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You’ve read about Captain America and his less successful patriotic compatriots. You’ve heard of Captain Battle, one of Cap’s less successful knockoffs. Now is the time for you to experience an even more obscure scam of our favorite Freedom Sentry: Yankee Doodle Jones!

Yankee and his sidekick, Dandy, made their debut in Yankee Comics # 1 in 1941. If you have seen Captain America: The First Avenger or are even vaguely familiar with Cap’s early days, Yankee’s origin story will feel oddly familiar. Yankee’s story, however, adds two unique elements: ableism and stupidity. (I deleted a potentially offensive word in the first panel; it’s not a problem in the picture.)

“Organizations”

You could really post anything in the 1940s, eh.

Look, it’s one thing if you wanted your Franken-hero to be dead war veterans. I mean, it’s still scary and terrible and you should go to jail immediately. But take organs living and disabled veterans because, apparently, the only way they could be useful to society is to to die is a whole new level.

By the way, it turns out that Dr. Dead Scientist had a son, who was sort of allowed to watch this operation live and in person. Distraught, the kid injects himself with the remains of serum to become Dandy, Yankee’s sidekick, and avenge his father’s death. Nice, a two-for-one deal on bargain heroes!

From Yankee Comics # 1.  Yankee hits a Nazi.  Dandy, mourning his father, injects himself with serum.

This whole original plot is completed in about two pages. The rest of the story is about an old witch employed by the Nazis who uses voodoo dolls to strangle people with their own hair clippings. Yankee escapes this horrible curse by… whistling.

From Yankee Comics # 1.  Yankee Doodle Jones begins to choke.  Dandy tells him to whistle, and he does.
They don’t tell us what tune he’s hissing, but I think we can all guess it.

Is there some kind of superstition about how the whistle cancels voodoo that I don’t know? Has Yankee had a lip transplant and now he has special whistling powers?

Remember, this is only the first problem. There is more where it came from. It doesn’t get any better.

You can start the body count now

Issue 2’s plot involves a Nazi posing as an American doctor soliciting blood donations for a “bleeding sister democracy” overseas, possibly in England. Turns out the fake doctor was using the clinic to infect everyone with rabies, but he also just attacks people with rabid dogs? It’s not a very focused plan, is it?

From Yankee Comics # 1.  A man wearing a green skull mask lets his dogs loose on a crowd of people.
You should smile more. You are cute when you smile.

They beat the guy up by removing his mask like he’s a Scooby-Doo villain except Scooby-Doo has done a better job of setting up suspects. (The Nazi’s name, Hanfred Sapp, had never even been implied before. Too bad, because it’s a gloriously terrible name.) Yankee talks about medical aid for rabies victims, blithely ignoring the fact that ‘there is no cure for rabies. All these people are dead now. But at least Uncle Sam brings Dandy a chocolate cake.

(Uncle Sam exists in this comic, mostly to congratulate them on being such good Americans. And Dandy really loves chocolate cake. It’s a whole with him.)

From Yankee Comics # 2.  Uncle Sam praises Yankee Doodle Jones and Dandy.  Dandy takes a piece of cake from Sam's hand.
What’s going on with Uncle Sam’s right arm? Is he alright-ooh, cake!

This continues for two more issues (one of them featuring a dude running around setting the pilots on fire) before Yankee and Dandy are abruptly fired from the comics. Yankee Comics # 5 consists entirely of short joke comics – more like strips, really. There is a long letter on the front page about the importance of humor in helping people, especially soldiers, cope with the stress of war, which may explain the change. It’s a nice feeling. It would have been nicer if one of the jokes was really funny.

Yankee Doodle Jones struggled to find a home after leaving Yankee comics. He made only one appearance in Dynamic Comics # 8, which featured a reprint of Yankee Comics # 1. He kept the ‘intro to Yankee Doodle Jones’ start page at the start, which apparently did Comic vine think this is his real debut. I highly doubt it. Dynamic Comics # 8 was Probably published in November 1942, over a year later Yankee Comics # 1 was absoutely published.

After Dynamic, Yankee switched to Hello Pal Comics # 1, in which he and Dandy fail to stop a group of guys disguised as Robin Hood’s men from shooting arrows into the skulls of some visiting dignitaries. It’s graphic enough for a superhero comic, but not for a horror comic, which clearly should have been. It also features Yankee, dressed as a skeleton for a costume party, throwing a dude through a wall.

From Hello Pal Comics # 1.  Yankee Doodle Jones, disguised as a skeleton, throws a henchman through a wall.  Word

I know “rip” here is meant to be a sound effect, but since this guy’s legs have clearly come loose from his torso, I’m going to assume Yankee killed him and it really says RIP.

It was Yankee’s last original release. After that it was all reprints and editions collected. Who thought it was worth collecting? I do not know.

Who is responsible for this?

Quite a few people, in fact. Let’s start with the editors.

The original publisher of Yankee was Chesler. Founder Harry “A” Chesler (like Truman’s “S”, the middle initial means nothing) was one of the first to provide original content for comics, in the mid-1930s. Prior to that , the comics were mostly reprints of newspaper comics. So even though Yankee Doodle Jones is bad (and he’s so, so bad), without Chesler to show the viability of the comics, we may never have had decent superheroes – or, in fact, superhero at all.

Hello Pal Comics was published by Harvey Comics, probably best known for creating Richie Rich. Then Chesler brought it back to reprint the story of Yankee Comics # 3 in Bullseye Comics # 11 (but with a more pleasant coloring). Apparently, Chesler loaned Yankee to another publisher for a total of one issue. It’s really an indication of how much the industry has changed since the early days. Imagine Marvel canceling a book and then allowing DC to play with the characters in it!

As for the creator of Yankee, I’m honestly puzzled. I went to three different websites and got three different answers. Comic More, where I read the issues discussed here, says that Charles Sultan and “George Sultan” (maybe a pseudonym shared by Sultan and fellow artist George Tuska) created Yankee. The Public Domain Superhero Wiki Fandom credits Lou well. Comic Vine lists its creators as “none,” which I’m reasonably sure isn’t true. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that no one wanted to be associated with this, however.

Some points of interest on these options: according to Illustrated Classics: A Cultural History, 2nd Edition, Charles Sultan and Lou Fine were brothers-in-law. They may have worked together or exchanged ideas, formally or informally. Additionally, Lou Fine had a great influence on Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, who created Captain America a few months before Yankee’s debut, and George Tuska is remembered for his iconic run on Iron Man in the 60s. So while one or both are responsible for Yankee Doodle Jones, at least they gave us some good superhero comics as well.

It should also be mentioned that Charles Sultan, as noted by David Hajdu in his book The plague of ten cents, was one of the countless creators driven out of comics during the purge in the 1950s. Whatever you think of Yankee Doodle Jones, losing her job because of a group of religious moralizers and greedy politicians of publicity is terrible. Fortunately he seems to have landed on his feet, find work as an artist and editor for various magazines. Fine also left the comics, moving to comics and advertising long before the backlash set in.

Will Yankee Doodle come back to town?

Yankee Doodle Jones would have performed much better as a monster in a horror comic, a dark humor take on the crisp, star-studded heroes that proliferated back then. A man with no name or past who endures horrific government experiments and becomes increasingly brutal until even his masters lose control, ending up in his sights as a “threat to democracy”, has much more makes sense that everything is going on here.

It wouldn’t have worked in the hyper-patriotic 1940s, of course, but it could work today. Imagine: a Nazi saboteur prowls the night, preparing to destroy the Allies’ last secret weapon. He takes a bomb out of his coat, ready to plant it and run away, when suddenly, out of the shadows, a strange hiss chills the night air. The Nazi turns around… his eyes widen… a threatening shadow falls on him… the Nazi cries… melt into black!

On second thought, that probably wouldn’t work either. But it wouldn’t work less than the original concept.


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Margarita W. Wilson

The author Margarita W. Wilson