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Crimson Avenger (Early Golden Age)

When the Crimson Avenger‘s series returns after a few months hiatus, there is little indication of the changes the series would undergo. He still wore his Shadow-like red cape and hat, and used his gas gun to take down the bad guys.  In fact, in story after story all the Crimson Avenger really needs to do is get near the villains.  One shot of his gas gun, and they are down for the count, wrapped up and shipped off to the police.

Wing was still functioning as valet and chauffer for Lee Travis, though now his skill at English had decreased, and he spoke the way asians were “supposed” to speak in the comics.  That’s when he was allowed to speak.  For some reason, in many of the early 1940 tales Wing is virtually mute.  In issue 41, Lee asks Wing to check out the rumours in Chinatown about human smuggling, and in the next panel tells Wing the information he gave him will be helpful – but we never see Wing ask anyone, or even give his report to Lee!

In October 1940, Detective Comics 44 Lee adopts a new costume, wearing a red body sticking that covers his head and goes all the way to his feet.  It has a yellow fin on the top, and he wears a domino mask over his eyes.  He continued to wear his old red cape. Large yellow gloves, matching boots and yellow shorts complete this ensemble, which has a very unusual crest in the centre of his chest, a black circle surrounded by a larger yellow one, with scalloped edges.  No explanation of this symbol was given (heck, no explanation for why he changed to such a garish costume was given, either), and it was left the later writers to interpret it.

Over the next year the costume would be tinkered with, elements coming and going.  The gloves and cape would be jettisoned.  He continued to use his gas gun, though not nearly as often, preferring to rely on acrobatic fighting.

The costume changes are not always well-handled.  In a number of the stories we see that he wears his costume under his normal clothing, but in issue 48 Lee is captured by hoods, tied up and thrown into the river.  He emerges from the river in full costume (which still included the cape at this point), miraculously having changed underwater.

Issue 51 is intended as a light-hearted tale, with Lee accompanying a wealthy boy on his birthday, and helping him fend off kidnappers, but the ending shows his darkest side.  After the bad guys have been caught and tied up, and are merely waiting to be shipped off to jail, Lee dons his costume and beats them up.  Not a very heroic act, but it does perhaps explain why Lee adopted a costume that better concealed his identity.

In issue 59 Wing suddenly gets a costume as well, of not a codename.  His outfit matches the Crimson Avenger’s though with the colour scheme reversed, much like the way Kid Flash’s reversed the Flash’s colour scheme.  As his crest he has something stylized, which might be a “7”, or perhaps a question mark.  The only reason it could possibly be a seven is that this is the same month that the Crimson Avenger and Wing started appearing in Leading Comics as part of the Seven Soldiers of Victory.  His team would never get mentioned in the pages of his own series.  Odd, considering that Batman was mentioned, along with the Joker and the Penguin.

Even with Wing as his sidekick the Crimson Avenger never faced any really good villains.  There was a mad scientist in Detective 49 who created a destructive robot, Echo, and another in World’s Finest 4 who claimed to be Methuselah after developing a youth serum, blackmailing its users into committing crimes for him.  He fought the Adder in issue 79, and the Lone Wolf in issue 85, but there was nothing notable about these killers aside from their names.

As the series progresses, we see more and more of the staff at the Globe-Leader.  At first, there is just one reporter, Mac, who Lee deals with regularly, but soon many of the stories would focus on individual staff – reporters, the weather forecaster, the society columnist, the printing staff, the obituaries writer.  The best of these has Lee give a young journalist from a small-town a shot at working for the paper if he can bring in interviews with three notable recluses, and then as Crimson Avenger helps him do so.  There appear to be all manner of dreadful crimes occurring in this tale in Detective 69, “Three Behind the Throne,” when in fact there are innocent explanations all around.  But none of these staff members ever appear a second time.

Lee also starts using a capsule that releases a crimson smoke cloud, which he uses for dramatic entrances and exits, and also for messing up the bad guys during a fight.  In issue 73, “The Old-Fashioned Crimes,” he uses the cloud to get away from his city desk editor, who he is standing right next to, and change into the Crimson Avenger without being noticed.

His series ends with issue 89, but the Crimson Avenger and Wing continue to appear as part of the Seven Soldiers of Victory.

The Crimson Avenger’s next solo tale is in the Early Bronze Age, part of a serialized Seven Soldiers story.


Crimson Avenger:  Detective Comics  37 – 89  (Mar 40 – July 44)

World’s Best Comics 1  (Spring 41)

World’s Finest Comics  2- 5 (Summer 41 – Spring 42)

Crimson Avenger

The Crimson Avenger started off as a sort of hybrid of the Shadow and the Green Hornet, both successful pulp heroes.  Lee Travis, the young published and editor of the Globe Leader, would dress up in a dark blue suit with a matching wide-brimmed hat, with a large red cape and cloak, packing two pistols that he would shoot through openings in the cloak.

He had a faithful chinese servant, Wing, who knew his identity, and functioned largely as his driver, though he did capture a fugitive on his own once.  Wing was capable of speaking clear English.

The Crimson, as he was usually referred to in these stories, was assumed to be a criminal, by both the law and other bad guys, and Lee Travis fostered that image both by the intricate schemes he pulled to bring down the villains, and also by running a $5000 reward for his capture in his newspaper.

Many of these stories use a panel of the headline of the paper for their opening, virtually all have that headline-panel at some point in the first page.

In his first story, the Crimson Avenger goes after a shady defense lawyer, offering to kill the DA for him, but in fact setting him up, effectively entrapping him.  Pretending to be a criminal helped him pull off a few of these plans, but frequently he would be only step ahead of the law himself. It backfired on him somewhat in issue 26, when he was assumed to be part of a subway payroll robbery that saw a policeman get murdered, and he was now wanted as a cop killer.

Lee Travis went through two secretaries in this part of his run.  We meet Miss Stevens in issue 21, but she fades into the background and by issue 28 his secretary is Miss Blaine, who holds up very well after being captured by jewel thieves.

This run of the Crimson Avenger ended with Detective 29, July 1939, but the character would return with some major changes in the next year

Crimson Avenger continues in the Early Golden Age

Crimson Avenger:  Detective Comics  20 – 29 (Oct 38 – July 39)

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