Captain America is the best remembered and most prominent hero from the Golden Age of Marvel Comics (or, as the company was known back then, Timely Comics). One reason why Captain America: The First Avenger was so successful was because it exploited the nostalgia that audiences had for that golden age, a time when the world was united against the greatest evil known to man and there was no doubt who was fighting for good and who was fighting for evil.
However, Captain America was not the only Marvel super hero fighting gangsters and Nazis during the 1940s. If Marvel Studios ever decides to take another trip back to World War II, these five Golden Age heroes would be worthy additions to the MCU.
The Blonde Phantom
Created by Stan Lee and artist Syd Shores and first introduced in 1946, The Blonde Phantom was a part of Marvel’s post-war attempt to appeal to young female readers.
Originally from Hoboken, New Jersey, Louise Grant was the secretary to private detective Mark Mason. Bored with her job and in love with Mark, Louise would regularly grab a .45 caliber pistol, don the sultry disguise of the Blonde Phantom, and help her boss solve his cases. While Mark barely noticed his loyal secretary, he fell in love with the Blonde Phantom.
It would be tricky to reimagine the Blonde Phantom from a modern perspective but I think it could be done. Instead of emphasizing Louise’s unrequited crush on the sexist Mark, a modern Blonde Phantom film would focus on how becoming the Blonde Phantom allows Louise to discover her own inner strength. As Agent Carter proved, there is an audience for a strong female character in a period setting.
Introduced in 1940 and created by George Kapitan and Harry Sahle, Claire Voyant (who was also known as The Black Widow, long before the first appearance of Natasha Ramanoff) is considered to be the first costumed female super hero and also one of the darkest.
A medium, Claire is possessed by Satan and used to put a curse on the Wagler Family. After most of the family is killed in a car accident, the sole remaining Wagler shoots and kills Claire. Claire immediately goes to Hell, where Satan himself gives her the power to kill by simply touching her victim’s forehead. Satan then sends Claire back among the living, on a mission to kill evil doers so that Satan can claim their souls before they have a chance to repent and ask for forgiveness.
Along with her dark origin story and her flirtatious relationship with Satan, Claire Voyant was distinguished by both her lack of remorse when it came to killing and for having the sharpest eyebrows of almost any character from the Golden Age. As the star of her own MCU film, she would provide an interesting contrast to the wholesomeness of Captain America.
A journalist-turned-spy, Keen Marlow was captured behind-the-lines in Nazi Germany. Held in a prison-of-war camp, Marlow met Prof. Eric Schmitt, an anti-Nazi German scientist who had created a serum that was similar to the one that was used to transform frail Steve Rogers into Captain America. After taking the serum, Marlow donned a mask and a dark costume and used his new powers to battle the Nazis from within Germany.
The Destroyer was a popular character during the Golden Age, though he was never as prominent as Captain America, The Human Torch, or the Submariner. The Destroyer became far more interesting when his origin was retconned in the 1970s and it was revealed the Keen Marlow was an alias used by British aristocrat Brian Falsworth. Before the start of World War II, Falsworth had been a prominent supporter of appeasement. By becoming The Destroyer, Falsworth both defended his country and sought redemption. When Falsworth eventually took on yet another costumed identity (Union Jack), his friend Roger Aubrey took over the role of the Destroyer.
The Destroyer was one of the first super hero characters to be created by Stan Lee. Not only is his origin similar to Captain America’s (Cap was introduced in March of 1941 and the Destroyer made his debut nine months later) but it is also a forerunner to Iron Man’s.
Namor the Submariner
Created by artist and writer Bill Everett, Namor was the son of human boat captain Leonard McKenzie and Fen, the daughter of the emperor of the undersea kingdom of Atlantis. As a hybrid, Namor had the ability to live under water but, with his human appearance, he could also go above the surface and safely mix with human society as well. While the arrogant and hot-tempered Namor had little use for humanity (with the exception of New York City policewoman Betty Dean), he did side with the Allies in the war against the Nazis.
Despite being a prominent member of the Marvel Universe for over 70 years, Namor has yet to even appear in a movie. Not only was he one of the most popular of the Marvel Golden Age heroes but his battle with the original Human Torch has regularly been cited as being the birth of the Marvel Universe. Unlike many Golden Age characters, Namor remains active today, sometimes fighting for humanity and sometimes trying to destroy it.
There have been efforts to make a movie about Namor but, so far, none of them have been successful. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has said that there are many deals and contracts that need to be sorted out before it can be definitely determined who owns the rights to the character. It will probably be a while before the Submariner swims to a theater near you.
The Phantom Reporter
The Phantom Reporter is actually Dick Jones, a former all-American fullback who was also a college boxing, wrestling, and fencing champion. As a reporter, Dick always tried to protect those who could not defend themselves. When he couldn’t help them as a journalist, he would put on a mask, a suit, and a cape and he would battle evildoers.
The Phantom Reporter only appeared in one Golden Age comic book, 1941’s Daring Mystery Comic Books #3. 65 years later, he was brought back as one of the lead characters in The Twelve, a limited series about a group of World War II super heroes who, after spending decades in suspended animation, are revived in the 21st Century. Returning to his career as both a costumed hero and a journalist, The Phantom Reporter also develops an unlikely relationship with Claire Voyant.
The perfect Phantom Reporter movie would be a cross between the screwball comedy of The Front Page and the heroics of Captain America. It would be a reminder that not all heroes have super powers. Some of them just have the desire to do the right thing.