The Human Bomb

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The above is not a complete list of Human Bomb stories. Rather, it consists of my picks of the best tales in the magazines, the ones I enjoyed reading, and recommend to others.

These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number.

They were edited by Ed Cronin.

Many issues of Police Comics can be read free online at Comic Book +.

The Human Bomb

The Origin of the Human Bomb (1941). Writer: Paul Gustavson Art: Paul Gustavson. (Title for this titleless story supplied by Grand Comics Database.) The Human Bomb is a super-hero, who can set off explosions with his fingertips. He started out as an ordinary human being, lab scientist Roy Lincoln, and got his powers when he swallowed an explosive chemical so that it would not fall into Nazi hands. Such an origin, a regular human transformed into a super-powered person through a laboratory event, echoes those of Steel Sterling and the Golden Age Flash.

The Human Bomb also seems to be invulnerable, and capable of moving at high speeds. powers that are never really explained anywhere in the stories.

QUALITY. The Human Bomb stories are way too violent. In many ways, they are war stories, with Roy using his powers to battle Nazi agents and machines. I am not comfortable with this level of violence in entertainment. However, I agree that Nazis are wholly evil, and deserve everything they get in these tales. And the best tales have a lot of way-out imagination.

The best tales are scattered through issues 1-17. After this, the series takes a disastrous dive in quality with issue 18. Even these early tales will never be cited as the high points of comic book history! They are moderately good tales with some decent story ideas and art.

The second Human Bomb story in the next issue, "Evil on Calona Island" is routine.

RACISM. As best I can tell the Human Bomb tales in issues 1-17 are free of racism. This includes the tales recommended in this article: they do NOT include racism. But starting in issue 18, many Human Bomb tales contain racist caricatures of the Japanese, against whom Americans were fighting World War 2. This was a common problem in the comic book industry of the era. These later stories are not much good to begin with. And their flaunting of racist imagery turns them into complete junk.

THE SUIT. Roy's "Human Bomb" suit anticipates the lead suits Superman would later wear to guard against Kryptonite.

The visual design of the suit is full of strange curves. These sometimes echo and emphasize the musculature of Roy's body. At other times, they simply give the suit a unique curvilinear feel. The mittens Roy wears, which look as if they are surrounded gauntlet-style by a cone of tongue depressors, are also unusual.

A microscope has a strange viewer, that serves as a near mask to Roy's face (page 1). It is a cool effect. A similar microscope returns in "The U-Boat Battle" (page 1) and "Mr. Chameleon" (#14, December 1942) (page 3).

THE SPLASH. The splash panel is symbolic. In later tales the splashes tend to be realistic, often showing action scenes.

POLITICS. Roy Lincoln's last name is patriotic, recalling Abraham Lincoln.

The story ends with a fervent denunciation of the Nazis. This is still four months before the US's entrance into the war. The hero denounces the Nazis' "rotten system": it's a full political condemnation. Many of the subsequent Human Bomb tales are also anti-Nazi. I find the series' anti-Nazi stance admirable.

The Purple Mist (1941). Writer: Paul Gustavson Art: Paul Gustavson. (Title for this titleless story supplied by Grand Comics Database.) Roy Lincoln is summoned by President Roosevelt for a meeting at the White House; meanwhile, a menacing purple mist is seen in the streets. Origin of Roy's fiancée, Jean Caldwell. Inventive mix of a simple science fictional menace, and adventure.

This tale reminds one of some Jerry Siegel stories:

COSTUMES. The splash shows a thong on the side of the Human Bomb's costume, where he can attach his gauntlets while not wearing them. The thong is also shown in the splash of next issue's "The U-Boat Battle", and the splash of "Mr. Chameleon".

Roy wears a sharp double-breasted suit, with peaked lapels (pages 1, 2). He looks dressed-up. A panel shows his high-speed changing from his suit into the Human Bomb costume (page 3). Roy wore a rather similar suit in the previous issue's "Evil on Calona Island". Both suits are blue, anticipating the blue Naval uniforms Roy will wear in later stories. There are also some excellent portraits of Roy in a similar blue suit in the first half of "Mr. Chameleon" (#14, December 1942).

There is a good portrait of an Army Captain from Fort Dix, on the last page. The massively muscular Captain is in a Sam Browne belt, flared breeches, puttees and sports a huge high-peaked cap. It is a patriotic celebration of the US Army. This echoes similar Army uniforms in the previous issue's "Evil on Calona Island" (page 2). However, the peaked caps are bigger and better shaped in this tale. More Army uniforms are seen in "Jitterbug Jeopardy" (#16, February 1943).

The U-Boat Battle (1941). Writer: Paul Gustavson Art: Paul Gustavson. (Title for this titleless story supplied by Grand Comics Database.) Roy develops a new chemical in his lab, then flies to Havana with his fiancée, Jean Caldwell. Jean does not know Roy is the Human Bomb, and she begins to get inquisitive here, in the tradition of Lois Lane. This is actually fairly atypical of Golden Age girlfriends. Most seem to know all about their boyfriend's secret identity. Jean is depicted as intelligent and alert here. In later tales, she manages to get more involved in the action.

Like the previous issue's story, "The Purple Mist", this tale further develops the mythos of the character. Roy's new chemical gives him new powers, and we see him in new roles.

Roy is now "in charge of a new Naval chemical research laboratory in Washington D.C." (page 1). President Roosevelt offered him this job in the previous issue's "The Purple Mist".

Roy is seen working for the US Government for the first time here. He makes a surprising appearance in the dress uniform of a US Naval Sergeant, a neat scene (page 3). The uniform includes a leather Sam Browne belt with chest harness, erect collar, trousers with a stripe down the side, and a giant high-peaked cap with a jutting black visor. He wears this uniform when he is with Jean, and reprises it at the finale when the two are reunited (page 6). At the finale, he is also wearing white dress gloves. These accentuate the phallic gesture he is making with his fingers. Their white color also echoes the all-white costume of the Human Bomb.

Roy also wears a glove while doing lab work (page 1). The glove is fastened with a wrist strap.

Roy's dress uniform returns in a later tale, "Adventure In Argentina" (#9, May 1942). In the finale of "Adventure In Argentina, Part 2" (#10, July 1942) (page 6), we briefly see a version with white dress shirt and tie. It's very official looking. "The Flute of Destruction" (#11, September 1942) has Roy in his standard dress uniform again.

The villains in this tale are explicitly Nazis, again: we see their swastikas. This is still before the US entered the war.

The Phony Murder of Col. Stanford (1941). Writer: Paul Gustavson Art: Paul Gustavson. (Title for this titleless story supplied by Grand Comics Database.) Colonel Stanford, a US Government bigwig in the diplomat service, is killed.

The spy villains talk German and are likely Nazis, although this not made quite explicit.

There is a fairly negative mention of classical music, suggesting it's dull (page 1).

COSTUMES. We see Roy in a formal evening Navy uniform, with a mess jacket with a double-breasted flap, complex sculpturing along its front and back base, and braid along his left shoulder. It is a very flattering costume. He has Sergeant's chevrons and slash marks on his sleeves, like his dress uniform in the previous tale "The U-Boat Battle". Both uniforms include an erect collar, epaulettes, trousers with a side stripe, and white gloves.

Roy wears the formal uniform to a Washington diplomatic ball. The same diplomatic ball contains a back view of a spectacularly well-built man in a tail coat (page 1). One gets the impression that all men at the ball are either in uniform or white tie and tails. Please see my list of comic book characters in white tie and tails. Colonel Stanford's tails are otherwise correct, but worn with a blue tie: a faux pas! Perhaps this is an attempt to get a bit of color into the story. Comic books are a deeply color-oriented medium.

The Black Vanguards (1942). Writer: Paul Gustavson Art: Paul Gustavson. (Title for this titleless story supplied by Grand Comics Database.) The Black Vanguards, a Nazi terror squad, blow up the Human Bomb's lab with their earthquake machine. In some previous tales, like the first story, "The Origin of the Human Bomb" and "The Purple Mist", the Human Bomb inadvertently blew up buildings. This tale takes place in a building under siege from the villains. This is a form of storytelling unique to the Human Bomb series.

The Phony Human Bomb (1942). Writer: Paul Gustavson Art: Paul Gustavson. (Title for this titleless story supplied by Grand Comics Database.) Roy and a newsboy get involved in a chase after a phony imitation of the Human Bomb, on the streets of Washington DC. Having crooks impersonate a hero, was a standard plot gambit in the comics.

PLOT. The feisty newsboy who helps Roy looks as if he is going to become a series character. He even announces at the end that he is going to move in with Roy. But, as far as I can tell this is the newsboy's first and only appearance. He does not even get a name. The only series characters in "The Human Bomb" #3-#14 are Roy and Jean.

There is a nice self-referential plot development referring to comic books (page 3).

ART. There are some good city exteriors from an overhead angle (pages 4, 5, 6).

The snow-filled winter streets are also pictorially pleasant throughout the tale.

COSTUMES. Roy is wearing an elegant double-breasted greatcoat and ascot, over his formal evening Navy uniform. He is really dressed to the nines. This looks like the same formal evening uniform he wore in "The Phony Murder of Col. Stanford". Roy's high-peaked cap is especially well-drawn in the tale's final panel.

The Liebestraum Code (1942). Writer: Paul Gustavson Art: Paul Gustavson. (Title for this titleless story supplied by Grand Comics Database.) Roy keeps going to the same Hungarian restaurant, for mysterious reasons.

COSTUMES. Roy gets a new formal evening Navy uniform. It is shaped like his older one from "The Phony Murder of Col. Stanford" and "The Phony Human Bomb". But while the older uniform was all blue, this one contrasts its black mess jacket with white trousers. The cap is white with a black visor. He still wears white gloves.

The piano player is in a tuxedo. Please see my list of Comic Book Heroes in Tuxedos.

Young Naval Intelligence officer Connely is very well-built in his uniform (page 5). So are a whole room full of Intelligence officers (page 6).

A PROMOTION? Roy gets a new rank, too. He had worn Sergeants' uniforms since "The U-Boat Battle". But now he is referred to as Lieutenant Lincoln. Roy is now an officer.

There is no promotion ceremony, and the new rank is not commented on. Furthermore, Roy will wear regular civilian suits for the next many issues. He will not be seen in uniform for a long time.

The Living Dead of Skull Valley (1942). Writer: Paul Gustavson Art: Paul Gustavson. (Title for this titleless story supplied by Grand Comics Database.) Defense plant workers in a remote location are hounded at night by skull-faced attackers. Tale with a clever premise.