THE AVENGERMedium: Comic books
Published by: Magazine Enterprises
First Appeared: 1955
Creators: Gardner Fox (writer) and Dick Ayers (artist)
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the in-between years, there were sporadic attempts to bring the genre back to life. The Black Cobra (Ajax Publications, 1954)
Fighting American (Prize Comics, 1955)
Nature Boy (Charlton Comics, 1956)
There must have been a dozen or more '50s heroes, including this one — The Avenger, who debuted from Magazine Enterprises (publisher of Strong Man, another 1950s costumed crime fighter; a lot of westerns such as Tim Holt; and lots more) with a cover date of Feb-Mar 1955.
The Avenger was Roger Wright, a scientist who had designed The Starjet, a revolutionary aircraft, for the U.S. military. Soviet agents kidnaped his brother, an American colonel, in Berlin, in an attempt to extort the vehicle's plans from him. Instead, inspired by a famous masked hero of the early west, The Ghost Rider (which was also published by Magazine Enterprises), he put on a skin-tight costume with a scarlet A emblazoned on the chest, hopped into The Starjet, and attempted to rescue the hapless hostage — but quickly found it was too late. Declaring to the perpetrator of the deed that "No man can be complacent while such as you are bent on enslaving all Mankind", he swore to prevent future oppression as The Avenger.
The six-page story in which all this happened was written by Gardner Fox (Hawkman, The Sandman and much, much more) and drawn by Dick Ayers (who later drew The Human Torch for Marvel Comics and Jonah Hex for DC). Fox and Ayers also wrote and drew the other three stories in the issue. Fox continued to write the series for the duration of its short run, but starting with the second issue, the artist was Bob Powell (Jet Powers, Mr. Mystic).
It may be that publisher Vincent Sullivan (who, incidentally, years earlier, had drawn the cover of the first issue of Detective Comics, the title where Batman was introduced) was responding to the success of the Superman TV show, which had begun in 1953. Or maybe he simply thought the time was ripe for the genre to make a comeback.
He was a little bit ahead of the times — despite the fact that several superheroes were introduced in 1954 and '55 (Captain Flash; J'onn J'onzz, Manhunter from Mars; a brief revival of Phantom Lady, to name but a few), it remained for DC's 1956 introduction of The Flash to spark renewed interest in the long underwear guys.
The Avenger lasted four issues, the last dated Aug-Sept 1955. The first was reprinted in 1964 by entrepreneur Israel Waldman, who (not being a great respecter of intellectual property) was also responsible for unauthorized reprints of Dollman, The Blue Beetle, Super Rabbit and many others. After that, the character was forgotten.
Decades later, the rights to all the Magazine Enterprises characters, as well as those of several other small publishers, were acquired by AC Comics (Sentinels of Justice). In recent years, AC has reprinted several of the Ayers and Powell stories, and also used him as a guest star in Femforce and other titles that feature present-day adventures of old-time heroes. He's even appeared once or twice alone, under his own logo. Stardom will probably continue to elude him, but he's no longer quite a mere Cold War period piece.