The Thin Man demonstrates his awesome super power. Artist: Klaus Nordling


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1940
Creators: Unknown writer and Klaus Nordling, artist
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With hundreds of superheroes permeating practically every corner of the American comic book industry of the early 1940s, it's to be expected that a few would have no good reason …

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… to exist. A prime example is The Thin Man, whose super power was to make himself so thin, he could slip under doors. While it's true that can be a useful power for thieves, voyeurs and prisoners, and one can imagine ways it might occasionally, under special circumstances, come in handy for other pursuits — it hardly seems like a good reason to put on a costume and fight crime.

And yet, that's exactly what Bruce Dickson, explorer, did, after returning home from Tibet, where super powers abound (The Flame, The Green Lama, Mr. Mystic and many others got them there). He was climbing Mount Kalpurthia, and wound up in Kalahia, one of those lost cities that also abound in that land. There, the locals granted him the ability to make his body extremely thin. (According to some readings of the origin story, he could also stretch like Plastic Man. But that's not how he used the power — tho if he had, he'd have beaten Plas to it by a year.)

The origin story appeared in Mystic Comics #4, published by the company that eventually became Marvel Comics, with a cover date of August, 1940. He shared the comic with Merzak the Mystic, Flexo the Rubber Man (more credible as a Plas precursor), The Invisible Man Known As Dr. Gade, and others with low-to-nonexistent Q-ratings. The Black Widow, who is slightly better known, also had her origin there. The Thin Man's writer is unknown, but his artist was Klaus Nordling, whose later work on Lady Luck has a much higher profile. Even his work on The Barker and Pen Miller is better known.

It will come as no surprise that The Thin Man wasn't in the following issue of Mystic Comics — nor any other comic book published during the 1940s. What's surprising is that he ever appeared again at all. Nevertheless, in 1976, he became a member of The Liberty Legion, a team full of second-stringers, intended as a companion to The Invaders.

After a few desultory appearances, The Liberty Legion was forgotten. At that point, anyone would expect The Thin Man to be forgotten too, but no. Another decade or two went by, and he got involved in present-day continuity, with a latter-day version of The Invaders. It seems he'd found Kalahia destroyed after World War II, and spent much of the intervening time tracking down the Nazi war criminal responsible. He succeeded with the help of Captain America, but found the villain untouchable by the law. He therefore murdered the Nazi, something he'd apparently gotten into the habit of doing and getting away with.

Now fully incorporated into the Marvel Universe, The Thin Man has had his powers upgraded, and also has the asset of mastery of Kalahian science. Unlikely as it may once have seemed, apparently we can expect to see him again.


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Text ©2006-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.