Mr. America with unidentified felon. Artist: Bernard Baily.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1938
Creators: Ken Fitch (writer) and Bernard Baily (artist)
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In 1938, when Superman debuted in Action Comics #1, superheroes were far from having become "the thing" in U.S. comic books. So the only other character in that issue, that could even …

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… loosely be considered a part of that genre, was Zatara the Magician. The rest of that issue's action heroes were relatively ordinary guys, non-powered and plain-dressing, like Pep Morgan, Chuck Dawson, and the longest-lasting of the lot, Tex Thomson (later, often spelled "Thompson").

Tex was a Texas oil millionnaire, and thus free from the necessity of working a regular job. Since he could do what he liked all day, he chose a life of adventure, foiling spies, saboteurs and other criminals. One companion in adventure was the immensely strong Gargantua T. Potts, a stereotyped black man along the lines of Captain Marvel's Steamboat, Moon Mullins's Mushmouth, or Asbestos. Another was a short, fat, bald man named Bob Dailey. They were all created by writer Ken Fitch (who later wrote the opening story of Hourman; and still later, under the name "William Waugh", that of Johnny Dynamite) and artist Bernard Baily (The Spectre, Mark Merlin).

Fitch and Baily were still with the character three years later, when he underwent a change that made him more viable in the early '40s comic book market, and established the name he's best remembered by today. In the 33rd issue (February, 1941), he took a ship to Europe, keeping an eye on refugee supplies it was carrying. The ship was blown up by Nazis, and Tex was presumed dead. But he turned up alive in Portugal, swearing vengeance against such fifth columnists. When he returned to America, he assumed the persona of Mr. America, one of those guys like The Shield and Captain Freedom, whose superhero costumes are based on the American flag. As part of the disguise, he dyed his blond hair black. He wasn't one of those high-power heroes like The Human Bomb or Amazing-Man, but he did have a little more than just his fists and a lot of spunk — starting a few months after the identity shift, his cape doubled as a flying carpet.

A less "super" accoutrement was that he fought crime and/or evil with a whip. He also whistled "Yankee Doodle" during fights, to unnerve his mostly foreign-born enemies. He left feathers behind, with red, white and blue stripes, as a sign he'd been there.

By this time, Gargantua had fallen by the wayside (he'd been written out just as a femme fatale called Miss X was briefly written in). In fact, he scarcely even made a dent in comic book history. Bob stayed on as comic relief character. In #42 (November, 1941), Bob started superheroing alongside Mr. America, under the name Fatman (no relation). But despite the undisguisable build, it wasn't until the January issue that Tex figured out who Fatman was.

Mr. America's one appearance on the Action Comics cover was #52 (September, 1942), when Supes shared it with the title's other heroes, him, Vigilante, Zatara and Congo Bill. In #54 there was another identity shift, albeit not quite so momentous. Mr. America and Fatman met President Roosevelt, who got them into commando training and dubbed them "Americommandos". Tex used the name, but Bob remained Fatman. In fact, Bob gave up superheroing altogether two issues later.

Mr. America/Americommando lasted longer, but still ended before World War II did. His final appearance was in #74 (July, 1944). In the 75th issue, he was replaced by Hayfoot Henry, and it was decades before he was seen again. During the 1980s, he was part of The All-Star Squadron, which included practically every superhero DC Comics published during the '40s, and quite a few published by others.

In this retro-series, Americommando spent a lot of time in Germany, doing undercover work against the Nazis. He's been used in minor ways elsewhere in DC Universe continuity. His biggest use has been an unofficial one, mentioned only outside actual comic books. Writer Bob Rozakis ('Mazing Man) has alleged he was the mysterious Coordinator who organized Hero Hotline, which starred in a series Rozakis co-created and wrote in 1989.


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Text ©2007-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.