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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #270

Welcome to the two-hundred and seventieth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and sixty-nine.

Comic Book Legends Revealed is part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com. I’d especially recommend you check out this installment of Movie Legends Revealed to learn if it is true that all the clocks in Pulp Fiction are set to 4:20!

Follow Comics Should Be Good on Twitter and on Facebook. As I’ve promised, at 2,000 Twitter followers I’ll do a BONUS edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed during the week we hit 2,000. So go follow us (here‘s the link to our Twitter page again)! Not only will you get updates when new blog posts show up on both Twitter and Facebook, but you’ll get original content from me, as well!

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: The first superhuman comic book character to fly was…the Sub-Mariner?!

STATUS: Appears to be True

As most of you know by now, DC Comics sued Fawcett Comics because they felt that Captain Marvel was infringing upon their copyrighted characters, Superman (I did a legend on it years ago here), due to a similar look and similar superpowers.

So it has always been an amusing little tidbit to note that in one of their most notable powers, it was Captain Marvel who got there first.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, pretty much every character would LEAP to get where they were going, and that was the case for both Superman AND Captain Marvel (and many other knock-offs of Superman, including Wonder Man and Amazing Man).

However, Captain Marvel started flying in Whiz Comics #5, well before Superman did (most folks, including yours truly, give credit to the Superman cartoons of the 1940s for the addition of Superman’s power of flight).

At his great Captain Marvel website, Walt Grogan goes into further detail about how Captain Marvel flew first. To read more, just click on the fun fact picture below!

This notable “scooping” by Captain Marvel has even led some places to credit Captain Marvel as the FIRST superhuman character to fly in comic books.

That is not the case.

Surprisingly enough, it is Namor, the Sub-Mariner, who owns that distinction!

In his very first appearance in mid-1939 in Marvel Comics #1 (which was actually his SECOND appearance, as he appeared earlier in the year in a giveaway comic that never was given away), Namor the Sub-Mariner flew!

Check it out…

Now, even if you wish to say that SOME of these above instances could be leaping, it seems clear that at least ONE of them is intended as flight, right?

The Human Torch, on the other hand, in the same issue, although lighter than air, was clearly leaping and not flying (and would continue like that for a number of issues before he, too, began to fly)…

Even if you don’t think Namor is flying in #1, in the NEXT issue of Marvel Comics (now Marvel Mystery Comics), it shows Namor blatantly flying…

And all that predates all the other flying heroes (although they all followed very quickly after, as flying IS a lot cooler than leaping).

Pretty neat, huh?

I’d say “If you can find a comic book character who flew before Namor, let me know!” but do I really need to SAY that? If you know of one, I’m sure you’ll let me know.

Thanks to reader Thomas Paine for the suggestion! And thanks to Walt Grogan for the Captain Marvel/Superman stuff!

COMIC LEGEND: James Warren did not have the Comics Code in mind when he created his black and white line of comic magazines.

STATUS: I’m Going With False

In 1964, Warren Publishing debuted Creepy, a black and white comic book magazine. Up until that point, Warren had been doing pictorial magazines, mostly those having to do with monster and horror films, and this would be their first foray into comic magazines.

The success of Creepy led to Eerie the next year…

Since these books were magazines, they were not subject to the Comics Code Authority.

Similarly, EC Comics’ Mad Magazine was ALSO not subject to the Comics Code Authority because of its format.

However, it’s pretty much undisputed now (I featured it as a legend years ago) that Mad did NOT become a magazine because of the Comics Code, but rather because Harvey Kurtzman would have left EC if it were not for the changeover to a magazine (of course, he ended up leaving anyways). The whole Comic Code avoidance issue was a bit of a happy accident.

Well, a reader named George wrote in to say that he read on a message board that Warren’s incident was ALSO a happy accident – that Warren knew nothing about the Comics Code since he came from a magazine background, and that he was just convinced that doing comics would be a logical extension of his picture stories that he had in his magazines at the time.

According to the poster, Warren did not even LEARN about the Comics Code’s existence until a few issues of Creepy had already been published.

I don’t know what Warren interviews are being cited by this anonymous message board poster, but in the ones that I have read with Warren over the years, he’s been pretty clear that he DID know about the Comics Code at the time.

In the classic Jon B. Cooke interview with Warren that first appeared in Comic Book Artist #4 (and later formed the backbone of the TwoMorrows Publication, The Warren Companion), Warren states the following:

The Warren publishing genre was horror and monsters, so it was logical to put this same theme into comics. A lot of serious thought preceded the decision to launch Creepy; a lot of soul-searching. The specter of EC and Bill Gaines—the humiliation he suffered, and the terrible things that Congressional committee did to him—hung over me. I knew that the industry’s Comics Code Authority (which was very strong at the time) exercised an authority (a word not misused—they had authority!) over an entire industry. You could not print comic books or be distributed in America without their blessing and seal of approval. It was self-censorship, similar to the movies’ Hays Office, which granted the Motion Picture Seal of Approval to a film before it was shown in movie theaters. The Comics Code saved the industry from turmoil, but at the same time, it had a cleansing kind of effect on comics, making them “clean, proper and family-oriented.” How do I surmount this? Fasten your seatbelts. We would overcome this obstacle by saying to the Code Authority, the industry, the printers, and the distributors: “We are not a comic book; we are a magazine. Creepy is magazine-sized and will be sold on magazine racks, not comic book racks.” Creepy’s manifesto was brief and direct: First, it was to be a magazine format, 81/2″ x 11″, going to an older audience not subject to the Code Authority. Second: Creepy writers and artists must be the best. They won’t be good and they won’t be excellent. They will be the best. Those two formulas—magazine format and the best. If I could do that, the public will accept us and the industry will have to accept us. That was the blueprint for Creepy. That’s how it started.

That’s pretty much directly on point, right?

And I’ve never seen a Warren interview saying otherwise.

In addition, the initial editor on Creepy, Russ Jones, had this to say on his own website about a comic story he had written before Creepy came about…

This was to run in Famous Monsters, but sat on the shelf for quite a long time. Jim liked it, but comics still frightened him. For some reason, he believed the dreaded ‘Code’ would start to pry into his territory. The next assignment was the redoubtable Horror of Party Beach, photo/comic magazine.

Again, pretty much on point, and from someone other than Warren.

When you couple these two things in with the fact that the whole EC Comics/Comics Code disaster from a decade earlier was fairly well known, I think it is pretty darn reasonable to think that Warren knew about the Comics Code.

Enough so that I’m going with a “false” here.

Thanks to George for the suggestion! Thanks to Cooke, Warren and Jones for the information! Be sure to give Jones’ Monster Mania site here a look see!

COMIC LEGEND: Wanted was based on a pitch by Mark Millar to DC for a Secret Society of Supervillains series.

STATUS: Enough Truth for a True

Mark Millar and JG Jones’ Wanted was about a young man who finds out that his father is part of a secret society of supervillains.

Ever since the hit comic book came out in 2003, it has been rumored that the story was originally written for DC as a pitch by Millar for a mini-series about the ACTUAL Secret Society of Supervillains.

Like many things, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

In a great interview with Matt Brady at Newsarama, Millar elaborated:

Although it started life as a pitch for that, barely one bit of that remains from my original pitch. When you’re a DC fan in particular, you tend to write stories around DC continuity, and we’ve seen that quite a bit over the last ten years or so. People feel really obliged to have everything tie together, and I can understand it, because I did the same thing when I was there. So my thing really tied in with the Monocle and the Floronic Man, and the son of Deadshot, which is one of the few things – the protagonist as the son of a supervillain – that carried over from the original idea.

So that thing was about something else entirely, and the plot bore almost no resemblance to what finally saw print, aside from one tiny detail which was also changed a lot – the idea of a supervillain having a son who was unaware of how cool he really was, and how cool his dad was.

So the idea of doing a book where the supervillains were the stars was really what I took from Secret Society of Super-Villains, and turned that into Wanted. That was cool to me, because I like playing around with reversals – I like the idea of having Superman land in Russia, so it’s more interesting to me to make the villains the stars, rather than the heroes, and let them win and have the day, like the heroes do all the time.

So yeah – it came from there in a sense, but that original pitch could still be done because the story is so different from what turned into Wanted.

That’s basically that, I think!

Thanks to Matt Brady and Mark Millar for the information!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

As you likely know by now, in April of last year my book came out!

Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…

If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you all next week!

73 Comments

Interesting stuff, Brian. Some comments:

A MARVEL first: So the Sub-Mariner seems to be the first flying character, eh? I gather that the Human Torch is disqualified on the grounds that although he is lighter than air, he lacks, in his early stories, a source of propulsion other than a good kick off?

Bill Everet: It always amazes me how strong his art was at such an early stage.

WANTED: I always find it interesting that the Halle Berry look of the Fox, a blatant Catwoman rip-off, preceded
Berry’s appearance in the puketastic CATWOMAN film.

Odd choice of panel to prove that Human Torch wasn’t flying, given that the text informs us that “his leap turns out to be a flight through space!” It’s clear from context that the flight effect is not his own, but still caused a bit of cognitive dissonance here.

Fair enough, Simon, I’ll add another page from Torch’s first appearance to make it clearer!

Wouldn’t Marvel Comics #1 still be the Sub-Mariner’s first PUBLIC appearance? The Sub-Mariner story from Motion Picture Funnies weekly was expanded (from 8-12 pages) and colored for use in Marvel #1, but was the same story. I guess it would be his second published appearance, but since only a handful of Motion Picture Funnies Weekly appear to have been printed (9 known to exist), and none commercially distributed, I’d still say Marvel #1 can claim to be his “first appearance” since no one outside of Funnies, Inc. probably ever saw his “first” appearance in Motion Picture Funnies Weekly. Heck, no one even knew it existed until the 70s!

That last panel of the first Namor story is great.

Wouldn’t Marvel Comics #1 still be the Sub-Mariner’s first PUBLIC appearance? The Sub-Mariner story from Motion Picture Funnies weekly was expanded (from 8-12 pages) and colored for use in Marvel #1, but was the same story. I guess it would be his second published appearance, but since only a handful of Motion Picture Funnies Weekly appear to have been printed (9 known to exist), and none commercially distributed, I’d still say Marvel #1 can claim to be his “first appearance” since no one outside of Funnies, Inc. probably ever saw his “first” appearance in Motion Picture Funnies Weekly. Heck, no one even knew it existed until the 70s!

Yeah, it is definitely his first public appearance. Don’t get me wrong, if someone came out in early 1939 with flight powers, I’d likely count that character as the “first” character with flight powers.

By the way, my theory is that John Cater of Mars (when he gained powers from being on Mars’ atmosphere) inspired ALL of these characters, because he traveled via leaping, as well (of course, you could just say that he inspired Superman and it was then SUPERMAN who inspired all the others – either way).

The Ugly American

July 23, 2010 at 12:07 pm

“So it has always been an amusing little tidbit to note that in one of their most notable powers, it was Captain Marvel who got their first.”

What?

Looks like a their/there mix-up. I’ll fix it for ya!

I think if Namor was flying in the first one they wouldn’t have had to wait for the plane to come closer. I say all the Marvel #1 instances are leaping. But hey, Namor’s still first in flight with the next issue.

JOHN CARTEROF MARS: Although I agree with John Carter’s chronological priority, Brian, I would argue that the main inspiration for Superman’s leaping powers was Philip Wylie’s Hugo Danner; I’m still surprised that Wylie never pursued legal action against Siegal and Shuster/DC. His case would have been at least as strong as the one that DC filed against Captain Marvel.

Which “My Dad Is A Super Villain” story came first: Wanted or Runaways? There was clearly something in the air in 2003.

“And so namor dives into the ocean again- on his way to further adventures in crusade against white men!”

Wow, I’ve read this story before, but that line never really stood out to me before. A comic book staring a mutant who’s enemy is white american males. Brian, did this line cause an uproar? I can’t imagine that somebody wouldn’t have complained. And does this make Namor the first anti hero?

He was definitely the first anti-hero.

As to the complaints, well, they definitely did tone him down as issues went by, so maybe that was a result of complaints!

I mean, I’m sure SOMEBODY in the Jim Crow south wrote a letter to their congressman about the wing footed abomination that hated white folk. Although, it is unlikely to find someone in the south during that time period who could both read AND write.

Namor was the first anti-hero in superhero comics. But it’s funny that they didn’t use the term in the 1960s comics. Then, Namor was called a “hero-villain.”

Let’s hope that Namor never joins the Obama administration, which would cause Fox News would show that panel over and over again.

“He was definitely the first anti-hero.”

I think Raskolnikov predates him by a bit. And the Book of Judas was quite a bit older than that.

(If there were a way to indicate good-natured ribbing on the internet without the use of emoticons, which I can’t bring myself to use, that would appear here.)

If there’s such a thing as an antihero, is there such a thing as an antivillain? I guess R’as Al Ghul would be an example of the latter?

Namor as anti-hero: Roy Thomas has pointed out that one can detect a direct thematic line of descent from Namor to the conflicted MARVEL characters of the 1960s: Ben Grimm, Spider-Man, the Hulk, etc.

Toning Namor down: Actually, many of the GOLDEN AGE heroes had their rough edges smoothed over: Superman (started out roughing up wife beaters and threatening Washington lobbyists), Batman (few compuctions against killing in the early days), etc.

Wha–?

Excuse me, “the idea of a supervillain having a son who was unaware of how cool he really was, and how cool his dad was” was NOT “one tiny detail” of Wanted — that is a major theme/premise of the book!!!!!!

“Hello, what-? Oh!”

I dig the Golden Age. More than the Silver Age, actually.

charles foster kane

July 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Millar told me in the mid to late 90s that he was working on something he called “Watchmen for Villains.”

I presume that’s what became Wanted.

In addition to Secret Society of Super-Villains, Mark pitched an entirely different version of the concept that would eventually evolve into WANTED to me in the late ’90s. In this incarnation, the lead character was going to be the son of the Spider-Man villain the Shocker. I think I’ve still got this pitch around here somewhere. It came close to being done, but got knocked down when the Spidey books changed editorial offices.

I also remember that Mark was a little bit concerned when he first heard about Brian Vaughan’s THE HOOD, about a young guy becoming a super-villain and entering the fraternity. He reached out to me about it, and I shared Vaughan’s HOOD pitch with him, so that he could see that the two weren’t really all that similar at all, outside of the superficial surface similarities.

Tom B

Awesome info, Tom! Thanks.

@T –

Yes, there are literary anti-villains. At least I remember seeing a wikipedia page about the subject.

R’as Al Ghul, Magneto, Doctor Doom, Catwoman, and Anarky would all be examples.

Though Magneto and Catwoman actually go from anti-villain to anti-hero and back again.

Even Lex Luthor got into the anti-villain game with his adventures on the planet Lexor in the mid 1960s. He even surrendered to Superman once so Superman would get water to that planet.

“…The next assignment was the redoubtable Horror of Party Beach, photo/comic magazine. ”

Was this ‘photo/comic magazine’ based on the film so brilliantly mocked by MST3K? It was the first episode of that show I ever saw – I’m in the UK, they didn’t broadcast many here – and still one of my absolute favourites.

The Superman/Captain Marvel suit should have been thrown out of court. The two characters had entirely different premises. Superman was science-fiction — his abilities came from being on a planet with lighter gravity (and perhaps lighter density) than his native Krypton. (The red or yellow sun stuff came later, to explain his non-gravitation related abilities.) Captain Marvel was magic — his abilities came as a gift from a wizard. The worlds don’t mix readily. Billy Batson’s magic changes jar in a realistic DC universe. Too bad Faucett tired of defending its property before someone who understood the conceptions got involved.

And stories drive me crazy in which super beings loose their powers or transfer them to someone else — Smallville has been guilty of this. No — Superman doesn’t have powers that can be transferred; he has abilities intrinsic to his being. Kryptonite yes, soul exchange no.

DetectiveDupin

July 23, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Wow, I would have thought DC would have had the first hero flying.

Why isn’t Namor bigger? He’s one of the oldest comic book heroes, and was Black Adam before Black Adam.

Namor was bigger in the 1960s.

My granparents who could both read and write were raising the first members of a family of 11 children who could all read and write and lived and continue to live in the South.They have all had children who read and write and have gone to college. Literacy has been a tradition in my Southern family since the 1750’s.

I’m pretty sure Dr. Occult was flying before Namor, that would have been around 1936-1938. Though perhaps he would be disqualified if that was a one-off spell as opposed to a full-time power. I think I read in this very column that Dr. Occult was the first caped hero.

I suppose you could consider Peter Pan a super-hero, and there are even older flying heroes dating back to ancient mythology– Perseus flew with winged shoes very similar to Namor’s feet.

But you’re restricting this to comics, right? What about Buck Rogers flying with a rocket pack? I know it was just a use of technology rather than an actual super power, but Iron Man is usually considered a flying hero.

But yeah, I do like counting Namor as the first flying super-hero. I never would’ve guessed he would be the first.

On a related note, the Thin Man is technically the first stretching hero.

“I mean, I’m sure SOMEBODY in the Jim Crow south wrote a letter to their congressman about the wing footed abomination that hated white folk. Although, it is unlikely to find someone in the south during that time period who could both read AND write.”

William Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote, Eudora Welty, and Tennessee Williams all think you’re ill-informed and a bit of a dope.

Namor is a great character! Pity it fell out of the reading public’s favor.

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

Further support for the notion that Wanted is a reworked SSSV idea is that most, if not al, of the characters are analogs of DC villains:

Mr Rictus=Joker
Seltzer=Luthor
F***wit=Bizarro

And so on …

I feel sure that someone pointed out in the comments box for that Shazam site that Superman may have flown on radio starting in February 1940, which predates Captain Marvel but not Namor.

thank you, Lewis Martin and CM.

So, the question is, is there a bigger difference between the SECRET SOCIETY pitch and the final comic version of WANTED, or between the comic WANTED and the film that was loosely based on it?

Lewis Martin: “My granparents who could both read and write were raising the first members of a family of 11 children who could all read and write and lived and continue to live in the South.They have all had children who read and write and have gone to college. Literacy has been a tradition in my Southern family since the 1750’s.”

CM: “William Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote, Eudora Welty, and Tennessee Williams all think you’re ill-informed and a bit of a dope.”

@ Lewis: I’m actually lived in the South (Atlanta) my entire life. I was making a joke. But since you brought it up, while literacy may have been a tradition in YOUR family since the 1750’s, it was not a priority for most… never mind, this is straying from comic books. You win.

@CM: I love Capote and The Great Bird (T.Williams), but they both left the South as soon as they got the chance.

My granparents who could both read and write were raising the first members of a family of 11 children who could all read and write and lived and continue to live in the South.

Am I the only one who finds it ironic that a comment boasting of literacy begins with a misspelled word (it’s “grandparents”) and a run-on sentence?

And it’s “since the 1750s.” No apostrophe.

Just saying. :)

Sorry about your loss. Don’t be a dick. There’s nothing to gain.

Sorry about your loss.

Thank you. Nothing to do with the matter at hand, but thank you.

Don’t be a dick. There’s nothing to gain.

As I said, just saying. I wasn’t incorrect, was I?

Maybe a sense of humor would help. ;)

Yeesh, talk about defensiveness. There wasn’t anything dickish about the comment.

All comments here were interesting and/or funny. Geez, that Namor panel had me laughing – I never would have noticed it had there not been some extensive, however relevant, commentary on it and it had my sides hurting. So much good has come of it, at least in my house…

The typos are a bit heavy tonight — Ryan, in defending his remarks against Southern literacy, wrote “I’m actually lived in the South (Atlanta)…,” and Mudduck’s explanation of why Capt. Marvel is not a rip-off of Superman falls to the encroaching error of mistaking “loose” and “lose.”

Literacy does have a fine tradition in the South (and I’m living there now), but so does ignorance. :-D

I’m only a borderline Southerner, but all the prejudice against the region really gets to me sometimes. Sure, a lot of the jokes are funny, but there seem to be far too many people who believe all the stereotypes. And occasionally, one does encounter some extremely vicious hatred from other parts of the country. I know there are mean jokes and stereotypes about the rest of the country, too, but with the possible exception of New Jersey, nobody seems to suffer the same degree of hostility as does the South.

Sorry, I’d meant to say a bit more.
I know nobody has been excessively mean on here, and the original joke wasn’t that offensive by itself, since it was clearly meant as a silly jest. But I think some Southerners just react so strongly because they’ve had to put up with this sort of thing for so long– every now and then you reach a breaking point, and you have to complain or fight back, even if it seems like an overreaction to those who haven’t had to endure the remarks that came before.

Well, it’s not like this crap happens in New York:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-20000321-504083.html

http://www.archive.org/details/Superman_page01

They have episodes of the 1940’s Superman radio show on archive.org. In the episode, Clark Kent, Mild-Mannered Reporter, it appears that he does indeed fly. That beats Captain Marvel to the post, as they say, but not Namor.

It appears that in his one shot appearance as Dr. Mystic, Doctor Occult did indeed fly. That would predate Namor. So perhaps you should note that Namor did indeed predate Superman and Captain Marvel in flying, but not Dr. Mystic.

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Strange that you would use those panels from Marvel Comics to show that Namor is the first flying since I got the impression that he was leaping in all his (since he had to wait for the plane to come closer) yet I got the impression the Torch was flying by the descriptions in the captions. After all it says he is shocked by the “unexpected flight” and at the end it refers to him “sail[ing] through space like a comet”. I might be in the minority though.

Thomas Paine:

Regarding Doctor Occult/Doctor Mystic flying before Namor, from the panels that I have seen, Occult/Mystic was dependent on a magic belt for his ability to fly, making his flying abilities a magical variation on Buck Roger’s rocket pack. Namor, in contrast, could fly under his own power.

Namor Flying in his first appearance: Although the actual panels in MARVEL COMICS # 1 are a tad ambiguous, it should be borne in mind that Namor is described as posssessing the power of flight in the first panel where he appears.

The first panel of his appearance states: “Here is the Sub-Mariner! -An ultra-man of the deep…lives on land and in the sea…flies in the air…has the strength of a thousand men…” Flight was part of Namor’s array of powers from the very beginning.

Sorry about the “loose” for lose. Sloppy typing, failure to proofread. I notice when other people do such things, but , as noted, it’s such a common error that it didn’t seem worth correcting.

I always write “the 1930s” rather than 30’s. It’s a matter of style rather than correctness. Seems more of a plural than a possessive.

I would prefer to mind my ps and qs and not use too many os, but in citing single letters, the apostrophe does help. Please, no apostrophe in possessive “its” — it’s annoying.

I should not have typed when I was worked up. I apologize for the errors.

Mark Drummond

July 24, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Here’s a possible Legend: In Captain America #192 (Dec. 1975), Moonstone makes her debut under the name Karla in a one-page appearance wearing a brown outfit. However, while reading the recently released Essential Captain America V. 5, the black and white art seems to show her wearing only boots, gloves, tiny shorts with a holster belt; and, except for two strategically placed bandoliers, apparently topless. Frank Robbins wasn’t exactly known for drawing hot looking women, so did Marvel strategically apply color to cover the boobage, or is my imagination running away?

I was reading the Superman newspaper strips in “Superman: Sunday Classics, 1939-1943″ recently and noted the leaping/flying issue. Initially, Superman clearly leaps. Then there’s a long stretch where his actions are ambiguous. Sometimes it looks like he’s leaping, other times like he’s flying.

There are sequences where he has to grab something on his way down, which implies leaping. And sequences where he hurtles horizontally through the air for 2-3 panels, which implies flying. The text is no help; it almost always says he “streaks,” “races,” or “whizzes” through the air.

Shuster draws Superman’s limbs in a variety of poses, so you can’t tell if Supes is leaping or flying that way. The text studiously avoids such giveaway terms as “jumps,” “leaps,” “flies,” or “soars.” It’s almost as if something was going on behind the scenes. As if there was a mandate NOT to specify what Superman was doing.

Was it simply inconceivable that anyone–an alien superman, an Atlantean mutant, a flaming android–could fly? So that artists had to draw them in hybrid leaping/flying poses? Did someone think a flying hero would be too godlike and thus sacrilegious? Did flying characters suggest an association with evil–i.e., witches, demons, and spirits? Or is there another explanation for this odd reluctance?

Anyway, Superman finally flies unmistakably in a strip in mid-1942. He duplicates the loops and dives of an airplane in mid-air. You can’t do that by leaping.

I don’t know if these strips count as part of Superman’s continuity. But like the radio shows, they predate ACTION #65 (Oct. 1943). That may have been the first time Supes flew in a comic book, but it wasn’t the first time he flew.

P.S. This could be fodder for a future Comic Book Legends Revealed, although I imagine it would be difficult to track down an answer.

Style note: The correct way to shorten a decade like the 1930s is ’30s, not 30’s. 30’s isn’t an idiosyncratic but acceptable choice; it’s incorrect.

You know, I’m as big a stickler for correct grammar and punctuation as anyone, but using minor errors to “prove a point” is neither convincing nor funny. Seriously, guys, you’re being stereotypical geeks.

Good thing your comment doesn’t apply to me, Andrew, since I wasn’t trying to prove a point. And if you were as big a stickler as I am, you wouldn’t have made it.

Was it simply inconceivable that anyone–an alien superman, an Atlantean mutant, a flaming android–could fly?

I don’t know that it was inconceivable, just that it was not yet conceived. Lots of ideas seem obvious in hindsight. I can’t think, of the top of my head, of any previous characters in fiction flying by their own power, like a superhero. Icarus, for instance, needed wings. I don’t see why we need an explanation other than ‘no-one thought of it’.

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Bravo to those who contested Bryan Vaughn Morris’s statements about the South. It is ridiculous to comment on intolerance, and in the same sentence introduce such a mean-spirited, smug smear about an entire group of people.

Damn, i looked up Namor’s first comic years ago as a result of a forum argument… why didn’t i think to mention that he flew before Supes and Cpt. Marvel here… stupid, stupid, stupid.

According to “Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941″, the Dr. Mystic feature from Comics Magazine #1 (May 1936) showed “comic books’ first flying caped figure, Zator.”

Comic-Reader Lad

August 2, 2010 at 2:54 am

I think the type of flying that Namor does and the flying that Superman does are two different things, so it’s not really accurate to say Namor flew before Superman.

Namor’s flight comes from his ankle-wings and that was never called into question until more recent times — probably Mark Gruenwald’s original Marvel handbook series. If not that, then likely Namor’s ’90s series.

In one of the pages reprinted above, it clearly says that Namor’s wings allow him to fly. Therefore, this is not comparable to Superman’s power of flight, which he just DOES with no aides, mechanical or otherwise. To me, there’s no difference between Namor’s wings, Hawkman’s wings, or Buck Rogers’ rocket pack.

I don’t know enough about Zator from Comics Magazine #1 to say if he truly flew under his own power, but I think it’s pretty clear that flying heroes were inspired by Superman, not Zator, Human Torch, or Namor.

Just as there were costumed crimefighters before Superman, he was the first true superhero, and, I think, the first superhero to fly under his own power.

I draw a line between Hawkman’s wings (actually the Nth Metal allows him to fly, though this varies across versions) and Buck Roger’s rock packet and what Namor does, since Namor’s wings form part of his body as an appendage. So, I consider that “under his own power”. In any event, it would appear his connections with the Olympians allows him to do that, if one considers the aerodynamics.

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Except the small fact that the wings are part of his body, just like his hands, eyes and muscles.

I like Millar, but it sounds like a lot of legal speak to say the concept isn’t that close to the SSoSV. As stated above, almost every character is an amalgam of a DC character. It could certainly be thought of as parody, but maybe when it became a movie it became a more sensitive issue. ($$$) Though maybe that, in addition to making it “more real” is why the movie is hardly anything like the book (other than that “minor premise” of the son of a villian).

Though I can’t imagine how he’d have made a character cool by making him the son of the Shocker…..

Brian I don’t know if this counts but I’ve been reading about a Japanese hero from 1930 called Ogon Bat or Golden Bat. Not only does he predate a lot of comic heroes but he also could fly.
Any thoughts?

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