Burp sprouts an appendage for Nazi hunting. Artist: Jack Cole.

BURP THE TWERP, THE SUPER SON-OF-A-GUN

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Quality Comics
First Appeared: 1941
Creator: "Ralph Johns" (Jack Cole)
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Comic book anthologies of the early 1940s were thick — usually 68 pages, twice the size of today's comics, at least until wartime paper shortages and subsequent rising costs necessitated slimming down. There was plenty of room for variety. Besides the main feature, usually a superhero, they could have non-super adventurers like Lance O'Casey, comic strip reprints like Dixie Dugan, detectives like Slam Bradley, and even funny guys like Genius Jones or Hayfoot Henry. Quality Comics (Miss America, Blackhawk) …

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… had an advantage over the other publishers. They could call on design and humor genius Jack Cole (The Claw, Midnight) to fill that category. He did two such series there intended for no purpose other than to get laughs: the Asian "deflective detective" Wun Cloo, and this one — Burp the Twerp, the Super Son-of-a-Gun.

Burp and Wun were both one-page guys. Cole did them under the name "Ralph Johns". Comics bibliographers often overlook the fillers, which is why Henry Boltinoff's work is so poorly documented. For a long time, Burp's adventures were no better documented than those of Captain Tootsie. Recently, however, it's been established that Burp's first appearance was in Police Comics #2 (September, 1941), where the cover feature was Firebrand. This wasn't quite early enough to edge out The Red Tornado as first of the superhero parodies, but the idea wasn't yet "old hat" when he came along.

Burp had a costume, just like all the other superheroes. His consisted of an old-fashioned two-piece men's swimsuit, plus hard-soled leather shoes. And he had super-powers, too — in fact, he had all the super powers. Whatever anyone else could do, he could do, and more besides. Everything except think clearly and behave sanely.

Burp was a regular in Police Comics until 1946, after which he'd pop up occasionally in other Quality titles for the rest of the '40s. Then he went dormant in the '50s, and stayed dormant when DC Comics acquired properties from Quality in 1956. He's been dormant ever since, with one exception.

Burp is sometimes cited as a "pal" of Plastic Man, also a superhero and funny guy created by Jack Cole, at least when any modern writer cites him at all. Actually, Burp and Plas have only met twice. The first was in Police Comics #23 (October, 1943), where Burp was interviewed by a reporter. He bragged how much tougher he was than Plastic Man, then fainted when the "real" Plas showed up.

The second was in DC's Secret Origins #30 (September, 1988), which dealt with the company's stretchable superheroes, Plas and Elongated Man. In Plas's part, written by Roy Thomas (The Invaders) and drawn by Stephen deStefano ('Mazing Man), Burp was a running gag. There, Plas did the opposite, and expressed trepidation about offending him.

That was Burp's only appearance since the Quality Comics days.

— DDM

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Text ©2008-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.