Welcome back to My Hero, wherein we here at Back to the Past identify and delve into the obscure characters from our custom action figure collection. Years ago, we purchased the life’s work of an artist and comic fan whose chosen medium was granting forgotten comic characters the action figure immortality denied to them by major toymakers. This week’s selection is the two-time dollar store Batman known as The Owl!
Sometimes Innovating, Mostly Ripping Off
Crackajack Funnies #25 hit newsstands with a cover date of July 1940, just over a year after Batman’s debut in Detective Comics #27 and just a few months after the Caped Crusader landed his own title. Crackajack debuted a new feature in issue twenty-five, the title’s only superhero tale strip: The Owl! By day, New York private eye Nick Terry battles crime within the bounds of the law. By night, he dons the purple garb of The Owl and takes to the rooftops of the Big Apple to battle crooks in ways that the police cannot!
The Owl mostly patrolled the city either on foot or using his themed purple Owlplane (which seems like an inconvenient domestic conveyance) along the lines of Batman’s then-newly introduced Batplane. Crackajack Funnies #32 featured Nick’s love interest, reporter Belle Wayne (wait, really?) adopt the costumed identity of Miss Owl. She began working as his partner, predating Batwoman by 15 years. They were tooling around the New York Harbor in an Owlboat only a few issues later, which predated the debut of the Batboat by five years. After sixteen appearances in Crackajack Funnies, The Owl feature was moved to the pages of Popular Comics for thirteen more stories before disappearing in 1943.
Batman & The Owl: A 60s Renaissance
And that is where his story would end if not for 1966 Batman TV Series. That series, in conjunction with the revolutionary work Stan Lee was doing at Marvel and the expansion of DC’s superhero line, sparked a wave of new superhero titles across the comic industry. At Archie Comics, Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel was masterminding a “High Camp” approach to superhero stories to match what audiences were seeing on TV. Gold Key Comics (the new publishing shingle of The Owl’s owners) poached Siegel to revive their Batman knock-off to capitalize on the show. The result? Two issues published a year apart that turned The Owl into a self-parody in the style of Adam West’s Batman. This was complete with even more Owl gadgets and a new sidekick named Laura “Owlgirl” Holt, She debuted a few short months after the best known Batgirl, Barbara Gordon.
An Overlooked Original
The Owl has mostly faded into comic limbo, thought Dynamite Entertainment did give him a four issue mini-series in 2013 as part of the Project Superpowers universe. It kept the Batman-esque elements while dropping the sixties camp. Like all the Project: Superpowers heroes, The Owl is firmly in the public domain these days and anybody can use him. That said, it seems people would rather create their own “original” Batman knock-offs. More’s the pity. If you’re looking to put The Owl on your shelf, you’re outta luck…or you will be, once someone else takes home the action figure from The My Hero Collection! And if you’ve got collection like it – be it original art, custom action figures, convention sketches, whatever – and are looking to sell it, we would love to help you! Hop into your Collectorplane and get on it!