Though not the longest-lived comics company of the Golden Age, Quality Comics output proves that the company’s moniker wasn’t just a clever name. With the likes of Uncle Sam, The Phantom Lady and Black Condor still rattling around the DC Universe, their presence is still felt today. Of course, their greatest alumnus is the stretching adventurer Eel O’Brien, known to the world as Plastic Man!
He’s not on this list, but now I bet you’re all wondering who is… Welcome to Ten Things!
Whooshman-Bicarbonate Films, in conjunction with ‘An Amateur Comics Historian’, and The Spirit’s nemesis Silk Satin, Presents:
TEN MORE QUALITY COMICS HEROES (WHO ARE *NOT* PLASTIC MAN!)
Named for the wartime intelligence agency, G-2 appeared in just shy of 20 issues circa 1942-1943, under the Quality banner. His secret identity, Don Leash, was known as one of the most skilled operatives of the agency, and in his costumed identity, he fought such stalwarts as Lady Wang (who was not a cross between Dragon Lady archetype and word processor, no matter how much my brain wants her to be.) and disappeared entirely before the end of the war. To my knowledge, he has never appeared in a DC Comic post-acquisition, and so must be assumed a casualty of war…
9) THE RED BEE
Ah, yes… The Red Bee, target of insane amounts of ridicule, most of it nothing more clever than “LOLFAIL.” Only Arm-Fall Off Boy (who, it must be stressed is INTENTIONALLY stupid, created as a parody of LSH membership drives in the Silver Age) takes more flak, and frankly, I don’t fully understand why. An Olympic-level athlete, District Attorney Rick Raleigh is also smart as a whip, and even trained bees to serve as his servants. Add in his high-tech stinger gun, and you’re looking at a character with potential. If only someone could take a character with a goofy bug (or maybe flying animal) theme, no powers save for some high-tech weaponry and raw determination, and turn him into the most popular character in the entire comic industry?
Much like G-2, Joe Hercules (his REAL NAME) made appearances in fewer than 20 comics during the Golden Age, our man Herc fought corruption for the best reason of all: Foreclosure on the family home by unethical means cost his mother her life. Traveling from the woods to the big city, he used his powerful fists and righteous rage to take out criminals big and small, inspired by the newspaper reports of the exploits of fellow Quality hero, Doll-Man.
7) DOLL GIRL
Speaking of Doll-Man, his long-time squeeze Martha Roberts suddenly gained her own shrinking powers by sheer force of will (impressive in itself.) Joining him in the field, wearing a costume near-identical to his (save for the inverted colors) Martha’s adventures continued well into the 50s, when Quality ceased publication. Interestingly, in her first appearance, Doll Man didn’t recognize her, even though she wore no mask, proving that the whole “heroes who are so focused on being heroes that they have no real social life” trope isn’t a new invention of DC Comics editorial.
Sharing a creator with Plastic Man (who, you might notice, is NOT on this list), Midnight was designed as an ersatz of Will Eisner’s ‘Spirit’, a hero who was massively popular in comic strips. Secretly radio announce Dave Clarke, Midnight worked with a talking monkey named Gabby, using his wits as much as his fists, Midnight wasn’t revived at DC Comics for nearly 3 decades, until he finally showed up in an issue of All-Star Squadron (one which finally unravelled the pre-Crisis history of Quality Comics heroes, designated to alternate Earth-X, after multiple contradictory stories in the 1970s.)
5) NEON THE UNKNOWN
Tom Corbet (not the space cadet, mind you) was a member of the French Foreign Legion who gained mystical super-powers (and, interestingly, his costume) after drinking from a strange glowing pool. (In his defense, he was dying of thirst at the time.) Putting in the now-requisite just-shy-of-20 issues, Neon also disappeared for decades until the All-Star Squadron story mentioned above, wherein he was killed in the line of duty alongside fellow minor Quality heroes The Invisible Hood, Magno and the The Red Torpedo, finally explaining why they all up and disappeared in the 40s.
4) THE GREAT DEFENDER
Oh-oh, yes, he’s the Great Defender!
Defending, and he’s doing well!
His skill is such, he defends too much,
He’s lonely but no one can tell…
Assistant Pharmacy Clerk Stormy Foster (who sounds like a soap opera heroine), combined several of his wares into one super-vitamin which gave him strength and vitality enough to battle crime. It’s not quite as overt as Hourman’s Miraclo pill addiction, but it’s clearly a problematic origin. Of course, since Stormy didn’t wear a mask, and occasionally used his real name in his costumed identity, there may have been more than just vitamins giving him a sense of invincibility.
3) THE BLUE TRACER
“Wild Bill” Dunn was an engineering genius, kludging together the mighty super-vehicle that shares his name out of surplus Nazi weaponry while held captive in the jungle. Taking on a costume (notable for wearing a similar doughboy helmet to that of Jay Garrick, who had made his debut a year before), he took his mighty airship/tank/thingama into action against the Nazi threat, putting in just shy of 20 appearances (a minimum number which, apparently, was written into the Quality heroes contracts) before disappearing into the mists of war and/or ancient newsprint…
2) THE FIREBRAND
Bored by the life of a layabout playboy, Rod Reilly took up arms and threw on a see-through shirt to fight crime as The Firebrand for (say it with me) just shy of 20 appearances in ‘Police Comics.’ Like several of his contemporaries, Rod is mostly remembered for the excellent art (this time by Reed Crandall), and was thrown aside until the 80s, when his younger sister gained super-powers and used one of his spare costumes to become a new Firebrand. (For those of you wondering, she also had to incorporate one of her bathing suits to maintain propriety, but that new Firebrand is one of the key players in the first few issues of ‘Crisis On Infinite Earths’ wearing that costume.)
Empowered by the God Of Fire himself, Carol Vance Martin
came down from Yellow Mountain took the battle to the criminals of the 1940s using her flame powers in unique and inventive ways. She could create flaming weapons (axes, even bows that fire flaming arrows) and was one of the earliest female superheroes in comics, pulling in a full four months or so before Wonder Woman’s debut. She is extremely minor, even by the standards of this article (she only got 12 appearances and never made it to the cover), and missed being revived by DC thanks to the existence of another Wildfire in the Legion of Super-Heroes…
Thanks to Faithful Spoilerite Ric G. (@degenerateboy) for the suggestion and feel free to follow along (@MightyKingCobra) for more Ten Things madness on Twitter! As with any set of like items, these aren’t meant to be hard and fast or absolutely complete, but given Quality Comics’ short 19-year publishing history, we’re gettin’ there…
Either way, the comments section is Below for just such an emergency, but, as always: Please, no wagering![signoff predefined=”PayPal Donation” icon=”icon-cog”][/signoff]