Welcome to the two-hundred and seventieth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and sixty-nine.
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COMIC LEGEND: The first superhuman comic book character to fly was…the Sub-Mariner?!
STATUS: Appears to be True
As most of you know by now, DC Comics sued Fawcett Comics because they felt that Captain Marvel was infringing upon their copyrighted characters, Superman (I did a legend on it years ago here), due to a similar look and similar superpowers.
So it has always been an amusing little tidbit to note that in one of their most notable powers, it was Captain Marvel who got there first.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, pretty much every character would LEAP to get where they were going, and that was the case for both Superman AND Captain Marvel (and many other knock-offs of Superman, including Wonder Man and Amazing Man).
However, Captain Marvel started flying in Whiz Comics #5, well before Superman did (most folks, including yours truly, give credit to the Superman cartoons of the 1940s for the addition of Superman’s power of flight).
At his great Captain Marvel website, Walt Grogan goes into further detail about how Captain Marvel flew first. To read more, just click on the fun fact picture below!
This notable “scooping” by Captain Marvel has even led some places to credit Captain Marvel as the FIRST superhuman character to fly in comic books.
That is not the case.
Surprisingly enough, it is Namor, the Sub-Mariner, who owns that distinction!
In his very first appearance in mid-1939 in Marvel Comics #1 (which was actually his SECOND appearance, as he appeared earlier in the year in a giveaway comic that never was given away), Namor the Sub-Mariner flew!
Check it out…
Now, even if you wish to say that SOME of these above instances could be leaping, it seems clear that at least ONE of them is intended as flight, right?
The Human Torch, on the other hand, in the same issue, although lighter than air, was clearly leaping and not flying (and would continue like that for a number of issues before he, too, began to fly)…
Even if you don’t think Namor is flying in #1, in the NEXT issue of Marvel Comics (now Marvel Mystery Comics), it shows Namor blatantly flying…
And all that predates all the other flying heroes (although they all followed very quickly after, as flying IS a lot cooler than leaping).
Pretty neat, huh?
I’d say “If you can find a comic book character who flew before Namor, let me know!” but do I really need to SAY that? If you know of one, I’m sure you’ll let me know.
Thanks to reader Thomas Paine for the suggestion! And thanks to Walt Grogan for the Captain Marvel/Superman stuff!
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