Not every superhero manages to achieve the same level of fame as Batman, Wonder Woman, or Captain America, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth your while. Take for example, the Society of Virtue, the hilarious YouTube series that features all manner of heroes you’ve never heard of but offers incredible insights into the comics we know and love. And they’re just the tip of the iceberg. On today’s episode of The Dan Cave, we’re gonna dive deep into superhero history to talk about those forgotten spandex-clad vigilantes worth unearthing.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Before there was Superman, there was Olga Mesmer, the Girl with the X-Ray Eyes, who, as you might intuit, had x-ray vision. She also had super strength because her mad scientist father exposed her to radiation, and her mom was from Venus but also ruled an underground kingdom from which she was deposed… because comics. Olga sadly only lasted from August 1937 to October 1938 in what may be the single greatest name for a comic ever: Spicy Mystery Stories. Honestly, though, she was pretty rad. She laid the smack-down on her creepy legal guardian when he got handsy; she saved a man’s life by giving him some of her super blood; and she even wound up preventing an interplanetary war. All in a little over a year. What have you done in a little over a year? Is it anywhere near as cool as any of that? I didn’t think so.
The Fighting Hobo
While The Fighting Hobo may not have been the first vagrant vigilante, he was the only one named Butch Brogan, and whose obsession with a copy of Hamlet he found in the city dump led to an irrepressible urge to fight crime. His one and only adventure in 1942’s USA Comics #5 saw Butch rescuing a stolen dog, bopping the kidnapper on the nose, and getting a sweet reward and a kiss on the cheek for his troubles. He was never heard from again. But if you close your eyes and rub trash on a copy of Hamlet three times, legend has it that he just might appear. But probably not.
The Blonde Phantom
Image: Marvel Comics
Before there was Black Widow, Marvel Comics’ premiere femme fatale was Louise Grant, a secretary to a private investigator by day, and a crimefighter adept in martial arts, marksmanship, and pulling off a seemingly impractical slinky red dress by night. She was the Blonde Phantom and she kicked ass without the aid of any superpowers apart from a superior sense of intuition. While she came back a couple times over the years—most notably to help She Hulk defeat Stilt-Man and, uh, date her dad—she never quite caught on in a major way, which is a damn shame because with Agent Carter out of the picture, a noir-style lady detective story would make the perfect addition to the MCU.
Stardust the Super Wizard
No, Stardust the Super Wizard isn’t just what I have written on my business cards; it’s also the name of a truly bonkers Golden Age hero. Created by Fletcher Hanks in 1939, Stardust the Super Wizard is an alien “whose vast knowledge of interplanetary science has made him the most remarkable man that ever lived.” Living on his private star, he monitors crime across the galaxy and has a no-nonsense approach to fighting evil. Case in point: he turned a mad scientist named Kaos into a worm and fed him to an army of giant vultures from Venus that the baddie sought to unleash on Earth, and he also hurled another scientist named Demon into a tidal wave, killing him, then used the dude’s disintegrating ray to destroy his body. Long story short: don’t be a scientist around Stardust the Super Wizard.
Jill Trent, Science Sleuth
Image: Nedor Comics
Speaking of science, there are few characters I wish would make a comeback more than Jill Trent, Science Sleuth. Using her elite detective skills and scientific smarts, Jill Trent kicked ass, took names, and used all manner of awesome inventions like. Plus Jill Trent may have made comic book history. Not only did Jill solve crime with her best friend Daisy Smythe, the two frequently shared a bed together, which means she might be one of if not the first queer heroes in comic book history. Now give her a Netflix original series and bring Jill back, damn it! Clearly the world is in dire need of science sleuthing.And those are some of the greatest, wildest, and weirdest superheroes that time forgot. Which is your favorite? What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!
Sources: Uproxx; Huffington Post; io9
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Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of books about Star Wars and the Avengers. Follow him on Twitter ( @DanCasey).
Editor’s note: Today’s episode of The Dan Cave is sponsored by the Society of Virtue.