Avenger vs. his arch-enemy, Gargoyle. Artist: either Wallace Wood or Sid Check.

SPACE DETECTIVE

Original medium: Comic books
Published by: Avon Periodicals
First Appeared: 1951
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From Marvel Comics' Masked Raider (no relation), who first appeared in 1939, to DC's El Diablo (1970), comic books abound with western heroes sporting secret identities. But in fiction of the future, secret identities are less popular. Aside from Space Ranger, few space heroes with secret identities have achieved much prominence in comics. Avon Periodicals' title Space Detective never was very prominent, but it did have a star who kept his identity a secret. But that wasn't the only unusual thing about Space Detective, which …

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… started with a July, 1951 cover date. What was almost unheard-of was the fact that "Space Detective" wasn't the character's alter ego. In fact, the phrase was seldom even used in the comic, and never, outside of the title itself, on the cover.

Rod Hathaway was one of those wealthy young men who take to adventuring under phoney names, like Green Arrow, Firebrand, The Whip and any number of others. The name he chose was Avenger (no relation) (them neither). The definite article was seldom used — he was just Avenger, not The Avenger (which, by the way, hadn't yet been used in comics without an adjective). In everyday life, he was known as a philanthropist, but not for anything action-oriented.

His secretary, Dot, also functioned as Rod's assistant in his Avenger role. In the tradition of The Black Terror's Tim and Magno's Davey, she used a normal-sounding first name as her superhero sidekick monicker. Unlike them, it wasn't her own name that she used. Avenger's sidekick was called Teena. Like many sidekicks, especially female ones, Teena sometimes needed rescuing. But when that happened, it was often Avenger's own faulty planning that created the necessity.

Rod's mysteries included the creator of the character. It's not unusual for comics published before the 1960s, when including credits started to become the usual practice, to be scripted by an unknown writer. But it's often possible to identify the artist by his style. In this case, however, the artwork is credited by many comics bibliographers to penciller Wallace Wood (Dynamo, Cannon) and inker Joe Orlando (The Inferior Five, Swing with Scooter). Others say no, it's the work of Wood draw-alike Sid Check (who worked for Charlton, Harvey and others, including, of course, Avon).

With or without secret identities, the space heroes of the 1950s were often short-lived, as were most titles from Avon, which was also responsible for Taanda, White Princess of the Jungle and a version of Space Mouse that wasn't related to the later character who used that name. This one lasted four issues, ending with a cover date of July, 1952. Years later, Rod fell into the hands of entrepreneur Israel Waldman, who reprinted many properties he didn't own, including Phantom Lady, Doll Man and Wambi the Jungle Boy. Waldman put out two issues of Space Detective under his "IW Enterprises" imprint.

After that, Rod was gone.

— DDM

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Text ©2008-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Avon Periodicals.