Master Mind Excello

First Appearance: Mystic Comics #2 (April 1940).
Golden Age Appearances: Mystic Comics #2-3.
Modern Appearances: None.
Years Active: 1940-?

"Known to the world as Earl Everett, society playboy, he is known to the Naval Intelligence Department as Excello because with his mental wizardry and remarkable physical feats he excels all others in solving plots against the U.S. government."

In Excello's first appearance he is "returning from a European assignment aboard a neutral vessel" when, while meditating, he conjures up a vision of spies plotting in a cabin on the liner. He investigates, and discovers two spies, one of whom calls the other "Fritz." Excello lets himself get caught, and, just as he hoped, is brought to a "Sovernian" battleship, which is anchored near the steamer. Excello is brought to "Kadash," the chief spy, and Kadash throws him in irons. Excello mentally eavesdrops and gets the details of the Sovernian plot--to set off explosives underneath "every major city." (The fiends!)

Excello breaks free of his chains, with "mighty muscles bulging," and follows Kadash, shooting his way across the ship with his "triple propeller pistol," against which the Sovernian sailor's machine guns are no match. Excello, flying a biplane, mentally visualizes where the spies are, in New York, goes to the city, climbs up ("with the aid of his secret vacu-pads") the side of the building the spies are in, and breaks into the spies' office. He biffs them around, then disguises himself as Kadash. Using this disguise he goes to the "super turbines" of the spies (they're going to set off the explosives), where the Sovernian Dr. Marko explains the plot to him. Excello knocks out Dr. Marko, throws a turbine at some guards (Excello has super-strength in addition to his mental powers) and shoots his way out through the remaining guards. Excello then blows up the power plant (with his "secret high explosive liquid") and uses his status as a Naval Intelligence operative to call in a barrage from the navy's "big coastal defense gun." The Sovernian battleship goes down, the spies are captured, and a card is found by the spies: "America, First, Last and Always - Excello."

In his second appearance Excello stops a railway and subway saboteur gang led by "Borovich." And then Excello disappears from mortal ken, never again to be seen by comics readers.

While the art and writing of Excello's adventures are perfectly ordinary, there are (as usual with these GA heroes) a few things that draw my attention. The first is the wartime nature of the strip. Of course the average American reader was aware of the war when this came out; the cover date of Excello's first appearance (Mystic Comics #2) is April 1940. In April 1940 Germany was in the midst of the "cold war" with France and Britain, but was in the middle of conquering Norway and Denmark. The papers were full of the news of the European war, as well as the Japanese actions in China. This was reflected, in various degrees, in the comics of the time--you can tell this just from the enemies of the heroes I've mentioned in these summaries. But Excello is even more...well, not militaristic, exactly, but military- and war-conscious than most of the others. He's mentioned quite specifically as returning from Europe on a "neutral" vessel--which would have put the average reader in mind of Excello doing something covert against the Nazis. Excello is also labeled as an operative of the Naval Intelligence Department; before the war there was no CIA and no real OSS, but instead all of what we think of today as "military intelligence" and espionage was in fact handled through the Naval Department's Office of Naval Intelligence.

Even more interestingly, while the first set of opponents is pretty clearly meant to be Germans, the second set are meant to be Russian. Which puts an intriguing spin on things, since the Russians were not usually (in pre-war comics, at least) the enemies of superheroes. We should remember, though, that there was a certain segment of the American population--mostly political conservatives, but some moderates as well--who felt all along that the true enemy of America was the Soviet Union and not Nazi Germany. When the Germans invaded Russia, and most of the US turned its sympathies towards Russia, these people thought we should be allying with the Nazis against the Russians. This goes back to the long anti-Communist tradition in the West, as well as the native anti-Semitism of large segments of the conservative US. (Liberals, meanwhile, were falling over themselves trying to come up with excuses for Stalin's purges and the Soviet-Nazi alliance.)

It's perilous, of course, to place too much interpretive weight on something as frail as the identity of a comic-book villain, but Borovich's appearance here may be evidence of this anti-Communist, anti-Russian sentiment.

In sum, as with so many of Timely's other heroes, Excello himself is mediocre, but aspects of his strip are not.

(Postscript: Christopher Gildemeister notes that MLJ's Top-Notch Comics #1, cover dated December 1939, featured the Wizard, described as having a "super-brain and photographic mind" and being able to "visualize far-away happenings." The Wizard also worked for Naval Intelligence. As with a couple of Timely characters, Excello would seem to be based on the character of another company.)

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