DICK COLE, THE WONDER BOYMedium: Comic books
Published by: Novelty Press
First Appeared: 1940
Creator: Bob Davis
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partner, Robin the Boy Wonder, was just a descriptive phrase intended to make the character seem a little more special — not an actual part of his name. Nobody ever addressed Dick as "Wonder Boy" (no relation), nor did he maintain a secret identity and wear a skin-tight outfit with a big "W" across his chest. This hasn't stopped some modern enumerators of 1940s superheroes from listing him under that name and treating him as if he were just another member of the costumed crowd.
But he had a superhero-like back-story, having been raised to be practically perfect in every way like The Angel. He wasn't super-powered, per se, but was simply good at everything, like Mr. Terrific or Ozymandias from Watchmen. Given the parallels, he qualified as a plainclothes superhero, like Sparky Watts or Johnny Thunder — but he still wasn't properly called "Wonder Boy".
Whatever superhero status Dick had, he got by being left as an infant on the doorstep of Professor Blair of the Farr Military Academy. Blair saw this as an opportunity to apply his scientific genius to child raising, so the boy would develop to his full potential, not just physically but also intellectually and spiritually, with a keen sense of justice to accompany his great abilities. Aside from his full-time devotion to Dick's conventional upbringing, Blair applied technology in the form of dietary supplements and benign radiation (back when people were sure there was such a thing) to the project.
Many of Dick's boyhood adventures took place in and around the academy, in the form of sports and interpersonal conflicts, such as Crimebuster experienced late in his series, as his superhero persona was phased out. But Dick also sallied forth to do battle with crime and/or evil, as a proper comic book hero should.
He did this in 100 subsequent issues of Blue Bolt, with his final appearance there in #101 (October, 1949). From 1941-48, he was also a regular in 4 Most, where Novelty Press (his publisher) got extra mileage out of its most popular characters, such as Target & the Targeteers and boy inventor Edison Bell — its answer to DC's World's Finest Comics or All American's Comic Cavalcade. Starting with Blue Bolt #6 (November, 1940), he made frequent cover appearances. Between 1948 and 1950, he appeared in ten issues of his own title. He was created by cartoonist Bob Davis (The Chameleon), but others who handled the series include Al Fagaly (Super Duck), James Wilcox (Dolly O'Dare) and Jack Hearne (The Cadet).
It was in Blue Bolt vol. 2 #1 (whole #13, dated June 1941) that Dick first met Simba Karno, billed as his "double" despite the fact that they didn't resemble each other in the least. Simba had been raised scientifically just like Dick — the story even posited that the idea of doing so, floating in the ether, had undergone a cosmic accident and split in two, occurring to Professors Blair and Karno simultaneously. But Dr. Karno had brought Simba up to be evil rather than good, leading to a clash between the "doubles". But Simba's innate goodness won out in the end (tho it took until the following issue to do so), and the two became best friends. From then on Dick and Simba were partners in evil-bashing, tho Dick (the handsome, heroic-looking one, as opposed to Simba's brutish outward demeanor) continued to get top billing.
Dick Cole actually outlasted his publisher. In 1949, with Dick still coming out regularly in his own title, Novelty Press (a subsidiary of the company that did The Saturday Evening Post, where Hazel and Henry began) sold its comic book properties to comics cover impressario L.B. Cole (later the art director of Classics Illustrated). But Cole published only two issues of Dick's comic under his new company name, Star Comics (no relation to Marvel's 1980s juvenile imprint) before moving in other directions.