Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Top 5 Silver Age Super Heroes, NOT from DC or Marvel.

Here's my list of the top 5 Silver Age heroes NOT from DC or Marvel. This is highly subjective and pure opinion. I would have been happy to include characters like The Phantom, or Plastic Man, or Captain Marvel... but I feel that their pedigrees are more Golden Age. So...*drumroll*...

#5: Doctor Weird

First Appearance: Star Studded Comics#1, September 1963
Publisher: Texas Trio
Story: In the 24th century, Dr. Rex Ward invents a means of time travel. He travels back in time to 1963, where he subsequently dies. The paradox created by dying before he was born leaves Ward trapped between worlds, a living ghost.
Superpowers/abilities: from Wikipedia
"Dr. Weird can pass through walls with ease, making himself immaterial and invisible at will. He has a sixth sense that alerts him to the presence of evil. He can teleport anywhere, and his glare can petrify anyone who sees it. He is abnormally strong and can fly. Dr. Weird seems to be able to send visions of himself to other places, and can make contact with any spiritual beings."

Created by fanzine author Howard Keltner in the 1940's, Dr Weird made his debut in a small-press publication Star Studded Comics #1. In the 1970's Dr. Weird got his own title with some stories written by Jim Starlin and George, R.R. Martin. Dr. Weird eventually found his way to Big Bang! Comics, where he has the distinction of being the only hero in their stable with a legitimate publishing history.

What's so cool about him?:
Well, I always like a good,mystical hero and this one has the added dimension of being a sci-fi hero as well. Sort of like if Doctor Strange could become intangible due to a teleporter accident. Plus I'm a sucker for heroes named "Doctor". Especially when they actually have the credentials.

#4: Captain Flash

First Appearance: Captain Flash #1, November 1954
Publisher: Sterling Comics
Story: Exposed to a lethal dose of Cobalt during a laboratory demonstration, Professor Keith Spencer does not die, but instead gains phenomenal super powers. Spencer decides to use his newfound abilities for the betterment of mankind and the defense of the good, ol' U.S.A. as Captain Flash.
Superpowers/Abilities: By clapping his hands together, Captain Flash creates a "miniature nuclear explosion" which, rather than causing him to blow up, instead turns him into a living reactor. He is superhumanly strong and resistant to injury and he can move at superfast speed.

What's so cool about him?: Arguably the first hero of The Silver Age, Captain Flash is THE first "Atomic superman" beating out Solar, Nukla and Captain Atom by a decade. The comic's artwork by (Future JLA artist) Mike Sekowski has a decidedly ahead- of- it's- time look to it, that makes it feel like it was printed a decade too soon.

#3: Blue Beetle

First Appearance: Captain Atom#83, November, 1966
Publisher: Charlton
Story: Dan Garrett, the original Blue Beetle passes his mantle to Genius Inventor Ted Kord. Kord can't seem to make Garrett's mystical scarab (the source of his powers) work, so he compensates by inventing a high-tech airship, and numerous crime-fighting gadgets.
What's so cool about him?: The Blue Beetle is a wise-cracking gadgeteer. He's a very human character, but-by far- the least angsty or heavy character associated with Steve Ditko.

Charlton had already bought the rights to the Golden Age Blue Beetle and had tried to make a go of publishing a series featuring him in the early 1960's but it was a no-go. Apparently the missing element was Steve Ditko. Ditko, fresh from Marvel where he had co-created Spider-Man gave BB a make-over that included a new origin, new alter-ego and a whole new schtick. Basically, he kept the name and wove the earlier beetle into the new character's backstory. Very reminiscent of the DC Silver-Age makeovers of Hawkman, or The Atom.

#2: Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom

First Appearance: Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom#1, October, 1962
Publisher: Gold Key
Story: Nuclear physicist, Phil Solar is exposed to lethal amounts of radiation saving a co-worker from radiation exposure. Instead of dying, Solar gains the ability to manipulate matter at the atomic level, converting his human form into any kind of energy.
Superpowers/Abilities: Ability to manipulate matter at the atomic level,
fly and blast bolts of energy
What's so cool about him?: A god in human form, Solar is almost infinitely powerful. As time goes on, he becomes less and less able to relate to his fellow humans. This comic was fairly sophisticated and way ahead of its time.

#1: Space Ghost

First Appearance: Space Ghost television program, 1966 season
Aired on: CBS
Story: Space Ghost is so cool, he doesn't HAVE a back-story.
Superpowers/Abilities: Flight, invisibility, freeze ray, heat ray, force field, stun ray... you name it, he's got it.
What's so cool about him?: The BEST of the Hanna-Barbera superheroes, hands down (sorry, Birdman) Space Ghost has a really boss spaceship, TWO kid sidekicks and a monkey! Do any of you have a money? I didn't think so. Seriously, though, the look of this cartoon (designed by Alex Toth)would go on to influence a whole generation of animators and comic-book artists.


  1. Seeing as I'm familiar with the top three, I would sub out 4 & 5 for two more H-B heroes, Birdman and Young Samson, but that's just me.

  2. I agree, Birdman should be in there somewhere.

  3. Alright, kids. Let's review this one more time: Birdman is incredibly powerful. Unless he is confronted with his one weakness...SHADE. Birdman has seemingly NO capacity to store the solar radiation which gives him his power. Worse than that, when he is out of the sun for mere moments...when a cloud even passes in front of the sun...Birdman not only loses his superpowers, he becomes far weaker than a normal human being. Seriously, it's pretty pathetic.

    As to Young Samson... What's with the short-shorts? And why does Samson have a lion named Goliath? Goliath fought David, not Samson. And Goliath was a Philistine, Samson's sworn enemies. It's thematically awkward. And just how the Hell does a dog turn into a lion? That's just weird.

    I was kicking myself that I omitted the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. perhaps I should do a top five Super-teams??

  4. A couple of others worthy of consideration:

    Magnus Robot Fighter
    The Herculoids (maybe for your top five Super-teams?)


  5. Jim: I considered all of them. Magnus was a tough one for me. Mykal, over at the Gold Key blog argues that Magnus isn't technically a "super hero"..personally I think any dude who can punch through a robot's chest is pretty super.

    I'm on the fence about Mightor. He's kinda similar to Space Ghost, but not nearly as cool. Just didn't make the cut.

    The Herculoids... Well, we'll just have to see if they make the Super-teams list. ;)

  6. As I scrolled down, I fully expected THUNDER Agents to be #1. I heartily concur with Space Ghost though I thought you were talking about ComicBook (first) heroes. Go Herculoids!
    ps. Since you didn't include Red Circle Comics, "The Fly", might I put in a vote for "The Mighty Crusaders" for the Super-teams list?

  7. Michael: You know, I wanted to do a top 10. Than, when I was writing this, I could barely think of 5. Which was weird, because about 2 hours later, all these characters that should have made the list occurred to me. Including The Fly. There was no intent to dis the Red Circle group. The Mighty Crusaders are, indeed, in the running.

    And yeah, although he debuted on TV, Space Ghost -to me- is just a near-perfect example of a Silver Age hero. And he was handled so well as a comic book (after the fact)by Gold Key and Comico. Shame on you, DC Comics!

  8. I wouldn't be casting shame upon DC if I were you.

    Just before Space Ghost's 40th anniversary, DC put out a miniseries that explained the hero's true origins (though some liberties were taken with Jan & Jace, making them younger than we remember), which rendered the talk show host incarnation as nothing more than a case of certain Cartoon Network staffers showing little respect---if any---for SG and his fans. The Adult Swim division is notorious for their left-handed reimaginings of SG, Birdman, et al.

  9. Hobbyfan: Ah, but it's the miniseries of which you speak for which I am casting shame upon DC. I thought it was dreadful.

    As to Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast and Harvey Birdman: attorney at law... well, if Adult Swim had never made those silly programs, it is doubtful that I would now own my Space Ghost and Birdman DVD box sets.

    And darn it! The Harvey Birdman with Apache Chief makes me roll every time.

    1. I loved it, art was great and I just loved seeing Spaceghost taken seriously for once. It wasn't the deepest story and was on the gritty side (an issue I understand but don't completely at the same time)but he looked great and it was fun, when 1st seen by whom he seeked vengeance on the guy says something like your dead and Spaceghost relies again something like cause I don't remember every word but says, "I'm aghost, i'm the walking dead", with is fists clenched and his hood up, It was the closing panel to I think the 2nd issue and I just loved seeing the guy pissed in good art after loving him as a character and being a comics lover but never before seeing him in print, I guess its the little things sometimes.. I love Golden Age heroes, Silver age, Bronze Gritty and Modern. What I don't get is why a lot of people want comics to stay pre Watchmen and innocent, although a lot of the early material was edgier than it usually gets credit for and dismissed as campy fluff, and some of that was great too. But I love the evolution of comix as an art form/medium as a whole. It like any medium has its ups and downs, but there are great stories from every decade and think some of the best comics ever written are being done now or in the last 20 years(totally not saying they're better than the Golden and Silver age, that stuff is great and without it there would be no new comics today), but I encourage you to check out a couple of the new titles and see how you feel. I'm 33 and have been reading comix since, well since I could read around 5. 1st comic was an Invincible Iron man issue where he wore the silver centurion armor. They still make comix on the camp side and tons of edge or strickly adult cause thats the majority of the fanbase and I'm also glad they have entire lines and shelves of classic characters made for kids. I love the JSA to American Vampire and a whole lot in between. It all holds a special place in my heart as do the" comics existing in a shimmering land written before 1967" (well said) in your heart. I'd just like to see more people acknowledging the talent, hard work, dedication and comics/graphic novels as a true high art form.

    2. wish I could edit my comment, just ten typos in the part where I roughly quoted Spaceghost's walking dead comment at the end of the 1st or 2nd issue.

  10. Well, I think Mightor is way cooler than Space Ghost, mostly because I only became aware of SG in a Gold Key collection of HB cartoon heroes. I watched Mightor's adventures regularly on the teevee.

    Flipping the channels on the cartoons, I might nominate the Impossibles. Though done for laughs, I always enjoyed the adventures of the rock star superheroes.

    Another memory of those days was a proto-anime offering, Marine Boy. Every time I went for a swim, I wished I had a stick of "oxy-gum" and jet-fins. My buddy came into a DVD collection of "Marine Boy", but refuses to lend them to me. He says it is for my own good, so as not to destroy my happy memories (like they have for him).

  11. Blaze: I'm sorry to hear you missed out on Space Ghost and had to settle for Mightor.

    I know there are a LOT of Impossibles fans out there, most notably the folks at H-B who swiped them and re-used their powers/costumes for the Super Globetrotters. I guess the cartoony, humor angle disqualified them in my mind.

    I have never seen Marine Boy. I looked him up, though. I probably would have been all about that as a kid. As a grown-up, I'll stick with Aquaman. ;-)

    1. Is The Phantom a Golden Age or Silver Age hero? If silver, he should've beat out a cpl of these guys but thats why they're called opinions.

  12. Ghost: Great roundup. I had never heard of Dr. Weird (or, for that matter, star-Studded comics) or Captain Flash. Both sound pretty awesome. For my fussy, annoying, should-have-been-included-pick, I might have thrown in Gold Key's Might Samson. He had super strength and size in a post-apocalyptic world due to the effects of radiation, which would qualify him as having the prerequisite super powers.

    I stand by my decision to not give Magnus super hero status. He was sort of like a very athletic and brave cop. He simply could punch like hell. While a valuable asset, it’s hardly a super power.

    Really cool post. I’m really going to have to check out Captain Flash-- Mykal

  13. Yeah, but Mighty Samson is just the next step in Human Evolution. If Magnus isn't a super hero because all he can do is "punch like hell" then Samson isn't a superhero because his superpower is also of the punching like hell variety. Sure he's big, but he doesn't fly or have a tail or anything.

    I seriously considered Mighty Samson, but disqualified him by using the "Magnus yardstick"

  14. Ghost. " . . .Yeah, but Mighty Samson is just the next step in Human Evolution."

    Not necessarily. No other human in the Mighty Samson storyline has similar powers. They all consider him a powerful freak And he's not just strong - he's super strong. He can push over buildings, yank out trees - that sort of thing. Consider, his powers come from the same source as do Marvel's Hulk in that he has become irradiated.

    Magnus, while behaving more like a Superhero, only has the outfit (don't get me wrong, I love Magnus). Samson simply looks like a huge, blonde caveman - but he does have super powers. Back at ya, buddy! -- Mykal

  15. Mykal: Okay, okay. I don't REALLY dispute Samson's super-ness. He's clearly a post-apocalyptic, Cthonic hero cut from the same cloth as Hercules, Thor and well, Samson. He fights big, scary monsters that others can't handle.

    Which brings me back to Magnus. Here's why Magnus is super. "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king!"

    In the year 4000 AD, mankind was previously enslaved by robots and became horribly lazy and dull. Even though Man is no longer the servant of Robotkind, they still rely far too heavily on robost and computers. Nearly everyone is frail or overweight. EXCEPT Magnus. Compared to the rest of the populuation of NorthAm, Magnus is a demigod! He IS their Superman! Back, back at ya, buddy!

  16. Ghost: All the same could be said of Nick Fury, Sgt. Rock, or Jonah Hex - all of them stand head and shoulders about contemporaries. I dare say you wouldn't consider them super heroes! Don't be fooled by Magnus' cool outfit and striking action poses. HE. HAS. NO. SUPERPOWERS. Back, back back at ya(although I did like the one-eyed man quote!)! -- Mykal

  17. Mykal: I respectfully disagree. Sgt. Rock, Sgt. Fury and Jonah Hex are merely tough men who survive in adverse conditions. Rock is simply the spiritual heart of Easy Company, Hex, a man who makes his living off of the suffering of others and battles with his own conscience as a result. They are heroes (or anti-heroes), but not superheroes.

    But, what IS a superhero? Are you saying one must have superpowers to be a superhero? Who made up that rule? IS Batman not a superhero? He's the World's Greatest Detective. And though as fads come and go, he relies on technology to varying levels, it's the man who is the remarkable part, not the toys.

    How about the Phantom? He's immortal, right? except that's all a scam. No, he has no superpowers, but he's STILL a superhero.

    Wonderwoman is super. Here. On Paradise Island, she's just above average.

    On Krypton, Superman is just another Joe.

    In NorthAm, c. 4000 AD, Magnus is so physically superior to his contemporaries as to be superhuman in comparison. HE. CAN. PUNCH. HIS. FIST. THROUGH. A. ROBOT!!

    Can you?

  18. Ghost: I can, and have! ;-). Rock on, Ghost! -- Mykal

  19. Oh, and Batman isn't a super hero. He is a crime fighter. -- Mykal

  20. Mykal: "Ghost: I can, and have!" -Yeah, that's what I thought. ;-)

    A "Crime fighter" ?? McGruff the Crime Dog is a crime fighter. They never invited HIM to co-found the Justice League. No matter how many bites he took out of crime.

  21. Ghost: "McGruff the Crime Dog is a crime fighter." LOL. This calls for a cross post. Next up on Gold Key Comics - the very tough, but-clearly-not-a-superhero - Magnus, Robot Fighter! - Mykal

  22. Mykal: LOL! I'll be there. Magnus is one of my favorite Gold Key SUPER HEROES. ;P***

  23. Herculoids is the top 5 superheroes of ALL TIME!! and number one is Gleep! He's ten times better than Gloop! Did you know that half of Gloops shots were done by Gleep? Did you know that almost ALL of Gloop's dangerous stunts were performed by Gleep? Remember the episode where Gloop surrounded the flame monster and snuffed out the fire? That was Gleep! Gleep recieved 3rd degree burns all over his plasm, yet he kept on working! Gloop spent half of his day in the trailer, drinking! Gloop sucks!

    Gleep for president!

    By the way, Batman is soooo a Superhero!
    (Just like Magnus, the Swedish Robot massuesse)

  24. How about a Hanna Barbera hero line up? Captain Cavemen, Atom Ant, Touche Turtle and Secret Squirrel. :-) I prefer Space Ghost over Birdman. A giant umbrella can kill Birdman.

  25. CouponWebz: I'm not even sure it would have to be GIANT.

  26. I'd love to see a more serious approach to Harvey Birdman or an ongoing comedy/superhero book done by a solid creative team.