Comic books have a long association with star-spangled, flag-draped, red-white-and-blue-festooned crimebusters. It’s a heroic tradition dating all the way back to the very first patriotic paladin, The Shield (who debuted in 1940), and his better-known successor Captain America (who followed a year later). They’re not the only heroes to don the dapper togs of liberty, however. Literally dozens—maybe hundreds—of other comic book superheroes have filled the four-color ranks of liberty, including these lesser-known do-gooders who always wore their patriotism on their sleeves (or capes, or in one case, fur).
Amateur airplane pilot Daniel Lyons survives a nearly-fatal plane crash thanks to the healing energy of Dr. James Norton’s “Cosmic Ray Lamp,” a treatment which leaves him rattling with raw power and eager to use it for good. With barely a moment’s hesitation, Lyons decks himself out in a red, white, and blue union suit and heads out for Berlin. His singular mission: To kill Hitler!
As The Conqueror, Lyons never actually makes it so far as to wrap his hands around Der Fuehrer’s throat, since his comic was cancelled four issues in. Still, The Conqueror cut an impressive figure during his short career as he dealt violent death to enemy soldiers and spies on a one-crusade through Europe. Not bad for a guy decked out like a patriotic milkman. (You can read more about The Conqueror in The League of Regrettable Superheroes.)
A charter member of the Zoo Crew, the superteam of Earth-C, patriotic pup of liberty Yankee Poodle is actually gossip columnist Rova Barkitt. A resident of a world populated by cartoon-like Funny Animals, Yankee Poodle gains her powers when a strange, radioactive meteor from space crash-lands in her television studio. Now gifted with the power of “animal magnetism,” Yankee Poodle can fire repelling “stars” from her right hand and attracting “stripes” from her left. The resulting fireworks-like display inspired Barkitt to adopt her flag-fancying fashion and fight for freedom! Unlike most super-patriots, having white fur meant she only needed red and blue in her costume to get that Francis Scott Key look.
The Star Spangled Kid and Stripesy
Heroes and sidekicks are common currency in the world of superheroes, but the sidekick is generally the junior partner of the ensemble. Not so with the Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy who were upper-class bookworm kid Sylvester Pemberton and his combination chauffeur/bodyguard Pat Dugan. When the forces of tyranny descend upon the island of Manhattan, it’s the full-grown Stripesy who takes a subservient position to his youthful boss, which usually means beating the bad guys with complicated acrobatics and good old-fashioned pugilism.
Taking the opportunity to check out a patriotic picture at their local movie theater on Independence Day 1941, Pemberton and Dugan are incensed when a group of Nazi sympathizers starts a riot in the middle of the picture. Rather than merely demanding their ticket price refunded, the duo leap into the fray, settling the Nazis’ assorted hashes and becoming inspired by a passer-by’s blithe comment to adopt costumed identities and fight for the highest of American ideals! Whether Stripsey charged overtime for his crimefighting hours has never been revealed.
Yank and Doodle
Speaking of sidekicks, identical twins Rick and Dick Walters (doesn’t that mean they’re both named “Richard”?) are of proper sidekicking age when they decide to simply don costumes and fight crime as equal partners. Frustrated at being too young to join the fight over in Europe and the Pacific (there was a world war on, don’t you know), the twins instead capitalize on their unexplained powers of super-strength and invulnerability (which only manifested itself if the brothers were in close proximity to one another) to battle spies and saboteurs on the home front. If only they’d been triplets, gifting us with a superhero named “Dandy.”
Operating as a double-act for a few years, Yank and Doodle ultimately end up as proper sidekicks later on. When their father—surprisingly unaware of his sons’ dual identities—himself adopts the adopts the superheroic (but thematically distinct) identity of The Black Owl, Yank and Doodle sign on as his subordinates, despite their years of additional experience at the caped crusader game. The patriotic pair probably needed that injection of a new dynamic, with the war having drawn to a close. Nonetheless, the whole family faded from the comics scene soon after.