Yellowjacket and his yellowjackets fight crime.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Frank Communale Publications
First Appeared: 1944
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Six years after Superman touched off the fad, so many superheroes had come and gone in American comic books, it was getting increasingly difficult to come up with schticks for new ones. Even super powers that made no sense the first time around were being recycled. One of the dumber ones was that of The Red Bee, a Quality Comics character whose name, like that of The Blue Beetle, was apparently supposed to …

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… remind readers of The Green Hornet. He was aided in his anti-crime crusade by a swarm of trained bees. But even as unlikely an ability as that was ripped off just a year or so after the Bee had shuffled off to funnybook heaven.

Yellowjacket, who also commanded bugs, debuted in Yellowjacket Comics #1 (September, 1944) alongside Diana the Huntress, The Filipino Kid, and other heroes with equivalent name recognition. The publisher was Frank Communale, whose comics publishing activities are sometimes conflated with Charlton, a long-extant publisher that entered the comic book field a couple of years later. Reasons for this are twofold. First, Charlton later took over Yellowjacket Comics; and second, both were located in Derby, CT. Just as earlier comics history enthusiasts had concluded from skimpy evidence that Marvel Comics had called itself Timely during the 1940s, some seem to have jumped to a conclusion that Communale and Charlton were one and the same.

Standing as refutation is the fact that Charlton was already publishing other cheap magazines under its own name. Also, Charlton was later known for buying titles and unused inventory from failing publishers, so the fact that they took over publication of Yellowjacket isn't proof of anything.

Setting aside questions about who published him, Yellowjacket was an acclaimed (and correspondingly affluent) crime fiction writer named Vince Harley. Mulling over a story for Dark Detective magazine, he got involved in a jewel robbery, with criminals invading his suburban home and dumping a box of yellowjackets (Vince's hobby was keeping bees) on him, trusting his own insect horde to sting him to death..

But they didn't sting him at all, because he was one of those rare people whom bees don't sting. Later, he discovered he had the hitherto-unsuspected (despite his apiaristic activities) ability to control yellowjackets with mental commands, just as The Spider Widow and The Fly had powers over arthropods. After avenging himself on his assailants, Vince did what anybody with even a relatively useless super power in 1940s comic books would do — he made himself a costume, assumed an appropriate nom du superhero, and devoted his life, when he wasn't writing crime stories, to dealing with real-life crime.

He did this through all ten issues of Yellowjacket, and continued into one issue of Jack-in-the-Box Comics, which Charlton changed his title to with its October, 1946 issue. Also in 1946, he appeared in the one and only issue of TNT, published by Charles Publishing Co., which may or may not be related to either Charlton or Communale. That was the full extent of his career as a superhero, mystery writer, or any other kind of comic book character. He didn't even have anything to do with the fact that an early-'60s character named Ant Man used that name to crusade against crime and/or evil in the middle part of the decade.

From beginning to end, credits on Yellowjacket's stories haven't been preserved.


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Text ©2008-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Charlton Comics.