Freedom Fighters

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Big Girl Adventures #1 © 2002 AC Comics. (Cover art by Matt Baker.)

Freedom Fighters

(pop culture)

The Freedom Fighters are a patriotically-themed team of superheroes, whose members were originally owned by Quality Comics in the 1940s and were subsequently acquired by DC Comics. When the team first appeared in comics, its members were Uncle Sam, the Black Condor, Doll Man, the Human Bomb, Phantom Lady, and the Ray.

Their leader is Uncle Sam, who appropriately debuted in National Comics #1 (July 1940), and was created by writer/artist Will Eisner, based on the iconic American figure best known through the portrait by James Montgomery Flagg. Eisner’s version was a Revolutionary War soldier named Sam, who continues to manifest himself in physical form as the embodiment of the spirit of American freedom.

Created by Eisner and artist Lou Fine, the Black Condor first appeared in Crack Comics #1 (May 1940). Raised as a child by intelligent condors (South American birds of prey), Richard Grey, Jr. gained the ability to fly. Assuming the identity of the murdered U. S. Senator Thomas Wright, Grey became the crime fighting Black Condor.

Also created by Eisner, Darrell Dane, alias Doll Man, was the first superhero who could shrink in size, debuting in Feature Comics #27 (December 1939). He concocted a formula that allowed him to shrink to six inches in height while retaining his full strength, like DC’s later hero, the Atom.

Roy Lincoln, the Human Bomb, drank a chemical that enabled him to cause powerful explosions with his touch. As a result he had to wear a protective gloves. Created by writer/artist Paul Gustavson, he first appeared in Police Comics #1 (August 1941).

Also making her debut in Police Comics #1 was the Phantom Lady, one of the first superheroines, who was first drawn by Arthur Peddy at the Eisner-Iger studio. She was Sandra Knight, the daughter of a United States Senator, who in her costumed identity utilized a “black light” projector, with which she could make herself invisible. After her run at Quality, Fox Feature Syndicate published new Phantom Lady comics, which became notorious because of the daringly revealing costume that “good girl artist” Matt Baker gave the character. Other lesser comics companies published Phantom Lady stories until DC asserted ownership of the character.

Reporter “Happy” Terrill traveled in a balloon through an electrical storm, gaining the powers to absorb and project light and to fly, and became the costumed hero known as the Ray. Created by Eisner and Fine, the Ray debuted in Smash Comics #14 (September 1940).

Writer Len Wein and artist Dick Dillin reintroduced these six Quality heroes in DC’s Justice League of America #107 (October 1973) as the Freedom Fighters, a resistance group on a parallel world, Earth-X, where Nazi Germany had won World War II. They earned their own Freedom Fighters comic book series, set on DC’s main Earth, whose first issue was cover-dated April 1976.

Other Quality heroes who were later part of the Freedom Fighters included Firebrand (Rod Reilly, from Police Comics #1), Miss America (Joan Dale, who can transmute matter, from Military Comics, August 1941), Alias the Spider (Thomas Hallaway, an archer, from Crack Comics #1), the Jester (Chuck Lane, from Smash Comics #22, May 1941), Manhunter (Dan Richards, from Police Comics #8, March 1942, not to be confused with DC’s Simon & Kirby version), and Quicksilver (now known as Max Mercury, a super-speedster from National Comics #5, November 1940). Quality’s Miss America and Quicksilver are different from the Marvel heroes of the same names.

Over the decades DC has introduced new versions of various members of the Freedom Fighters. For example, writer Roy Thomas co-created a female Firebrand in All-Star Squadron, and Ray Terrill, son of Happy, starred in his own The Ray comic book (1994–1996).

The 2006 miniseries, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, featured new versions of Doll Man, Human Bomb, Phantom Lady, and the Ray, led by the original Uncle Sam. A new, continuing Freedom Fighters series, featuring this new team, was launched in 2010.

The original line-up of Freedom Fighters made their television debut when they teamed up with Batman and Plastic Man in a 2010 episode of the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold. —PS

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