SPYMANOriginal Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Harvey Comics
First Appeared: 1966
Creators: Jim Steranko and George Tuska
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old Black Cat stories, stuck with its traditional child stars such as Little Lotta and Baby Huey. But by the middle of the decade, when Batman became such a success on TV, even Harvey succumbed to the allure of the guys in tights. They hired Joe Simon (Young Romance, Prez) to package a new line, aimed at more experienced readers, with superheroes such as Jigsaw and Jack Q. Frost prominent in the mix. Among the new heroes introduced as part of the line was Spyman.
Spyman debuted in Spyman #1, which Harvey published with a cover date of September, 1966. (The blurb "Top Secret Adventures" appeared over his logo, leading some bibliographies to record that as the title, but "Spyman" was the name given in the indicia.) As the name (as well as the blurb) implies, it owed as much to the action-packed international intrigue of James Bond (yes, relation, but it wasn't very convincing) and the genre he popularized, as it did to the genre it was ostensibly a part of. Its contemporaries of the same cross-genre type include T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and Charlton Comics' Peacemaker.
The hero started out as Johnny Chance, who worked for an outfit that called itself Liberty. This may have been intended as one of those acronym-named agencies that were so popular at the time, but if it was, no expansion of the acronym was ever given. Or the name may have referred to the location of its headquarters, which went down for five stories underneath the Statue of Liberty. Naturally, tourists never suspected, despite the continual coming and going of helicopters through the torch. Not even when anti-aircraft missiles were launched right through the statue itself.
One day, Johnny was saving America from missile saboteurs, when the radioactive core of an atomic bomb happened to disintegrate his left hand. It was replaced with a much more useful prosthetic full of gadgets. With his electro-robot hand (as it was called) Johnny, now code-named Spyman, could record and transmit sounds and photographs, inspect things with X-rays, emit electro-blasts that could render an opponent unconscious or shatter an engine block, or emit "opaque rays" that would "obscure the presence of light".
Spyman #1 is notable for containing the first published comics work of cartoonist Jim Steranko, who, within the next couple of years, would make himself a spectacular reputation for his work on Marvel Comics' superhero/spy hybrid, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Steranko wrote the first issue and pencilled its first page, which included a diagram of the hand that was reprinted over and over. That page was inked by George Tuska (Buck Rogers, Scorchy Smith), who also did all the rest of the Spyman art in that issue. Others who worked on the series include Otto Binder (Captain Marvel) and Dick Ayers (Ghost Rider).
Harvey's '60s foray into adventure comics wasn't a notable success — in fact, Spyman was one of its longest-lasting heroes. The final issue was #3, dated February, 1967, and Spyman was never seen again.