The Silver Streak compares favorably with other speedy things. Artist: Jack Cole.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Lev Gleason
First Appeared: 1940
Creator: unknown writer and Jack Binder (artist)
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The Silver Streak, probably the only the second superhero (following DC Comics' The Flash) to build a crime-fighting career around the power of super speed, was featured in Silver Streak Comics, published by the company that later …

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… became Lev Gleason Publications. But contrary to reasonable expectations, the comic wasn't named after the character. In fact, he didn't appear until the third issue (March, 1940), and wasn't its most prominent star even then — in fact, it was three months before he was even seen on the cover. The comic was actually named after the car driven by then-publisher Arthur Bernhard, a Pontiac Silver Streak.

A perceived need to have a character by that name in a comic book that began with The Claw as its cover-featured star may explain why the unnamed former taxi driver who became a superhero called himself "Silver Streak" despite the fact that his costume didn't contain a single silver-colored thread. There may be a similar explanation for Novelty Press to have invented a hero named Target for its Target Comics, and for Centaur Publications to have come up with guys named Stars & Stripes for its Stars & Stripes Comics.

In any case, the exact reason for the cab man's transformation seems more than a little contrived. It seems an equally unnamed swami was promoting a race car named, like the comic, after Bernhard's vehicle, but his drivers kept getting killed by giant insects (sicced on him by a super villain known only as "Doc", whose motives were almost as unclear as his real name). So he hypnotized the taxi driver into taking the job, and the driver got killed just like all the rest. This seems to have gotten the swami's goat worse than the others, because the swami used his mystical powers to bring that one, unlike his earlier employees, back to life. In his new life, the former driver not only had super speed, but also, like Johnny Quick, the ability to use it, despite his lack of aeronautic design, to fly.

The story's writer isn't known, but the art on that story was done by Jack Binder, whose studio was also responsible for Pyroman, Mary Marvel, Bulletman and many other 1940s heroes. The following issue, the feature was taken over by cartoonist Jack Cole (Plastic Man, The Comet, Midnight).

The Streak continued superheroing, acquiring a couple of ancillary super-speedy characters along the way. One was a hawk called Whiz (no relation), and the other was a kid called Mercury. The kid joined him in Silver Streak Comics #6, but changed his name almost immediately — starting in the seventh issue (January, 1941) the logo read "Silver Streak and Meteor". Both of the lesser speedsters got their powers from blood transfused from The Silver Streak himself.

This continued until the 19th issue (March, 1942). The Streak wasn't in #s 20 and 21. With #22, all continuing characters were dropped, and the title was changed to Crime Does Not Pay. That wasn't quite the end of him, however. In 1945, he was revived as the cover feature of Dime Comics, a new start-up title. That one lasted only one issue, but the following year, the Silver Streak Comics title was brought back with an issue numbered 23. That, too, ended after a single issue, and The Silver Streak was no more.


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Text ©2007 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Lev Gleason.