Blue Bolt in action. Artist: Alan Mandel.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Novelty Press
First Appeared: 1940
Creator: Joe Simon
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As the 1940s opened, Comic books were probably the biggest growth area in the American publishing industry. It wasn't just pulp magazine publishers, such as Fiction House and the MLJ crowd, getting in on it — Curtis Publishing Company, best known for The Saturday Evening Post, also launched a comic book line, Novelty Press, in 1940. Novelty's early releases were packaged for them by Funnies, Inc., one of several studios producing ready-to-print features for start-up publishers. But the hero they chose for the lead position in their second anthology title had been done by Joe Simon, …

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… who by then was working full-time for Fox Feature Syndicate. Unable to keep the character going single-handed, Simon enlisted the aid of another Fox staffer from the second issue on, and that's how the legendary team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, later responsible for series as diverse as Fighting American, Boys' Ranch and Young Romance, came to be.

The character, Blue Bolt, was deemed strong enough to warrant naming the comic book after him. Blue Bolt debuted with a cover date of June, 1940, with the very first Simon & Kirby character the most prominent thing in it.

Blue Bolt started out as a college football star named Fred Parrish, who went through an origin story even more excruciating than that of most superheroes. First, he was struck by lightning during practice. Then he staggered into an airplane and flew off to get help, and got struck by lightning again. The plane crashed so hard, he wound up underground. Fortunately, a scientist named Bertoff had located his lab there, and revived the young athlete by treating him with that most up-to-date of medical miracles, radium. Back then, instead of causing cancerous lesions, pure, health-giving radiation was capable of bestowing super powers. Or maybe it was the lightning.

Bertoff also supplied Fred with his superhero suit and a handy lightning gun. Then he turned the newly named Blue Bolt loose on the local super villain, The Green Sorceress, whose subterranean army occupied the hero's attention for almost a year. After defeating them, he looked in on the surface via Bertoff's handy Telescreen, and saw that World War II had started. So he did his patriotic duty and went topside to duke it out with Nazis, despite the fact that the U.S. was still months away from entering the war. In vol. 2 no. 7, which was dated the same month as Pearl Harbor, a female version of him, Lois Blake, ventured underground to get powered up, and became his sidekick. But by that time he was no longer the cover feature — he'd been supplanted there by Dick Cole, Sgt. Spook and various other headliners.

Simon and Kirby stayed with Blue Bolt less than a dozen issues. Their successors included (among others) Dan Barry (Flash Gordon), Tom Gill (The Lone Ranger) and Mickey Spillane (who wrote plenty of comics before becoming famous for Mike Danger, or as the non-comics-reading world knows him, Mike Hammer). As superheroes fell out of favor with the comics-reading public, Blue Bolt metamorphosed into a plainclothes hero, with neither costume nor super powers.

In 1949, Novelty Press, responding to growing criticism of comic book violence, got out of the business and sold its assets (characters and reprintable artwork) to cover artist superstar L.B. Cole (Wiggles the Wonderworm, to cite a rare inside-page feature he was responsible for). Cole launched his own company, Star Comics, and made Blue Bolt the star of his own title again. But the renewed glory was short-lived. In 1951, taking advantage of the genre epitomized by EC's Tales from the Crypt, Cole changed the title to Blue Bolt Weird Tales of Terror, and the covers featured nothing but grisly horror.

After a couple of issues, all the series were ousted in favor of turning the insides to grisly horror as well, and Blue Bolt was gone for good.


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Text ©2006-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Novelty Press.