What do you do when you wake up one morning to find that your eyeballs are puking out destructive beams you can't control? You get a special pair of goggles to keep them from zapping everyone, then join up with the X-Men and become the mutant superhero known as Cyclops, of course!
Or, if it's nearly a quarter century before the X-Men even existed, you could always call yourself the Comet instead.
"No, baby, you gotta hide lower ... lower ... looooooower ..."
Cartoonist Jack Cole is perhaps best known for creating Plastic Man in 1941 (the first stretchy superhero, way before Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four). But before that, his most popular character was the Comet. The Comet's alter ego, John Dickering, was a young scientist who discovered a gas "50 times lighter than hydrogen." So naturally he decided that the most reasonable thing to do was to shoot it up.
Instead of inducing a coronary embolism, the first test gave him the power to super-leap. Emboldened by his own reckless success, John dickered around with more injections until he gained all-out flight. However, there was an unfortunate side effect that surprisingly had nothing to do with him floating off into space to pop like a runaway balloon: His eyes began emitting rays that disintegrated things -- rays that fortunately could also be stopped by ordinary glass. And so, freshly armed with his new "dissolvo-vision," he created a costume complete with protective goggles, embellished it with stars, moons and a giant red arrow pointing from his crotch to his face (for some reason), then set out to fight him some crime!
"If either one of you makes a Wicked Witch reference while I'm killing you, I swear to God ..."
Cyclops has an undeniably similar affliction and costume, the only difference being that his beams are concussive-force optic blasts that don't give off any heat -- meaning that he sort of eyepunches you really hard, without killing you -- whereas the Comet ...
His one-liners could use some work, but his random murder skills are above reproach.
... apparently had no such pussification ray in his origin story. During his first appearance in Pep Comics No. 1, the Comet atomized no fewer than three different gangsters, and when he finally tracked down the crime boss, he decided to give his eyes a rest and dropped him to his death instead. All in a day's work for the Comet!
Incidentally, Pep Comics No. 1 was also the first appearance of the Shield. What a strange coincidence! Another odd happenstance is that legendary artist Jack Kirby was the co-creator of both Captain America and the X-Men (and, for that matter, the Fantastic Four, featuring the quite Plastic Man-esque Mr. Fantastic). But Kirby probably didn't even know about these obscure characters -- except that he did do freelance work for Archie Comics in '58, a good five years before he and Stan Lee created the X-Men.
Huh. If we didn't know any better, we'd be tempted to say that Jack Kirby, arguably the most influential comic book artist ever, may have also been the biggest "borrower" in the industry. There's also some controversy centered around whether or not he deserves to get credit for co-creating Spider-Man with Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, which gets really interesting when you consider the fact that Kirby worked at Fox Comics early in his career -- the company responsible for a character that was awfully similar to ...
Sure, there have always been lots of arachnid-themed characters in comics, but none of them are as distinct as Spidey. And while it seems like just about everyone nowadays can climb walls and leap around like an Olympic-level Slinky, nobody else has web-slingers -- because that's pretty much Spider-Man's "thing." Sure, the spider sense is cool and all, but if there's one aspect that defines the character, it's his web-slinging. Web shooters, mounted on his wrists, that he uses to swing around and catch baddies ...
... just like Fox Comics' Spider Queen did in the 1940s, a good 20 years before Peter "Patent Violation" Parker ever experimented with shooting the sticky stuff.
"Spider Queen, Spider Queen, she can cook, she can clean ... and do ... laundry, we guess. Look out!"
Like Spidey, the Spider Queen had a tragic backstory and thought red and blue were appropriate stealth colors. Shannon Kane was the wife and lab assistant of government chemist Harry Kane. After Harry was killed by enemies of the country, she nosed through his papers and found the formula for "spider-web fluid." So then she devised a pair of bracelets to spray the stuff, donned a slutty cheerleader outfit and started busting some heads. And look, she even fired her web bracelets with a flex of the wrist:
"That will teach you to mess with me, law enforcement!"
Yeah, Shannon Kane was doing the whole web-slinger shtick long before nuclear arachnids started running amok and biting moody high school students. And when you think about it, web shooters actually fit a female character from the '40s remarkably well. After all, in an era when the strongest female superhero of all could be put in her place by a little S&M, she couldn't very well go around punching people -- she was a dame, for goodness' sake! She needed to fight crime without offending the sensibilities of the time, and firing sticky ropes at the bad guys basically gave the Spider Queen the power of super-knitting.
"No, please, not another one of those hideous sweaters! NOOOOOOOO!"
As for the incredibly revealing outfit she wore in an age of conservative dress, we're thinking the Spider Queen used it as a way to stun her enemies. No, she didn't have the proportional speed and strength of a spider, but in the era before bikinis, braless cleavage must've been a formidable superpower.
"I think she's coming on to me."
Monte Richard writes comics with a bunch of other supervillains at RealToyGun.com.
For more awesome originals that are anything but, check out 6 Famous Characters You Didn't Know Were Shameless Rip-Offs and 7 Classic Movies You Didn't Know Were Rip-Offs.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 4 Crucial Rules of End Zone Celebration Etiquette.
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn which columnist is ripping his growing bald spot off of Captain Picard.
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