REAL AMERICAN #1: THE BRONZE TERRORMedium: Comic books
Published by: Lev Gleason
First Appeared: 1941
Creator: Dick Briefer
Please contribute to its necessary financial support.
Amazon.com or PayPal
The superheroes of the early 1940s were a diverse lot economically, from the millionnaire Batman to the unemployed Mr. Scarlet. They were also diverse gender-wise, with the women represented by superstars like Wonder Woman all the way down to obscuros like The Blue Lady. There were
kid superheroes, like Golden Lad and even animals like Bulletdog. But there was still a strong tendency for them to be white guys. Even an apparent Mexican like El Castigo was really a white guy. The first non-Caucasian superhero didn't come along until more than three years after Superman touched off the superhero fad.
The Bronze Terror, probably the first non-white superhero in U.S. comics, was only tied for the honor in the all-American division. The other "first", Nelvana of the Nothern Lights, came from a Canadian publisher. Nelvana was an Inuit (Eskimo) demi-god, whereas The Terror was a full-blooded Apache and the son of a chief, no less. When that chief, the elderly White Falcon, was falsely accused of murder and thrown in jail, son Jeff Dixon, who had been reflecting glory on the tribe with his stellar career at a midwestern university, and had recently become a full-fledged lawyer, returned to help. But it wasn't as Jeff that he saved the day. Instead, he wore the guise of The Bronze Terror.
In this persona, Jeff concealed his true identity by wearing a white mask that resembled a human skull. Where he got it, whether or not it was real, and what significance, if any, it had, weren't mentioned. If the multi-feathered headdress he wore (which wasn't present in that first adventure) signified personal achievement, as is traditional among Native American tribes that use feathered headdresses, that wasn't mentioned either. Also not mentioned was why he chose to use the word "terror" as part of his superhero identity just like The Black Terror (another white guy, by the way, despite the name). (The "bronze" part was easy to figure out. Instead of a dark brownish-red, or even dull crimson, like ACG's Teepee Tim, he and his girlfriend, Lilly, were colored with golden-tan skin.)
Whatever the reason for calling himself "Terror", he first appeared in Daredevil Comics #2 (April, 1941), which was also the issue where Whirlwind, Pat Patriot and a couple of others debuted. The Bronze Terror's series wasn't directly named after him, but displayed self-consciousness about its primacy by being headlined "Real American #1". Otherwise, racial awareness in comic books at the time was about on the level of Dell's series about Walter Lantz's Li'l Eight Ball. The publisher was Lev Gleason (Crimebuster, Crime Does Not Pay).
The Bronze Terror was created by cartoonist Dick Briefer, whose better-known creations include Prize Publications' (The Black Owl, The Green Lama) Frankenstein and Fox's (The Blue Beetle, The Sorceress of Zoom) Rex Dexter of Mars. Under the pseudonym "Dick Hamilton", he was also responsible for Target & the Targeteers at Novelty Press (Blue Bolt, Sgt. Spook).
Briefer continued to handle the character, as he settled down to the business of fighting the oppressors of his people. He continued to do so for about a year. His last appearance, like those of most of the heroes in the Daredevil back pages, was in #11 (June, 1942). And the white-skinned superheroes went on.