Okay, this story seemed at first to be a pretty silly and stupid invisibility tale, but it leads down a fascinating historical rabbit hole. So follow along…
The setting: the city, late at night. A young couple in love are walking to the subway after leaving a party, when a voice from the shadows says, “Stick ’em up!” A robber, at gunpoint, demands their valuables.
After a hopeless glance up and down the street, the young man gave up his wallet, watch and gold stickpin. The girl was forced to give her pocketbook, earrings and silver bracelets. She fumbled nervously. Impatiently, the gunman clutched at the locket around her neck.
“Oh, not that!” gasped the girl. ”I’ve had it all my life-please-“
“Shut up!” growled the bandit. “I take what I want. I’ll 1have that locket, too-“
Does this scene sound familiar? You might be thinking that a young Bruce Wayne should also be present, and that this is the origin story of Batman! But it is not; let’s continue:
“Shut up!” growled the bandit. “I take what I want. I’ll 1have that locket, too-”
”I dont think you will!” said another voice. The gunman whirled, tensely, ready to shoot. He saw nothing to shoot at. But something like a steel hand grasped his wrist and twisted it sharply. He dropped his gun with a cry of agony.
“Rat! Preying on people like a vulture-” said the ghostly voice again, from empty air.
Something like an iron fist cracked against the bandit’s jaw, snapping his head back. The gunman tried to run away, but an unseen fist struck him in Whichever direction he tried. Again and again blows landed till the robber dropped unconscious, with blood streaming from his battered face.
The scene you are reading is from “The Invisible Robinhood,” written by Eando Binder, which appeared in the May 1939 issue of Fantastic Adventures, indeed the very first issue of that magazine!
As we will see, “The Invisible Robinhood” is really one of the earliest superhero adventures out there — and in fact appeared at almost the same time as Batman! Some spoilers given in the post.