The Press Guardian makes his first appearance. Artist: Jack Binder.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: MLJ/Archie Comics
First Appeared: 1939
Creator: Jack Binder
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By the end of 1939, less than two years after Superman debuted, establishing superheroes as the dominant genre of American comic books, the trend was already firmly established. So firmly that when MLJ Comics launched Pep Comics with a cover date …

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… of January, 1940, they introduced no less than three of the gaudily-costumed good guys — The Shield, The Comet and The Press Guardian.

The latter was a sign that superheroes were already getting specialized. From the name, it's apparent that The Press Guardian, who was also called The Falcon (no relation), at least at first, was mostly concerned with First Amendment issues. He was just a beat-'em-up guy when you get right down to it, but his plots were always generated by the unrestricted pursuit of news.

At first, he dressed just like the average superhero, only more so, with prominent elements of blue, green, red and orange in his outfit, and that's just above the waist. He first showed up on a news-gathering adventure of intrepid young Daily Express crime reporter Flash Calvert, but Flash (no relation, tho they debuted simultaneously) wasn't who he actually was. That was a secret even from the readers. But in the second issue of Pep, it all changed.

That issue's story started with Perry Chase, the Express publisher's apparently wimpy, not-too-bright son, begging his father for a chance to prove himself on an important story. Dad told him to stick to his assigned role, reporting on high society's doings, and leave the real stories to the real men. But Perry tackled it anyway, doing an outstanding job, because he was secretly The Press Guardian. He also discarded the eyesore he'd been wearing, opting instead for The Spirit's look, only his suit, hat and mask were green.

Another thing he discarded was the alter-alter ego, leaving the "Falcon" name open for exploitation by another company. Marvel, in what is perhaps the first example of its penchant for unauthorized use of another publisher's defunct character name (e.g., Daredevil, Captain Marvel), soon expropriated it. Their first Falcon character (also unrelated to Captain America's later partner) began (and ended) in the back pages of Human Torch #2 (Fall, 1940).

The first version was created by cartoonist Jack Binder, whose other credits include The Whizzer and Bulletman. The second was done by writer Abner Sundell (Madam Satan, Sgt. Boyle) and artist Mort Meskin (Vigilante, Sheena).

If Marvel had wanted the name "Press Guardian", it only had to wait a year or so — Pep was pepped up with its 12th issue (February, 1941), and one of the features ousted was The Press Guardian. His replacement was a superhero with a less subtle mission, Fireball. The Press Guardian was never seen again — not even in Mighty Crusaders #4, where practically all of the MLJ crew showed up.


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Text ©2008 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Archie Comics.