Patriotic superheroes were ridiculously popular during World War II. Captain America is perhaps the most famous example, but he had to fight his way through a very broad field to become the icon he is today. One competitor who couldn’t quite hack it was Captain Battle.
I found out about Captain Battle while researching this article on Patriot Heroes. I knew right away that I had to give the guy my own article. To say his adventures are off the rails would be an understatement because I don’t think they made it onto the rails at all.
Captain Battle made his debut in 1941 in Silver Streak Comics # 10, edited by Lev Gleason Publications. It was created jointly by Jack Binder and Carl Fromes. I was able to find very little information on Fromes, but apparently Binder is the guy who coined the term “zero gravity” so that’s nice. You’d think that would make him the star of the family, but his younger brother Otto co-designed Supergirl for DC. Otto took over Fromes’ writing duties in later editions of Silver Streak Comics.
Unlike today’s superheroes, who may be overly obsessed with origin stories, the heroes of the 30s and 40s tended to jump right in with both feet. You can see that in Superman’s origins, and you can also see it in Captain Battle, who in the first panel puts his entire life story into a single paragraph.
What kind of story is that, you ask? Battle became the youngest American fighter to lose an eye in World War I. In 1941 he is an accomplished inventor with a litany of frankly appalling patents on his name. This includes a “curvoscope” with which he can spy on anyone anywhere in the world. He’s now using it to see the fleet of an unnamed nation (it’s probably England as he calls the nation “our cousin”) under attack by a supervillain named Black Dragon.
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I’m in love with Battle’s secretary Jane Lorrain. These are her first two panels and she is already fed up with his nonsense.
In the early adventures of Captain Battle, he encounters the giant man-bird-mutant lackeys of the Black Dragon called Deaglos. I can’t even begin to guess the pronunciation. Their appearance is even worse, that’s … um …
What a chuckle.
It is the “your chuckle” that catches me.
Captain Battle fights the Deaglos (and future villains) with Dissolvo, another of his inventions. It has the power to melt its opponents like jelly. Um, wow ???
So that was in the lost ark.
The good news is that he is very economical with this weapon. The bad news is that he has a weapon that turns people into pudding. Why do you even think of that? And if you thought of it, why would you build it in Alfred Bird’s name ?!
It doesn’t take long for Battle to find a way to restore the Deaglos to their normal human state. One of them is a little boy named Nathan Hale. (It’s patriotic, understand ?!) Battle immediately sets out to track down the boy’s parents to bring him home. Ha, ha, me child. He renames the child Hale Battle and makes him his “buddy”. That doesn’t seem legal.
Sabotage is raging, I tell you.
I’m sure this had nothing to do with the fact that Captain America, a less disturbing character, already had a brave buddy. Last but not least, it tells us that “Battle” is its real name, not a Nom de Guerre. Now I wonder if “Captain” is a title or if his parents really called him that.
Speaking of not ripping off Captain America, Captain Battle encouraged young readers to join the “Captain Battle’s Boys’ Brigade,” which bears no resemblance to Captain America’s Sentinels of Liberty.
This is so sad it’s hilarious. They want him so badly for him to be Steve Rogers. They even gave him a skull-themed villain: Mr. Skull and his gang of saboteurs with skull masks.
Really sporty of everyone to set up like that.
I was literally only now realizing that the tips on their heads were probably meant to be reminiscent of the spiked hood helmets of World War I and not, as originally thought, to demonstrate their love for unicorns.
Many of Captain Battle’s enemies adopted a supernatural theme, posing as zombies or mummies or the like to protect their sabotage activities. Real magic is seldom involved. It’s like Scooby-Doo and the gang spent their careers hunting down generic, memorable Nazis.
Captain Battle got kind of popular enough to warrant its own series, Captain Battle Comics, just like – you guessed it – Captain America Comics. Captain Battle Comics’ release history is short and bizarre, but I’ll try to break it down for you:
Issue 1: Has a very different tone than previous comics. Fight alone through the world to protect other countries from Nazi and Japanese aggression. Jack and Otto Binder are not involved in the production and the art is rubbish.
Issue 2: The Binders return, as does Battle’s buddy Hale. We get a multi-part story about a supposed princess from the Middle East who looks just like Jane Lorrain and her super expensive diamond.
Issue 3: This was not published by Lev Gleason Publications like any other Captain Battle story. Instead, Chesler rushes in over a year after Issue 2 and gives us Issue Three, which is just a re-colored reprint of Silver Streak Comics # 20. Hale is renamed Kane for some reason.
Problem 4: Doesn’t seem to exist.
Edition 5: Last edition. (I hope ???) is a reprint from Captain Battle Comics # 1. I found a few websites attributing this issue to Picture Scoop, Inc. However, the company address on the first page of the issue is the same as the address in the Lev Gleason comics, so I’m pretty sure it’s back to it.
Confused? I’m sure! In any case, it is evident that no one fell for themselves to make Captain Battle a success, despite their half-hearted attempts to turn him into Captain America.
There was also a kind of spin-off, Captain Battle Jr., about the adventures of Battle’s pilot’s son. They do not go into detail about who the child’s mother is, the circumstances surrounding his or her birth, or why Battle Sr. never bothered to mention him. But his existence sheds new light on this exchange with Hale, where Battle tells him, “There is no other boy on earth that I would rather take with me than you!”
Captain ICE COLD.
Silver Streak Comics was effectively canceled after issue 21, leaving Captain Battle permanently stuck in the middle of a multi-part story. I doubt this platoon was specifically aimed at Captain Battle; it seems like Lev Gleason has strayed a bit from superheroes. Silver Streak Comics was renamed Crime Does Not Pay and became the first ever crime comic. (Crime comics tend to focus on “real” criminals rather than fictional crime fighters.) Captain Battle Jr. is a war comic strip. Notably, he did not wear his costume during the brief appearance of Battle Sr. in Captain Battle Jr. # 1. (His eye patch is also on the wrong eye, but that’s another problem.)
“Oh, so you wanna hang out NOW, huh, DAD?”
Not exactly a glorious end to his career. And that was the end: when Captain Battle Jr. debuted, Silver Streak Comics was no longer active and Captain Battle Comics might as well have been. The last thing we saw of the original Captain Battle was Junior managed to rescue his father from a Nazi prison in Berlin.
Since then, Captain Battle has largely been forgotten, with two exceptions. In 2009, he appeared on Image Comics’ Next Issue Project, which revived public domain characters in one-shot stories. In 2012, Battle made its film debut in the no-budget blockbuster Captain Battle: Legacy War. That’s all he deserves as far as I’m concerned. However, if Captain Battle looks like your kind of superhero, then efforts are underway to restore the catalog of Lev Gleason Publications, especially the superheroes. So maybe the battle isn’t over yet …