For these of us who grew up encountering Golden Age comedian books — comics printed between 1938–1956, that’s — haphazardly, choosing up a tattered subject right here or there at flea markets and yard gross sales, the hassle to discern how every of those random items may match into some bigger, coherent, significant entire was a head-scratching affair. With so many gaps in our knowledge units, and absent any type of definitive information, we have been pressured to have interaction in varied types of artistic misprision, deciding for ourselves what all of it may add as much as. (The protagonist of Daniel Clowes’s graphic novel David Boring, who broods over Golden Age comics written and drawn by his lacking father, is an avatar of exactly this type of pop hermeneutics.) In that spirit, through the COVID-19 epidemic, I’ve taken to brooding over the phenomenon of the very first costumed comic-book vigilantes who wore masks able to stopping the unfold of airborne viruses.
I do know little or no about Blazing Cranium, Kinks Mason, Micro-Face, and most of those different characters who appeared — in comedian books cranked out by all kinds of short-lived publishers — within the years shortly earlier than and after America joined WWII. I’ve seen particular person panels, typically full pages, from comics by which they’ve appeared… however that is about it. Subsequently, just like the early Nineteenth-century astronomers who discerned that there was an eighth planet within the photo voltaic system (Neptune), which could not be immediately perceived by way of even the best telescopes, however whose existence would alone clarify the unusual deviations in Uranus’s orbit, I really feel assured in saying my discovery of a hitherto-unknown squad of comic-book vigilantes.
The unique intercompany crossover “occasion,” previous and little doubt inspiring the formation of the Justice Society (Nationwide Comics + All-American Publications) a yr later, the 1939 teaming up of three correctly masked heroes was — so far as I can inform — meant as a public service. The Clock (who first appeared in Humorous Pages in 1936), Fantom of the Honest (Wonderful Thriller Funnies, 1939), and Sandman (New York World’s Honest Comics, 1939) have been every devoted not solely to combating crime however stopping a pandemic. It makes excellent sense, then, that they’d be a part of forces to grow to be… the Antiviral Alliance!
Although little doubt mocked and scorned by followers of free-breathing early comic-book heroes like Superman, Batman, Namor, Zatara, and Blue Beetle, the Antiviral Alliance remembered that the good influenza pandemic of 1918-19 (usually known as the Spanish flu) brought about about 50 million deaths worldwide, way over the deaths from fight casualties in WWI. They usually understood that carrying a correct masks, staying six ft aside, and avoiding crowds have been essential behaviors to mannequin. They fought the great combat by way of 1941, throughout which yr the unique trio was joined by ten different antiviral vigilantes.
Alas, not lengthy after America entered the struggle in December ’41, the Antiviral Alliance roughly disbanded. Did its members enlist within the army? Or, maybe, may the patriotic fervor that gripped the nation after Pearl Harbor have made it untenable to advertise correct mask-wearing — that’s to say, was doing one’s half to forestall the unfold of infectious illness politicized by the ignorant America-firsters of the period? Like a lot else in regards to the AA, it is a thriller.
Please benefit from the sequence VIRUS VIGILANTE, printed at HILOBROW through the darkish days of 4Q2020″
PRE-COMICS: THE MOON MAN (1933). ORIGINAL TRIO (joined forces in 1939): THE CLOCK | SANDMAN | FANTOM OF THE FAIR. AND THEN THERE WERE SEVEN (joined 1940): THE SHADOW | LADY LUCK | THE LAUGHING MASK | KINKS MASON. SECOND-WAVE SIX (joined 1941): BLAZING SKULL | THE CHALLENGER | THE THUNDERER | DOCTOR NEMESIS | HUMAN BOMB | THE VIGILANTE. LATE TO THE PARTY (POST-1941): MICRO-FACE | THE DESERT EAGLE.