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Article by Mikel Midnight, from material by Ron Goulart

Victor Fox, a former accountant for DC, decided to go into the comic book business when he saw the profits that Superman was making. He engaged the services of the Eisner-Iger Studio.

"I want another Superman", Fox reputedly said. The new hero was to have a red costume, and the rest of the "specifications were almost identical to Superman," Eisner said, "We knew it was very much like Superman, that it was imitative, but we had no idea of its legal implications." Eisner, using the pen name Willis and following Fox's instructions, wrote and drew the 14-page adventure for Wonder Comics #1.

The cover to Wonder Comics#1

The cover to Wonder Comics #1

Eisner protested at the time that the hero was too similar to Superman. Exactly, replied Iger; that's what Fox was paying for. While vacationing in Tibet, "timid radio engineer and inventor" Fred Carson is given a magic ring as a gift from an old yogi to battle all evil "in the name of humanity and justice". Now when the need arises he "removes his outer garments and becomes the Wonder Man, mightiest human on Earth." Endowed with "Herculean powers," Carson has superhuman strength enough to smash through solid walls, could leap over tall buildings in a single bound, deflect bullets with his hands, and outrun a train if need be.

In his first and only case, Wonder Man stops a hospital from being bombed by anarchists ("Bomb hospitals, will you? I'm going to teach you a lesson!"). Unfortunately, Fred Carson's boss at the International Broadcasting Company, the gruff Mr. Hastings, has no use for the meek Fred, nor does Mr. Hastings' daughter Brenda, who is a nurse at the hospital Wonder Man saves. Headstrong and spoiled, nonetheless the girl of Carson's dreams, Brenda is engaged to the rich stuffy playboy Reggie Berold, who thinks Wonder Man is a threat!

Wonder Man was the first character to imitate Superman (Wonder Man and Batman first appeared on the stands May 1939), and he drew the immediate attention of Harry Donenfeld, head man at DC Comics.

"He hit Fox real hard," according to Eisner, "and right away." Fox, who was publishing Wonder Comics out of the same office building as DC, was slapped with a copyright infringement lawsuit. The case didn't get the court -- the Federal District Court in New York City -- until 1940. Fox dropped the character after one issue (not risking a second appearance) but continued to fight the lawsuit, and replaced Wonder Man with Yarko the Great, still using the services of the Eisner-Iger Studio. Trouble arose between the Studio and Fox, however, when the lawsuit came to trial and Eisner truthfully testified that Fox had instructed him to copy Superman, thus causing the judge to rule in favor of DC Comics. In retribution, Fox refused to pay Eisner for any of the work the shop had done for him, causing Eisner to lose the then enormous sum of $3,000.

Addendum: this story is told, names changed to protect the guilty, in Will Eisner's The Dreamer.

Addendum II: in 1940, Jim Mooney interviewed with Victor Fox, and got his first comic book assignment to do the art for the first story on a character called The Moth. The writer suggested to him that this character had much in common with Batman. DC Comics again took legal action, claiming the character was too similar, causing Fox to cease publishing the character. The Moth appeared in only four stories, in issues #9-13 of Mystery Men Comics.

Addendum III: Stirred on by their success in the lawsuit against Wonder Man, National took similar action against Master Man.

Addendum IV: Will Eisner had completed at least one more Wonder Man story, as shown in the section "Ain't It A Wonder" at Ken Quattros' excellent page on Will Eisner at Comicartville.

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Trivia Answer:Jenny.(For more information on this story, click here)