Real Name: Unknown
Identity/Class: Unconfirmed (the Penny Dreadfuls identify him as a human technology user).
Enemies: The police and other law enforcement officials
Known Relatives: None
Aliases: Terror of London
Base of Operations: London
First Appearance: (first reported sightings) 1837; (play) Spring-Heeled Jack, the Terror of London (1840); (in print) Spring-Heeled Jack, The Terror of London (Penny Dreadful, 1840s)
Powers/Abilities: Able to leap incredible distances. Clawed hands, and breathes fire.
History: Spring Heeled Jack's first reported sightings took place in 1837, when a businessman claims he encountered the strange being jumping over a cemetery's railings and into the street; the leaper was described as being tall and thin, of gentlemanly appearance, wearing a black cloak, sometimes with pointed ears and nose, sometimes wearing a helmet, breathing blue and white flame and possessing metallic claws. Later that year Jack allegedly attacked two women in London in two separate incidents. After several more incidents over the next year, Jack became a star of Penny Dreadfuls and plays. More appearances were reported around the country, and his occasional appearance was reported until at least the beginning of the 20th century.
Comments: John Thomas Haines' 1840 play speculated that Jack was merely a disguised brigand, marking Jack's first known fictional outing. In Alfred Burrage's 48-part Penny Dreadful serial, Spring-Heeled Jack, the Terror of London, he was a nobleman cheated out of his inheritance by an unscrupulous brother (or cousin or stranger--the stories are vague on this). In revenge the nobleman takes to the roads as a highwayman. However, in proper Robin Hood form he only robbed the rich, giving away almost all of his loot to the poor and oppressed.
He was again the star of a Penny Dreadful series in 1904 when Aldine Publishing produced a twelve issue series about him (see topmost image, where he is depicted by Aldine artist Robert Prowse Jr). In 1969 he was the inspiration for the Hotspur hero Jumping Jack, the Leaping Phantom and a few years later he turned up in Hornet as Spring-Heeled Jackson.
In 1991 independent comic company Rebel Studios released a 3 part mini-series Spring Heel Jack, followed two years later by a sequel, Spring Heel Jack: Revenge of the Ripper. In 1998 Phillip Pullman's novel Spring-Heeled Jack was released, treating Jack as a devil-suited Victorian superhero. In 2003, the eighth incarnation of the time-travelling Doctor encountered Spring-Heeled Jack in the pages of Doctor Who Magazine, where he proved to be an alien. In 2006 Full Circle released the three part Springheeled Jack, which was gathered in a hardcover trade by Black Boar Press a year later.
Mack Lambert informs me that Jack "gained American recognition with the brief collectible figures and comic series, Monsters In My Pocket. He had the ability to jump great heights and had the ability to scare people when they look in his eyes."
CLARIFICATIONS: Not to be confused with
Jack the Ripper, who shares the Jack nickname, and a tenuous connection via London and the Victorian era (albeit different ends of said era)
Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.
Back to Literary Heroes
Back to General UK Heroes
All images and characters depicted on this site are copyright their respective holders, and are used for informational purposes only. No infringement is intended and copyrights remain at source.