Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Skivvied Superheroes ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post! ~~ Part Two

I'm still on my leave of absence, but today's Comical Wednesday post was completed a couple of weeks ago. Hope you like it.

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Before I begin Part Two of my series about "The Skivvied Superheroes," a word -- okay, several -- about "domino masks!"

If I recall correctly, I first encountered the term "domino mask" in the early 1970s, when I was avidly reading anything I could get my hands on which concerned comic book history (especially that of what comic buffs were already calling the Golden Age of Comics). One indispensable source of info which I found was the paperback book pictured above, All in Color for a Dime. One of the many chapters in it referred to a specific character (about whom I'll be speaking later in this post) as having worn a "domino mask." Looking at the illustration of said character, I realized that this term described a form of mask which many of my favorite masked characters wore and/or wear.

Top row, left to right: Will Eisner's The Spirit; the Disney version of Zorro as played by Guy Williams; ABC-TV's Green Hornet as played by Van Williams (no relation); DC Comics' Golden Age Green Lantern (Alan Scott). Bottom row, left to right: ABC-TV's The Lone Ranger as played by Clayton Moore; Kato (the Green Hornet's sidekick) as played by Bruce Lee; DC's Silver Age Green Lantern (Hal Jordan); DC's Robin, the so-called "Boy Wonder" (and Batman's sidekick, of course).

They all wore domino masks. And I'm sure there were no doubt even more whom I can't recall at this moment! 

And until very recently, I assumed I knew why they called them domino masks. I figured that... well... see for yourself!

Exhibit A: A Domino Mask

Exhibit B: A Domino!

Get the connection? Of course you do. My readers aren't dummies!

But boy, was I disappointed when I read the following in WikipediaA domino mask is a small, rounded mask covering only the eyes and the space between them. Since the 18th century, the domino mask is worn during carnival. Venetian Carnival masks were known as domini because they resembled French priests' winter hoods, being black on the outside and white on the inside. The name ultimately derives from the Latin dominus, meaning "lord" or "master."

Really? Seriously? Borrrrrr-ing! I like my reason much better! (Maybe I should just change the definition in Wikipedia, huh?)

Anyway, back to "The Skivvied Superheroes, Part Two."

Remember "The Skivvied Superheroes, Part Two?"

This is a post about "The Skivvied Superheroes, Part Two." (And give yourself a pat on the back if you caught the Arlo Guthrie reference there!)

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Remember last time, when I said that "[s]ome of these "long underwear" heroes didn't always stay in their underwear?" Well, Supersnipe is a weird example. On his covers, he was usually depicted as a superbly-muscled hero, while somewhere in the corner of the cover, it showed him in "real life," as Koppy McFad, "the boy with the most comic books in America!" He was always engaged in something related to the image of his fantasy self, albeit in a much less dignified portrayal.

Supersnipe was created by an artist named George Marcoux. His series ran from 1942-1949 and was published by the comic book arm of the Street and Smith pulp empire.

Some of Supersnipe Comics' earliest covers featured Koppy garbed in a suit of red longjohns, his father's blue "lodge cape," and -- you guessed it! -- a domino mask! The first and only image I saw of Supersnipe for a long, long time was the classic "Hitler" cover pictured at the top of this listing, reprinted in the paperback edition of All in Color for a Dime.

Now here's where it gets interesting (well, for me, that is). It seems that in his actual stories, Supersnipe -- who often dressed up as a hero to fight crimes, whether real or imagined -- wore his street clothes (along with the ever-present mask and cape), rather than his underwear. For example:

The results from Koppy's well-meaning attempts at fighting "crime" weren't always what he desired, unfortunately...

That's it for this character, cuz it's all I have to give (in terms of relevant scans)! I have one -- and only one -- copy of Supersnipe Comics kicking around somewhere in this warehouse I call an apartment, but I can't locate it right now! And it's incredibly difficult to find anything online related to the character, because the current holders of all Street and Smith copyrights & trademarks -- Can you say "The Shadow" and "Doc Savage," fellow babies? -- are very litigious when anyone publishes anything that treads beyond the concept of "fair use."

 Having said that, there is a modern-day pretender to Supersnipe's throne, if you're inclined to check him out!

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Ahhh, at last! A Marvel Comics character! In fact, Forbush-Man is a Silver Age Marvel Comics character, so he's not as distant, time-wise, as some of the older heroes I've mentioned thus far in this self-indulgent series.

By 1967, the Marvel Comics Group had successfully wrestled with DC Comics for the top of the comic book sales. They were confident enough to make fun of their own characters (as well as those of other comic publishers) in a title they called Brand Echh, which was soon re-christened Not Brand Echh in accordance with their cover blurb, which read "Who says a comic book has to be good? Not Brand Echh!"

The first cover (but not the interior) of NBE featured a parody hero called "Forbush-Man." Regular Marvelites immediately recognized that Forbush-Man was a reference to Marvel's unofficial, never-seen mascot, a schlub named Irving Forbush.

The Not Brand Echh series lost some steam in the later issues, but the first few were classics. My own favorite was the seventh issue, which featured hilarious take-offs of the origins of "The Fantastical Four" and "Stuporman" (The Fantastic Four and Superman, of course).

Marvel editor-in-chief (and primary scripter) Stan Lee had been working for Marvel -- originally named Timely Comics, then Atlas Comics, before settling on Marvel soon after the advent of their Fantastic Four title in 1961 -- since he was a 17-year-old office boy hired by his uncle, publisher Martin Goodman, in 1941. Lee actually created the character of Irving Forbush (and several of Irving's "relatives") in the mid-1950s, for a short-lived humor magazine called Snafu.

As with MAD (Snafu's obvious inspiration), Snafu needed a recurring character in the Alfred E. Neuman mode. Thus was Irving Forbush created (full story here, fellow babies), and in the 1950s, they did show his face!

Well, Stan Lee was obviously inspired by David M. Lynch's First Rule of Writing: Never Throw Anything Away! (Okay, okay, ignore the timeline there, dammit!) In Not Brand Echh #5, he gave us...

We never got to see the face behind the mask, but who cared?

Issue #8 saw the return of Forbush-Man!

Since the 1960s, our red-flanneled Forbush-Man has appeared sporadically in the Marvel Universe, to say the very least. Here's a page that I found from a 2006 series called Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.

Uhhh... I'm not even gonna pretend that
I know what the hell was going on there...

And if that isn't bad enough, somewhere along the way, he lost his hyphen -- and don't you hate it when that happens? -- and became, simply, "Forbush Man."


All I know is... Any character who's buddies with The Flaming Carrot -- more on him someday, I promise -- can't be all bad!

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The Red Tornado

Almost certainly the first of the "real" long-underwear characters -- pre-dating even Supersnipe -- was the original Red Tornado! The Red Tornado was one of the earliest parody heroes (heroines?), and was DC/All-American's first female superhero as well, before the legendary Wonder Woman!

The Red Tornado was created by one of the most influential people in the early days of the comic book business (and I'm not exaggerating), a cartoonist and editor named Sheldon Mayer (1917-1991)

For me to list his many innovations and accomplishments would require a separate article... an article which I probably will write sooner or later for Comical Wednesday.

But for now, let's stick with the very basics. Sheldon Mayer worked for not one, but two fledgling comics companies in the 1930s. One was Dell, one was DC. While at Dell, he created a semi-autobiographical feature about a boy cartoonist named Scribbly Jibbet. The "Scribbly" feature appeared in both The Funnies and Popular Comics. Mayer ended up serving as a writer-artist and an editor at DC/All-American, and when he made that definitive move, he brought the "Scribbly" feature with him.

Uhhhh... Scribbly wasn't a cowboy character,
by the way. The outfit he's wearing in this ad
merely figured into a contemporary storyline!

It was also during the late 1930s that editor Mayer allegedly rescued a rejected comic book concept from the "slush pile" of unwanted submissions. Mayer liked it a lot, saw great potential, and recommended that DC use it in a new title they were about to start. This finally gave a home to a feature that had been refused by countless newspaper syndicates and comic book companies for about six years.

Maybe you've heard of it...

Yep, the original art for the cover of Superman's very first appearance!
And yes, I'd kill to own it! (Well... almost...)

Although Scribbly didn't get his own comic book title until 1948, he began his run at DC/All-American with All American Comics #1 in 1939. All American #3 introduced a supporting character named "Ma" Hunkel, who ran a grocery store.

All American, as you may recall, was the very same title which introduced Green Lantern (no, Skip, the other one) in its sixteenth issue!

In issue #20, Ma Hunkel became the non-superpowered Red Tornado. In fact, her donning of a costume (such as it was) to fight local criminals was inspired by hearing comic-reading kids talking about Green Lantern!

Incestuous little business, innit?

As with virtually every strip he ever penned, Mayer had a lot of fun with  the Red Tornado. The following two (unrelated) pages may give you an idea.

In fact, in one instance, Mayer went so far as to re-imagine his Scribbly cast as anthropomorphic "funny animals!" Yep, a parody of a parody! Leave it to a genius like Sheldon Mayer!

As for the "real" Ma Hunkel, she even appeared at the very first meeting of the Justice Society of America, in 1940's All-Star Comics #3!

With the demise of Scribbly's All American series in 1944, the Red Tornado vanished until this pretender to the throne appeared in Justice League of America... in 1968!

This Red Tornado was actually an android, who was... ummm... confused about his origins (to say the very least), and initially believed that he was the original Red Tornado!

Let's just stop there as concerns this version of the character, okay?

I could very easily gush like an unrepentant fanboy -- more than I have already, that is -- about how flippin' wonderful, brilliant, and downright amazing I think Sheldon Mayer was, but I'll save that for another time!

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Now, I said I'd deal with eight "long-underwear" characters -- roughly in ascending order of my biased perception of their "greatness" -- and if you've been keeping track, you've noticed that I've only covered seven. And after I've sung the praises of Sheldon Mayer and the Red Tornado, you may be wondering, "What could possibly be better than that?"

Heh. What indeed?

Part Three (and final) will feature the greatest long-underwear character ever, in a post all his own! Don't miss it!

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But now, before I conclude Part Two, here are a couple of quick, random notes:

1. Ha! I knew there was at least one other favorite childhood "hero" who wore a domino mask... kinda...

Jonny Quest's bulldog, Bandit!

2. I was asked (by my good friend Subby) if this series-within-a-series would include Disney's Super Goof character.

In a word: No. I hate Goofy (although I love the Phantom Blot character). Sorry.

Thanks for your time.


  1. smiles. thanks for doing this david...i miss the old comics for sure...got to break out my long boxes next time i go home...

  2. I could never understand why they went to the trouble of wearing a mask and then allowed someone to write (and draw) a whole series of comics about them. I suppose if they were still around today (are they, or do they die off over time) their phones would be hacked by the Murdoch Press and their anonymity would be lost.

  3. hmmm never knew such low diddum underwear sporting hereos actually appeared with the bigger names.

  4. Snafu reminds me of Sharpie! :)

    And I like your definition of domino mask better, too! You should add it to wiki!

  5. I really think you should use all of this, and write a book. Very well researched.

  6. Hey Betsy! I just read what you said and I'm insulted! THAT'S IT!!! I'm never coming back in here AGAIN!!! And my new girlfriend Suzie agrees with me!!!

  7. The pic of the dude as carrot...i can't get beyond it...I'm still laughing...Just popping in to say hey...Waves from the BlueNose Shore!


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