Sunday, August 17, 2008

FORGOTTEN HERO CORNER: THE DESTROYER

ITEM! Quick trivia quiz, True Believers: who was your Uncle Stanley’s very first comic character creation? Go on — you probably peeked already anyway. That’s right — it’s The Mighty Destroyer! Check out the amazing Jack Kirby cover from Mystic Comics #7 (December 1941) that featured the character’s second appearance. Who was The Destroyer? Ah, how quickly they forget. Well Sherman, set your Wayback Machine for those momentous months just before the U.S. joined World War II and just after Timely Comics editor Joe Simon and art director Jack Kirby had given the world everyone’s favorite shield-slinger, Captain America. A young office assistant and nephew-in-law to the publisher named Stanley Lieber was working his way up the Timely office ranks from lunchtime gopher and sometime flutist to actual comic book writer. Shortly after I had my very first peerless prose piece published in Captain America #3 (May 1941, natch), Yours Truly got the chance to create a new superhero for the Mystic Comics anthology series.

Who was The Mighty Destroyer? Well for starters, he was completely different from Captain America. American journalist Ken Marlowe got his dose of the super-soldier serum behind enemy lines while in a German concentration camp. See the difference? The Army didn't need to send The Destroyer into WWII, ‘cause he was already there fighting the Germans right in the heart of the Fatherland. See? Completely different. And instead of the good old “red, white and blue” of Cap’s costume, the Destroyer’s costume used a head-spinning skull and red-and-black stripes motif. How does a young, shy, and innocent 19-year-old design a completely original costumed crusader from whole cloth, you ask? See my original character sketch from 1941 (shown above) to get some idea. I was, after all, learning at the feet of the Simon-Kirby team. And getting them bagels. 

Old Desty didn’t last too long after WW II ended, though later Marvel writers have brought the character back with varying levels of success. Though mostly forgotten today, a superhero in a full face mask who fights a fascist government commando style right on their own doorstep looks and sounds a little familiar doesn’t it? Maybe Alan Moore saw a few old British reprints of Mystic Comics as a child? “D for Destroyer” anyone? So, until next week’s “Forgotten Hero Corner,” this is the Mighty Smilin' One saying, keep ‘em flying, Forbushman! 

Excelsior!
Smiley

3 comments:

Citizen Olsen said...

Hey Stan, I love the character sketch you showed us. So much thought went into the character. Nobody can horn in on the credit on this baby. With that sketch, you are showing it is totally yours. But shouldn't there be some coffee stains on it?

Stan the Man said...

Thanks for keepin' us honest here in Soapboxland, Olsen... but you might wanna get your peepers checked there. Those coffee stains that you didn't see before are right there in plain sight. Probably some 67-year-old lox stains to-boot! Don't worry — at my age I don't see things that aren't there until they are alla time! Take care of those eyes, now, pilgrim!

Excelsior,
Smiley

RAB said...

Funny you should mention (or allude to) V for Vendetta in this context. When I first heard Alan Moore was working on a story about a costumed freedom fighter called "V" my immediate thought was "just like that Golden Age character, Citizen V!" (This would have been circa 1985, when Moore and Lloyd's dystopian strip was still running in Dez Skinn's Warrior magazine.) The bearded one may credit Thomas Pynchon for inspiration...but given his omnivorous reading habits, who's to say what other wartime wonderment might have been rattling around in his noggin at the moment of invention?