They might have had extremely brief careers (the publisher got out of comics in 1942) but some of the Centaur characters have had remarkable afterlives. If you’re not a Golden Age fan (well, there’s probably not much chance you’d be reading this in the first place) if you know the characters at all it’s probably through the Malibu comic The Protectors which turned them into an absolutely generic 90′s super-team. I’d be the first to say Centaur’s characters were frequently better in theory than execution but most of them were full of unrealized potential and deserved better treatment than this.
And I really can’t believe I didn’t know this but one of them, Amazing Man, apparently (“apparently” because I haven’t read it myself so I’ve pretty much got to take the internet’s word; I’m living proof even with unlimited free time you can’t read everything) popped up during the recent Immortal Iron Fist series under the name “Prince of Orphans”. Which makes total sense given that Iron Fist’s origin is a variation of his (i.e. white guy goes to mystical Tibet and acquire super powers). Since then I believe he’s now making appearces in Secret Avengers and got his own page in the latest version of Marvel Universe.
You know, I used to believe that nothing Marvel could do would surprise me but reviving a public domain Golden Age superhero and claiming it for their own, yeah, that kind of surprises me.
In my own personal hierarchy of Golden Age publishers I’ve always placed Centaur just a little under Fox. They may have had a lot of topflight creators working for them (Carl Burgos, Bob Kane, Bill Everett, Jack Cole, etc.) but unfortunately most of the Centaur comics I’ve come across so far have featured some of the most amateurish comics I’ve ever seen. Which is what makes Amazing Mystery Funnies #12 so impressive; it’s full of both great comics and really weird comics.
Not posted is the cover featured The Fantom of the Fair (a.k.a. “Fantoman” which only seems like a terrible name until you learn the 90′s Malibu version was called “Gravestone”). He started out as a kind of heroic Phantom of the 1939 World’s Fair and in his first appearances, wearing his original outfit (which covered his entire face) he was actually kind of interesting. But when the Fair closed for the winter he became a much more generic kind of mystery man. Clearly somebody at Centaur thought a character who spelled his name phonetically without powers, origin or secret identity could be a serious contender.
Also not posted are (inexplicably) several pages of Don Dixon and the Hidden Empire (a comic strip we’ve come across before) and Jon Linton (“flyer, scientist, adventurer”, a not bad futuristic SF feature that manages to stay well out of the territory of both Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers). The text pages were about kids who publish their own magazines, i.e fanzines (!), as well as a ‘true fact’ page called Stranger Than Fiction and a comedy one-pager Adam The Atom-Smasher.
Here’s Daredevil Barry Finn, another beautiful, sensual strip by Tarpe Mills (The Purple Zombie, Miss Fury)….
A spectacularly surrealistic and disturbing episode of Space Patrol by Basil Wolverton…
And then we have Speed Centaur. I suppose it only makes sense that a publisher called “Centaur” would have a character named “Centaur” but, wow. Speed was the sole survivor of a race of centaurs living in the Arctic who was discovered by reporter “Reel” McCoy and taken to America. Naturally he became a crime fighter though in this adventure he…well, I think it better if you just read it for yourself.
It also had this page of tiny ads. We’ve all seen this sort of thing before; it’s the kind of thing that’s been endlessly parodied and commented on, but some of these ads are…well, along with plans for building an airplane, also for sale were…
…fighting roosters! And…
…one of those Jughead type crowns that kids theoretically wore back then. Though “Let’s Make Whoopee” also had a slightly more innocent meaning at the time they were essentially selling kids hats that said, “let’s have super hot sex, baby!”.
— Steve Bennett