Monday, June 14, 2021

The First Metatextual Hero (?)...

You probably barely know who Cyril "Speed" Saunders is, if at all.

He's one of the thousands of mostly generic "adventurers" from the Golden Age of DC comics, before the superheroes took over.  Created in 1937, he pre-dates Batman & Superman.  In modern times, he occasionally figures as a supporting character in JSA-related stories; he was posited as Hawkgirl's grandfather in Robinson & Goyer's JSA and later as her uncle (or grand-uncle) in the Palmiotti & Grey run on Hawkman.

From JSA #2 (1999)

Was there a Crisis in between these two storylines to blame the change on? 

Eh; probably.

From Hawkman #2 (2002).

But originally he was (like David S. Pumpkins) his own thing.

From Detective #1, if you can imagine such a thing.

At first he was clearly part of 'the River Patrol' (which was apparently part of the FBI? Sure, okay).  But no river is mighty enough to contain the awesomeness of Speed Saunders, so pretty quickly that was generalized into being a vague 'agent' or 'investigator' who pretty much stuck his nose in wherever he wanted.

Later retcons had him part of the O.S.S. (because comics just loves the O.S.S.), but the truth is his authority came FROM BEING SPEED SAUNDERS.

When Speed Saunders shows up (which is always when the story begins because no story REALLY begins until Speed Saunders shows up), he demands to know what's up and no matter who you are, you tell him, unhesitatingly, and THEN you ask him how HE would like to proceed.

Later he sold his used car to Bruce Wayne. 
THAT'S how cool Speed Saunders was.

EVERONE always deferred to Speed's vague authority. It's a great power; he's the Aquaman of Ace Investigators.  I'd love to see him brought back in that capacity, with his authority always unquestioned and rooted in universal societal respect (for no reason that we ever get a clue about).

INSTANTLY in charge of any situation he happens upon. Before there was "I'm Batman", there was "I'm Speed Saunders".

So, I should haven't been surprised to discover that he's probably the first hero with the power of metatextuality.

"The Bat-Man, eh? Seems rather too overly dramatic to be taken seriously, I should think..."

His name is Speed Saunders, and don't you forget it.


Bryan L said...

I always thought tying Speed to Kendra was fairly clever.

On another note, the depiction of the drowned corpse once again emphasizes your point about the Golden Age not being for kids.

John C said...

That's an interesting find. I usually associate in-story interest in comics with All-American (starting with Scribbly, who actually originated at Dell), so it's slightly odd to find it somewhere else. Weirdly, I'm sure that I've seen the cover that it's referring to, but can't spot a match for any of the early DC anthology books (New/New Adventure, Fun/More Fun, Detective, Action, or Star-Spangled).

And I guess it's obvious that Saunders is authoritative, given that he convinced an entire generation of comic book writers that Gardner Fox just misspelled Hawkgirl's maiden name for a decade. That's how much people trust him.

Scipio said...

"the depiction of the drowned corpse"
The little tongue is cute; like a pug.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if some of the Golden Age gore is simply that the standards of "kid friendly" that are so natural to us, didn't exist. We grew up with "Superfriends" cartoons where kid-friendliness meant that superheroes couldn't even hit one another, so stopping the Legion of Super-Heroes was always just restraining them somehow.

Plus, maybe kids back then were more used to death being a part of life. It was more likely for a relative to die and then lie in state in your parlor, for example.

MarkAndrew said...

"The little tongue is cute; like a pug."

That is my favorite fictional dead guy ever.

Scipio said...

You'll hear more from him soon.

Well, ABOUT him, anyway.