Sunday, July 26, 2020

Number 2443: Not much mystery in Mystery Men

I have wondered what it was like during the explosion of comic books at newsstands and magazine sellers during their early days. Especially if a kid had just 10¢ and was trying to choose one comic from an abundance of titles. As Mystery Men Comics #1 (1939) shows, the first thing is to have an eye-catching cover. That was provided by Lou Fine, and would cause the kid to look at it. As the kid leafed through the pages he would see a typical anthology: a variety of characters, superheroes, science fiction, cowboys, spies, magicians. Mystery Men #1 provided all of the elements a comic book reader reader would expect.

Will Eisner and staff provided the artwork. Eisner even got a byline on the two-page text story, “The Haunted House.” Furthermore, Eisner gets a question mark in the listing for the story of the Blue Beetle in the Grand Comics Database. They aren’t sure if Eisner did the script, nor am I. It is known that Charles Nicholas (aka Wojtkowski) did the artwork. It is not an origin story, but it is the first appearance of the Blue Beetle in comic books. It is a four-pager, placed toward the back of the book. How much attention did a kid in 1939 give the story? Of all the stories in that comic book, Blue Beetle is the only one whose name has been used up until the present day. Some comic book historians have said the Blue Beetle was inspired by the radio hero, the Green Hornet. Originality is not a prerequisite for publication in comic books, then or now.

If you choose to read all the stories you will find them not very original, exactly like most other comics on sale at the time. But by looking back 81 years you can see what your grandparents...or great grandparents, saw when they went to buy a comic book.

Rex Dexter of Mars first appeared in Mystery Men Comics #1. His origin was retold in a one-shot comic book, with a variation on his origin, and then the origin story reprinted from Mystery Men. You can see both from a 2013 Pappy's post. Just click on the thumbnail.