Knock offs were a fact ‘o life back in the Golden Age. It made good commercial sense to imitate aspects of your competitor’s top properties whenever you could. So for every Superman, Batman or Flash you’d find also-rans like Wonderman, the Black Owl and the Silver Streak. Which brings us to today’s subject Harvey Publications doppelganger for the Human Torch; Red Blazer.
Red debuted in the inaugural issue of POCKET COMICS in August of 1941. It’s a strange origin indeed. Cowboy Jack Dawson is shanghaied by scientist Dr. Morgan, who sends his unconscious body into Earth’s upper orbit where it can absorb “Astro-Pyro Rays”. When Jack wakes up he has evolved into “the perfect man”, with (to quote a great TV show” “powers and abilities far beyond that of mortal men” Chiefly the power to control the weird flames that engulf him.
Al Avison who is noted for his work over at Timely did the artwork for this debut adventure.
Here is the second tale, which introduces his archenemy Dr. Skull. The artist for this one is unidentified.
As a comic, the strip only lasted for the 4-issue lifespan of POCKET COMICS but an odd thing happened to the property. In 1946 Harvey recycled Red Blazer in the pages of ALL NEW COMICS. Now ol’ Red boasted a snazzy new set of threads complete with a hooded cowl. Plus he has a boy sidekick called Sparkie. The thing is, despite boldly appearing on several of the titles covers, he existed only as a text feature within in it’s pages! Here they are the duo as they appeared on the cover of ALL NEW COMICS issue 7.
In a further addendum to POCKET COMICS, the periodical has further historical significance beyond being the home of Red Blazer. It was the first magazine to be published by writer-turned-businessman Alfred Harvey. It was also the original home to the company’s most successful, original property, the action heroine Black Cat. Finally it was published in an experimental format where it’s 100 pages could fit in a kid’s back pocket, hence the title. Harvey gave up on the format after 4 issues but it was revived in the 70’s by outfits like Gold Key, DC and most successfully Archie calling the books digests. In fact Archie digests can be found in grocery store checkout lanes to this day.