In 1939, the ink was barely dry on the first real superhero, but it was clear that the super man was the wave of the future.  Now (for ‘Fall of ’39’ values of now, anyway) it was time…

…to EXPERIMENT!  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Amazing-Man Comics #5 awaits!

Amazing-ManComics5CoverAMAZING-MAN COMICS #5
Writer:Bill Everett/Frank Thomas/Martin Filchock
Penciler: Bill Everett/Tarpe Mills/Larry Riley/Carl Burgos/Paul Gustavson/John F. Kolb/Frank Thomas/Dick Hayes/Martin Filchock
Inker: Bill Everett/Tarpe Mills/Larry Riley/Carl Burgos/Paul Gustavson/John F. Kolb/Frank Thomas/Dick Hayes/Martin Filchock
Letterer: Uncredited
Publisher: Centaur Publications Inc.
Cover Price: 1o Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $26,000.00

Previously in Amazing-Man Comics: Founded in 1936, Comics Magazine Company is inextricably intertwined with the earliest days of comic book publishing.  Founded by two ex-employees of National Allied Publications (remnants of which are still known these days as DC Comics), their early history includes financial staking by Everett “Busy” Arnold, founder of Quality Comics, with their titles passing through multiple hands (including Harry “A” Chesler, another golden Age big name) before being acquired by Centaur Publications in 1937.  It is noteworthy that CMC published the adventures of The Clock, the first American costumed hero in 1936, but it was in the wake of Superman that they really started to cook, albeit briefly.  That’s where this comic (which is the first issue of the series and the first appearance of the characters within, regardless of the #5 on the cover) arrived, into a world full of newsstands with customer demanding more like DC’s groundbreaking strange visitor.  Thus, we open far away (at least from a “New York, 1939” perspective) in the mountains of Tibet…


Orphaned as a child, John Aman was left in the care of the mysterious Council, most of whom expect him to be a heroic example for the rest of humanity.  Unfortunately, the head of The Council, a masked enigma known as The Great Question, has sinister plans for the young Aman.  After a quarter-century of intense training, it is time for the child to prove his heroic bona fides…


One has to admit, John Aman makes an impressive case for himself, but I hope that cobra came out okay.  You have to feel for the poor snakes and elephants of these comic stories, as you know they don’t get put out to pasture as happy old cobras.  Even so, the most impressive part of Amazing-Man’s origins is still ahead, as he faces Lady Zina, knife-thrower extraordinaire!


With one blade in his heart and another in his throat, Aman peevishly demands his next test, only to have to answer “1,000 diversified questions, involving the languages of all civilized and uncivilized countries.”  For hours he answers, and then is taken by The Great Question himself to receive an injection of a secret fluid that allows him to disperse himself into an invisible green mist, even though that description seems somewhat problematic.  He is then deemed worthy to travel to the outside world, leaving the Great Question pleased…


He arrives in Seattle, Washington, where he hears of a mysterious series of trainwrecks somewhere in the most mysterious land of all: Wyoming!


Following the trail of clues, Aman uses a fake identity to get himself aboard the next train, using his super-keen brain to question the President of the railroad himself.  Then, without warning, another case of sabotage endangers them all, causing Amazing-Man to have to earn his name once more!


This story…

…is NUTS.  Bear in mind, we’re ten pages into the first appearance of the character, and all this has happened, and it doesn’t slow down as Aman’s psychic investigative powers reveal that the culprit is none other than the President of The Railroad himself (thanks to the silver pencil he found), leading to the moment that tells you everything you need to know about an Amazing-Man story…


Rule 1: People DIE in Amazing-Man Comics.  This first tale is written and drawn by the late Will Everett, whose most iconic creation appeared later in 1939: Namor, The Sub-Mariner.  Aman himself is remembered these days, mostly because of the characters who copied his origin: Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt at Charlton Comics, and Iron Fist at Marvel.  Indeed, a version of John Aman called ‘The Prince Of Orphans,’ with his powers of turning into a green mist, has become a supporting character in Iron Fists’ own book in recent years.  Our second story features the very first appearance of Cat-Man!


As a group of corrupt politicians and kingmakers prepares for their regular meeting to smoke cigars and congratulate one another on being masters of the universe, their old associate Bart Stone arrives, fresh out of prison.  After 20 years in prison, Bart has learned a few tricks, and has gathered his former pals to issue a warning…


One by one, the men all encounter a strange old woman with a kitty, and each receives a scratch from the playful feline, leading to their ugly demise.  When the last of Bart’s criminal pals is left, he flees the country on the faster boat he can find…

…it isn’t fast enough.


Shocking twist: The old lady was Bart all along!  This Cat-Man (who is NOT the same as the Cat-Man from Holyoke Comics, the more recognizable Batman knockoff with the red-and-gold-uniform) isn’t the only Golden Age character to dress as an elderly woman to fight injustice, but he is the first, predating Quality’s Madam Fatal by almost a full year. Also, you have to appreciate a plan that involves training a cat to slash at bad people so that the poison on her claws will kill them.  It’s a very pulpy story element, worthy of The Shadow himself…

Being as this is a Golden Age comic book, it also contains more traditional adventure tales, including two-fisted manly man Jack Rhodes on land, sea and air…


…as well as ‘Congo War Drum’, a jungle adventure drawn by Paul Gustvson, who later created The Human Bomb at Quality Comics, and the original Golden Age Angel at Timely/Marvel Comics.


This issue also contains the first appearance of one of Centaur’s stranger heroes (believe it or don’t, but Amazing-Man is one of the NORMAL ones) The Iron Skull, whose adventures are highlighted by the fact that people keep shooting directly at his head…


The Skull’s adventures are unusual, in that he may or may not be an android, has powers that come and go seemingly at random, and the timeline of his adventures may be in the future.  It’s all very strange and vigorous stuff.  As for the next first appearance, I give you the tiniest man in the world, Minimidget!


Permanently shrunk to six inches tall, Minimidget spends most of this issue just getting from place to place, explaining why Hank Pym gets a flying mount and Ryan Choi surfs around on his boomstick.  One of the first tiny super-types, Minimidget proves that being tiny ain’t easy, especially as he is killed in the final pages of his story.

Don’t worry, he got better!  And then, there’s Chuck Hardy…


A science-fiction tale that bears elements of Jules Verne, Chuck’s story takes him to the center of the Earth, thanks to an undersea fissure, where he finds strange insectoid creatures.  The issue wraps up (after the initial adventure of Slim Bradley, forest ranger, a couple of text pieces, including one where Amazing-Man kills a man with his voice) with the first appearance of Mighty Man, another of Centaur’s unusual superhumans…


Described as “a Paul Bunyan character out of the great western country,” Mighty Man is a giant here, who would later gain cartoonishly rendered size-shifting abilities.  Of all the Centaur characters, he was probably the worst served by the 1990s Malibu Comics reboot, which posited him as an angsty murderer who ended up a mentally controlled traitor to the team.  Indeed, fans of that comic would find little to recognize in the original Centaur Comics, which are full of stories that are enthusiastic, clever and mostly incoherent.  Still, there are worse things to be in comics, leaving Amazing-Man Comics #5 which is somehow the first issue with a better-than-average 3 out of 5 stars overall on sheer force of charisma.  Though Centaur didn’t make it out of the 1940s, there’s a reason that their characters keep being revived in the modern day…



A mixed, albeit wildly creative bag, full of stories that are long on adventure and short on sense-making, with art that ranges from primitive to incredible...

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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