THE EYE SEESMedium: Comic Books
Published by: Centaur Publications
First Appeared: 1939
Creator: Frank Thomas
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American comic books had some bizarre superheroes back in the 1940s. The Bouncer, whose super powers included the fact that the harder you knocked him down, the higher he'd bounce, was almost ordinary by comparison to some of them, and the same publisher's Green Mask, who anticipated The Hulk by becoming a super guy when he got angry, was about on the same level. The only reason Marvel's Human Torch (who could burst into flame at will) and Quality Comics' Plastic Man (who could twist his body practically
inside-out) aren't generally regarded as bizarre is, as often as they're seen and referred to, one gets used to them. Not so with Speed Centaur, who was an actual centaur, living in New York City and functioning as a superhero.
And then there's The Eye — a giant, flying, disembodied visual organ, which gloated shamelessly as it thwarted evildoers even tho it wasn't attached to a mouth. That one just might take the cake.
"The Eye Sees", as its series was called, debuted in the December, 1939 issue of Keen Detective Funnies. That was the 16th issue of the title, but the peculiar numbering system of its publisher, Centaur Publications, designated it vol. 2 #12. The cartoonist who created it, Frank Thomas, later created The Owl for Dell Comics, and still later worked on syndicated comics. The master Disney animator of that name was a completely different Frank Thomas.
The Eye missed being properly referred to as simply a flying eyeball by never quite being seen floating freely, or shown from behind. It seemed to have skin, even lashes, attached, and was sometimes surrounded by what looked like yellow fire. It could have been interpreted as a giant humanoid, peeping through a flaming hole in the air. No explanation was ever given as to where it came from or what made it what it was. It was just there, turning up from time to time to help a good guy and/or hinder a bad one, neither of which would be seen in subsequent stories. It talked (again, without a mouth) like an omnipotent, omnibenevolent being, with a strong flair for melodrama. Was it supposed to be the Eye of God? Not stated, tho most stories began with lengthy captions alleging that time and distance meant nothing to it.
"The Eye Sees" continued in Keen Detective Funnies until the title folded with its 24th issue (September, 1940). Then Centaur published two issues of Detective Eye, dated November and December of the same year. The first of them might just as well have been another issue of Keen Detective, with a single "Eye" story in the lead position, backed up with Air Man, The Masked Marvel, and others from the older title. In the second, about half the space was occupied by the title character.
After that, Centaur was through with The Eye. And so, apparently was everyone else for the next few decades. Even when Malibu Comics, a minor player in the 1990s comics market, tried to establish its own superhero universe with a short-lived revival of The Arrow, Amazing-Man, Mighty Man and other Centaur properties. The Eye was there in a manner of speaking, but he was rendered far too normal to be "really" The Eye.