, really wierd. The author says, “I can easily imagine that a lot of these people that were doing the dark lord’s bidding were doing so out of simple self preservation and so forth.” Really? I guess they killed all the humans because they were afraid of Sauron, not because humans tasted good. This quote shows me that this man never read Tolkien, and if he did, he’s trying to use today’s “PC bullshit” to justify his opinion.

Why? Why do we have to do that? Why do we need to take one of the Top 5 novels in America (as per The Great American Read) and trash it because you want to be politically correct. If you want to do that, write your own damn book about Orcs being the downtrodden of society, but to me, it’s pretty insulting comparing Orcs to South American migrants (yes, this idiot did that too!)

There is a place for criticism. I have negative reviews on my own novels, and I take them to improve myself as an author. It just seems that for this author to go after a literary legend like Tolkien is more about bringing attention to himself.

You can read the article about this author and his comments here and decide for yourself. I, for one, don’t plan on reading any of his books anytime soon.

###

SKU-000941753

Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Journalism returns to its roots of “yellow journalism” in this time of political agnst

Most of you don’t know about a one of the first comic strips called “The Yellow Kid” that appeared in the pages of the New York World from 1895 to 1898, and later William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. Created and drawn by Richard F. Outcault in the comic strip Hogan’s Alley (and later under other names as well), it was one of the first Sunday supplement comic strips in an American newspaper.

It also has a connection to the term “yellow journalism” that was used in that time period to describe the two newspapers’ editorial practices of taking (sometimes even fictionalized) sensationalism and profit as priorities in journalism. Today, we seem to be returning to that same kind of “sensationalism” in journalism.

Now, I’m not trying to say that the press are “the enemy of the people” but a lot of them are partisan in their reporting. That fact is undeniable, and not what journalism should be. When you have websites and organizations dedicated to “fact checking” the media, you know something is wrong.

I have some experience in this matter. I spent more than 30 years in military journalism and public affairs, having one-on-one interactions with the media. I found most of them to be driven by the story, and not looking for that “gotcha” moment. That agenda has done a complete 180° by today’s standards.

A key purpose of journalism is to provide an adversarial check on those who wield the greatest power by shining a light on what they do in the dark, and informing the public about those acts.”–Glenn Greenwald

That is what journalism is supposed to be, but I stead we get stories with little to no facts being published. It’s done to be the first to get it out, not be accurate. Then, when those stories are proven wrong, the editors publish an update or retraction, but the false story is already out there. By the time the retraction is posted, the inaccurate story has been retweeted, shared, and sent out hundreds, maybe thousands, of times while the retraction gets little to no puah.

This is why the media has become so untrustworthy. They are driven by agendas, not facts. That’s not what journalism is supposed to be.

If you want to see what journalism was meant to be, watch the 2005 movie “Good Night and Good Luck” starring David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow. The movie surrounds the infamous hearings of Senator Joseph McCarthy surrounding communism in our country. When I watch this movie, it saddens me that we don’t have journalists like Murrow in the media today. Today’s journalists act more like wanna-be celebrities than journalists. Add to that, anyone with a social media account, blog, or just a smartphone tries for their “15 minutes” of fame. Its shameful and most of the time quite inaccurate.

I think journalism gets measured by the quality of information it presents, not the drama or the pyrotechnics associated with us.”–Bob Woodward

As writers–whether or not you’re a journalist–we have a responsibility for accuracy in our words. Even writing fantasy stories, as I do, I strive for accuracy by researching the myths and legends I use in my novels. People who read my stories expect it, just as we should expect it from the media today.

###

51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

SKU-000941753

Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

The trolls need to go back under their bridges and off the internet

I think I can safely say we all love the internet. It has given us instant access to news, sports, videos and a social media cavalcade so we can meet and greet friends and family around the world. But at the same time, it has given a forum for the worst of us … Trolls.

The one thing I hate about the internet, and social media for that matter, is the “trolls” that live on the web. You have a bunch of sissy boys (and girls) hiding behind their posed, self-propagating “selfies” to write trashy comments on every social media channel, news feeds, and chat room. All of this, in an effort, to put someone else down so they can feel good about how tough, how cool, they are.

1455912121933This is the movie “Mean Girls” in everyday life on the internet. “Trolls” is a good name for them, and being a fantasy writer, I am an expert on trolls. They are bottom dwellers with no ethics, morals or an ounce of compassion in them. They feed on the sorrow and suffering of people trying to have civilized discussions about a variety of topics and interests. Their only goal in life is to make people feel miserable. It doesn’t matter if they live under a bridge or in their mother’s basement, trolls enjoy making people feel like crap.

I realize there is a difference between some trolls and full-on cyber-bulling. Someone dissing a comment about whether “Batman v Superman” was a good movie or not is not hurtful, but it can lead people down the wrong path. The trolls of today can become the cyber-bullies of tomorrow.

“There are two kinds of evil people in this world. Those who do evil stuff and those who see evil stuff being done and don’t try to stop it.” – Mean Girls (2004)

Cyber-bulling has become a national pastime for today’s generation. We are raising a bunch of trolls who live to make others feel miserable by just shooting that “zing” across the bow because it makes them feel powerful. We all know how some of these stories have ended … in tragedy, and sometimes, death.

Remember these names… Ryan Halligan, Megan Meier, Jessica Logan, Hope Sitwell, Tyler Clementi, and Amanda Todd. These are just some of the names of victims of this downward internet trend. According to the Megan Meier Foundation, approximately 43% of the students report experiencing cyber-bullying during their lifetime and 15% of students admitted to cyber-bullying others during their lifetime.

This is the leading cause of what’s wrong with society today. We can’t have a meaningful discussion about anything without someone stepping up to put someone down. If you look at the current political climate we are in, you can see the results of the onset of trolls. If you like President Trump, you’re a racist, misogynist, Nazi. Name any topic and there is a hateful name being called at someone who disagrees with you.

Beware Troll Under Bridge SignIt has even crossed over into the world of fantasy and science fiction. When Finn Jones was cast as Danny Rand in Netflix “Iron Fist” series, some people were outraged at a “white boy” being cast in what should be a role for an Asian actor. This clearly demonstrated that these trolls never read a single Iron Fist comic book about the rich, white boy being raised in a hidden monastery to be its protector, the Immortal Iron Fist. The same can be said for the trolls on the other side of the aisle, who complained that Idris Alba was cast as Heimdall , or Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin, in Marvel’s movies. The trolls were out in full force then too. Get back under the bridge troll!

My point is this … Let’s try to be civil in our discussions on the internet. Thumper the rabbit (yes, I’m quoting Bambi here) said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone stuck to this as their mantra? Whether you’re talking politics, sports, the WWE or the Justice League movie, we can give our opinions without throwing in that left turn down the road toward the bridge where the trolls live.

Bryan Cranston, who’s played some of the worst people in TV and movies, said it best. “We’ve been trained since kindergarten: Be nice, be kind, share, put on a smile. So we’re conditioned to squash our natural selfish instincts, and that’s the right thing for society.” Amen, brother … Testify!

###

51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt