THE BIRD MANOriginal Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Fox Feature Syndicate
First Appeared: 1940
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Birdman is known to most cartoon fans as a late 1960s superhero whose importance is that he helped cement the trend at Hanna-Barbera for their new Saturday morning cartoons to be part of that genre, rather than funny animals, which had previously dominated the airwaves in that time slot. But back in the 1940s, The Bird Man was known to almost nobody as a typical occupant of the back pages of
a typical anthology comic book, who had practically no importance at all. Today, the significance of the '40s Bird Man, to the extent he has any, is merely that his name sounds like that of the '60s one.
The Bird Man, like Air Man from Centaur Publications (The Eye, Speed Centaur) was an attempt to vary the superhero theme by putting wings on the hero — but Hawkman, the original, was the only one to have any great success with that idea. He looked a lot like The Black Condor, but since the Condor debuted only a month after Bird Man, it's hard to see him as having been a template even for that.
This was typical of his publisher, Fox Feature Syndicate, which did characters just like Tarzan (e.g., Jo-Jo the Congo King,), characters "inspired" by Sheena (e.g., Rulah the Jungle Goddess), characters cloned from Archie (e.g., Junior), etc. In 1939, Fox's Wonder Man had been the very first sued out of existence as a blatant imitation of Superman.
The Bird Man made his first appearance in Fox's Weird Comics #1, dated April, 1940. The same issue launched Thor, another hero with a future namesake. The artwork was signed, but not so legibly that it's easy to say who created him. The first name is Arnold, but the last could be anything from "Inagos" to "Mazod". In any case, he doesn't seem to have done much else in comics, at least under that name. The Bird Man had no origin, per se, but merely a caption that identified him as having been descended from an unidentified "ancient Indian god". Despite this ancestry, he appeared Caucasian. His base of operations was the American Southwest.
He appeared in the first four issues of Weird Comics, then was dropped in favor of a new character named The Dart, a time-displaced ancient Roman superhero. The Bird Man was never seen again.