March 1941

By | Tuesday, December 12, 2006 Leave a Comment
Now, we're talkin' comics history! March 1941: The birth of Captain America! Almost a full year before Pearl Harbor was bombed, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby sent the U.S. squarely against the Axis Powers. World War II had actually been going on since September 1939, but President Roosevelt tried to pursue something of an isolationist policy while still helping the Allied Powers, mainly Britain. Public opinion began swaying in favor of enterting the war and Captain America was sent to sock Adolf Hitler on the jaw in early 1941.

Of course, American patriotism was fairly high already. A number of flag-draped heroes graced the pages of comic books before Captain America, including the Shield, Minute-Man and Uncle Sam! But Captain America was the first American hero to dive headlong into WWII, and the reading public ate it up! He wasn't just a hero covered in the American flag, but he took it Hitler himself!

Of course, the debut of Captain America overshadows some other comic debuts from the same month. The Black Marvel began his career in Mystic Comics #5 and Iron Man began over in the Canadian Better Comics #1.

"Wait! Iron Man? But I thought he didn't come about until the 1960s!"

Well, the Iron Man you're thinking about didn't show up until 1963, but this Iron Man was created by Vernon Miller in late 1940. Miller's Iron Man was actually made out of iron, and lived in an underwater city in the South Seas. Not surprisingly, he battled pirates and Nazis and, for better or worse, only survived a handful of issues. (Sadly, I have been not been able to find an image of Better Comics #1, but I included a cover of the following month's Better Comics #2 to at least provide some representation for the hero.)

What's also interesting to note is that we're still early enough in comics' history that some supposed mainstays of the comic industry simply aren't there yet. Wonder Woman had not been created, and Walt Disney's characters hadn't made the jump into regular comic books. We did have Captain Marvel, but the rest of the Marvel Family hadn't come to light yet. The Human Torch and Sub-Mariner were around but neither had their own titles.

Also of note is that several pulp heroes had already made the transition over to comics. Tarzan had been appearing as a newspaper strip for well over a decade, Doc Savage and the Shadow had their own comic book titles, and John Carter and Dick Tracy had been appearing in The Funnies and Super Comics respectively.

One final item of note: the debut of World's Best Comics featuring Superman, Batman and Robin, putting all three characters in three regular comics each. (Although it should be noted that, in 1941, Superman was bimonthly and Batman was quarterly.) World's Best would soon change it's title to World's Finest and become a staple of the DC set of superhero comics.
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