L-r: Hy, El, Polly, Crispy. Artist: Sal Trapani.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Dell Comics
First Appeared: 1967
Creators: Don Arneson (writer) and Sal Trapani (artist)
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Marvel and DC Comics are arch-rivals when it comes to market share in the comic book industry. But they're capable of an amazing degree of cooperation when it comes to maintaining their shared position as the industry's leaders. One of the ways they cooperate is in maintaining a joint trademark on the word "superhero" — as if Charlton, Harvey, Archie, ACG and Gold Key, to name only a few of the dozens that used both the genre and the word back before they established their mutual legal …

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… hegemony over it, never existed — to say nothing of Dark Horse, Image and others that use the genre today and aren't permitted to use the word.

In fact, here's a Dell comic book that actually made the term its very title, long before Marvel and DC decided to sew up rights to it. This should serve as a beacon to anyone willing to attempt to withstand the mighty onslaught of their lawyers, and point out that the word was in general use, with nobody even attempting to prevent its use by others, even before Superman.

Not that using a generic title for the book was this comic's only oddity in nomenclature. The group of heroes who starred in it was referred to, even on most covers, as "The Fab Four". Even in January, 1967, the date of the first issue, that term was well understood to refer to The Beatles. Here, however, it referred to (in alphabetical order) Crispy (who could turn things super-cold — it was short for "cryogenics"), El (short for "electromagnetic" — he could emit X-rays, infrared and other forms of radiation), Hy ("hypersonic" — his powers had to do with sound waves) and Polymer Polly (who could fly, had super speed and resisted heat damage).

The Fab Four were actually androids, inhabited by the minds of teenagers Reb Ogelvie, Dan Boyd, Tom Dennis and Polly Wheeler, respectively. They'd been perusing the Hall of Heroes, which, besides the four androids, contained statues of Nukla, Toka the Jungle King and Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle (all heroes published by Dell in the recent past — missing were Frankenstein, Werewolf and Dracula, which may have embarrassed even Dell) when a convenient electrical accident gave them the power to project their minds into the 'droids at will.

The story was written by Don Arneson (who, in addition to Lobo, had done many movie and TV adaptations for Dell and Gold Key) and drawn by Sal Trapani (Metamorpho).

Arneson and Trapani continued to write and draw The Fab Four for the duration of their run, which was four issues. The last was dated June, 1967.


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Text ©2006-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Dell Comics.