All-Winners Comics # 5 (Timely Comics, 1942).

Anti-Nazi sculptor Paul Voltz is beheaded with an axe. The Destroyer then visits Voltz’s daughter and presents her with her father still alive. How did he do it? How did he manage to bring the decapitated sculptor back to life?

Here’s how. First, the Destroyer abducted Voltz’s masked executioner so that he was able to disguise himself as – and stand in for – said functionary. Secondly, using wires, the Destroyer attached a heavy rubber-cast of the sculptor’s ‘famous self-portrait’ to one side of the axe used for the execution. Twisting the axe as he brought it down, just grazing Voltz’s neck, the disguised hero jerked the rubber head to the floor, causing the prison guards to suppose it was the prisoner’s actual head. The ‘executioner’ then placed the ‘corpse’ in a coffin which he carried away to safety in a lorry.

Later, in his other identity as Keen Marlowe, secret agent, the Destroyer goes to a bar with Fraulein Voltz and overhears one man telling another that three liberal German publishers (Luther, Kleinman and Goetz) are to be executed the next day.

Meanwhile, Captain Achhimmel, Special Detail Chief for the Gestapo, orders Inga Von Leche, ‘Nazidom’s most wily woman’, to capture the Destroyer. Later, spotting  Inga, ‘the new Mata Hari’, at a rathskeller (bar), the Destroyer (out of costume) introduces himself to her as Louis Kramer, the famous German writer about travel in America. ‘Kramer’ tells Inga that he has an idea how to trap the Destroyer: have a double for him carry out an amazing escape plan, publicize it widely, and then the real Destroyer will do something foolhardy to expose the impostor. Approving of the plan, Inga suggests ‘Louis’ should disguise himself as the costumed hero. Agreeing to this, ‘Kramer’ tells Inga and Captain Achhimmel to arrange for themselves to be imprisoned with the three publishers who are due to be executed.

The next day, under instructions from his boss, Achhimmel’s bald assistant arranges for there to be only one guard in attendance on the publishers. Presently, the Destroyer arrives and knocks out the guard and Achhimmel’s assistant. The prisoners (including Inga and Achhimmel) ‘escape’ in a lorry (watched by Nazi soldiers). The fugitives stop at an inn where a note has been left for the publishers which informs them that their ‘liberator’ the supposed Destroyer is actually a Nazi impostor.

Outside the inn are 6 Nazi police officers. Unsure he can handle all six of them, ‘Kramer’, dressed as the Destroyer, tells them that the next part of the plan requires three of them to bind and gag the other three in order to lure the Destroyer into the trap. Also, the remaining three guards must unload their rifles so that there will be no accidents. When the guards have carried out these orders, the Destroyer punches them out of commission with lightning speed. Subsequently, inside the inn, Inga shoots Captain Achhimmel dead while trying to hit the Destroyer, who captures Inga. The Destroyer then arranges for the publishers to be driven to safety after asking one of them to give him a black eye.

image-37

Posing once more as Louis Kramer, now with a black eye, the disguised hero congratulates Inga on becoming the head of Achhimmel’s division. Later, as Keen Marlowe, the hero assures Fraulein Voltz that he could achieve as much as the Destroyer given the proper circumstances. She accuses him of being almost as bad as a Nazi himself in his egotism.

Co-created by a young Stan Lee, the Destroyer is a relatively little-known superhero from the 1940s Timely stable, whose better-known stars include Captain America, the Submariner and the Human Torch. One possible problem with the Destroyer is that he has no distinguishing feature as a superhero (he doesn’t breathe underwater, he’s not on fire, he has not been injected with a super-serum, carries no shield …). However, alone amongst the Timely stable of costumed heroes, he operated exclusively behind enemy lines. In addition, he has a striking name and a sharp-looking costume.

 

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