Some say that before 1938, there were no superheroes and everything changed when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman, as if he had come out of nowhere. And there’s some truth to it: although characters like The Phantom, Sheena, Flash Gordon, or The Green Hornet were born decades earlier, the real revolution was the one brought by the Kryptonian who could lift cars, use X-ray vision, fly, and had an unwavering secret identity. Such was his impact that everyone at the time wanted to have their own Superman. Some achieved it to a greater or lesser extent (Timely), while others fell by the wayside. This is the story of one of them.
The incredible man
In those years, being a comic book creator was a promising career (unlike now). That’s what Bill Everett thought, a young man who avoided becoming a truck driver like his father and, somewhere along the way, became a teenage alcoholic, a young marine, and eventually a talented comic book artist. The thing is, while he was working at Centaur Comics, a publisher specializing in pulp and science fiction stories, no one saw the overwhelming success of Superman coming. But it hit them hard.
That’s when the editor-in-chief, Lloyd Jacquet, asked Everett for “a Superman-like character.” The surprising part is that, since he couldn’t come up with anything, his mother rushed to his aid. In fact, there’s a preserved letter where she asks another family member to help them: “He needs a new character for a strip that Jacquet wants him to create to compete with the new one called ‘Superman,’ I believe. We’ve racked our brains trying to come up with a new type of character, but I can only think of going back to old folk tales, foreign if necessary, and trying to find some unusual character with which we can build an unusual story for these modern times.” We hope the mother at least received a little bit of copyright compensation.
The superhero that Everett (and perhaps his mother) ended up creating was like a toned-down version of Superman: Amazing-Man, who first appeared in issue #5 of ‘Amazing-Man Comics’… despite there being no preceding four issues. He was the second superhero in history to have his own comic book, and his story was, let’s say, unique.
John Aman was raised by monks in Tibet for 25 years: each member of the Council of Seven, as they called themselves, taught him to master a different superpower, in addition to granting him the ability to disappear in a green mist. Amazing-Man was super strong, invulnerable, super fast, could heal himself, and practiced telekinesis. In other words, he was a Swiss Army knife of strange powers. From issue #5 to #42, he was the star character of the publisher, but in February 1942, the company went bankrupt and left him lost in the (green) mist of history.
Bill Everett would later join a small company called Timely where he created a character named Namor and, much later, a blind lawyer named Daredevil alongside Stan Lee himself. In 1973, Everett passed away at the age of 55, without getting to see his character make a comeback in 1990 in the pages of Malibu Comics and in 2008 as the Prince of Orphans in a comic book called ‘The Immortal Iron Fist,’ published by Marvel. It goes to show that in real life, you may die, but comics are always eternal.
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