The Golden Age craze for super heroes only truly lasted a couple of years, immediately following the debut of Superman and the entry of the United States into World War II. That said, it was a genre that was virtually unique to comic books, and so fortune-minded publishers would continue to toy with it for years to come. CAPTAIN FLASH was one of the latecomers to eh super hero bonanza, first seeing publication at the very end of 1954 and releasing four issues into 1955 before vanishing (not that long, relatively, before DC’s SHOWCASE revival of their Flash would kick off the Silver Age of Comics and the return of super heroes to prominence.) But it isn’t really the Captain that we’re here to talk about today, but rather the cool back-up strip that ran, unheralded, in his back pages.
That series was Tomboy, a rare super hero strip with a female lead, drawn at least in this initial installment by Mort Meskin, one of the better artists of the era. Tomboy was fun in that the lead character didn’t have any super-powers to speak of, but still discarded her girly dresses and indoor pearls in the midst of the conformity-minded 1950s to battle it out with goons and criminals in a two-fisted and decidedly unladylike manner.
I have a real soft spot for Tomboy, and it’s a shame that she only got to star in four adventures in her brief time in comics. Meskin came out of the Simon and Kirby studio and had done a lot of work with them, along with a stint alongside Jerry Robinson. So you can see some of the same compositional rhythms in his work that can be found in that of those other stalwarts. Occasionally, somebody mistakes Tomboy for a Jack Kirby/S & K Studios production, but it wasn’t. The publisher of record was Sterling Comics. Meskin, though, only did work on this first Tomboy story, which makes it possible that it was conceived and put together somewhere else and then later sold off to Sterling Comics as inventory. As publishers flatlined in the mid-1950s, this kind of thing happened often.
Nobody is quite certain after all this time who created Tomboy or wrote her adventures. And they’re relatively basic stories, hitting all of the tropes of the era. In her civilian identity as Janie Jackson, Tomboy is considered a typical scared girl, and those around her constantly compare her unfavorably to her more dramatic alter ego. This was super hero 101 in 1954.
By that same token, there weren’t really many super hero ladies in the 1950s to speak of, and certainly even fewer who were active at this young an age. In that sense Tomboy predicts the eventually emergence of Spider-Man, who was similarly a high school student when he gained his powers and turned to crime-fighting.
It’s also a bit noteworthy that whoever the writer was, they scripted Tomboy no different from any other male super hero. Her gender was seldom brought up as an issue, and she could throw a punch–or take one–just as well as any of her male counterparts. Especially once the Comics Code came in (the later issues of CAPTAIN FLASH carried the Code stamp) this was far away from the norm. Tomboy kicks ass.
It sure looks to my eye like Captain Flash may have been lettered into that Next Issue blurb late in the game, to replace a much shorter series title for which Tomboy may have originally been intended.