Ultra Man socks it to a foe. Artist: Jon L. Blummer.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: All-American Publications
First Appeared: 1939
Creator: Jon L. Blummer
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Gary Concord, the Ultra-Man, is remembered by many detail-oriented comic book aficionados as the first superhero to come from All-American Publications, the company that later fielded The Flash, Wonder Woman and Hawkman. But that's what it looks like only in retrospect. At the time, that genre and its familiar tropes not yet having taken over the comics industry, it (like Dell's Martan the Marvel Man) more closely resembled a science fiction serial like you'd find in the old …

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… pulp magazines. This one borrowed prominent elements from Armageddon 2419 A.D., which had been adapted into the Buck Rogers comic strip ten years earlier.

The series started in the 8th issue (November, 1939) of All-American Comics, the publisher's flagship title. It replaced reprints of the old Bobby Thatcher newspaper comic, and thus represented a growing emphasis on original material rather than reprints. It was created by cartoonist Jon L. Blummer (Fighting Yank, Little Boy Blue), using the name "Don Shelby".

Like Buck Rogers, Gary Concord was a one-way time traveler, through suspended animation. Orphaned by World War I, Gary swore as a child to end war. He devoted his early life to learning what he was up against, and by age 21 had become the world's greatest military strategist. For that reason, people misunderstood, thinking his goals the opposite of what they actually were, and for protection, he moved his research into a secret underground vault. By 1950 — a 1939 view of 1950, in which World War II as we know it never happened — he was on the brink of success, when war broke out. Even his hideout was destroyed, shelves full of chemicals crashing to the floor and creating exotic fumes which, instead of killing him, invigorated him to the point where, in his last conscious moments, he devised a mathematical formula for peace (!). Then he was overwhelmed by rising chemical foam. He woke up when an earthquake drained the foam away, and was surprised to find himself taller and stronger, and in the year 2174.

But that's not the Gary Concord the series was about. That was his father.

Gary Concord fils, born 40 years later, succeeded to his late father's office, High Moderator of the United States of North America, on July 4, 2239. The foam had been adapted into a weapon too terrible to use, which was supposed to put an end to war — but as we've seen from dynamite to nuclear weapons, that trick never works, and there were always enough warmongers to keep him busy. Wearing a superhero-like outfit that was apparently proper dress for a politician of the time, Gary was as much a hands-on leader as the later Super President, constantly going up against America's enemies in single combat in the grand tradition of sci-fi pulp heroes.

This sustained the series until #19 (October, 1940), after which it was replaced by another sci-fi series, "Adventures into the Unknown" (no relation to the later title from ACG, where Nemesis starred). By that time, with Green Lantern a going concern and The Atom debuting in that very issue, All-American Comics was rapidly filling up with more standard superheroes.

A few years later, All-American Publications was absorbed by DC Comics. Even as a property of DC, Ultra-Man went several decades before being seen again — which he was in a 1986 guest appearance with Superman and a 1996 crossover with The Legion of Super Heroes. Except for being owned by the same company, he isn't connected in any way with Ultraman, a villainous extra-dimensional counterpart to Superman, or with Ultra the Multi-Alien.


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Text ©2007 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.