Top Five Men's Men of the Golden Age
(a Once Upon A Dime.com exclusive!)
few months ago, Once Upon A Dime printed an adaptation
of an article by comic book writer Terance Griep,
Jr., The Top Five Not-So-Latently-Gay
Golden Age Superheroes. A lighthearted look at
characters who would no doubt be written a bit differently
nowadays, it got me thinking.
When I was growing up in Reeseville, comic book
superheroes were really the best role models I had.
Everything I know about being a man came from that
four-color world, which may be one reason I still
cherish those old comics handed down to me by my
bachelor uncle. They taught him, too. Certainly,
those comics have made me a better father. Though
it's certainly great to be able to laugh at some
of the quaint notions of the past, I think it my
duty as a comic book fan to counter Griep's article.
Luckily, Daniel and Derek, the guys who run the
site for Donald and myself, never object when I
pull rank on them and contribute a piece. Thanks,
Without further ado, The Top Five Men's Men of the
SUPERMAN. I don't think anybody is going to
argue this one. From his costume that reminded every
boy of a secret wish to join the circus, to his
stand on women's rights (in one of his first adventures,
he beat the tar out of a wife beater), this strange
visitor from another planet showed us all how to
be a strong yet sensitive man, long before it was
MR. SCARLET (and PINKY). Long before Johnny
Cash sung of "A Boy Named Sue," District Attorney
Brian Butler named his adopted son "Pinky."
that weren't enough to make a man out of the boy,
he dressed him up in tights and fought crime with
him. So effective were Mr. Scarlet and Pinky that
Butler put his secret identity out of a job! That's
right, criminals were too scared to pull anything
in a city swathed in Scarlet.
For some reason, however, Butler never married his
other trusted sidekick, and personal secretary,
THE RED TORNADO. I'm not talking about the android
that later joined the Justice League of America.
The Golden Age version of the character may have
occasionally been played for laughs, but definitely
had some things to say about manhood.
Not one to battle supervillains or Nazis, The Red
Tornado protected his neighborhood from criminal
elements, making sure that the kids had a safe place
to play. (Notice that modern writer Brian Michael
Bendis is trying to run with that concept in Daredevil
right now.) With no superpowers, no fancy gadgets
and even being quite a bit overweight, The Red Tornado
proved that all that matters about being a man is
having plenty of heart. He even shrugged off being
called "Ma" in his private life.
THE WHIP. One of a score or more of "millionaire
playboys" that took to fighting crime in the Golden
Age, The Whip gets extra points for never forgetting
where he came from. Dressed in the gear of his rough-and-tumble
gaucho forebears, Rodrigo Elwood Gaynor used his
precise skill with the lash to strike fear into
And really, is there a more manly name than Rodrigo?
Bold, with the hint of romance that the ladies just
love, chancing across a Whip adventure spurred me
to change my name, briefly in seventh grade, to
THE GAY GHOST. I say "pfeh!" to the revisionists
at DC who now insist that this character is The
Grim Ghost. There's nothing grim about him!
The Earl of Strethmere, Keith Everett, was on his
way to meet his true love Deborah when he was set
upon and killed by highwaymen in 17th century Scotland.
While his ghost walked the halls of the family castle,
time passed and the specter of the Nazi menace rose
Through a wild set of coincidences that could only
be guided by destiny, Keith's reincarnated true
love visited the castle with her fiancé, Charles
Collins. When Nazis shot Charles, Keith found himself
able to possess the body, reclaim his love, and
still both use his supernatural abilities and demonstrate
his earthly swordsmanship in the battle against
evil. All the while, of course, with a smile on
Real men laugh at danger. Especially when they're
already dead. Of all the lost heroes of the Golden
Age, this macho hero seems ripest for revival.
-- Derek Sprang