John Force socks it to a bad guy. Artist: Paul Reinman.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: American Comics Group (ACG)
First Appeared: 1962
Creators: Richard E. Hughes (writer) and Paul Reinman (artist)
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The American Comics Group (ACG) was a small outfit that spent a couple of decades on the fringe of the comic book publishing industry. A majority of the comics it published had no …

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… continuing characters, but the company wasn't completely devoid of them. Its funny animal titles, Ha Ha and Giggle Comics, ran characters like Izzy & Dizzy and Super Katt, and there was an occasional adventure hero such as Commander Battle or The Hooded Horseman. In 1962, with superheroes on their way to becoming the dominant genre in the field, ACG tried a new one — John Force, Magic Agent.

Richard E. Hughes, ACG's editor and main writer, didn't care much for the long underwear guys, despite the fact that he'd been closely involved with his share of them (e.g., The Black Terror, Fighting Yank) during their earlier heyday in the '40s. Hence, John Force wasn't a full-featured representative of the genre. He had minor super powers, or at least a super-powered device; but his "costume" consisted only of a trench coat and an eye patch.

The coat marked him as either a detective (like Dan Dunn) or a spy (like Secret Squirrel). He was the latter. The patch, like that of Nick Fury, merely reinforced the identification. (Other than the incomparable Herbie, ACG characters tended not to rise above cliché.) John Force's raison d'etre was to do America's dirty work back in the early Cold War era, when any fictional agent of the U.S. government was automatically a good guy.

His super-powered device was a magical coin containing an image of a building done in the Greek Revival style of architecture, i.e., with columns in front. By pressing the appropriate column, he could create realistic illusions, read other people's thoughts, or implant powerful hypnotic suggestions. He was also good at hand-to-hand combat, i.e., fist-fighting, when the coin got lost or stolen, as is bound to happen frequently in a series of this type.

John Force was introduced in ACG's Magic Agent #1, dated Jan-Feb 1962. Hughes wrote all the stories, which were illustrated by Paul Reinman (Mighty Crusaders, Green Lantern). The inker was Pete Costanza, who started in comics as C.C. Beck's assistant on Captain Marvel. Hughes and Reinman continued to write and draw the character as long as he lasted.

Initially, that didn't seem very long. Magic Agent folded with its third issue (May-June 1962), and it was a couple of years before he was seen again. He turned up in the back pages of Unknown Worlds #35 (Oct-Nov 1964), then again in #36. It's possible those were simply inventory stories, originally intended for a fourth issue of Magic Agent that was never published, but they received favorable reader response, and the character was put back in action. From #48 (June-July 1966) through #56 (June-July 1967) he appeared in even-numbered issues of Unknown Worlds. The following month, ACG went out of business, and John Force was never used again.

By that time, he'd outlived Nemesis and Magicman (a couple of full-fledged superheroes Hughes had reluctantly introduced in response to reader demand), making him the last surviving ACG character.


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Text ©2005-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Roger Broughton.