The superhero as we know it dates back to the 1930s or before, and some of our costumed coterie have been around since the beginning. Or, at least, that’s what they WANT us to think. Welcome to Ten Things: Ten Golden Age Pastiches!
Whooshman-Bicarbonate Films, in conjunction with An Amateur Comics Historian and Pastiche (Noun – An artistic work in a style that imitates that of another work, artist, or period), Presents:
TEN THINGS: TEN GOLDEN AGE PASTICHES!
10) GENERAL GLORY
First appearing in the pages of Justice League America circa 1991, Joseph Jones was the favorite hero of Green Lantern Guy Gardner during his youth. Serving as a clear analog for Captain America (with hints of Captain Marvel in his magic-word-induced transformation), General Glory had some impressive super-powers, but mostly bloviated on morality while in action with the modern Justice League. It makes him both a loving tribute and a pointed commentary on the heroes of ’40’s comics, filtered through the lens of the cynical/ironic ’90s. The original General Glory dropped off the face of the Earth in 1994 but was somehow revived in 2020 in the post-Flashpoint DC reality.
9) THE LEADING MAN
Handsome and popular, Rock Gable was trained in stunt work, swordsmanship and combat, making his name as an actor in swashbuckler roles. A clear reference to real-world actor Errol Flynn, he was enlisted by the United States government when World War II broke out, traveling with the USO and entertaining troops. During one such engagement, Rock’s troupe was caught in the middle of an attack by Axis forces and he took up his sword and shield to fight off enemy agents, leading to the formation of a government-sponsored super-team called the All-Winner’s Society, with Rock becoming the face of the group as The Leading Man.
8) WONDER BOY
Wonder Boy serves as a double example, not only as a kid sidekick meant to evoke Robin, but as an analog to Burt Ward, the actor who played Robin in the Batman live-action TV show. Trying to relive old glories through his former career and keep the bills paid, Jimmy finds little satisfaction or respect, which leads to him seeking out the services of Dr. Frederick Wertham Blink, the celebrated “superhero shrink.” Adding insult to injury, Jimmy can’t recall if he was the eighth or ninth lad to serve as Wonder Boy, which makes his attempts to reclaim his mental health darkly comedic.
7) MR. ACTION
The sliding timelines of comics can make for confusion, but it can also create storytelling opportunities. Though in reality, the JLA debuted not quite a decade after the JSA stopped appearing in comics, the necessary gap between World War II and the JLA’s start “a few years ago” has expanded considerably. By the 1990s, there was enough room to add in an entirely new group, the Justice Experience, which debuted at the end of the ’60s. Though rarely seen and never given an alter ego, Mr. Action worked with heroes like The Acro-Bat (father of DEO Agent Cameron Chase), and The Bronze Wraith (a previous identity of J’onn J’onzz) to protect the Me Generation.
6) THE RED ROOSTER
Part of a heroic legacy that dates back generations, Frank Cooper became the latest Rooster in the 1930s, the height of the Dust Bowl. With elements of Captain America (especially when it comes to his sidekick Strongboy) and pulp hero The Phantom, Red Rooster exists in a relatively realistic world, battling evil with his wits and his fists, and not always succeeding. I don’t want to spoiler anything for those who might seek out his adventures, but there’s a healthy dose of realism in the world of Red Rooster, even though his comic came out 90 years after the era in which his adventures are set.
One of the superhumans of Project: Anthem, Bomb-Burst’s explosive powers make him one of the most versatile members of his team. Though his real name is classified (or just not part of the story), he was born in Georgia, moving with his parents to Detroit to be a part of the war effort in an alternate reality where things went very badly for the Allies circa 1942. Sadly, his team is quite stereotypical, including a racist Southerner named Stonewall Jackson who verbally abuses him, making for a difficult read.
Still, that’s a pretty cool costume.
4) BATTLING BERNICE
When a 1940s super-villain named Doctor Dome resurfaced and began attacking the former members of the Justice Force, no one could fathom his motives. When hero Stainless Steel Steve returned to action to fight his old foe, it became clear that both men had romantic intentions on Steve’s former teammate, Battling Bernice. Dome’s repeated attacks finally drew out Bernice, only for both men to discover that she seemingly hadn’t aged at all. The tragic truth came out when BB revealed that she was in truth Amanda, the daughter of the original Battling Bernice, and that her mother had passed away a few years earlier. The addition of this superhero team deepened the lore of the world of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in interesting ways, though I’ve never been sure whether or not it was for the better.
3) THE JEWISH HERO SQUAD
The Jewish Hero Corps (Magen David, Menorah Man, Minyan Man, Shabbas Queen, Dreidel Maidel, Kipa Kid, and Matzah Woman) exist both to entertain with superhero adventures and to educate the youth (and the goyim) on the finer point of Judaism. They even have a Justice Society-style predecessor team in the Jewish Hero Squad, who discovered a threat that would attack the Earth a generation later. Their membership includes Gragger Girl (named for a noisemaker used for the Purim holiday), Afiko-Man, and Shimshone, who I don’t believe needed a final “e.”
2) MADAME FURY
The first masked heroes of Earth-Z in the world of Commanders In Crisis, cosmetics mogul Camila June seemed to be involved in a torrid romance with her partner, Hack, punching crime together and becoming beloved throughout the U.S. In reality, both she and her partner were gay, using their romance to cover up the fact due to 1930s morality. Years later, her daughter discovered the truth and chose to make the truth of her mother’s life public for historical purposes, while her legacy carried on to a new young hero on a faraway alien world.
1) THE COMEDIAN
A key member of the cast of Watchmen, Edward Blake was the youngest member of the wartime Minutemen, and was expelled from the team after attempting to assault Silk Spectre, a female teammate. Transitioning into government work, Blake grew to become the most notorious black ops agent in history, serving U.S. interests in various theatres throughout the years. By 1985, he was an old man, and his murder triggered a series of events that nearly destroyed the world. The later Doomsday Clock series seemingly resurrected him with #TimeTravelShenanigans, but Doctor Manhattan later returned him to his death in the gutter of a New York street.
I don’t recommend reading that story, or the Before Watchmen series that this lovely Darwyn Cooke image comes from, though.
Once again, this week’s topic, Ten Golden Age Pastiches is all me, but feel free to follow along @MightyKingCobra to suggest your own! There’s always more Ten Things madness on my Twitter or check out the full Twitter archive here! As with any set of like items, these aren’t meant to be hard and fast or absolutely complete, if only because every universe seems to insert their own Batman, Captain America and Superman archetypes. Either way, the comments section is below for just such an emergency, but, as always: Please, no wagering!