Who Was the First Comic Book Masked Vigilante?

In "When We First Met", we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, "Avengers Assemble!" or the first appearance of Batman's giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man's face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

Reader Will G. wrote in to ask:

I don't know if you've ever got such a question before like this but I was just curious though... Who in your opinion - or CBR as a collective - was the first true American masked vigilante in comics?

I've been told and read through various sources that claim The Spirit was, The Shadow was, Batman was, The Green Hornet was, The Lone Ranger was, etc. but mainly The Shadow was mentioned.

Excellent question, Will. I don't really know that "opinion" really factors into this one, as it is simply a matter of "Who was the first masked vigilante to show up in comic books?" Note that we're looking just for masked vigilante to appear in a comic book and not a comic strip, which would be a different answer. As the headline to this article notes, though, we're specifically looking for comic books, not comic strips.

Looking at the options that you introduced there, the Spirit, Shadow, Green Hornet and Lone Ranger all made their first comic book appearance in 1940 or later. They all predated Batman as CHARACTERS, but he beat them into actually appearing in a comic book, even comic books that merely reprinted earlier comic strips (which was the case with most early comic books). Heck, Batman appeared in Detective Comics before most of those characters (not all of them, but most of them) even had their own comic strips, as most of them became famous in different media, namely pulp novels and/or radio programs.

Batman, though, was not even the first masked vigilante at National Comics (now DC Comics), let alone the first masked vigilante period! The Crimson Avengers debuted seven issues before Batman in Detective Comics #20 (created by Jim Chambers)...

However, the actual answer appears to be The Clock, created by George Brenner, in Funny Picture Stories #1 (by Comic Magazine Co.) in mid-1936...

The Clock was right out of the pulps. He did NOT mess around...

So that appears to be the answer, Will!

Thanks for the question! If anyone ELSE has a comic book question that they'd like to see answered, just drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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