This week, as we continue our look at the â€œforgottenâ€ heroes of the past, we find another hero who learned his powers from Tibetan monks. This time he is not as steeped in Buddhism as our previous entry, The Green Lama, but he spent more time in training. He also has one of the most recognized, yet unknown cover appearances of the Golden Age. I mean how many other covers have a nearly naked man, in chains, biting a cobra!
AMAZING-MAN COMICS #5 was the first appearance of John Aman, alias Amazing-Man. Now before you start wondering why Amazing-Man didnâ€™t appear in the comic named for him until the fifth issue, you have to research the publication practices at the time. There where hundreds of publishers printing hundreds of comics each month. The goal of every one of them usually began and ended with tapping into the next Superman. A character may appear for an issue, and then never be seen again. People, even kids, where hesitant to purchase a first issue because there was a good chance that hero may not make it to the next. So several companies began the practice of starting a new series on a later issue number, to give the illusion that the characters within had lasted at least a few months. This is the case with AMAZING-MAN COMICS #5, which should technically be number as the first issue.
Created by the great Bill Everett, father of the Sub-Mariner, and art director Lloyd Jacquet, Amazing-Man came on the scene in 1939 from publisher, Comic Corporation of America, a subsidiary of Centaur Publications. As was standard for the times, his first adventure was a retelling of his origin, which takes a queue from The Green Lama and The Shadow. About the time of World War One, the Council of Seven, high in the Tibetan mountains, chose an orphan to be their representative to the modern world. For 25 years he was trained by the members of the Council to the peak of perfection. Finally, he is tested by the seven Council members to see if he is ready to head back to America. The tests he is placed through are pretty imaginative.
The first council member to test him claims to be the strongest man in Tibet. He charges Aman with holding back a raging elephant, which Aman does. The second council member proclaims that he is to be chained hand and foot, and must battle a deadly cobra! The cobra strikes at him, but Aman strikes back as fast as a mongoose and latches onto the cobra, killing it with his bare teeth. Remember, this is only the second test!
Having proven his great strength, and lighting reflexes, he now has to prove his capacity to deal with pain. The Council calls forth Lady Zina, the knife thrower, to test him. â€œSTOP!â€ proclaims Aman, â€œYou will kill me!â€ to which she replies, â€œNo Aman, unless you become troublesome!â€ She then throws a knife which plunges into his chest, and a second that goes into his throat! Aman calmly pulls the knives out, proclaiming the pain not to be unbearable, and asks for his next test.
The third test was the last of the physical tests; the fourth is a one thousand question test in all the languages of the world on all subjects. Not surprisingly, Aman passes easily. With this, the Council of Seven proclaims he is ready to go out into the world.
As he leaves, one Councilman, Nika, stops him and directs him to a laboratory. There he injects Amazing-Man with a formula of invisibility. The only drawback to the formula is that, while he can will himself to be invisible, a thick green mist will appear in his place and he must take the formula once a week. This also leads to him being referred to occasionally as The Green Mist. Pleased with the results, Nika elicits a promise from Jon Aman that he will only do good in the outside world.
Unknown to them, a mysterious councilman called The Great Question claims to have a telepathic hold over Aman, and he does not seem too eager to let him do good. Receiving the High Lamaâ€™s blessing, Jon Aman boards a plane for America. What comes next is a standard adventure where Aman, clad in a 3-piece suit, solves a mystery regarding railroad sabotage. In this first issue, there are also stories involving The Cat Man, Jack Rhodes, The Iron Skull, a serial piece called The Congo War Drum, Stranger Than Fiction pages, Mini Midget, Chuck Hardy, â€œSlimâ€ Bradley, Mighty Man, and a prose adventure starring the Amazing-Man. Better than 69 pages of stories, for only 10 cents. Back then you got your moneys worth!
Future adventures involved The Great Question trying to bend Aman to his will, and sending various thugs and criminals against him. Aman was not aware of The Great Question, but he defeated him every time. In issue 10, after escaping an underground hospital on the war front, Aman receives a telepathic command from The Great Question to return to Tibet. It has been six months since he left Tibet, and he must now return for purification, or else! Once again, The Great Question has a plan to usurp Amanâ€™s powers. Knowing that he cannot get to the council chamber in time, the evil monk declares that if Aman has not appeared by the time the hourglass runs out, he will be punished. The insinuation is that he will lose his powers. With the help of some Tibetan villagers, Aman makes it into the chambers just as the last grain of sand falls. We get a continuation to issue 11.
Issue 11 is important because Aman receives his costume. Up until this point, he had been adventuring in his street clothes. After his purification by fire, is told that, while he may have meddled in wars and committed other sins, he did have the option to return to his work. Aman chooses to return to America, the land of his birth, and fight the good fight. Nika then presents him with mystical chest straps and an amulet, think He-Man style. He is told that the gear is indestructible, and that he should keep it with him always. Additionally, he no longer needs to take the hypodermic needle to have his green mist powers, as they are in the gear and his mind. The Great Question jumps forth and commands Aman to kneel, to which Aman laughs. He is no longer under threat of control. He then returns to America.
At this point, Amazing-Man becomes somewhat of a Superman figure. He is invulnerable, unnaturally strong, and can fly. Also, thanks to his Tibetan training, he is the best at nearly everything. In issue 23, he obtains a kid-sidekick, Tommy the Amazing Boy. While this may seem odd at first, remember that the age of the sidekick was in high gear. Other kid-sidekick of the time include: Captain Americaâ€™s Bucky, the Black Terrorâ€™s Tim, the Shieldâ€™s Dusty and the Wizardâ€™s Roy. Tommy received his powers when he hid in the same room that Aman was communicating with Nika. When Nika granted Aman more power to deal with a threat, Tommy received some as well.
The final issue of AMAZING-MAN COMICS was issue 26, and around the same time the whole company folded. There where some unauthorized reprints during the sixties, but for the most part Amazing-Man was dormant. Once the character entered the public domain, Bill Blackâ€™s AC Comics reprinted some Amazing-Man stories in his MEN OF MYSTERY series, and I believe there where several FEMFORCE appearances as well.
The most interesting thing about the Amazing-Man is his ability to inspire original characters from no less than three publishers in the last 40 years:
- In 1966, writer/artist Pete Morisi used the origin of Amazing-Man for his creation Peter Cannon, THUNDERBOLT, for Charlton Comics. He has an almost identical origin, but taps into the unused potential of the mind as his power. Just a quick side note, Thunderboltâ€™s costume was inspired by Lev Gleasonâ€™s Daredevil, who Morisi had attempted to purchase. Additionally, Cannon had an enemy in the form of a monk known as The Evil One, who resented an outsider being given training.
- In MARVEL PREMIERE #15, Iron Fist co-creator Roy Thomas tells about how the origin of Amazing-Man was inspirational to Iron Fistâ€™s origin.
- In 1983, Roy Thomas created the ALL-STAR SQUADRON character Amazing Man, aka Will Everett, as an homage to Bill Everett and Amazing-Man. That character has gone forth and had two additional legacy heroes based on him, EXTREME JUSTICE Amazing Man Will Everett, III and recent JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA recruit Marcus Clay, another grandson to the All-Star Squadron member.
Now, also take into account that when Malibu Comics began publishing their PROTECTORS series in 1992, the team was almost completely comprised of Centaur Publications characters that where in the public domain. Although some of the names had to be changed for current legal purposes, the character of Amazing-Man kept his name and origin, only receiving a new costume. Marvel bought Malibu 1994, shortly after all the characters in the PROTECTORS had been killed or destroyed.
A recent appearance of Jon Aman, the Amazing-Man, has been in the Marvel Comics series THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST. During the Capitol Cities of Heaven storyline, Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker reveal that there are 7 capitol cities of Heaven, each with their own protector. The character known as the Prince of Orphans, also referred to as Aman, is one such protector. In issue 12, he defeats the character Davros while in the form of a green mist. The character also is the main antagonist in the Immortal Iron Fist One-Shot, ORSON RANDALL AND THE GREEN MIST.
Not surprisingly, he appears on a pin-up page in Ross and Kruegerâ€™s Dynamite Entertainment comic PROJECT: SUPERPOWERS, which is filled solely with characters plucked from the public domain. I have not located him in any of the issues released so far, but would be shocked if he did not make some sort of more substantial appearance.
And thatâ€™s it. Like the Green Lama in my last Hero History, you have a character that was created in the earliest part of the Golden Age that has lasted, in one form or another, through multiple publishers to influence even todayâ€™s comics. If you want to discuss Amazing-Man, or any character feature in a Hero History, feel free to go over to the Major Spoilers website and strike up or join the conversation.
This is Stacy W. Baugher, signing off.