The Wasp swoops down on a pair of evildoers. Artist: Art Pinajian.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Lev Gleason
First Appeared: 1939
Creator: Art Pinajian
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In the very early days of comic books, The Wasp wasn't a size-changing superhero flitting around the Marvel Comics Universe. He was a guy in a regular suit, with a cloak and mask added, who drove around town fighting crime in imitation of the radio hero, The Green Hornet. He wasn't the first hero in comic books to get his crime-fighting motif from that source — DC Comics had been running The Sandman for several months by the time he came along, and DC's Crimson Avenger also edged him out by a month. In fact he wasn't …

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… even the only one in Silver Streak Comics #1 (November, 1939), where he debuted. Mister Midnight, who somehow took it into his head that an unexplained ability to cause any clocks in the vicinity to stop was a good excuse to adopt a secret identity and fight crime, also bore certain points of similarity to The Green Hornet.

The publisher of Silver Streak Comics was Lev Gleason Publications, which later got heavily into the superhero genre with characters like Daredevil, Pat Patriot and even The Silver Streak himself, but at that point hadn't caught on to the value of emulating Superman. The star of that title was The Claw, the very opposite of a hero, and the long-underwear guys weren't yet dominating the back pages, either. The Wasp was just one of several heroes of various types, such as seafaring man Captain Fearless and and sci-fi adventurer Spirit Man (no relation).

The Wasp's creation was credited to a Jay Fletcher, who almost certainly isn't a real person. Actually, it was drawn and probably written by Art Pinajian. whose other creations include Quality Comics' Madam Fatal. That first story ran in a section of the comic that was printed in only two colors (black and red).

In everyday life, The Wasp was Burton Slade, a reporter for The Daily Free Press. This reflected The Green Hornet's ties to the jounalistic profession as a publisher. According to one of the characters in his first story, the name came from the fact that his cape resembled a pair of wings, but bug wings resembling a cape would make it more likely he'd be called The Cockroach. He didn't, contrary to some reports, make a buzzing sound before striking, nor did he have a sidekick called Wasplet. That was a completely separate character, The Hooded Wasp, who was published by Street & Smith (Supersnipe).

The Wasp appeared in the second issue (this time printed in full color), but by the third, he was gone. Tho the two were similar, The Wasp as published by Harvey Comics a little over a year later was a completely unrelated character.


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Text ©2009-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Lev Gleason.