Who's Mr. America?

Who's This? The patriot on page 22 of Who's Who vol.XV.
The facts: As old as Superman himself, Mr. America started out as a plain-clothes adventure hero called Tex Thomson in Action Comics #1 (oh my, I just saw his strip from Action Comics #17 where he's in black face!), then graduated to costumed heroics in Action #33 (1941) after a brush with death at the hands of Axis saboteurs, fighting crime and Fifth Columnists with his sidekick Fatman. He remained in the Mr. America identity until FDR rebranded him as the Americommando, sending him to special ops boot camp so he could fight the good fight behind enemy lines. Though this was in Action #54 (1942), the name "Americommando" was already being applied to him a few issues earlier (sometimes with him and Fatman being the "Americommandos"). He fought the Axis until his strip ended in Action #74 (1944). Obviously, he has a few All-Star Squadron/Young All-Stars appearances to his name as well.
How you could have heard of him: He played an important role in the Elseworlds mini-series Golden Age, and was behind starting Hero Hotline in the mini-series of the same name (as The Coordinator), something revealed by writer Bob Rozakis, but not by the comic itself. While Tex has appeared in a JSA Returns special, the Mr. America identity has since been taken over by the next generation, Trey Thompson, in a very similar costume.
Example story: Action Comics #42 (1941) by Bernard Baily
The Tex Thomson strips were standard adventure fare, often told in a grid pattern that belied their matinée movie inspiration. By the time he was Americommado, it was all about giving the Axis a bloody nose. This story, closer to the middle of the run, seems to be a shark-jumping point that not only introduces the magic carpet, but gives Tex's long-time (since Action #2) sidekick Bob Daley his own superhero identity. And if Fatman looks like the Golden Age Red Tornado, be aware that it's Bob who's the copycat. Ma Hunkel put a pot on her head (instead of a lampshade) the year before. Our story begins after a three-day lull in crime statistics that's making Mr. America go a little nuts. I'd like to think these adventures occur in Texas given the protagonist's name, but we this news probably means it's more like Blüdhaven. I mean, three days... That can't otherwise be a record, can it? So Mr. America goes off looking for trouble, leaving his sidekick Bob stranded at home. But Bob doesn't like to be mothered...
After 3 years, Bob's sick of being babied, told to stay at home and cook dinner, etc. and snaps. He just loses it. Off the meds and off the reservation. It's not even the costume or the broom/quarterstaff. It's thinking the lampshade will inspire fear. And that he's overweight enough to call himself Fatman. But then, I'm not sure Mr. America is playing with a full deck either.
Tex gets bored, turns into a mad scientist and pours SCIENCE! into his cape's oil tank(!) to turn it into a magic carpet. Guys, COMICS. I think it's just a shade more believable than Fatman stumbling into the villain's lair while chasing a "rare firefly".
That old house hides a giant bingo hall where Blüdhaven's criminals are being conditioned by the Queen Bee (no relation), preparing a big radium heist so she can sell the stuff to rogue nations. Fatman doesn't really make good on his vow to "sweep up crime".
He's lucky though. Mr. America has just followed the perpetrators of a hit and run to this house and gets in on the action. He's shocked when the hoodlums' boss is...
Not just a dame, but a dame who learned judo in Japan (the filthy traitor). She escapes and leaves Tex to her bruisers, but doesn't count on being followed by Fatman. Oh yeah, Fatman! Mr. America gets out of his bonds and maneuvers the bad guys onto his cape.
Well, that's that. He then flies to the radium heist location and helps Fatman - hey, who's the sidekick here? - put the hurt on the villains.
How is it a trick, Queen Bee? Are they only pretending to completely trounce your guys? She escapes thanks to a smoke bomb (another ninja trick), and we're left with an extremely short epilogue important for two reasons: 1) Mr. America doesn't realize Fatman is his friend Bob, oh the hilarity; and 2) I just now notice Mr. America rocks a little ponytail.
Fatman can't get no respect, the only hero who has to hide his identity out of... shame. Well, he DID choose to call himself "Fatman".

Bernard Baily is perhaps better known as the co-creator of the Spectre and Hourman for a reason...

Who else? If I were completely insane, I might have attempted to do the various members of the Monster Society of Evil. I still might some day. No, I think we're ready to move on to volume XVI of Who's Who. Place your bets!


American Hawkman said...

Good ol' Tex Thompson. Kind of love the fact that Rozakis, totally without meaning to, managed to create a complete misdirect as to who the Coordinator was. (All of the clues actually point more to Air-Wave II moreso than to Tex, down to the real name given to the character.) Another notable thing about Tex's strip is that it debuted the first costumed heroine in the DC Universe, Miss X.

Siskoid said...

Oooh interesting, didn't know that! So a costumed character appeared in his strip before he himself took on the costume? Or was he already Mr. America by that point? (Confirmed, though he put the mask on in Action 33, she first appeared in Action 26.)

And yes, much love for Hero Hotline. Wish there had been more stories.

Martin Léger said...

What in the world.

The Irredeemable Shag said...

Wow. His WHOS WHO entry made him seem so much cooler than his actual adventure did. I'll just stick with the Mr America in my head.

Siskoid said...

Might be for the best.

Doc Savage said...

That story is so great, I wish comics were wild and woolly and unself-conscious like that nowadays.

"Bludhaven" is a DC place? What a silly name. I guess it's dark 'n' gritty and "realistic," thus violent and bloody and unrelentingly downbeat? Does nu-Batman like it as much as his godawful modern Gotham?

Siskoid said...

It's an old whaling town (so the equivalent of Hartford) not too far from Gotham. Nightwing moved there when he got his series, and yes, hell hole.

It was destroyed in some big event I didn't read.

Doc Savage said...

Probably for the best. Both, I mean: that it was destroyed and you didn't read it.

What a corny name. Ooh, it sounds like "blood," so '90s grim-n-gritty!


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