Manowar socks it to a warmonger. Artist: Emil Gershwin.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Novelty Press
First Appeared: 1940
Creator: Carl Burgos
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At first, Novelty Press (Sgt. Spook, Young King Cole) didn't tumble onto the idea of making a superhero with the same name the star of an anthology comic book, as All-American/DC Comics had done with The Flash. It was ten issues before they introduced a hero called The Target to star in their anthology title, Target Comics. But they got one thing right. There at least was a superhero in …

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… the first issue (February, 1940) — Manowar, The White Streak. Only thing is, he was in the back pages. The cover-featured star was Bullseye Bill (no relation), whose last name just happened to be "Target".

Manowar, The White Streak (who called himself, and was addressed by, either name) was introduced in Target's second story, which appeared just after Bullseye Bill's. Readers knew he was a hero right away, because he stated his mission as "Met[ing] out justice to those murderers who prey on the weak — the warmongers!" And they knew he was super, because on the following page, he cleared a rock slide by emitting electronic eye beams with "the power of a cannon". In the next couple of pages, he also demonstrated the powers of super strength and invulnerability.

The character first made his presence known as a hitherto-unseen mountain, complete with snow-covered peak, suddenly thrust itself up in the middle of a dormant volcano, in the South American country of Payan. It took ten days of travel through some rough country, but an archaeologist named Simms and his assistant, Ramón, investigated, and were greeted by a robot who identified himself as the last servant of Utopia, a long-dead civilization that had been destroyed by war. The Council of Utopia had arranged for him to be entombed until "the world is once more faced with death by selfishness", such as that displayed by "those forces which kill only for their selfish aims — power and money! earned through the death of innocents who do battle!"

World War II had already been ravaging Europe for several months at the time, but Manowar set his sights on a closer warmonger. Payan was being devastated by a war with neighboring Bolita and its evil dictator, Don Ruizen. It turned out Ruizen was taking orders from an unnamed multinational corporation that wanted to get its hands on Payanian oil fields. The White Streak made sure both Ruizen and the company's local representative were righteously dead by the end of the six-page origin story, and that ended the war threatening the common people of both countries.

That story was both written and drawn by cartoonist Carl Burgos, whose most famous creation, The Human Torch, had debuted a few months earlier. Other Burgos creations, including The Iron Skull, an off-brand version of Captain Marvel and the Torch himself, also happened to be robots passing for human.

In the second issue (March, 1940), Manowar and Bullseye Bill switched places, The White Streak taking the cover and lead position. Thereafter, at least until the advent of The Target himself, he was on the majority of the Target Comics covers. Burgos continued to handle the character during his first year. As of vol. 2 #2, the scripting was taken over by Ray Gill (Edison Bell). The following issue, Emil Gershwin (Starman) took over the art.

Meanwhile, Manowar, with Simms's help, traveled north and, disguised as human, got himself a job with the FBI, under the name "Dan Sanders". He concerned himself mainly with the war American readers found more relevant, the one in Europe that later drew in America. One after another foreign warmonger fell to his anti-war activity, but the possibility that Americans, too, might be guilty of fomenting war went unexplored. In later appearances, he teamed up with another superhero, called The Red Seal.

Manowar seems like an odd name, for such a peacenik. It was de-emphasized after the first few months, but his other name, The White Streak, made no more sense. Neither his outfit nor his personal coloring displayed a hint of white — not even in the sense that Causians' skin color is said to be "white", when in reality it's merely a lighter shade of pinkish-brown than that of other humans (his was golden-colored). His "hair", or whatever that stuff on top of his head might have been, was green.

His final appearance, as well as that of The Red Seal, was in vol. 2 #10 (December, 1941). America was just then getting involved in World War II, and the idea of actively working for peace was coming to seem less heroic to readers.


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Text ©2009 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Novelty Press.