TARGET AND THE TARGETEERSMedium: Comic books
Published by: Novelty Press
First Appeared: 1940
Creator: Dick Hamilton
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In the early days of the comic book industry, very few of the thousands of original characters offered by dozens of publishers appeared in comics with their own names as titles. Of those
that did — The Human Torch, Fighting Yank, Spy Smasher etc. — a majority got there by appearing first in anthologies, then letting their popularity build until they could support titles of their own. But here's a case where the name was used first for a continuing comic book, and only later was a character to match it introduced. It shared this trait with Centaur Publications' Stars & Stripes and Lev Gleason's The Silver Streak.
Target Comics was the first one published by Novelty Press, the comic book imprint of Curtis Publishing, which did The Saturday Evening Post. It debuted with a cover date of February, 1940, sporting such stars as Bull's-Eye Bill, Lucky Byrd and (its only superhero) The White Streak. Material was supplied by Funnies, Inc., a packager also responsible for many of Marvel's early characters. Creators included Bill Everett (Sub-Mariner), Joe Simon (Captain America) and Tarpé Mills (Miss Fury).
It wasn't until the tenth issue (November, 1940) that The Target himself was introduced, and only in the 11th did The Targeteers come along. They were the creation of cartoonist Dick Hamilton, who, under the name "Dick Briefer", was the man behind the Prize Comics version of Frankenstein, Lev Gleason's The Bronze Terror and Fox's Rex Dexter.
The Target was Niles Reed, a metallurgist who also worked as a spy for the U.S. government. He created the alter ego for the purpose of springing his brother Bill (framed for murder and about to be executed) from jail. Bill was killed in the fracas, but Niles, protected by a costume made bulletproof by flexible metal fibers, got away unharmed. He avenged himself on those responsible for Bill's wrongful conviction, then continued using the costume to fight crime.
The following issue, his friends and business associates, Dave Brown and Tom Foster (who had themselves been orphaned by criminals), became his two sidekicks, The Targeteers. They wore red and blue versions of Niles's yellow costume, tho which wore which depended on the whim of the colorist. The tempting targets on the front served to draw fire from bad guys, which couldn't hurt the outfits' wearers. Their secretary, Tina, was in on their secret identities, and would often help out or serve as a hostage, as the plot required.
Aside from Hamilton/Briefer, creators who worked on the trio over the years included Sid Greene (The Atom), Bob Wood (Firefly), Joe Certa (J'onn J'onzz, Manhunter from Mars) and Mickey Spillane (Mike Danger — after whom Spillane modeled his more famous creation, Mike Hammer).
Target & the Targeteers were among the longer-lasting superheroes of the 1940s. But even they eventually succumbed to changing times. Their last appearance was in Target Comics #95. Just as the title had started without them, it went on for another ten issues, with other stars.
In recent years, they've been brought back by AC Comics (Femforce), which makes it their business to see that no superhero is left behind.