First Appearance: Mystic Comics #1 (March 1940).
Golden Age Apperances: Mystic Comics #1-4.
Modern Appearance: None.
Dates Active: 1940-?
The Blue Blaze! His first appearance starts out a three-quarter page panel of two grave-robbers rooting around a graveyard, one saying "C'mon, Butch, the Professor can't wait all night - we gotta get these bodies - say, what's the matter - ya got the jumps?" What the speaker doesn't see, but his terrified accomplice does, is a glowing hand emerging from a grave.
That's a pretty good start to a strip. It's a shame the rest of it doesn't quite live up to it.
The Blue Blaze's story starts back in 1852, where Spencer Keen visits his father, "Doctor Keen of Midwest College," before he goes to a college masquerade. (Ah, the time-honored rationale for wearing a superhero's togs: the costume ball. Of course, this is 1940, when this rationale wasn't quite so cliched as it is today.) Spencer is wearing an all-blue outfit with black boots, a studded weight-lifter's belt, and a hood that covers his entire head except for his eyes and his mouth and chin. (I can draw better costumes than that, and I have no design sense whatsoever).
Doctor Keen--obviously a predecessor to the great comic scientists of later years--explains that he's discovered a mysterious "blue blaze" (so named by Spencer) (interestingly enough, the fire is coming out of one end of an old-fashioned glass container, filled with a reddish fluid. No fancy high-tech gadgets, just a hour-shaped glass container. It definitely gives the impression that the Blue Blaze was discovered using relatively low-tech means, and that anyone could do it). Dr. Keen says that he's killed mice and insects with the Blaze, "only to have them revive months later, stronger than ever." The good Doctor says that he's going to destroy the Blue Blaze, as it frightens him.
Well, wouldn't you know it, but a tornado, "the dread of the plains," chooses this moment to sweep down upon Midwest College. "The laboratory is wrecked, and Spencer Keen is knocked into the path of the Blue Blaze which has been turned on by flying debris."
85% of the town's population is killed, and, what with speedy burials and all, Spencer Keen is put in the earth wearing the costume, and without the services of a mortician. But....wait for it...."this was not the end, merely the beginning, for SPENCER KEEN HAD NOT DIED."
See, Spencer, in his grave, actually goes into hibernation. He "gains strength a thousand fold by means of substrate dermatic rays." He also becomes invulnerable and bulletproof. Somehow, perhaps by these rays, he "is made conscious of the slow domination of evil." In 1940 the Blue Blaze rises from the grave.
In his first adventure he defeats the evil plans of Professor Maluski, who has figured a way to reanimate zombies at his command, and which he's going to use to conquer the world. In the Blaze's second adventure (in which his costume has gotten almost embarrassingly tight to his skin and in which more of the space around his eyes is exposed) he stops the plans of the "crackpot inventor" Barko, who uses ice ray guns and super explosives against the Blaze, but, of course, ends up in an insane asylum.
In the third adventure of Our Hero (in which the costume has changed again; the Blaze's entire face is now revealed, and he's lost his belt) he goes up against "Dr. Gair, brilliant head of the crime syndicate," and Gair's hireling, "a sinister gazer of the stars." The gazer, who is never named in the strip, uses the rays of a particular star to create an enormous, super-strong, yellow monster (who is drawn to look somewhat like Alley-Oop) to fight the Blaze; after the Blaze buries the monster under molten lead, the gazer also uses the star's rays to make a killing ray. The Blaze, knowing that the gazer would do something like that, produces a mirror and reflects the star's rays, killing Dr. Gair and the star-gazer, smiling when the adventure is over and saying to himself, "Not a bad night's work."
In his final adventure (in which the art looks a bit like Harry Peters' work, although it is credited to "Douglas") the Blaze stops the evil Dr. Vortex from manipulating the two Balkan nations of "Borsia" and "Gratzia" into warring on each other. The Blaze destroys Vortex's plans and carries Vortex into the depths of the "lime pits," saying "This lime pit was your idea Doctor - it is ironic that you must perish in it." "And thus the two men descend into the murky lime pit -- one will return."
His first appearance was in Mystic Comics #1 and, like Flexo the Rubber Man, who also appeared in that issue, the Blaze only appeared four times (although Mystic #4 ended with "Next issue: The Blue Blaze fights the Vampire of Doom in Mystic Comics"). He's never appeared since. And yet the Blaze interests me in a number of ways. One is that his costume (such as it is--meow!) is relatively skin-tight. This isn't particularly remarkable today, but it was a relative rarity in the Golden Age, when costumes where closer to uniforms, and were drawn that way; they had tufts and folds, just like real clothes. (One handy example is the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick, whose shirt is always tucked in to his belt.) Not the Blue Blaze, though; his costume is form-fitting. Which in turn prompts me to think about the changing nature of comic body-forms. The Blue Blaze is relatively well-muscled, for a real person. And he's in good shape, for a real person. His muscles are not grotesquely over-proportioned (viz. any Liefeld creation, but especially Supreme), and his body looks like it might actually contain internal organs. This was, indeed, a different age.
Another thing that interests me about the Blue Blaze is that the blaze itself is posited as some sort of energy - which, theoretically, could be replicated again. Now, the Eternals form their Uni-Mind by transforming themselves into a form of living energy called "the Blue Flame." I very much doubt that Kirby had read any of the Blue Blaze's adventures--but there's a definite similarity there. Could they be the same thing, perhaps?
His first enemy, too, is somewhat interesting. His name is "Professor Maluski," but he's a bald Asian. Not of the aged, Fu Manchu stereotype, but younger, smoking a cigarette in a long holder, and wearing a sort of uniform. This is an interesting riff on the Yellow Menace archetype; cigarette holders (at least in comics) are always signs of effete decadence, and therefore evil, but Asian villains of this time and place are usually old and wizened, or monstrous, not young (albeit bald), muscular, and with a pencil thin mustache (another sign of evil in comics, although there were some significant exceptions: Zatara, for one, and the other Mandrake ripoffs). Too, this is 1940, and while there was a significant amount of tension between the Japanese and the US at this time, most of America's attention was on Europe and the Nazis.
His third enemy is, unfortunately, a another stereotype, an anti-Semitic one. The "star-gazer" wears what is pretty obviously a skull-cap and is a dabbler in forbidden arts, as well as dressing in robes. One of the older, European stereotypes of the Jews was as the decadent, sinister intellectual scientist types who would do things like figure out astrology and astronomy. People in 1940 America would have recognized this; the country was a distinctly more anti-Semitic place than it is today. The infamous "radio priest" Father Coughlin had a nationally-syndicated radio show and used it as a platform to spew hate, particularly anti-Semitic bigotry; too, Henry Ford had only recently imported the fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion into the US, and was distributing that to everyone within sight. The Americans of 1940 would have seen the star-gazer and thought "Jew," as undoubtedly was the artist's intention.
The Blaze also has a somewhat neat gimmick--at least, in his fourth adventure, he does. In his second adventure he has a mountain retreat and has acquired a "super charged speedster, capable of unlimited speed," and in his third his waiting place is undefined. In his fourth adventure, though, it's said that "with each conquest `the Blue Blaze' returns to the grave, and as he sleeps a strange cosmic force moves him underground to new centers of crime - and then he awakens!" This seems a pretty neat premise, and it's a shame nothing more was done with it.
It's been said that the Blue Blaze was Marvel's attempt at ripping off the Blue Beetle. Visually he's pretty close, but the Blue Blaze had - has - potential to be much more. It's too baad that this potential was never achieved.