Today we’ll take a last loving look at a real “lost gem”: the comic book Daredevil Battles Hitler, published by Comics House/Lev Gleason in mid-1941. I’d like to remind you that all of the stories from this and the previous three blog posts came from a single issue, not a series. Daredevil Battles Hitler, which was probably intended as a “one shot” comic, contained sixty-eight pages of color comics for a dime (compared to today’s books which are typically 20-24 pages for $2.99 to $3.99).

The Pirate Prince was another hero drawn from the pages of Silver Streak Comics by the same publisher. At that time a relatively recent addition to the Comic House stable, the Pirate Prince had been around for five or six issues at the time of Daredevil Battles Hitler’s publication. His stories were “historical” adventures, in which the Prince fights against slave ships in the Caribbean during the 1700’s. So how does he get hooked up with Daredevil in the North Atlantic during World War II?

Welllllll, it’s never really quite addressed. The story begins with Nazi sea raiders preying on British shipping in the North Atlantic. Daredevil arrives in his own cruiser (which is equipped with “robot controls” — the guy gets all the best toys) and climbs aboard the raiding vessel. Daredevil tears around the Nazi ship, pretty much randomly kicking butt and taking names, until suddenly:

It’s the Pirate Prince, journeying across the mists of time to lend Daredevil a hand. The two heroes become instant comrades:

Ultimately the crew takes a clobbering, von Roeder is chucked overboard, and the Pirate Prince sails away, (presumably) back into the distant past. Later, in Berlin:

 

von Roeder weeps the gentle bitter tears of defeat

 

That’s the last of the six stories in the book, but Daredevil Battles Hitler contains a couple of final surprising features:

There is a short two-page text biography of Hitler, plus a seven page bio of him in comic form. The comic biography contains some really startling panels:

Yes, Virginia, the U.S. did know about Nazi concentration camps as early as 1941, but it’s highly unlikely that America was aware of the full extent of the atrocities committed therein. Judging from these panels it’s safe to assume that the supposition was that the camps were intended to hold political prisoners.

The start and first year of the Second World War are illustrated in a stylized allegorical fashion:

 

Hitler and Mars run rampant over Europe

 

“When would it end?” asks the writer. He concludes the narrative on a hopeful note:

 

Sic semper tyrannus

 

I’ve recently had occasion to argue with another historian on the subject of America’s “neutrality” in the months preceding Pearl Harbor. I’ll remind the reader once again that this is an American comic book which is dated July 1941; this means that it was likely hitting the newsstands sometime during the spring of that year — seven or eight months prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the event which officially brought the United States into the war.

I rest my case.

While probably intended as a “one shot” comic, the book Daredevil Battles Hitler was a big success, and was followed quickly by a new title in which Daredevil was the star attraction. The first issue of Daredevil Comics hit the stands with a cover date of August 1941, but it appeared as issue #2. that’s why Daredevil Battles Hitler is today catalogued as Daredevil Comics #1, even though such a title technically doesn’t exist.

All of the images in this post, as well as the previous three blog posts, are from the digital copy of Daredevil Battles Hitler from the Golden Age Comics website; their scan of the book is available there for free (legal, too!) download (and is listed there as Daredevil Comics #1, located in the “Lev Gleason Comics” category).

Have fun! — Steve

Copyright 2010, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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