THE HUMAN BOMBMedium: Comic books
Published by: Quality Comics
First Appeared: 1941
Creator: Paul Gustavson
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Following the extreme success of Superman, American comic books were quickly overrun with superheroes. Most had either generic super powers (super strength, ability to fly, etc., like Captain Triumph) or none at all (like The Star Spangled Kid), but some of their powers were fairly imaginative. Kid Eternity could bring the dead back to assist him, Aquaman could talk to fish, The Human Torch could burst into flame at will Some of their powers were fairly useless — for example, The Thin Man could make himself flat enough to slip under doors, and Hydroman could turn himself
into a puddle of water and back again. Some were downright dangerous, such as The Comet's ability to kill a person just by looking at him. The Human Bomb's power fell into that category. If he touched anything bare-handed, it exploded.
The Bomb was created by cartoonist Paul Gustavson (The Angel, The Jester). He debuted in Police Comics #1 (August, 1941), where Plastic Man, Firebrand and Phantom Lady were also introduced. The publisher was Quality Comics, which also published Blackhawk.
His real name was Roy Lincoln, and he was a chemist working with his father, an explosives expert, on a powerful new formula called 27-QRX. Nazi spies broke in, trying to steal the powerful explosive for the Germans. The father was killed in the fracas, but Roy succeeded in keeping them from getting the chemical — by swallowing it. He expected it to kill him, but instead it made his hands glow; and when he hit one of the assailants, the man exploded. Fortunately, he found he could block his new power by wearing asbestos gloves. (After the danger of asbestos was established, the gloves were retconned into a substance called "fibro-wax".)
Following the trends of the time, Roy made himself an evil-bashing costume. In his case, it consisted of a standard hazardous materials suit, with the gloves easily removable so he could blow things up. The fact that he wore the gloves in everyday life should have been a clue to his secret identity, but nobody ever picked up on it.
He got a comedy-relief sidekick in the 15th issue (January, 1943), when a guy named Hustace Throckmorton needed an emergency transfusion, and Roy was the only one available with the right blood type. Hustace got a super power to match Roy's, but his was in his feet instead of his hands. Hustace was joined six issues later by three youngsters, Montague McGurk (who shaved his head and was therefore nicknamed "Curly"), Swordo (who apparently had no other name) and Red Rogers (the token female). Collectively, they called themselves The Bombardiers.
The Human Bomb continued to fight Nazis, Japs and ordinary criminals until #58 (September, 1946), after which he was replaced by a teenage humor star named Honeybun. He wasn't seen again for more than a quarter of a century, by which time DC Comics had acquired Quality's long-defunct characters.
In Justice League of America #107 (October, 1973), the JLA and their pals, The Justice Society of America, explored a parallel world in which the Nazis won World War II, and a small group of superheroes, including the Bomb, had gotten together as resistance fighters. The others (Uncle Sam, The Ray, Doll Man, The Black Condor and Phantom Lady) were also Quality Comics characters. It took a couple of issues, but in the end, The Freedom Fighters, as they called themselves, with the help of their new-found allies, finally ousted the invaders.
The Freedom Fighters got their own comic with a cover date of April, 1976. Rather than deal with the aftermath of the World War II scenario, they opened the series by emigrating to the JLA's world. Crossing the dimensional barrier had the effect of "enhancing' his super power, if that's the right word — from then on, his whole body, not just his hands, was explosive, so he had to wear his protective suit all the time.
The Freedom Fighters title lasted a mere 15 issues, but it did establish The Human Bomb and his cohorts as permanent fixtures in the DC Universe. Later, he, like every other DC-owned superhero who operated during World War II, was incorporated into The All-Star Squadron. The Bomb is now retired and living in Florida, but still available for guest shots, mini-series and whatever other use is made of DC's hundreds of series-less superheroes.