gene phillips
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August 11th, 2018, 4:32 pm #41

jumpy wrote: “disguises, perhaps making him the first costumed hero!).” A disguise is not a costume! The times Holmes used disguises is such a small % as to be meaningless.


“Batman, Lone Ranger, etc. are not actually "Super" heroes. Unlike Superman, they have no super-human powers.” This is incorrect. A superhero does not require super powers. Nor is the definition what you just decide to decree. If you look over superheroes what you find is they have to meet a (mere!) 3 characteristics to be a superhero: wears a costume of tights; fights evil too big for the law; adopts a sobriquet. Powers don't matter, masks don't matter. So both Superman and Batman are superheroes (Lone Ranger is not, no costume) [which doesn't mean he's not great --he is. But he's a vigilante].

There are a multitude of non-powered superheroes. Don't forget what Vin Sullivan told Bob Kane: "Give me someone like Superman." Kane gave him Batman, not a character like Sherlock Holmes.
I do agree that superheroes need not possess super-powers, but I don't think they have to have all three characteristics in all iterations. For that matter, I think that Lone Ranger's mask alone is singular enough that it's more than just regular attire, and in fact constantly calls attention to the fact that he's something special: a man who wears a mask not to commit injustice but to combat it. 

Going back to the main topic, it's true that "Phantom Athlete" comes out the same year as the first "Zorro" prose story. However, in some post I can't find on CHFB right now, it was pointed out that the Pearl White serial "The Iron Claw" (1916) also includes a masked hero who helps the heroine, seen in the one surviving chapter of the serial, currently cached on Youtube.

Yet the mystery-man in IRON CLAW also shares same-year currency with another Johnston McCulley creation. I have not yet read any stories of THE BLACK STAR, but apparently he wore a black hood and outfit and used a "vapor gun" that anticipates that of the Green Hornet.

EDIT: Reason I couldn't find the IRON CLAW reference is that it's on "Thrills and Chills." D'oh!
Last edited by gene phillips on August 12th, 2018, 6:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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will
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August 11th, 2018, 9:58 pm #42

I checked out the Black Star. Here is the novel.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/35833

But he is a criminal. Now there is mysterious hero in disguise introduced late and defeats him (I scanned and skipped), but he never had a name. A superhero has to have a name, right?

The Scarlet Pimpernel had a colorful name, but he never had a costume of any kind, not even a mask. Johnston McCulley took the basic idea of the Pimpernel and added the costume, making a Zorro a genuine superhero.

But it still looks to me the Laughing Mask is still in the lead. I just found this.



So the Laughing Mask was introduced in chapter two and interestingly doesn't exist just to save the heroine, but was already a crime fighter. And the Iron Claw has some fancy futuristic weapon that pushes rhe serial even more into the comic book realm.
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will
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August 12th, 2018, 12:17 am #43

L'Atleta Fantasma is on YouTube without music or English title cards. Starts off real slow, but I skipped through it and he does go through the usual costumed hero feats.

The Laughing Mask has an alterego that is not revealed until the last chapter. He is not a meek type at all, but not all superheroes are meek in their alter ego. He doesn't have a mask. He wears a beard. He looks like he is usually smiling and probably laughing. hence the title, Laughing Mask.  According to the link, it is the criminal underworld that gave him that name rather than the hero himself. Probably just a coincidence, but some clear similarities to the Shadow.

EDIT
I goofed. The Laughing Mask does wear a mask. It covers his eyes and nose. And a beard. He isn't taking any chances on being recognized.
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gene phillips
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August 12th, 2018, 6:22 pm #44

I get that you prefer to see superheroes as standing apart from supervillains, and that's OK. I just see them as part of the same idiom, that you might never have got one without the other. Steranko's HISTORY OF COMICS remarked of the serials of the nineteen-teens that they often had either masked heroes, villains, or both, and to me that suggests that the earlier form, the supervillain, led to the superhero, just as so many "gentleman thieves" became heroes around the same time. 

So for me, the Black Star is a villainous stepping stone to the idea of the superhero. Maybe I'd just like to picture Johnson McCulley, an early innovator in the idiom, as being responsible for the breakthrough. Even so, I have to admit that the Black Star gets beat out of first place. 1914's THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE is often said to be the first film to feature a masked mastermind with a fancy name, the Clutching Hand-- who later got his own titular series in the 1930s, as well as inspiring that snarkiest of comic villains, "the Hooded Claw" of PENELOPE PITSTOP.
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gene phillips
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August 12th, 2018, 6:40 pm #45

I should add that I also don't regard the Scarlet Pimpernel to fit the idiom. There needs to be something more "super" about the hero than just an unusual name.
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will
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August 12th, 2018, 10:01 pm #46

Super villains. Fantomas was published in 1913, followed by the serial in 1914. Fu Manchu, supervillain? Spring-heeled Jack is probably the granddaddy of supervillains. Penny dreadfuls of him go back to the 19th century. But I thought we were trying to ID the first superhero. For me, that had to be a good guy, has a consistent disguise or look as a crime fighter, and have an alter ego. We can hedge the alter ego a little bit. The Lone Ranger doesn't have one, but his identity isn't publicly known. They operate outside government law enforcement and are not for hire private detectives, which eliminates Nick Carter and Sherlock Holmes.

The first female super villain?

http://vintagepopfictions.blogspot.com/ ... s.html?m=1

L.T. Meade later dusted off the idea and came up with the similar Madame Sara, the Sorceress of the Strand.

Nick Carter fought supervillains, male and female.

https://jessnevins.com/blog/?p=458

By the way, as written by Conan Doyle, I don't think Professor Moriarty qualifies. He is a criminal genius, but he doesn't go that extra step that Fu Manchu and Meade's lady criminals do in coming up with fiendish death devices.
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gene phillips
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August 13th, 2018, 10:48 pm #47

I would agree that Doyle's Moriarty is not a supervillain, just a really devious villain, comparing best with such contemporaries as Dickens's Mister Quilp and Collins's Count Fosco.

However, a lot of later works made Moriarty a supervillain by my terms-- SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON having him try to kill Holmes by draining his blood, and SHERLOCK HOLMES IN NEW YORK having his house outfitted with all sorts of diabolical booby-traps.

I'm thinking of a couple of characters who might be slightly earlier female super-villains but neither or them dwells in a contemporary setting, but in more or less otherworldly domains. Do characters from fantasy and science fiction count as "super-villains," or do posters here deem them in a separate bailiwick?
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will
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August 13th, 2018, 11:58 pm #48

Are you thinking of Haggard 's She? I would say so.
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gene phillips
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August 14th, 2018, 8:42 pm #49

I'm thinking of both Ayesha (who plotted, in at least two of her novels, to invade the modern world) and George Griffith's evil Russian commander Olga Romanoff in the novel named after her. I confess I haven't read OLGA for over thirty years, and never read the first novel in the two-book series, though that one has a bit of a pulpy sound to it also.
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Kelg
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Kelg
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September 14th, 2018, 9:18 pm #50

One of the differences between the "super hero" and the classic hero is that the most famous super heroes got their powers either from science, or magic (one can dispute whether classic religious heroes are magic or Natural born--i.e. "son of Zeus" could mean "naturally-gifted"), or their origins trace back to something beyond their control. I.e. Zorro was an adult when he chose to fight injustice. Batman on the other hand was orphaned by a criminal and chose to fight injustice partly from personal revenge. The question of the mask is what the disguise is for. To hide his identity from criminals? The authorities? The public? Does it represent a vulnerability on the part of the hero--or an Achilles' Heel?
An element that can be used for suspense?

I watched DON Q-SON OF ZORRO the other day--interestingly the Son of Zorro never wears a mask. Dad shows up at the end and wears the mask for a bit -but I assume that was only because they couldnt have Fairbanks fighting alongside Fairbanks without one of them in a mask. Everyone in Spain knew he was Zorro.
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Grant
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September 14th, 2018, 10:28 pm #51

gene phillips wrote:

However, a lot of later works made Moriarty a supervillain by my terms-- SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON having him try to kill Holmes by draining his blood, 
As I said on another thread, I like the way Holmes goads him into that by saying that SHOOTING him would be a terrible insult to both of them, because it would be too "pedestrian" (or whatever word he uses). What I like is that, even though it's a ploy, he presumably means it. Whether I'm OFFENDED by them in stories or not, guns are usually a great big CLICHE to me, so I always like the idea of the hero scolding the villain (or vice versa) over using one on him.
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Godziwolf
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Yesterday, 1:48 pm #52

will wrote: Super villains. Fantomas was published in 1913, followed by the serial in 1914. Fu Manchu, supervillain? Spring-heeled Jack is probably the granddaddy of supervillains. Penny dreadfuls of him go back to the 19th century. But I thought we were trying to ID the first superhero. For me, that had to be a good guy, has a consistent disguise or look as a crime fighter, and have an alter ego. We can hedge the alter ego a little bit. The Lone Ranger doesn't have one, but his identity isn't publicly known. They operate outside government law enforcement and are not for hire private detectives, which eliminates Nick Carter and Sherlock Holmes.
If we're including guys like Manchu, wouldn't Nemo be a super-villain?

He's basically the first in the "hold the world hostage" vein, right?
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gene phillips
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Yesterday, 8:09 pm #53

Godziwolf wrote:
will wrote: Super villains. Fantomas was published in 1913, followed by the serial in 1914. Fu Manchu, supervillain? Spring-heeled Jack is probably the granddaddy of supervillains. Penny dreadfuls of him go back to the 19th century. But I thought we were trying to ID the first superhero. For me, that had to be a good guy, has a consistent disguise or look as a crime fighter, and have an alter ego. We can hedge the alter ego a little bit. The Lone Ranger doesn't have one, but his identity isn't publicly known. They operate outside government law enforcement and are not for hire private detectives, which eliminates Nick Carter and Sherlock Holmes.
If we're including guys like Manchu, wouldn't Nemo be a super-villain?

He's basically the first in the "hold the world hostage" vein, right?
It's been eight-ten years since I reread LEAGUES, but my memory is that Nemo is at best an occasional super-villain. I gave the first chapter a quick re-read on Gutenberg, and the mystery of a "sea monster": begins purely because sailors have sighted the sub from a distance. A couple of ships are damaged in collisions with what may have been the Nautilus, but Verne gives the impression that these were probably accidents. This is in contrast with the opening of the Disney film, which largely creates our idea of Nemo as a guy holding the world hostage with superior firepower. 

Later in the novel, Nemo uses his sub to attack slave ships, and a pod of killer whales, but IMO he doesn't seem to be looking for trouble; he just attacks things he doesn't like when he happens upon them. Mostly, he seems satisfied with probing the endless wonders of the depths, and has no agenda as such in mind. 

ROBUR THE CONQUEROR in 1886 sometimes sounds a little more like a super-villain, but in both of his appearances he too doesn't seem to have a world-conquering plan. In both books he kidnaps people, takes them aboard his airship, and bludgeons them with the wonderfulness of his discovery. He doesn't do anything as overt as making war on the surface world, like the character from the 1961 film; the most Verne's Robur does is to drop bombs on a slave-market. 

I haven't read all of Verne, but I get the strong impression from what I have read that he just didn't get that interested in heroes and villains as we think of them today. Anyone read MICHAEL STROGOFF? I mean, I know he's not a superhero, but is he even as much of an "ordinary tough-guy hero" as, say, any of Dumas's Three Musketeers?

On a side-note, Robur appears the same year that my nomination for first female super-villain, Ayesha of Kor, begins being serialized in a magazine.
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