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LITTLE WISE GUYS

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Lev Gleason
First Appeared: 1942
Creator: Charles Biro
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From Reg'lar Fellers to The Get Along Gang, kid gangs are perennial favorites among cartoon creators. During the early 1940s, in American comic books, there was a certain tendency for them to take on contemporary characteristics of the medium, i.e., to …

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… associate themselves with superheroes. DC Comics had The Newsboy Legion and The Guardian, a gang-and-hero combo series, where neither was truly complete without the other. Marvel did Young Allies, where a couple of superheroes (kid sidekicks of Captain America and The Human Torch) were actual members. Over at Lev Gleason Publications (Crimebuster, Crime Does Not Pay), they didn't go quite so far. But the most prominent kid gang they published started out as supporting characters to Daredevil.

The Little Wise Guys were introduced in Daredevil Comics #13 (October, 1942), when the hero fought The Wizard (no relation) and his German-American Cult. There were four of them, called Meatball, Peewee, Scarecrow and Jock. Readers had little difficulty matching their names with their appearances — for example, Scarecrow was a tall, skinny, funny-looking guy, and Peewee was much younger than the rest.

Two issues later, they were back, but with a minor alteration — Meatball was killed off. After that, they were every-issue regulars. A new kid, Curly (bald, of course) joined in #16, and from then on they functioned as a quartet of sidekicks. Over at Harvey Comics, Captain Freedom had The Young Defenders. Daredevil had The Little Wise Guys.

The characters were created by cartoonist Charles Biro (Airboy, Steel Sterling), but many of their later adventures were at least partly done by Norman Maurer (Tor, One Million Years Ago). They grew more prominent as superheroes slid in the public esteem, to the point where Daredevil appeared only in the beginning of each story, to function like EC's Cryptkeeper and merely introduce the stories.

Starting with #70 (January, 1951), he didn't even do that. The Little Wise Guys were the sole stars of Daredevil Comics, leavened with an occasional back-up feature. The hero re-appeared briefly in #s 79 and 80, but that was the last of him.

Lev Gleason's publishing enterprise was, like the rest of the comic book industry, faltering in the 1950s. What finally did it in was the rise of The Comics Code Authority in the middle of the decade, which more-or-less emasculated its best-selling titles, the ones that glorified crime. The last issue of Daredevil Comics, and of the Wise Guys who appeared there, was #134 (September, 1956)

— DDM

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Text ©2006-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Lev Gleason.