Wildcat crashes in on some crooks. Artist: Irwin Hasen.

WILDCAT

Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1942
Creators: Bill Finger (writer) and Irwin Hasen (artist)
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By 1942, going on four years after the debut of Superman, American comic books were so full of superheroes, they were starting to look a little …

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… in-bred. A case in point is DC Comics' Wildcat, who (like The Red Tornado) was inspired to become one by hearing about Green Lantern. In the same issue, Wildcat himself inspired Little Boy Blue & the Blue Boys.

This occurred in the first issue of Sensation Comics, dated January, 1942. Wonder Woman was the cover-featured star, but the back pages, too, were filled with The Gay Ghost, The Black Pirate and others who assumed alternate identities to battle evildoers. It was in this crowd that Wildcat was found.

Wildcat was Ted Grant, an up-and-coming young boxer, who unknowingly fell in with a pair of crooked promoters. They fixed a championship match by slipping a poisoned needle into Ted's glove. It was only intended to weaken Ted's opponent, but they misjudged the dosage and killed him. Ted was blamed; and what's more, the promoters tried to kill him to keep his side of the story from coming out. It was then that Ted heard talk about Green Lantern and decided to create the Wildcat persona. After clearing his name, he kept his dual identity, adventuring as Wildcat in each monthly issue of Sensation for years to come.

Wildcat was the creation of writer Bill Finger and artist Irwin Hasen. Finger (rhymes with "zinger", not "linger") probably had at least as much to do with the creation of Batman as creator-of-record Bob Kane; and over at Marvel, was responsible for the first All Winners Squad story. Hasen did several other DC characters, and also co-created The Fox for the company now known as Archie Comics. He later became famous for his work on Dondi.

Unlike some of the more high-profile superheroes, Wildcat mostly stayed in the back pages of Sensation Comics. His best known outside forays were in a couple of issues of All Star Comics, where he twice became a replacement member of The Justice Society of America. In #24 (Spring, 1945), he and Mr. Terrific (another of Sensation's back page boys) replaced Doctor Fate and The Sandman; and in #27 (Winter, 1945-6) he replaced The Atom. Each stint lasted exactly one issue. He also appeared in a few early issues of Comic Cavalcade, an extra-thick comic that anthologized some of DC's most popular characters, but as in Sensation, never made it onto the cover.

But he stayed in those Sensation Comics back pages for a long time, at least compared to most of the 1940s long underwear guys. By the time he made his final appearance, in the 90th issue (June, 1949), only he and Wonder Woman herself were left from the original lineup.

During the 1960s, all the JSA members, even walk-ons, were revived for irregular appearances, mostly as rotating members in annual crossovers with The Justice League of America. In addition, Wildcat co-starred with Batman in several issues of The Brave & the Bold. According to his up-dated back-story, as Ted Grant, he'd eventually become world heavyweight champion, then retired to run a gym — where he taught several younger superheroes, including Black Canary, Batman and Starman, how to box.

He was on hand in 1973, when the JSA got a regular series again, and has been seen frequently since, often in company with the JSA. In the 1980s, a protegé of Ted's, Yolanda Montez (daughter of a formidable boxing opponent, who later became a close friend), put on a similar costume and assumed the same nom du superhero. She became involved with Infinity Inc., most members of which were sons, daughters or otherwise successors of JSA members. She was killed off in the mid 1990s, in a fight with the arch-villain Eclipso, and unlike many of her kind, hasn't yet gotten better.

The original Wildcat is still kicking around the DC Universe, and available for guest appearances, specials, etc. — just like hundreds if not thousands of others that used to hold down regular DC series.

— DDM

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Text ©2003-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.