Wasting time with Stuntman. Artists: Simon & Kirby.


Original Medium: Comic books
Published by: Harvey Comics
First Appeared: 1946
Creators: Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
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During World War II, when American comic books were full of superheroes, some of the best superheroes, including The Sandman, Manhunter and Captain America, were made by the team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. In later years, their attention turned to post-war adventures of former war heroes, such as Boy Commandos; western heroes like Bullseye; and bringing …

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… entirely new genres to comic books, as they did in Young Romance. But they kept on creating new superheroes. Their Stuntman debuted from Harvey Comics (Shock Gibson, Wendy the Good Little Witch) with a cover date of May, 1946.

When the series opened, Fred Drake was an aerialist, performing for The Bandmaster Circus. The Flying Apollos, stars of the team he worked with, were murdered as part of an extortion scheme, intended to force the sale of the circus to an unknown party acting through a sleazy intermediary. Chasing a suspect, Fred ran into Don Daring, a movie star and amateur detective, who happened to look exactly like him. With the aerialist gig no longer viable, Fred was out of work, and accepted the actor's offer of a job as his secret stunt double.

Later, Fred wore his circus outfit (which was the basic design of superhero suits as far back as Superman himself), with the addition of a mask, in another attempt to catch the killer. Doing so, he also rescued Don Daring (who had been following a false lead) and his co-star, Sandra Sylvan, from meeting the same fate as the Apollos. A reporter covering the incident overheard the word "stuntman" and, as happened with Captain Marvel, Captain Klutz and others, that became the hero's name. Afterward, Sandra became a point in one of those two-person triangles superheroes so often get into, but since she didn't even know of Fred's existence, a more complicated one than usual.

Stuntman was as high-quality a product as readers expected of Simon and Kirby, but the times weren't right for a new superhero to succeed. He lasted only two regular issues, but a third was printed in reduced size, without color, just to help fill out subscriptions. That third issue, which had no regular distribution, is now a rare collector's item.

One last new Stuntman story appeared in the back pages of Green Hornet Fights Crime #39 (May, 1948), but his origin story was reprinted in Black Cat #9 (January, 1948). A feature from his back pages, Boy Explorers, got its own title, but that was even less successful — it lasted only one issue before going the black-and-white, subscribers-only route.

In the middle of the following decade, a fantasy/horror title, Thrills of Tomorrow, was devoted mostly to Stuntman reprints in its last two issues. #s 19 and 20 (February and April, 1955) reprinted both regular issues of his title. After that, it was oblivion for many years, until, like The Avenger, Miss Victory and any number of other defunct superheroes, he was picked up by AC Comics (Femforce).


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Text ©2008 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Harvey Entertainment.