CCI: Comic Character Investigation #341 juin 2013
[ENGLISH] This month: The Avenger. Since the inception of The Golden Age of comics in 1938, many heroes, and many villains, have splashed their battles across artistic pages, have endured their struggles in those same pages and have intrigued a readership which has loved their adventures for 72 years. This column celebrates such characters by taking a look each month at one of them. Some you will know and some are more obscure, but all hold a significant place in comics, for the world of stories in any medium is about the characters who populate it. The spectacular citizens of the universe who inhabit the comic book nation might be brave or sinister, bold or fearful, but all are characters who we can never forget. So, The Golden Age becomes the Silver Age, The Silver becomes The Bronze and so on, until today and until tomorrow. . . in The Endless Age of comics, and the beings who live inside them.
…And that is singular, not to be confused with that popular band of later, larger-than-life superheroes who broke some movie attendance records…just so we are clear…The Avenger was a product of a company called Magazine Enterprises and was one of their final series. That particular publishing house was founded by none other than Vincent Sullivan, arguably one of the most (and initially probably the most) important comic book editor in the Golden Age and beyond. Much of the public has not heard his name and may not know his significance but being
the only editor to accept the original Superman comic strips gives him some rightful claim to fame, and in turn, his company and what it produced in this unique character. The founder of both magazine Enterprises as well as Action Comics at DC presented The Avenger in an amazingly short run of only four issues which appeared from 1954 to 1955. Created and illustrated by Dick Ayers, scripting duties were tasked to Paul S. Newman and Gardner Fox. Bob Powell ended up creating most of the art for the short run, however as well as all the covers.
One thing which is for certain in the comic industry, things have significance. The Avenger, for example was actually one of the very first heroes to be developed for the Silver Age of comics. His incarnation came before the updated Flash given to us by the great Carmine Infantino, a change of costume which, at least from the DC side of the comics universe, was a marker that launched the Silver Age. (If you want to see what launched it on the Marvel side, go back through the archives and read the piece about Gwen Stacy).
His alter ego was called Roger Wright and he wore a base-red outfit which showed pronounced white stripes. He carried a weapon called a dissolver which requires no further explanation of its capabilities and piloted a vertical take-off and landing craft. Ayers used references for the craft’s creation while Powell added The Dissolver later. His mission was to avenge his brother who was tortured to death by Russian agents (okay, remember, this is the mid-1950’s, America and Russia are fighting over space, radioactive insects are regularly on the big screen, the threats, both real and overly imaginative are everywhere. In such a time, of course he is avenging against Russian agents, and using a special flying craft (space race, anyone?) You get the idea. It was a blend of world reactions and things were a little more “hot” than “cold” in the world. Now, back to The Avenger…The female interest was his assistant Claire Farrow and she actually created a mask for him which Wright got the idea to have from seeing the Ghost Rider mask worn by her nephew. (Ghost Rider was another character created by Dick Ayers and who appeared in this column…again, take a look back….)
Not surprisingly, considering the artistic and literary talents involved, the series looked good and read well. Ayers even drew the series again for AC Comics in a new book and also did work on The Avenger in FemForce and Men of Mystery.
A Silver Age pioneer with an all-too-familiar handle and purpose, The Avenger was basically a do-the-job kind of hero. Just the kind one might expect in 1955. Giant radioactive ant? Maybe not on his watch. The Army and all their firepower usually took care of such things but Russian agents who tortured innocents related to the hero. That was his watch. Just ten years after the end of World War II, the threats of enemy nations was still an open wound and a guy like The Avenger could find an audience for his mission to protect us from the threats that still lingered. Thanks, Avenger, for having our backs. When the giant radioactive creatures come around, we’ve got yours.
James Parducci (www.jparducci.blogspot.com) is the creator of the comic series Nighthunter. He has been published in multiple periodicals and runs his own freelance writing business in San Diego.