Real Name: Richard Henry "Dick" Benson
Identity/Class: Human mutate (?)
Affiliations: Justice, Inc. (Fergus "Mac" MacMurdie, Algernon Heathcote "Smitty" Smith, Nellie Gray, Joshua "Josh" Elijah Newton, Rosabel Newton, Cole Wilson - group also referred to as "Justice and Co."), honourary member of U.S. Secret Service
Enemies: Veshnir, Shiwan Khan
Known Relatives: Alicia (wife, deceased), Alice (daughter, deceased), unidentified mother-in-law (deceased)
Base of Operations: Justice, Inc. Headquarters, Bleek Street, New York City
First Appearance: "Justice, Inc." The Avenger #1 (Street and Smith, September 1st 1939)
Powers/Abilities: Benson was able to remold his face to appear like anyone he wants, had enhanced hearing and vision, and possessed low level superhuman strength (after a while he was exposed to a machine which restored his face's normal appearance, though he remained a skilled disguise artist). He is a skilled fighter, trained in Savate, knowing pressure points that can render a man unconscious with a pinch, and an expert hatchet and knife thrower. A man of eclectic knowledge, he is also an excellent physician and expert on tropical diseases, a linguist who speaks Aztec and various other native Central American languages, knows sign language, is an engineer and chemist, can read lips, and is an escapologist and hypnotist.
Benson wore a bulletproof vest composed from "celluglass, a plastic of his own invention that was stronger than spun steel." He armed himself with two unique weapons, a knife he christened Ike, and a pistol he christened Mike; the former was strapped to his left calf, the latter to his right. Ike was designed as a throwing knife, with a double edged blade, eight inches long, and almost no handle to speak off. Mike was a .22 caliber, with a long barrel for targeting, a built in silencer, and a grip almost in a straight line with the barrel, making the weapon resemble a length of blued steel tubing. Only capable of holding four shots at a time, Benson never killed anyone with Mike, instead using his incredible marksmanship to knock enemies out by creasing their skills.
History: Richard Benson was a self-made millionaire and adventurer, a scientific genius with senses and physical strength far greater than most. At a young age he amassed vast wealth as a soldier of fortune, working all around the world, before acruing great wealth mining in the Arctic, finding emeralds in Brazil, transporting animals from Malay to American zoos, and finally making around a half million dollars in an amethyst venture in Australia. Still a comparatively young man, Richard married Alicia and had a daughter Alice. A few years later the Benson family learned that Alicia's mother was dying, and rushed to catch a flight from Buffalo to Montreal to see her. Initially they were denied entry to the plane, but Benson, unaccustomed to being told "No," pressed the issue and got them on board. However, after a brief trip to the bathroom, Richard returned to find his wife and daughter had vanished; all the other passengers denied ever seeing them, and Benson snapped. Subdued and hospitalised with "brain fever" and head trauma, he awoke to find that the loss has turned his jet-black hair completely white, bleached the colour out of his suntanned skin, and paralysed his facial muscles so that he can mold his features like putty. Briefly committed, he escaped determined to find his missing family, soon allying with Fergus MacMurdie, who remembered seeing the Benson's onboard, and Smitty. They uncovered a conspiracy which was kidnapping wealthy Buffalo residents, then parachuting them from planes to imprisoning them on an island in Lake Ontario. The three allies brought the criminal venture to an end, but Benson learned that his wife and daughter were dead, murdered because they had witnessed the kidnappings; now suffering from a death wish, Benson vowed to bring criminals to justice. With his two helpers and others, he formed Justice, Inc., soon becoming a valued aide to the authorities in dealing with villainy beyond what the police and G-Men could handle. The underworld and papers dubbed him "the Avenger," a title Benson himself did not use, but did acknowledge.
The other members of Justice, Inc. had all also suffered at criminals hands.
Smitty, Algernon Heathcote Smith, an extremely tall electrical engineer who had been framed for a crime he didn't commit. Smitty aided him on his very first case.
Fergus MacMurdie, a dour Scottish chemist whose family had been murdered when he refused to pay protection money.
Nellie Gray, a deceptively pretty martial arts expert whose father had been murdered.
Joshua Elijah H. Newton and his wife Rosabel, a black couple whose disguise as Benson's domestics hid their keen intellects - both were college graduates.
and Cole Wilson, a peerless mechanical engineer.
The Avenger's code was a simple one. He refused, personally, to take the lives of even the lowest crooks. However, he would maneuver them into positions where, by certain moves springing from their own hate or greed, they were apt to destroy themselves.
Comments: Created by Lester Dent (Doc Savage) and Walter Gibson (the Shadow), initially written by Paul Ernst using the Street and Smith house name of Kenneth Robeson. Ernst wrote 24 stories:
Justice, Inc. (1939)
The Yellow Hoard (1939)
The Sky Walker (1939)
The Devil's Horns (1939)
The Frosted Death (1940)
The Blood Ring (1940)
Stockholders in Death (1940)
The Glass Mountain (1940)
Tuned for Murder (1940)
The Smiling Dogs (1940)
River of Ice (1940)
The Flame Breathers (1940)
Murder on Wheels (1940)
Three Gold Crowns (1941)
House of Death (1941)
The Hate Master (1941)
Death in Slow Motion (1941)
Pictures of Death (1941)
The Green Killer (1942)
The Happy Killers (1942)
The Black Death (1942)
The Wilder Curse (1942)
Midnight Murder (1942)
With the cancellation of his own title, the Avenger turned up as a supporting feature in 5 issues of Clues Detective Magazine and one issue of The Shadow
Death to the Avenger (Clues Detective #4, 1942)
A Coffin for the Avenger (Clues Detective #5, 1942)
Vengeance on the Avenger (Clues Detective #6, 1943)
Calling Justice Inc (Clues Detective #7, 1943)
Cargo of Doom (Clues Detective #8, 1943)
To Find a Dead Man (The Shadow #9, 1944)
These short stories were written by Emile C Tepperman who had previously written adventures for The Spider and Operator #5. When the original stories were reprinted in the 1970's by Warner Books, the series proved popular enough to hire Ron Goulart to pen an additional twelve stories.
The Man from Atlantis (1974)
Red Moon (1974)
The Purple Zombie (1974)
Dr. Time (1974)
The Nightwitch Devil (1974)
Black Chariots (1974)
The Cartoon Crimes (1974)
The Death Machine (1975)
The Blood Countess (1975)
The Glass Man (1975)
The Iron Skull (1975)
Demon Island (1975)
In 2008 Moonstone Books bought the license to do new Avenger stories, and released an anthology, The Avenger Chronicles.
The Avenger appeared as a back-up feature in Street and Smith's Shadow Comics during the 1940s, but he didn't star in his own comic series until 1975, when DC comics released 4 issues of Justice, Inc. written by Denny O'Neill and illustrated by Al McWilliams and Jack Kirby. The first two issues were based on stories. Around the same time DC had licensed the Shadow, and in #11 of that series, the two Pulp vigilantes met for the first time, and the Avenger battled the Shadow's foe, Shiwan Khan. When DC next licensed the Shadow in the late 1980s, the Avenger again turned up in his fellow vigilante's title, before getting a two issue mini-series, again titled Justice, Inc. which retold and revamped his origin.
In 1941 Walter Gibson turned the Avenger into a radio series which lasted 26 episodes. His origin and powers were so radically altered that this Avenger should probably be considered a brand new character or not. In the radio version the Avenger is biochemist Jim Brandon, who secretly fights crime using his inventions, a Telepathic Indicator which allows him to pick up thought flashes, and a "Diffusion Capsule" which provides "the black light of invisibility." He is assisted by Fern Collier, the only person he trusts with his secret identity.
"Mystery of the Giant Brain"
"Rendezvous with Murder"
"Eyes of Shiva"
"Coins of Death"
"Mystery of Dead Man's Rock"
"Tunnel of Disaster"
"Crypt of Thoth"
"Melody of Murder"
"Department of Death"
"Keys to the City"
"Death in Mid-Air"
"Death Rings the Bell"
"Cradle of Doom"
"Death Meets the Boat"
"Murder Hits the Jackpot"
"Diploma of Death"
"Shot in the Dark"
"Death Counts Ten"
CLARIFICATIONS: Not to be confused with
The Avenger, bike-riding vigilante hero from the 1980's Eagle Comic
Avenger, avian sidekick of Birdman
Avenger, anti-Communist hero
Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.
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