75 Years of the First Comic Book Superhero (It’s Not Who You Think)

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With all the hullabaloo about Superman and Wonder Woman in the last few weeks, it’s worth remembering that the longest-surviving superhero indigenous to a comic book appeared 75 years ago this summer. New Fun was the first comic book series to consist entirely of original material. Its sixth issue, cover-dated October 1935 and published a couple of months earlier, featured the likes of “Buckskin Jim,” “Dewey and the Pirates” and “Sandra of the Secret Service” (the last of whom later appeared in a multi-part storyline called, no kidding, “The Resbian Affair”). It also included the first two published comic book stories by Superman’s creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

“Henri Duval of France, Famed Soldier of Fortune” only stuck around for a few months, but “Doctor Occult, the Ghost Detective”–credited to “Leger and Reuths,” partial anagrams of Siegel and Shuster’s names–had staying power. (And supernatural powers, which arguably makes him the first super-powered character who debuted in a comic book.) The “Doctor Occult” feature continued to appear in the retitled More Fun Comics through #33, cover-dated June 1938, by which point Siegel and Shuster had bigger fish to fry.

He vanished for a while after that, before reappearing in 1985’s All-Star Squadron #49, and has turned up intermittently ever since, even getting his own one-shot in 1994. More recently, he appeared as the backup feature in Reign In Hell. He seems to have been rocking the same trench coat for 75 years, with the exception of a brief, regrettable period when he wore a red cape and blue briefs. Perhaps it’s about time he got a costume redesign, too.