The Mystery Men of January

Welcome back to the continuing  series on super-heroes who made their debut in each consecutive month.  As before, I post images of the stories where I first discovered them or of  issues that are significant to me.

The first three heroes under discussion all appeared in the same magazine, Flash Comics 1 in 1940!

The Flash: Although the 50s-80s version is beautifully drawn for the most part, I have a fondness for this modern Mercury. I haven’t enjoyed very many of his own original stories but I like him very much in team-ups. This early 90s series was a surprise hit even though it was set in the Fifties, the end of the JSA’s first era.

Hawkman: A fusion of Flash Gordon’s King Vultan with the Egyptology craze of the Twenties. I first “met” the Thanagarian version (who is a strange blend of John Carter and Martian Manhunter)  but recognise this reincarnated prince as an essential member of the JSA. I thought he was belligerent and fascinating in “Smallville” although the wings were a bit similar to those of Pygar in “Barbarella”. Amazing Heroes magazine was hugely informative in those distant, pre-internet days.

Johnny Thunder: Despite a catchy song by those phenomenal cats, the Kinks, I never found JT and his pink genie amusing or interesting; I much preferred Roy Thomas’ Jonni Thunder, the gal detective. I may be one of the few people who likes this origin of the Black Canary, starring the evil JT of Earth-1 (and also the continuity-crazy work of Roy the Boy).

Superboy: the Teen of Steel, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, is a great vehicle for telling stories about loyalty and community; I may like him even more than the adult Caped Kryptonian (Note: I’m not discussing the clone version here- he’ll have his own entry). The LSH has never been the same since the Pocket Universe Superboy was killed off. That’s also one of my favourite covers of all time.

Challengers of the Unknown: my real introduction to  Prof, Red, Rocky and Ace, the prototype FF, was in this giant, just as the Fourth World kicked off. I missed the Challs  in their brief stint as ghost-breakers but I had glimpsed a little of their mad Arnold Drake period (Villo! Brainex! Kra!).

When they were revived just prior to the DC Implosion, they were teamed up with both Swamp Thing and Deadman, while Keith Giffen gave the group a futuristic SST.  I suspect former Challs Corinna Stark, Tino and, er, Gaylord Clayburne are unlikely to return in the New 52. However, the Challs should always be on the fringes of the DC universe, dealing with giant idols and colossal robots.

Dial H for Hero: I blogged about this series in a previous Superboy Super-Spec entry; basically, the Marv Wolfman/Infantino iteration in the early 80s was more fun and gave kids the chance to showcase their own characters. The Johnny DC imprint should revive it pronto. This is the only original issue I ever owned.

Batgirl: Of the many versions of this character, my enduring favourite has to be Babs Gordon: librarian, congresswoman and occasional partner of Superman and Robin. I wish Denny O’Neil had thought to induct her into the JLA instead of transplanting Black Canary. In the late 70s, she was eclipsed by Levitz and Staton’s deadly Huntress. But in the 90s, the teen version won me over again, in this Xmas special.

Next time: The Mystery Men of January Part Two!

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners and are reproduced here for the purposes of nostalgia and comment.

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One comment on “The Mystery Men of January

  1. Kid Robson says:

    Always loved that Batgirl debut – and that Challengers of the Unknown special, wherein I first noticed how extra-brilliant Jack Kirby’s art was when inked by Wally Wood. Good as Sinnott was and is, there’s something in me that would’ve liked to see Jack’s FF inked by Woody. I must dig ’em both out to reread – or even just smell the paper.

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