Red Rube. Artist: Ed Robbins.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: MLJ Comics
First Appeared: 1943
Creator: Ed Robbins
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As well remembered as they are nowadays, the 1940s superheroes of Archie Comics were a short-lived lot. The Comet, for example, one of the better known today, lasted less than a year …

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… and a half. Mr. Justice, one of their majors, held on not much longer. The entire lot of them were gone halfway through the decade; and by that time the only ones left were The Shield and The Black Hood, both confined to back pages.

Of dozens that flitted across the scene, the last new one introduced was Red Rube, who replaced The Web in Zip Comics #39 (August, 1943). The following issue, he began crowding Steel Sterling off the cover. By that time, Zip Comics, which had once sported serious do-gooders like Inferno the Fire Breather and Mr. Satan, was starting to fill up with the likes of Señor Banana and Chimpy. Red Rube reflected the new trend. With very few exceptions (such as Plastic Man and Super Rabbit), other superheroes took themselves more seriously than Red. Artist Bill Vigoda, who drew most of Red's stories (tho Ed Robbins is the one who created the character) was best known for his work on Archie, and he handled Red about the same way.

Before becoming a superhero, Reuben Reuben was an orphan boy, but one with a family history. In fact, the family had once had a castle not far from his orphanage, which he was unaware of until he ran away and took refuge in it. There, he met the ghosts of his ancestors, who, by an odd coincidence, were also named Reuben Reuben — every last one. They also had super powers; and so, once he'd hooked up with them, did he. By shouting the carnival workers' ancient call to battle, "Hey, Rube!", he was transformed into an adult hero, replete with strength, invulnerability and other superhero abilities. (But he doesn't seem to have had any real connection to carnivals.)

The similarities to Captain Marvel could not have been more blatant. He, too, was a young orphan; he, too, had a magic word that turned him into an adult superhero; and he, too, derived his powers from great heroes of the past. Even the mechanics of the transformation were similar — Red had a magic tornado that went "whoosh" and Cap had a magic lightning bolt that went "boom". And they both wound up in media jobs — Reuben's cub reporter gig parallelled Billy Batson's work in radio. The main difference seems to have been quality and popularity. Captain Marvel's was such that he long outlasted the vast majority of other superheroes. Red Rube's sustained him only about a year.

Zip Comics folded with its 47th issue (Summer, 1944), and that was the end of Red Rube. He was never revived, a very rare situation for a superhero owned by a company that's still in the comic book business. Even in the 1966 Mighty Crusaders #4, where practically all of them made a walk-on, Red Rube joined Mr. Satan, Captain Sprocket and Super Duck in sitting it out.

In fact, his post-series obscurity may be one of his most distinctive features.


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Text ©2005-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Archie Comics.