Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Vulpine Victories of the Ever-Vanishing Fox

Quick. Name a newspaper photographer who takes crime scene pictures while in his superheroic secret identity, and whose initials are PP.
You said “the Fox,” right? Because he was the original.
Combine the occupation of Spider-Man, the costume of the Black Panther and Wildcat, the girlfriend of Superman, the vehicle of Batman and the name of Zorro, and what do you get?  The Fox, an MLJ superhero who debuted in June 1940 and was created to battle the KKK, of all things.
Newly hired at the Daily Globe, photographer and former Penn State athlete Paul Patten is assigned to cover the Night Riders, a gang of hooded terrorists obviously meant to represent the Ku Klux Klan.
As a means of getting photos, he invents his crimefighting identity of the Fox, complete with belt camera. Accompanying him on his adventures is a feisty girl reporter with an alliterative name, Ruth Ransom.
The character’s feature ended March 1942 with the last issue of MLJ’s Golden Age Blue Ribbon Comics. But ironically, two months before artist Irwin Hasen — who’d created the Fox — had teamed up with Bill Finger to create DC’s Wildcat for the first issue of Sensation Comics. The costumes were strikingly similar.
For an obscure superhero, the Fox has had a fair number of revivals — in the Silver Age, in the 1980s and again in the 21st century in a miniseries created by artist Dean Haspiel and the talented comics writer Mark Waid. He’s had a Foxmobile, a superhero team and even a She-Fox with whom to share his adventures.
In his Mighty Comics iteration in the mid-1960s, where I first saw him, the Fox was said to be Paul Patten Jr., son of the original. The superhero pines for disco dancer Delilah Monaco, but she’s interested only in his alter ego. Appearing in Mighty Crusaders 4 and 5 in 1966, the Fox joined a super group called the Ultra-Men which also featured the Golden Age stalwarts the Web and Captain Flag.
The Fox deserves at least a footnote in history for having the weirdest-ass victory yell in comics: “Yah yah yah yah yaaahh!”

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