I was watching a countdown on teh YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-T2UJBpiOcg about the top DC superheroes. This particular list chooses Batman over Superman. Of the two, who would be your favorite?

Personally, I know Superman doesn't quite resonate so much with today's society as he did back in the 1930's, but there's a lot of value there. he's a character that inspires a great deal of hope, he's empowering to the downtrodden, he's just the best that there is in terms of the archetype of the superhero.

Batman, on the other hand, gets a lot of respect from the current generation. It's easy to understand his motivations, seemingly born out of anger and a sense of injustice. He also has a much better rogues gallery and supporting cast, IMO.

For me, I'm giving a slight edge to Batman here, but I'd love to hear people prove me wrong.

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There's another Weisinger superhero I missed, the Tarantula from Star Spangled Comics.

Not all DC superheroes appeared with the JSA or the Seven Soldiers of Victory, and I thought I'd list what happened to those. This is a list of feature characters, so there'll be no sidekicks, partners or Neptune Perkins.(1) I count crimefighting ghosts, magicians, masked cowboys and other masked adventurers as superheroes.

First, the other AAC characters:

1941 Hop Harrigan adopted the guise of the Guardian Angel in All-American Comics #25-#28 to help out his friends while they were on government missions. (The costume may not have been seen until #26. He may also not have used that name himself. But I'm not sure of either point.)

-The Black Pirate moved to Sensation Comics from Action Comics. (Its pages were folded into “The Vigilante”, which started in the Black Pirate's last issue.)(2)

1943 Sargon lost his slot in All-American Comics for page reasons. His feature continued in in 1943-44 in Comic Cavalcade.

1944 The Whip was dropped from Flash Comics for page reasons.

-The Gay Ghost was dropped from Sensation Comics in favour of Sargon the Sorcerer.

-Little Boy Blue was replaced the next issue by “Picture Stories from History” and returned after a couple of months by bumping Sargon. (A final Gay Ghost instalment appeared the same issue, #38, in place of “Mr Terrific”.)

1946 Sargon replaced the Black Pirate in Sensation Comics after appearances in 1945/46 in All-American Comics #70 and Comic Cavalcade #14. I suppose these may have been inventory stories. Compare the Atom’s return. The Black Pirate moved to All-American Comics.

-The Hop Harrigan instalment in All-American Comics #78 was a weak superhero parody story. Hop dresses up like the Black Lamp who Tank has been reading about and has a superhero-style adventure. (The Black Lamp is obviously a parody of Green Lantern.)

-McSnurtle the Turtle, the Terrific Whatzit, lost his feature in Funny Stuff after #17. Wikipedia says he afterwards appeared as a shopkeeper in other features.

1948 "Hop Harrigan" was the feature dropped from All-American Comics to make way for "Johnny Thunder" (Western version).

-The Black Pirate was dropped from All-American Comics on its conversion into All-American Western.

-Little Boy Blue and, and an issue later, Sargon were dropped from Sensation Comics to make way for Lady Danger. (A final Sargon instalment appeared in Green Lantern early the next year.)

1949 “The Ghost Patrol” ended with Flash Comics.

Arguably I really should have saved the Red Tornado, Wildcat and Mr Terrific for this list, as they scarcely appeared with the JSA.

I haven't counted Gary Concord, the Ultra-Man from All-American Comics because as far as I can tell although he looks like a superhero on the covers he wasn't really one in the stories. His run ended in #19 in 1940.

My thanks to Dave and Philip for mentioning the Whip and the Ghost Patrol.

(1) Neptune Perkins appeared a couple of times in "Hawkman" in Flash Comics (after the split ended, so he's not an AAC character.)
(2) The first Sensation Comics instalment introduced a double identity element: Valor was now secretly the Black Pirate. I don’t know if he wore a mask as the Black Pirate in that instalment - I suspect not - but he did in a sequence in the one from Sensation Comics #2. There's a history of the feature here.

Batman isn't really a superhero either but he looks like one. If we can count Red Tornado we can count Ultra-Man.

When was Zatara dropped from Action Comics?

Batman & Red Tornado weren't technically superheroes, but they did deliberately make us of many clearly superheroic tropes (while a humorous character, Red Tornado was none the less presented as an effective "street level" mystery "man" in her home series).  Ultra-Man, on the other hand, was mostly "Buck Rogers with a hint of John Carter's strength", trafficking in tropes that predate Superman.  Still, he did switch outfits, if not maintain a true dual identity, when he went into action, with his politician persona dressed in a sort of Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon outfit, and his action hero persona (barely) dressed in as little as possible, not unlike John Carter.  That said, I've long wondered if, at some point, they considered actually taking the small steps it would take to make Ultra-Man an actual superhero, including sending him back in time to join the JSA (he was the only semi-costumed, super-powered hero from All-Star #1 who didn't go on to be a founding member of the Society).

Just out of curiosity, wasn't the Black Pirate the only character to move between DC (Action Comics) and AAC (Sensation Comics) while both companies still existed?  For that matter, I can't think of too many, if any, who did after there was only one company left.

Not sure when Zatara was dropped from Action but he stayed in World's Finest until 1950!

Ron M. said:

Batman isn't really a superhero either but he looks like one. If we can count Red Tornado we can count Ultra-Man.

When was Zatara dropped from Action Comics?

I'll do the other DC/National heroes next. The other long-running DC/National heroes, aside from Superman, Batman and the Adventure Comics group, are Zatara, Robotman and the Vigilante. They lasted to 1951 (just), 1953 and 1954 respectively. There were a few long-running (by Golden Age standards) features in other genres. (And some long-running teen humour and funny animals ones, and I won't be tracking those.) "Boy Commandos" continued in Detective Comics to 1949 and was the feature replaced by "Pow-Wow Smith". "Slam Bradley" lasted two issues longer and was the feature dropped to make way for "Roy Raymond". 

"Hayfoot Henry" started in All Funny Comics #1-#2 in 1943 then ran in Action Comics from 1944-1948. That's not such a long run but I find it interesting that for that period a humour feature was included in the line-up.

Character appearance lists are easy to get from DC Indexes by a character search. (It lists Earth One and Earth Two versions separately.) Figuring out what got dropped for what can be tricky, and I may have gotten it wrong at times. Here are some of the traps:

-When characters are dropped for page reasons they sometimes bump one of their other feature for their final issue, to allow their final story to appear.

-Leftover stories were also used up in other titles. I neglected to mention the final appearance of the Atom in Sensation Comics #86 (1948), which I take to be a case of this. Dave alluded to it. But there may have been cases where one-off appearances were try-outs or emergency fill-ins.

-The number of story pages in an issue can vary more than one would expect, each way. Also, sometimes pages were redistributed between features, and this could happen in conjunction with a page-reduction.

According to Toonopedia the continuous run of "Hayfoot Henry" ended in Action Comics #118 because Alvin Schwartz stopped writing it. The next two issues had "Cabbie Casey". These may have been leftover stories from More Fun Comics, but perhaps the feature was genuinely considered as a replacement. Toonopedia says the reason a belated "Hayfoot Henry" appeared in #123 was Don Cameron wrote one to show he could.

#124 had "Federal Agent". This feature originally appeared in Gang-Busters #1-#2 1947. Gang Busters was mostly non-series stories so presumably the feature could have continued there. Was this a try-out or an inventory story used as a fill-in? The feature subsequently had a three-issue run in Star-Spangled Comics in 1949.

The next lasting new addition to the Action Comics line-up was "Tommy Tomorrow", in #127 (1948). If anyone doesn't know, he started out in stories about future space exploration in Real Fact Comics and evolved into an interplanetary policeman of the future. Curt Swan and Jim Mooney had long runs on his Action Comics feature. It recently occurred to me that the Bermuda shorts he ended up wearing were probably inspired by colonial police costumes.

-The Hop Harrigan instalment in All-American Comics #78 was a weak superhero parody story. Hop dresses up like the Black Lamp who Tank has been reading about and has a superhero-style adventure. (The Black Lamp is obviously a parody of Green Lantern.)

This is one of the few Hop Harrigan stories I've gotten to read, and it's very odd--it's clearly intended as a parody, but it is so "weak" as such that it could easily be the origin of a new costumed hero.  While the name immediately evokes the Green Lantern, Black Lantern's costume (which is actually pretty good looking for a parody character) seems to combine elements of both GL and Dr. Mid-Nite, which leads me to wonder if a "real" Black Lamp might have been a combination of the two as well, with some sort of lamp device that projected a blackout beam.  Why All-American would need a "new" character who combined elements of two they already had, I have no idea.

Here are the characters I spotted in the Golden Age Who’s Whose at DC Comics Artists which could be regarded as early DC superheroes that didn’t make it into the 40s. I’ve listed them by first and last appearances. Characters sometimes skipped issues.

Dr Occult Appeared from New Fun #6 (1935) until More Fun Comics #32 (1938)

The first episode of one of the storylines, known as “Koth and the Seven”, appeared in The Comics Magazine #1 (from Comics Magazine Company) under the name “Dr Mystic”.

Nadir, Master of Magic Appeared from New Adventure Comics #17 (1937) until #30 (1938)

According to the blurb of his first instalment Nadir was an Indian prince who didn't use his title. "Because of a tragedy in his early life, which resulted in the death of his father and mother, he has devoted his life to the elimination of crime- being wealthy, and well educated both in the modern ways of our Western world, and the many long-forgotten secrets of the Far East he is able to carry on his untiring and deadly prosecution of crime, wherever he chooses".

The Masked Ranger Appeared from More Fun Comics #36 (1938) until #41 (1939)

I suspect he was an imitation of the Lone Ranger.

Rex Darrell, the Flying Fox Appeared from More Fun Comics #37 (1938) until #51 (1939)

I’ve counted him because he had a sobriquet and wore a cap with fox ears. I don’t know whether the logo used the “Flying Fox” name from the beginning. The sample page at DC Comics Artists has the logo "The Flying Fox" ("A thrilling Rex Darrell story in pictures"), but the GCD lists the earlier episodes as "Rex Darrell".

There was also a detective called Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise who appeared in Detective Comics early on, up to #37 (1940); but I figure I wouldn't count the Human Target as a superhero so I shouldn't count him as one either.

Captain Desmo could arguably be added to the list of very early superheroes. He was an aviator hero, but he had a kind of costume: a flying helmet with a star on it that he always wore, with the goggles over his eyes. My source is the description of his feature here. He started in New Adventure Comics, moved to More Fun Comics, and appeared there until 1941. His was one of three features bumped to make way for Green Arrow and Aquaman. The others were "Detective Sergeant Carey (of the Chinatown Squad)" and "Sergeant O'Malley of the Red Coat Patrol" (a Mounties series).

Here’s what happened to the other Golden Age DC/National superheroes - the ones who weren't members of the JSA or SSoV. I’ve left out post-war characters. The late 40s additions to the line were Black Canary, Merry, and the Nighthawk.(1) Those from the first half of the 50s were Captain Comet, the Phantom Stranger, Mysto, Magician Detective, and John Jones, Manhunter from Mars.(2)

1940 Tex Thomson from Action Comics became Mr America.

1942 Captain X of the R.A.F. was dropped from Star-Spangled Comics, where he had appeared since #1. It last appeared in #7, the issue in which the Newsboy Legion, Robotman and TNT debuted and the Star-Spangled Kid was reduced to one slot. Captain X's replacement was “Penniless Palmer”, which debuted in #6 and skipped #7.

-Lando, Man of Magic was dropped from World’s Finest Comics #7, where he had appeared since #1. Other features also last appeared in the title that issue so what replaced him isn't decidable.

-Mr America was renamed Americommando.

1943 Tarantula was dropped from Star Spangled Comics. His replacement was Liberty Belle, moving across from Boy Commandos.

-TNT was dropped from Star Spangled Comics a few issues later. This was apparently due to a loss of two pages, as its final instalments were six pages and its replacements were four. After a couple of issues “Super-Sleuth McFooey” took over this slot for a bit.(3)

1944 Manhunter was dropped from Adventure Comics for page reasons.

-Americommando was dropped from Action Comics for page reasons.

1946 Genius Jones moved from Adventure Comics over to More Fun Comics to be part of its new all-humour line-up. He alternated on the covers for awhile with Dover and Clover.

-“The Newsboy Legion” was dropped from Star Spangled Comics. The boys' replacement was Robin. I can’t tell if the Guardian appeared in the final three instalments as he isn’t on the covers.

1947 Liberty Belle was dropped from Star Spangled Comics. Her replaced was Tomahawk.

-Genius Jones last appeared in the second-last issue of More Fun Comics, #126. The last issue was mostly made of “Jimminy and the Magic Book” stories.

-[Western Comics started. This was DC’s first Western title.]

1948 Air Wave was dropped from Detective Comics. His replacement was Robotman, moving across from Star Spangled Comics.

1949 Zatara was dropped from Action Comics for page reasons. His feature continued in World’s Finest Comics, where it had been running from the start.

1951 Zatara was dropped from World’s Finest Comics. The next three issues had inventory stories intended for Danger Trail (so the GCD) in its place, and then there was a page reduction.

1953 Robotman was dropped from Detective Comics after #202. Pow-Wow Smith also moved to Western Comics at this point. Their replacements were Captain Compass (previously in Star Spangled Comics; the feature had been on hiatus for a bit) and Mysto, Magician Detective.

My apologies for any errors. Sources: Principally DC Indexes, the GCD, DC Comics Artists, Comic Book Bin.

(1) The Nighthawk was a masked cowboy who wore a dark shirt with a hawk symbol on the chest. He appeared on the cover on #36. His feature ran in Western Comics from #5 in 1948 to 1959.

(2) Captain Comet appeared in Strange Adventures from 1951-54; the Phantom Stranger in his own title from 1952-53; Mysto, Magician Detective in Detective Comics from 1953-54; and John Jones, Manhunter from Mars in Detective Comics from 1954 into the Silver Age.

(3) The feature appeared in various places in DC's line and ran in different titles simultaneously.

1.Whether there were DC/National superheroes before Superman depends how you define a superhero. There might have been more, as there were characters to imitate: the Lone Ranger (1933), Mandrake (1934), the Green Hornet (1936), the Phantom (1936).

The claimants I know of are Dr Occult, Cosmo (due to his disguise ability), Nadir and Captain Desmo. Of these Nadir has the best claim: he had superpowers.(1) He was probably more like Chandu the Magician than Mandrake. I say this tentatively, as I’m not very familiar with Chandu.

Captain Desmo debuted the month before Superman. He’s arguably a costumed aviator. (Aviator heroes were popular at the time.)

Zatara debuted with Superman in Action Comics #1. He was clearly an imitation of Mandrake. (He didn’t have a moustache at first, but he did have a big assistant, Tong.)

The Masked Ranger and the Crimson Avenger debuted four months after Superman and the Flying Fox the next month. The masked ranger was probably an imitation of the Lone Ranger, and the Crimson Avenger of the Green Hornet (perhaps crossed with the Shadow, or - the resemblance is closer - the Spider as he was depicted on his covers). The Flying Fox, another costumed aviator, debuted the month after them.

Dr Occult’s series ended the month Superman’s debuted. Presumably Siegel and Shuster needed the time to do Superman. Nadir’s feature ended three months later. The Masked Ranger’s and the Flying Fox’s ended early and late in 1939. Cosmo’s ended early in 1940. Captain Desmo’s lasted to the second half of 1941.

The Crimson Avenger skipped seven issues in 1939-40. His last appearance before the hiatus was in #29, which came out the same month as the start of the Sandman’s ongoing series in Adventure Comics #40. The Sandman was another gas gunner; did DC/National think they were too similar? Or was the thought that the title had a better superhero in Batman and it was better to keep a Western (“Buck Marshall”) in the line-up for variety? Or was it a personnel issue? Jim Chamber did the feature originally and it was drawn by others when it returned.

Arguably one should include supervillains in this kind of list, like Fang Gow, or the Purple Tiger from “Calling All Cars”: but I don’t have a list. The Fu Manchu newspaper strips were reprinted in Detective Comics for a period, beginning in #17.

2.Batman and the Sandman came along in 1939. According to DC Indexes they both debuted in Apr. (The Sandman’s debut was in New York World’s Fair Comics #1. His Adventure Comics series started in Jun.)

1939 was also the year other companies began putting superhero features on the covers. The first AAC claimant, Gary Concord, debuted in Sep. in All-American Comics #8. Flash Comics #1, with the Flash, Hawkman, the Whip and Johnny Thunder, came along in Nov. It was the first DC/National or AAC title to have a superhero line-up. (There was one non-superhero feature in the first issue, “Cliff Conwall”. #2 added “Rod Rian of the Sky Police”.)

The Spectre arrived Jan. 1940, Hourman in Feb., the King (and Robin) in Mar., Dr Fate in Apr., and Green Lantern in May. The Atom debuted in Aug. but didn’t use his costume in his first story. Ma Hunkel first appeared as the Red Tornado in Sep. The JSA debuted in Nov. Tex Thomson became Mr America in Dec.

3.I think there are six elements Superman brought together that define superhero characters: a code-name, a secret identity, a skin-tight costume, a cape, spectacular powers, and an emphasis on physical action. The Phantom wore a skin-tight costume before him, and Zorro, the Green Hornet and others had secret identities, and Mandrake had spectacular powers. But Superman was the first character to combine these elements.

Batman was the next DC character to use the combination of code-name, secret identity, skin-tight costume, cape and physical action. The Crimson Avenger and the Sandman did not originally have skin-tight costumes but received makeovers, the Crimson Avenger in 1940 and the Sandman a year later in 1941.

Physical action is part of the appeal of superhero comics. Not all comics adventure features emphasise it. Siegel's and Shuster's "Slam Bradley", which debuted in Detective Comics #1, was one that did. It was also an important part of The Phantom.

(1) Dr Occult didn't for the most part: his recurring super-trick was using his mystic symbol to defend himself. However, at the start of the "Dr Mystic" instalment from The Comics Magazine #1 he performs a really spectacular stunt - he renders himself semi-material and grows to giant size - and he wears a belt with magic powers in subsequent parts of the "Koth and the Seven" storyline. (The "Koth and the Seven" story started in the sole "Dr Mystic" instalment in The Comics Magazine #1 and continued in "Dr Occult" in More Fun Comics #14-#17.)

Sources: DC Indexes, the GCD, DC Comics Artists.


The Purple Tiger, from "Calling All Cars", More Fun Comics #13 (1936). He was first referred to in the feature's first instalment two issues prior.

Interesting Nadir's story ends in a cliffhanger, when there were extremely few multipart superhero stories during the Golden Age. Why did the adventure and mystery features get serials while the superhero, who seems perfect for that treatment, usually get done in one stories?

Early on the adventure features only had a few pages, and imitated Sunday newspaper strips, so they were often serials. By the time the superheroes arrived the slots had gotten longer.

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