The Golden and then Silver Age of comics that stretched from the 1930s to early 1950s left a lot of unloved heroes in its wake. Forgotten is Fatman the Human Flying Saucer — “the only comic hero with 3 identities” — who could transform his tubby self into a spaceship, and Black Fury the Wonder Horse, a sort of muscled up version of Black Beauty. There’s also Cat-Man, a dead ringer for Batman except his logo was a black house cat, and Linda Lark Student Nurse, later rising in rank to Registered Nurse, caught in the intrigue and romance of the hospital.
Luckily for today’s curious cats, many of these misfit comics didn’t get copyrighted and are now in the public domain. Comic Book Plus, brought to our attention by Open Culture, is an especially excellent resource. It’s not a particularly elegant site, but since 2006 it’s been collecting public domain comics from Cold War titles like Atomic War!, splayed with eye-popping nuclear devastation, and John Force, Magic Agent, who used telepathy and illusion in his work as a secret agent. Alongside are overlooked classics like Dale Messick’s 1940s Brenda Starr Reporter series, the first to put a woman in an action lead. There are also foreign language titles in Spanish, French, German, Dutch, Arabic, Hindi, Catalan, and Portuguese. It’s kind of overwhelming to navigate, but you can search by date, genre, and intriguing tags like “medical love,” “espionage,” and “atomic.”
As Open Culture points out, we’re sort of in our own Golden Age of vintage comics accessibility, with resources like the Digital Comic Museum and Fury Comics offering droves of public domain Golden Age titles. Below are some of the more strange and wonderful titles available at Comic Book Plus, which can all be read online or downloaded with a free registration.
Find all of the over 22,000 public domain Golden and Silver Age comics at Comic Book Plus.