Saturday, April 2, 2016

Miss Liberty: The Surprising Superheroine of 1776

I have an affection for obscure superheroes, in part because the very idea is incongruous — a world-saving champion whom virtually nobody knows. And you’d hard-pressed to find a superhero more obscure than DC’s Miss Liberty, in part because she turned up in a title where she had no place being.
“Tomahawk” was Thomas Hawk, a Revolutionary War-era pioneer woodsman created just as superheroes were fading in 1947. The character anticipated and undoubtedly got a boost from the Davy Crockett craze of 1954-55.
Graduating from a back-up feature to his own title in 1950, Tomahawk evolved along the lines of DC’s Batman. With his boy sidekick, Dan Hunter, he fought British troops, Indians, aliens, giant apes, dinosaurs, a frontier Frankenstein monster, tree men and alien Indians (don’t ask). Like Batman, he occasionally gained super powers and encountered a female masked champion of justice — Miss Liberty.
“In 1960s DC comics, the superheroes were back — and lo and behold, one turned up in Tomahawk,” comics historian Don Markstein noted. “Miss Liberty, who represented that segment of the superhero population which wrapped themselves in the American flag like a cheap politician (as did, for example, The Shield and Fighting American), debuted in #81 (August, 1962), and was a frequently seen supporting character thereafter.” Bess Lynn, a nurse, donned mask, wig, cape, tricolor costume and tri-corner hat to ride out on heroic missions. She armed herself with powder horns, essentially using them as frontier hand grenades. Unlike many superheroes, she had a credible reason for keeping her identity secret. Her brother was still in England, and reprisals would be taken against him were she to be exposed.

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