The Pirana in his element. Artist: Jack Sparling


Original Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Harvey Comics
First Appeared: 1966
Creators: Otto Binder (writer) and Jack Sparling (artist)
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With the exception of a few Black Cat reprints in the early 1960s, Harvey Comics, which mostly stuck to its tried-and-true "kid with quirk" formula (e.g., Wendy, Little Dot), was a late entrant into that decade's superhero trend. When the company did embrace it, in 1966, it was with a plethora of short-lived titles that …

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… stands today as an oddball blip in the medium's history. Masterminded by Joe Simon, whose contemporary work included Prez and The Geek, it consisted of a mixture of '50s reprints such as The Three Rocketeers and Dynamite Joe, with new, offbeat heroes such as Jigsaw and Tiger Boy.

The Pirana debuted in Thrill-O-Rama #2 (September, 1966), the first issue of which had featured reprints from the company's 1957-58 title The Man in Black. He was an undersea character along the lines of DC's Aquaman or Marvel's Sub-Mariner, but not a copy of either. He'd started out as Oceanography Institute researcher Edward Yates, who, offering himself as a guinea pig in an experiment designed to enable humans to live under water, found himself transformed so he could only live under water. One might think this a severe limitation to most useful activities, but apparently one man's crippling handicap is another man's super power. And so, with the help of his predatory fish friends Bara and Cuda (acquired in a text story in that issue), he went into the superhero business.

He came with a super villain, Generalissimo Brainstorm, who was at least as interesting as the hero himself. As the series opened, the generalissimo had recently been deposed as dictator of an unspecified country. He still had his minions, however, whom he ordered around by telepathy, enforcing it with mental domination. He was also a tactical genius. His mental activity was accompanied by crackles and sparks around his head, which were capable of powering a radio.

The whole shebang was created by writer Otto Binder and artist Jack Sparling. Binder's many co-creations range from Kid Eternity to Merry, Girl of 1,000 Gimmicks. Sparling's include Claire Voyant and Tiger Girl.

Like most of that 1960s Harvey line, The Pirana didn't last long. In fact, he was gone by the end of the year — Thrill-O-Rama ended with its third issue (December, 1966), and with it, both Pirana and Generalissimo Brainstorm.


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Text ©2007 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Harvey Comics.