The Blue Tracer (vehicle) is steadied. Artist: Fred Guardineer.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Quality Comics
First Appeared: 1941
Creator: Fred Guardineer
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Magical and/or super-scientific vehicles, which can go anywhere and do anything, and are equipped with every useful device their creators can imagine, have a long history in cartoons, from The Explorigator (used by a small band of juvenile adventurers in a short-lived Sunday comics page back in the very early years of the 20th century) to Speed Racer's Mach 5. It's only to be expected …

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… that one would turn up in American comic books of the early 1940s, where/when superheroes were all the rage.

This particular super-vehicle was first seen in Quality Comics' Military Comics #1 (April, 1941), which also introduced Blackhawk, The Death Patrol and Miss America (no relation). It was created by cartoonist Fred Guardineer, who did so many super-magicians, such as Zatara, Yarko the Great and Mr. Mystic, he could be thought of as a specialist.

The story started with Captain William "Wild Bill" Dunn, an American engineer working with a British scouting expedition in a remote area of Ethiopia during the early days of World War II. The unit he was with got wiped out — not by German or Italian soldiers but by the M'bujies, apparently a native group that had somehow, without even being noticed by the outside world, acquired enough high-tech power to harbor ambitions of world conquest. Bill would have died along with the rest, but was rescued and nursed back to health by "Boomerang" Jones, an Australian soldier whose unit had also been wiped out. Presumed dead and not wanting to return home anyway, he'd taken refuge in a native village.

Boomerang (whose nickname came from his weapon of choice, the same one used by Daredevil) turned out to have a huge cache of captured enemy tanks, airplanes and other handy equipment. Bill decided to use his engineering knowledge, with the help of Boomerang's muscle work, to create a super weapon with which to defeat any enemy unwise enough to be caught in their vicinity. It took months, but when they finished they'd made a vehicle, bristling with weapons, that could fly like a plane, go underwater like a submarine, or smash through any obstacle like a tank. In the air, it resembled a huge tracer bullet; hence, they called it The Blue Tracer.

It was clear where Bill and Boomerang got the materials to build The Blue Tracer (no relation). What wasn't clear was where they got the material for Bill to put together a spiffy superhero-like suit to serve as its commander's uniform (while Boomerang was still stuck with the khaki shorts he'd been wearing when, on the previous page, he'd first appeared on the scene). Since every superhero needs a spiffy name as well as a spiffy outfit, Bill assumed that of the vehicle itself, and was afterward addressed or referred to as The Blue Tracer.

After wiping out the M'bujie city, leaving no apparent survivors, the Tracer's attention was turned to the Axis enemies. Thereafter, Bill and Boomerang traveled the world in the device they'd built, advancing the Allied cause wherever they went.

This went on only until Military Comics #16 (February, 1943). After that, there was a shake-up in the Military Comics cast and a couple of series, this one and Fred Kida's Phantom Clipper, were replaced. The new ones were Sailor Danny and P.T. Boat.

In 1956, DC Comics acquired several Quality Comics characters, and in later years, acted, with nobody of consequence contradicting them, like it had bought the whole company. There seems to be a widespread belief that many of them, including this one, had lapsed into the public domain before the purchase. But since Quality didn't last long enough for any of its copyrights to expire, it's hard to see how that belief got started.

Whatever the case, the only use DC has made of The Blue Tracer was to reprint its origin story as part of the Millennium Edition of Military Comics #1.


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Text ©2008-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.