A look at a 1950s character who became the first teenage superheroine. (Check out Tomboy’s Adventure in Captain Flash.)
You’ll believe a teenaged girl can hold on to the outside of an airplane in flight. Find out more as we look at a hero of the public domain, Tomboy, straight ahead.
Welcome to the Classy Comics Podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.
With many old comics sometimes the most exciting thing isn’t the main feature. It can be the backup feature, and this is the case as we take a look at Tomboy who was the star of the backup strip of Captain Flash published between 1954 and ’55 by Sterling Comics which published a few somewhat obscure titles in that period where comics was between the Gold and Silver Ages. Very little is known about the books. I think it’s safe to say that the writer who wrote them was a pro, but who, we can’t say. The artist for the first Issue was Mort Meskin, a legend from the Golden Age and early Silver Age who would later be admitted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2013. After that the strip was drawn by a much more obscure artist named Edward Moritz who was mainly known for working for a lot of different companies and then painting some covers for Classics Illustrated, as well as doing some paperbacks for various things such as Tom Swift. The stories themselves had the same page constraints as Black Cobra that we talked about last time we visited a public domain hero, in that they were essentially limited to six or seven pages.
She appears in four stories in Captain Flash Number One through Four. In the first story she battles The Claw and we get an introduction to the character – no real origin and all – but the story involves her taking down a bad guy on the roof, and her identity as Tomboy. Later when she is in her secret identity as Janie Jackson her arch-nemesis The Claw calls up her dad to tell him that they are going to be hitting the waterfront district and she swings into action only to fall into a trap as The Claw had planned to capture Tomboy and takes her up in an airplane where he plans to drop incendiary bombs on the city so he can get people distracted and then raid the museum. And Tomboy manages to foil this in the most amazingly awesome, improbable way possible, jumping out of the airplane, grabbing onto part of the wing and holding on, and then being able to swing over to kick the bomb bay doors closed so that the bombs can’t drop. And when they set the fuse to detonate it actually blows up the plane, and she manages to jump free just as the plane is exploding in the background. Now it is awesome, even though it is incredibly scientifically improbable. It’s just a fun story.
The second story is also good where she battles a villain known has Sound Wave who is able to hold people up by remote by transmitting his voice, and Janie picks up a clue that Tomboy follows through on. Again, some great daring do.
The third Issue has her dealing with a double. Well the double is her brother’s girlfriend, because her brother is very fixated on Tomboy, and so the girlfriend decides to impersonate Tomboy to accept an award from the police. Thankfully for her, Janie is brought along by her father and is able to make her excuses in time to rescue the girlfriend from Tomboy’s enemies. This one is probably a little bit weaker just because it’s a six-page story and there’s not really time to realize all of the ideas here. It ends with her brother praising Tomboy and saying, “To think my sister had the nerve to masquerade as Tomboy”, because this had been in a masquerade party earlier. OK, it’s a masquerade party. You dress up as somebody. It’s got of like “How dare she profane Tomboy by masquerading as her!” Really? And Janie’s thought bubble, she’s thinking, “If only he knew…” Yes, if only he knew he’d be like ewwww.
Our final story finds Lieutenant Charles Jackson wanted by the police and this puts Tomboy in a tough situation and she has to go and rescue her father. This is a nice story and it’s nice to see father and daughter teaming up to beat up bad guys, even if Lieutenant Jackson doesn’t know it. Again a fun story, all of these are pretty fun. Even though one in Issue Three was fun it just didn’t have enough space to really tell the story they were wanting to tell.
And there are a lot of questions that are raised by this story: who trained Tomboy? I think in one place it references her trained instincts. It’s OK, who trained her? Even there is a question about her age. I saw some people online identified her as being twelve, though I think she’s maybe a little older than that. I would guess more like thirteen or fourteen because of one of the panels in Issue Four her classmates look like they’re at least Junior High. This doesn’t leave you asking questions in a bad way; this leaves you asking questions in curious – in a good way because this was a good strip and this is a character that I actually found myself curious about, and would love to learn more about if there were more Issues out there.
So overall this is a worthwhile read. It amounts to twenty-five pages of public domain comics which you can find at the Digital Comic Museum at digitalcomicmuseum.com. Well that will do it for today. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org; check out our website classycomicsguy.com; and follow me on Twitter @classycomicsguy. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham, signing off.