Pat shows her tender side. Artist; Jill Elgin.

PAT PARKER, WAR NURSE

Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Harvey Comics
First Appeared: 1941
Creators: Unknown writer, and Jill Elgin, artist
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As adventure comic books proliferated during the late 1930s and early '40s, there was a growing need to fill them up with adventurers. Every type of fictional adventurer found in America, found a place in comic books. The nurse as hero had already been tried out in comics, with Myra North. And with heroes in all media increasingly turning their attention toward the war in Europe, even before America entered the hostilities, there was plenty of scope for adventure in the field of medicine. Brookwood Comics, an off-brand publisher, launched Pat Parker, War Nurse, in Speed Comics #13 (May, 1941). Also debuting in …

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… that issue was Captain Freedom, a Nazi basher in the mold of Captain America (who had been on the scene himself for only a couple of months). The cover feature was Shock Gibson.

With #14, Harvey Comics, which later put out such titles as Casper the Friendly Ghost and Richie Rich, took over as the title's publisher. Apparently, they thought the possibility of dealing with saboteurs and black marketeers wasn't quitte enough for a medicine-oriented female comic book hero. What she needed was a superhero mask and costume. In #15 (Novermber, 1941) she announced an intention to create a secret identity as War Nurse, making a nice teaser for the next issue, and in #16 (January, 1942), she went into action as War Nurse.

This sort of puts her in the elite category, including heroes as prominent as The Black Cat and as obscure as Madame Strange, of pre-Wonder Woman superhero women. She did make an appearance before Wondy's December, 1941 debut — but it sort of doesn't, because she didn't have a War Nurse adventure until after that milestone was past. Call it a tie.

Both aspects of Pat Parker, War Nurse — the adventuring war nurse she was at first and the one who also maintained a superhero persona, were created by that most prolific of comic book writers, unknown. The art was by Jill Elgin, whose other credits are sparse but not quite nonexistent. She was also involved with The Twinkle Twins for the same publisher. Elgin was also the co-creator, at least, of Pat's supporting characters, The Girl Commandos.

Pat may or may not be tied with Wondy, but The Girl Commandos put her in the record books less ambiguously. Depending on how loose your definitions are, they may be the first all-female superhero group. They consisted of Pat's pals, Ellen Billings; Penelope Kirk; Mei Ling and Tanya (whose last name doesn't seem to be easily found). They didn't wear masks and didn't seem very scrupulous about maintaining secret identities, but they did wear costumes and function as a team. The Girl Commandos were introduced in Speed #26 (April, 1943).

Pat and the girls remained in action for the duration of the war, and then some Their last appearance was in Speed #42 (March, 1946). Jill Elgin drew all of their adventures. Speed Comics itself lasted only until #44.

— DDM

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Text ©2009 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Harvey Comics.