Spy Smasher

Spy Smasher is the name of two fictional characters appearing in comics published by Fawcett and DC Comics. The first is a superhero that was formerly owned and published by Fawcett Comics. The second is a female anti-terrorism government agent often featured as an antagonist of the vigilante team Birds of Prey.

Spy Smasher
Spy Smasher #2 (1941). Art by Charles Sultan.
Spy Smasher #2 (1941). Art by Charles Sultan.
Publication information
PublisherFawcett Comics (1939–1948)
DC Comics (1976–present)
First appearance(Alan)
Whiz Comics #2 (February 1940, historical)
The Power of Shazam! #8 (October, 1995, canon)
(Katarina)
Birds of Prey #100 (January, 2007)
Created by(Alan)
C. C. Beck
Bill Parker
(Katarina)
Gail Simone
Nicola Scott
In-story information
Full name- Alan Armstrong
- Katarina Armstrong
Team affiliations(Alan)
Squadron of Justice
(Katarina)
Federal Bureau of Investigation
United States Department of Homeland Security
United States Department of Defense
Department of Extranormal Operations
Central Intelligence Agency
NASA
United Nations
Department of Defence (Australia)
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
MI6
Checkmate
Notable aliases(Alan)
Crime Smasher
Abilities(Alan)
Skilled hand-to-hand combatant
Master detective
Intelligent scientist and inventor
Use of gadgets and a specialized vehicle
(Katarina)
Skilled hand-to-hand combatant
Extensive political connections
Expert markswoman

Fictional character biography

Alan Armstrong

Similar to Batman and the Blue Beetle (Ted Kord), Spy Smasher (secretly the "wealthy Virginia sportsman"[1] Alan Armstrong) is a master detective, equipped with a number of gadgets and a specialized vehicle, the "Gyrosub", which was a combination of an airplane, an automobile, and a submarine. Created by Bill Parker and C. C. Beck, Spy Smasher was introduced in Whiz Comics #2 (February 1940). Alongside Captain Marvel, Spy Smasher became one of the magazine's most popular characters. In Whiz Comics #16-18, he was briefly an opponent of Captain Marvel, as a Nazi Scientist and old enemy of his, the Mask, used a device to brainwash him, but finally Captain Marvel was able to restore his mind.

His name was changed to Crime Smasher after World War II ended, and the first issue of Crime Smasher was published in 1948. In 1953, Fawcett ceased publication of all superhero comics, after settling a lawsuit against DC Comics over Captain Marvel being an infringement on the copyright of Superman, agreeing to cease publishing Captain Marvel.

After DC Comics obtained the rights to the Fawcett characters in 1972, Spy Smasher began appearing irregularly in DC Comics, presented as one of the heroes of Earth-S prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths. He first appeared in Crisis in Eternity, as a member of the Squadron of Justice when King Kull had captured Shazam and the Elders, and teamed up with other villains to wipe out life on all three Earths, and defeated Ibac on Earth-Two as he attacked Atlantis by tricking him into saying 'I back down from no-one,' defeating him as saying his name causes him to turn into a normal man and vice versa. The character was used prominently in the 1990s series The Power of Shazam!, in which aged Alan Armstrong often recounts his adventures as Spy Smasher. Power of Shazam! #24 was dedicated to Armstrong's recounting of a Cold War-era mission he undertook with an archaeologist named C.C. Batson to Batson's children, Billy (alter-ego of Captain Marvel) and Mary (alter-ego of Mary Marvel).

While Alan was still Spy Smasher in that story, a crossover between Power of Shazam and Starman in 1997 included Jack Knight running over the history of the Fawcett City heroes, and mentioning that he thought Spy Smasher became Crime Smasher after the war but was unsure.

AC Comics has published reprints of some Golden Age Spy Smasher stories that have lapsed into the public domain. The character also made a cameo appearance in the inaugural issue of Image Comics' Next Issue Project.

Powers and abilities

Spy Smasher is an intelligent scientist and inventor, a master detective and a skilled hand-to-hand combatant. He also possessed a number of gadgets and a specialized vehicle.

Katarina Armstrong

A new Spy Smasher, government agent Katarina Armstrong, created by Gail Simone, first appears in Birds of Prey #100 (January 2007). She is a high-ranking anti-terrorism agent who is affiliated with several American, Commonwealth, and United Nations agencies (see table). Her relation to Alan Armstrong has not been revealed, though her secret identity and costume seem clearly inspired by him. She is depicted in her first appearances as having a domineering demeanor, and is not hesitant to kill or order deaths in order to complete a mission. Having forced Oracle to work for her, she plans to take over the Birds of Prey organization and usurp Oracle's position. Issue #103 indicates that Katarina and Oracle were friends in college. At some point prior to Katarina's debut, they became rivals. That issue shows a flashback of both women competing in a race, with Katarina beating Barbara by cheating but immediately confessing to the judges after she had won.

Katarina accompanies the Birds on a mission in Russia, and in a conflict with the Secret Six, Katarina finds her equal marksman in Deadshot. Katarina assumes leadership of the Birds from Oracle and fires Lady Blackhawk for dissent.[2] Back at Oracle's base, she is challenged to a fight by Oracle, who then manages to give Katarina a proper beating. She is humiliated when she faces the united front of every single one of Barbara's living former agents. Spy Smasher leaves disgraced after being threatened by Black Canary, but before doing so also gives Oracle information on Misfit's background.

It was later mentioned in Checkmate #16 by Sasha Bordeaux that Josephine Tautin had "drop-kicked her down a deep, dark hole. Something she quite enjoyed doing, incidentally." Checkmate #18 has Sasha personally apologising to Barbara for Katarina's actions.

In the aftermath of Final Crisis, Katarina is seen being held prisoner by the Global Peace Agency. The GPA agents apparently erase all of her memories by "resetting" her brain, telling Cameron Chase that Katarina can hear their conversations but can no longer process what the sounds mean. Her current fate is unknown,[3] though it is implied that she was returned to normal, as with many other characters in the story, after Nemesis and Chase use the cosmic treadmill.

During the events of Brightest Day, an unknown villain begins targeting the members of the Birds of Prey. Oracle initially muses that it could be Katarina's doing, as she has the means and motive to harm the Birds, but it is eventually revealed to be the work of the White Canary.[4]

Spy Smasher is eventually revealed to be alive and well when she recruits Bane and his new team of mercenaries (consisting of himself, Jeannette, Lady Vic, King Shark, Dwarfstar and Giganta) to invade and claim Skartaris in the name of the U.S.[5]

Characterization

Creator Gail Simone said on Katarina, "I felt the DCU needed a Jack Bauer. In these early issues, she looks like a pointed allegory to the abuse of powers by the government, but she doesn’t see it that way, and she’s a lot more complex than that. It’d be a cheat to simply make her evil and completely hate-able, I think. She’s got some levels. And she knows Babs’ weaknesses. I like her. She’s very very dark... Even above [Barbara and Katarina's] competitive natures, there is a perfectly valid and honest ideological difference of opinion there. Babs believes what she’s doing is necessary, Katarina believes what Babs is doing is treason. They actually like each other, but like brothers fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War, the distance between them is so vast and clearly drawn that they can’t even hope to reconcile. They were friends; their ideals make them bitter enemies."[6]

Powers and abilities

Spy Smasher is an expert markswoman and a skilled hand to hand combatant on a similar level to Deadshot. She claims to be of higher political authority than anyone in the United States, even the President, but is later outranked in an issue of Checkmate by Sasha Bordeaux. Although she explicitly states that her job is to kill people, specifically terrorists and those who aim to harm the United States, she has yet to be directly depicted as taking a life.

In other media

Television

Spy Smasher made a brief appearance in Justice League Unlimited episode "Patriot Act" voiced by Nathan Fillion who remained uncredited. He is seen in a flashback sequence where he prevented the creation of Captain Nazi and confiscating the unstable serum that would be used later in the episode.

Film

In 1942, Spy Smasher was adapted into a popular 12-part film serial directed by William Witney for Republic Pictures. Spy Smasher featured actor Kane Richmond in a dual role, as both the title character (an American freelance agent in Nazi-occupied France who was originally believed to have been killed in a plane crash) and his identical twin brother, and Marguerite Chapman as the brother's imperiled fiancée, Eve Corby. Edited down to 100 minutes in 1966 the serial was re-released for television under the title Spy Smasher Returns.

Video game

Spy Smasher will appear in the video game DC Universe Online.

References

  1. ^ "Spy Smasher" #1, Summer 1941, page 6
  2. ^ "Birds Of Prey" #107 (August 2007)
  3. ^ Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape #3
  4. ^ Birds of Prey (vol. 2) #1
  5. ^ Secret Six (vol. 3) #25
  6. ^ "Newsarama: The Simone Files I: Birds of Prey". Archived from the original on 2007-10-14. Retrieved 2007-08-27.

External links

← The first Ibis the Invincible was debuted by Tad Williams and Phil Winslade. See Ibis the Invincible for more info and the previous timeline. Timeline of DC Comics (1940s)
February 1940
The Spectre along with DC's representation of the Abrahamic God was debuted by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily. See Spectre (DC Comics character), Jim Corrigan, Presence (DC Comics) for more info and next timeline. →
Bill Parker (comics)

William Lee "Bill" Parker (September 11, 1911 – January 31, 1963) was an American comic book writer and editor. He is best known for creating the Fawcett Comics character, Captain Marvel, in 1939, along with artist C. C. Beck.

Captain Nazi

Captain Nazi is a Fawcett Comics and DC Comics supervillain, a rival of Captain Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr.

Baron Krieger made his live appearance on the second season of DC's Legends of Tomorrow played by André Eriksen.

Fawcett City

Fawcett City is a fictional city appearing in stories published by DC Comics.

Fawcett Comics

Fawcett Comics, a division of Fawcett Publications, was one of several successful comic book publishers during the Golden Age of Comic Books in the 1940s. Its most popular character was Captain Marvel, the alter ego of radio reporter Billy Batson, who transformed into the hero whenever he said the magic word "Shazam!".

Other characters published by Fawcett include Captain Video, Hopalong Cassidy, Ibis the Invincible, Bulletman and Bulletgirl, Spy Smasher, Captain Midnight, Phantom Eagle, Mister Scarlet and Pinky, Minute-Man, Commando Yank and Golden Arrow.

Aside from the better known superhero books, Fawcett also published a short-lived line of horror comics during the early 1950s, a string of titles which included This Magazine Is Haunted, Beware! Terror Tales, Worlds of Fear, Strange Suspense Stories, and Unknown World. Other genres included teenage humor (Otis and Babs), funny animal (Hoppy the Marvel Bunny), romance (Sweethearts), war (Soldier Comics) and Western (Lash LaRue, Six Gun Heroes). Fawcett also produced comics based on contemporary movie stars (Tom Mix, Monte Hale) and matinee serials (Nyoka the Jungle Girl). The entire line was dropped in 1953, when Fawcett closed down their comics publishing wing (though many titles were picked up by Charlton Comics).

Flying Disc Man from Mars

Flying Disc Man from Mars is a 1950 Republic Pictures 12-chapter black-and-white science fiction adventure film serial, produced by Franklin Adreon, directed by Fred C. Brannon, that stars Walter Reed, Lois Collier, Gregory Gaye, James Craven, Harry Lauter, and Richard Irving. Disc Man is considered a weak example of the serial medium, even compared to other post-World War II serials.

Golden Arrow (comics)

Golden Arrow is a fictional character who had his own strip in Fawcett Comics' Whiz Comics comic book series, from 1940 to 1953.

Ibac

Ibac is a fictional Fawcett Comics and DC Comics supervillain, and a foe of Captain Marvel.

Ibis the Invincible

Ibis the Invincible is a fictional character, a comic book superhero originally published by Fawcett Comics in the 1940s and then by DC Comics beginning in the 1970s. Like many magician superheroes introduced in the Golden Age of Comics, Ibis owes much to the popular comic strip character Mandrake the Magician. A second Ibis, successor of the first, was introduced in 2007.

Kane Richmond

Kane Richmond (born Frederick William Bowditch, December 23, 1906 – March 22, 1973) was an American film actor of the 1930s and 1940s, mostly appearing in cliffhangers and serials. He is best known today for his portrayal of the character Lamont Cranston in The Shadow films in addition to his leading role in the successful serials Spy Smasher and Brick Bradford.

Lance O'Casey

Lance O'Casey is a fictional character who had his own strip in Fawcett Comics' Whiz Comics. The stories were popular backup stories to the book's main attractions of Captain Marvel and Spy Smasher.

Spy Smasher (serial)

Spy Smasher is a 12-episode 1942 Republic movie serial based on the Fawcett Comics character Spy Smasher which is now a part of DC Comics. It was the 25th of the 66 serials produced by Republic. The serial was directed by William Witney with Kane Richmond and Marguerite Chapman as the leads. The serial was Chapman's big break into a career in film and television. Spy Smasher is a very highly regarded serial. In 1966, a television film was made from the serial footage under the title Spy Smasher Returns.

Squadron of Justice

The Squadron of Justice was a name used by two superhero teams of characters who originated from Fawcett Comics. Each team only made one appearance in a single story.

The Magnetic Telescope

The Magnetic Telescope (1942) is the sixth of the seventeen animated Technicolor short films based upon the DC Comics character of Superman, originally created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. This animated short was created by the Fleischer Studios. The story runs about eight minutes and covers Superman's adventures in saving the town from a comet drawn toward Earth by a magnetic telescope. It was originally released on April 24, 1942.

The Secret Code (serial)

The Secret Code (1942) was the 19th serial released by Columbia Pictures. It features the masked hero "The Black Commando" facing Nazi saboteurs, inspired by Republic Pictures' successful Spy Smasher serial of the same year. The chapters of this serial each ended with a brief tutorial in cryptography.

Tigress (DC Comics)

Tigress is the name of three different comic book supervillains, all of whom have appeared in various series published by DC Comics.

Virginia Provisiero

Virginia "Ginny" Provisiero (May 29, 1923 – May 3, 2010) was an American comics editor. She was one of the main editors for Fawcett Publications.

Whiz Comics

Whiz Comics was a monthly ongoing comic book anthology series, published by Fawcett Comics from 1940–1953, best known for introducing Captain Marvel.

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