Armagideon Time

Gary Concord, cheap the Ultra Man, All-American Comics #8 (November 1939), All-American Comics #18, Don Shelby, Impi, Guppy, ), Legends of the Dead Earth. High Moderator of the United States of North America, foam

This week’s entry in our parade of the unloved and forgotten dates back to the very dawn of the superhero era, a time when fresh-faced visionaries lined up to sell their dreams to shady publishers for short money. 

Behold The Ultra Man!

…credited to Don Shelby and who made just short of a dozen appearances in All-American Comics, starting with issue #8 (November 1939).

After losing both his parents in the First World War, Gary Concord dedicated his life and massive intellect to putting an end to armed conflict…by inventing a weapon so terrible that a resentful and fragile peace would be the only alternative (because that kind of thinking has worked out so well for us in the past). 

Unfortunately for Concord, the answer he had been seeking only appeared after the opening festivities of the Great War of 1950 (fought between the Orchestral Pop Alliance and the Cool Jazz Concordance) sealed him inside his secret subterranean lair and upended his stockpile of volatile chemicals…which conveniently combined to produce a soporific foam akin to NyQuil-flavored Cool Whip.

Trapped by the rising tide of somno-suds, Concord barely managed to jot down the formula for his “invention” before settling down for a foam-induced nap.  Upon awakening into the Art Deco futurescape of the 23rd Century, Concord discovered that his superhuman physique — a side effect of long-term foam exposure — and old-fashioned can-do attitude were in high demand by the beleaguered United States of North America. 

Got all that?  Good, now forget it, because the focus of the series was actually on Gary Concord’s lookalike son, Gary Junior, High Moderator of North America and the snappiest dressed world leader of 23rd Century Earth.  (In the be-short shorted darkness of the retro-future, there is only nepotism.)

As strange a decision it was to make Ultra Man a legacy character out of the gate, the actual stories — featuring Gary Junior and his anachronistically streetwise sidekick Guppy punching and blasting Future enemies who hate Future America for its Future Freedoms — aren’t that bad in a low-grade Alex Raymond kind of way.

The sci-fi “Rip Van Winkle” premise may have been a bit hackneyed even for 1939,  but Ultra Man was the product of a time when the superhero formula was still in embryo and very much beholden to outside influences.  In that respect, Gary Concord’s mix of Superman and Buck Rogers is a fascinating historical curiosity which approached the mark, but never quite arrived.  (That the series folded shortly after Green Lantern — a bona fide, by-the-numbers “superhero” — was introduced as All-American Comics’ flagship character is telling.)

While Gary Junior’s status as a forgotten historical footnote would have been qualified him in the most literal sense — barely remembered, much less beloved — his inexplicable return as a roided-up freak of nature…

…in 1996’s Legionnaires Annual #3 — where he led a team of Avengers analogues that included a regrettable slice of very metal absurdity…

— decisively earned the foam-powered fashion plate from the future the honor of being this week’s Nobody’s Favorite.

“We are in hell, view my dear, store there is never a mistake and people are not damned for nothing.” – Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit

“We are in hell, treatment my dear, there is never a mistake and people are not damned for nothing.” – Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit

“I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, purchase and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me. But I do not think my life will be long.” – H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu

2 Responses to “Ursus Shrugged: Part 2 – Climax”

  1. Dean

    Lovecraft was kind of a weird guy.

  2. damanoid

    “Knew?” As in the Biblical euphemism?


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