In comic shops tomorrow is the first issue of USAvengers, Marvel’s latest attempt at milking dry their most popular franchise. The premise this go-round is a government-sanctioned Avengers team made up of second-and-third stringers like Red Hulk, Squirrel Girl and Pod. It should last about as long as its predecessor, New Avengers, which I believe ran 12 issues.
To build up excitement for the new book — and inflate sales figures — Marvel is releasing the first issue with a whopping 52 different covers, one for every state in the union as well as Puerto Rico and Canada. It’s a cute idea, I suppose, but the main problem is that 92 percent of all Marvel superheroes live in New York and hardly any live in any of the other 49 states, not to mention Puerto Rico and Canada.
Still, a gimmick is a gimmick, so some poor editor at Marvel got the job of divvying up 52 superheroes for this silly stunt. Some make sense — Thor actually works as the Avenger of Oklahoma because for a time he moved Asgard to Oklahoma. Everyone knows Cannonball is from Kentucky, and yes it makes sense for Luke Cage to be the Avenger of New York even though we all know it should really be Spider-Man. I have no idea how Russian spy Black Widow became the Avenger of Connecticut.
Naturally I was curious as to who Marvel would pick for the Avenger of Missouri. I, of course, know who the Avenger of Missouri should be — but would Marvel get it right?
Of course not. I give you — the Avenger of Missouri — Robert Frank, aka The Whizzer. That’s right, there’s a superhero called The Whizzer and he’s all ours. If you think the name is stupid, wait until you hear his origin story. Little Bob Frank was bitten by a cobra while in Africa with his father. Dad saves Bobby by injecting him with mongoose blood, which not only neutralizes the cobra venom but somehow gives him the power of super speed (and you thought it was the power of super urination). Since the name “The Flash” was already taken, Bob took on the second-best possible name for a super speedster — The Whizzer.
No, this is not a Stan Lee/Jack Kirby creation. The Whizzer actually pre-dates the Marvel Universe. He was created in 1941, back when Marvel was known as Timely Comics. So important and significant to the Golden Age of Comics was the Whizzer that no one knows who wrote his first adventure (it was drawn by Al Avison). He ran around for a bit in the ’40s then disappeared like many Golden Age heroes when the ’50s rolled in.
The Whizzer briefly resurfaced in 1974 in The Avengers, mistakenly believing he’s the father of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch (Imagine Pietro’s relief that he did not get stuck with the name Whizzer Junior). Bob teamed up with Earth’s Mightiest a few times but was never really a member in any meaningful sense. He eventually died of a heart attack and hasn’t been seen since. Which, given the resurrection rate of most superheroes, tells you all you need to know about how beloved is The Whiz.
Bob Frank supposedly is from St. Louis, hence the Missouri connection. I have never read any of the original Whizzer comics from the ’40s, so I don’t know if this was truly the case in the comics or if it’s something someone made up later.
Frankly it doesn’t matter. While The Whizzer might be an appropriate representative for St. Louis, the rest of the state deserves better. And we have better, but Marvel is withholding the truth from you.
But the truth shall be revealed. Tomorrow.