The Owl skulks on a rooftop. Artist: Frank Thomas.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Dell Comics
First Appeared: 1940
Creator: Frank Thomas
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The Owl was a pretty typical World War II era superhero. Creature of the night, like The Sandman (and others) … Policeman who found creating a …

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… costumed identity more practical than working within the law, like The Black Hood (and others) … Girlfriend became sidekick, putting on a matching costume, like Hawkman (and others) … Flourished a little while but dropped when the war still had a couple of years to go, like Hourman (and others) … Also, like so many of his brethren, he was briefly revived in the '60s, and maintains a low key presence in the comic book world even today.

One unusual thing about him was that he was published by Dell Comics, which wasn't noted for superheroes — or original material in general, for that matter. He debuted in Crackajack Funnies #25 (July, 1940), amid reprints of Dan Dunn, Don Winslow of the Navy, Apple Mary and other newspaper comics. He was created by cartoonist Frank Thomas, who created The Eye for Centaur Publications and wasn't related to the high-ranking Disney animator of that name.

The Owl was Nick Terry, a police detective in a midwest city called Yorktown, who became The Owl so he could operate more freely than a city employee is allowed to do. He didn't have super powers, but was loaded with gimmicks. His Owlmobile could fly, his cape functioned as a parachute, stuff like that. Among his paraphernalia was a "black light", which worked as a reverse flashlight, casting dark, just like Phantom Lady's Blackout Ray.

He started out barely mentioned on the cover, but by Crackajack #31, had become the main feature. In #32 (February, 1941), Nick's girlfriend, newspaper reporter Belle Wayne, found out his secret and became Owl Girl. They fought crime together until the title's demise with its 43rd issue (January, 1942), then continued in the back pages of another title that mostly reprinted newspaper strips, Popular Comics, where Smilin' Jack was the main star. They began in Popular #72 (February, 1942) and ran until #85 (March, 1943). After that, they were gone for a couple of decades.

In the wake of the 1966 Batman TV show, Gold Key Comics (which by that time controlled most of the early Dell properties) revived The Owl and Owl Girl in "camp" style, the self-parodying "so bad it's good" way of handling the genre. Writer Jerry Siegel (co-creator of The Spectre, The Star-Spangled Kid and let's not forget Superman) and artist Tom Gill (who mostly drew westerns, including a long run on Dell's Lone Ranger comic book) handled the pair's bumbling adventures. The popularity of this approach is indicated by the fact that its two issues were spaced a year apart, April 1967 and April 1968 — despite the fact that, with the addition of a one-issue wonder named Tiger Girl, he briefly looked like the nucleus of a whole new line of superheroes. Bue he wasn't. He made one last appearance, a crossover with Doctor Spektor in 1976.

In more recent years, AC Comics, which makes a point of seeing that guys like Daredevil, Captain Flash and The Ghost Rider are never quite forgotten, has incorporated The Owl into its universe of characters.


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