The Golden Age of Comic Books was an amazing time for comics that gave birth to iconic superheroes like Superman, Batman, Captain America and many others. New characters popped up constantly to try and take part in the new superhero craze, but many of those characters from the '30s and '40s have been lost to time.
One such character that falls into this category is Doc Stearne, a generic adventurer created by Fred Kelly who later donned a costume and a unique moniker: Mr. Monster. The Golden Age Mr. Monster may have only appeared a couple of times before falling in to obscurity, but under the pen of Michael T. Gilbert, he was resurrected like Frankenstein’s Monster, long after his original creation.
Also Stearne first debuted in 1945, he only appeared as Mr. Monster in 1946's Triumph Comics #31 and 1947's Super-Duper Comics #3. As Mr. Monster, Stearne wears a colorful costume and wields a gun as he dishes out harsh justice to the Terror of Trezma, a hulking monster from the distant past. Assisting Jim is Glo, his girl Friday, who is kidnapped by the Terror of Trezma and ultimately saved by Mr. Monster. It’s a fairly typical Golden Age story, but the panel of Mr. Monster blowing out the brains of the monster by shoving his gun in its mouth is certainly memorable.
Although that character's adventures were only published for about a year, Michael T. Gilbert, who fascinated with the character, eventually revived Stearn (without the "e") during the 1980s through Eclipse Comics, where he was the son of the original Mr. Monster with a new girl Friday, Kelly.
The Eclipse Comics series are a tongue-in-cheek, underground celebration of classic horror adventures. Despite only having an above average strength and a gun, Mr. Monster slaughters unnatural horrors of any shape and size. His perseverance and quest to protect the innocent are certainly consistent with contemporary heroes, but his merciless approach to monster slaying puts a dark twist on things.
Still, the Eclipse comics are colorful and even whimsical at times. One adventure sees Doc Stearn and Kelly fight off a giant woodpecker/scorpion hybrid, only to have to deal with its giant corpse later. Mr. Monster’s Super Duper Special is an even more metatextually-comedic series that purposely emulates the pulp and even exploitative aspects of yesteryear’s comics. Whether it was humorously lampooning romance comics with an overabundance of double entendres or suggestive depictions of female characters within the position of frames, the Super Duper Specials saw Mr. Monster acting as a kind of MC for the insanity that was to follow.
These efforts stand in stark contrast to the Mr. Monster that later appears in Dark Horse Comics. Here, Mr. Monster’s backstory and origins are explored in a deep, painful, and brooding manner. No longer just a costumed adventurer, this series depicts the Mr. Monster persona as a kind of supernatural lineage, passed on from one descendant to another, a blessing and a curse to whoever is next in line. The golden age Mr. Monster, Jim Stearn is revealed to have been abandoned by his love, Glo because of his hazardous occupation. Jim, heartbroken, finally finds love again with a nurse named Lily and forsakes his calling to slay the monsters of the world.
In a sickening twist, it is revealed that Lily is a vampire and that the whole marriage is a sham to remove the Mr. Monster lineage from the world. But when the modern Doc Stearn is born, the original Mr. Monster makes a sacrifice to protect his son from his wife and ensure that the Mr. Monster line will continue. It’s a tragic tale that explores the character in a dramatic way, acting as quite the tonal counterpoint to the Eclipse series.
While every era of Mr. Monster's adventures has been released intermittently, the supernatural vigilante mixed humor and horror long before heroes like Hellboy would go on similar adventures.