Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for Vapo-Man!

Another weird creation from the comic book production studios run by Harry "A" Chesler was Vapo-Man! He by-product of a lab accident caused by enemies spies, he had the ability to turn into a gas, become large or tiny, fly, disintegrate matter (living or otherwise), and probably anything else the writers might have dreamed up. He spent the first three published stories running around in his skivvies, but by his fourth appearance, he was given a proper superhero costume.

Vapo-Man appeared in Liberty Scouts #2 and #3, and here he battled a corrupt official, the "Director of Defence" and the enemy spy ring he secretly headed up. At the end of each story, he promised that he would be taking ot the Director next issue.. but he never did.

Or maybe he dispatched the Director and his spies between issues, because when Vapo-Man next coalesced in Man of War #1, he was fighting Nazis and the Director and his agents were nowhere to be found. With Man of War #2, Vapo-Man, freshly outfitted with one of the goofiest looking outfits any superhero ever dared to wear in public, fought his last. With the cancellation of his second home, he was never seen again.

All four Vapo-Man stores were drawn by Sam Gilman, an artist who appears to have worked only briefly in comics, with only a dozen or so stories to his credit, all in magazines from Centaur Publishing during 1940 and 1941. Given the disconnect between the Vapo-Man storyline in Liberty Scouts and Man of War, I can only assume that he didn't write the stories... although that could be a bad assumption, as continuity was not a priority during the Golden Age, and Chesler's crews seemed to ignore such niceties more often than many others.

Vapo-Man is a great example of the no-holds-barred weirdness and casual violence of early Golden Age stories. He may have been an attempt to capture the success of Centaur's more successful hero Mighty Man, as the two characters share some powers in common, but that was not to be. Readers may also feel that he reminds them of Plastic Man, but the two characters debuted the same month, so any similarity there is probably just coincidental.

Vapo-Man is one of the characters we hope to include in a future issue of Complete Golden Age Oddballs.

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