THE FACEMedium: Comic books
Published by: Columbia Comics
First Appeared: 1940
Creators: unknown writer and "Mart Bailey" (artist)
Please contribute to its necessary financial support.
Amazon.com or PayPal
Columbia Comics wasn't one of the publishing giants of the 1940s. It never had more than a single anthology title, Big Shot Comics, which was published on a mostly-monthly schedule starting
with a cover date of May, 1940. But that one was typical of comic book anthologies of the time. It was about half filled with reprints of newspaper comics such as Joe Palooka and Dixie Dugan; and the original material was dominated by superheroes. Introduced in that first issue were Skyman (a typical brightly-costumed basher of evil); Marvelo, Monarch of Magicians (a typical magician-superhero like Zatara or Mr. Mystic); and The Face — who wasn't typical of anything.
The Face was Tony Trent, an announcer for radio station WBSC (which probably didn't stand for "Big Shot Comics", at least if you'd asked him) who got fed up with the crime stories dominating the news he announced. In comic books of the time, that would be quite enough motive to take on a secret identity and start fighting crime on a freelance basis, but he was also motivated by the outrage of having witnessed a murder committed by men disguised as cops. Taking his cue from Batman, who chose his theme on the basis of criminals being a cowardly, superstitious lot, he used an extremely ugly fright mask to hide his real face. That, he figured, would suffice to startle his opponents, giving him an advantage by immobilizing them for a moment. The rest of his "Face" costume was an ordinary blue tuxedo. Only his secretary, Babs Walsh, was in on his secret.
The Face's artist-creator was Mart Bailey, who had earlier worked on several minor features at DC Comics, with writer Jerry Siegel (Superman). The writer was probably Gardner Fox (whose less stellar creations include Moon Girl and The Avenger), working on a basic idea from editor Vince Sullivan. Fox moved on shortly after, but Bailey stayed with the character to the end, writing many of the later stories.
You'd expect a schtick like his to grow steadily less useful, as bad guys grew accustomed to his bizarre appearance. And it did, eventually. But it was years before he finally gave it up, and by that time, superheroes had seriously waned in their dominance of the comic book industry. In Big Shot #62 (January, 1946), he was still billed as The Face. Starting in the February issue, he battled crime as plain old Tony Trent. By that time, he was considerably less prominent as a character. His last appearance in the Big Shot cover rotation had been more than a year before the switch. Afterward, he wasn't seen there at all.
As Tony Trent, he continued fighting crime as long as Big Shot lasted, i.e., until #104 (August, 1949). Along the way, he appeared in four issues of his own title — two (1941-42) as The Face and two (1948) as Tony Trent. Like so many '40s characters from companies too defunct to defend their copyrights, The Face was revived by ACE Comics, a small 1980s publisher. Not counting that, he, too, is long defunct.