Night Fighter, an Abandoned Superhero

In Love #1
Mainline Advertisement from In Love #1 (September 1954)

Simon and Kirby launched their own comic publishing company, Mainline, with Bullseye (August 1954). The first issue of Bullseye ran an advertisement for the next issue, but no mention of other titles. For the next month, September, two additional titles were released, Police Trap and In Love. Like Bullseye, Police Trap ran an ad for the second issue. However inside In Love was an advertisement for all the Mainline titles. It was a diverse lineup including western, crime, romance and war comics. At this point only the Foxhole had not been released. But it is clear from the description that S&K had already decided on the theme for their war title:


Right above the blurb the comics title is given and it is Night Fighter instead of Foxhole. Night Fighter just does not make sense as a title for a war comic. There is nothing in the blurb to suggest the comic would only be about nighttime battles.

Night Fighter
Night Fighter, unpublished cover

Night Fighter was also the title used for a superhero proposal that Simon and Kirby came up with. The original art is known for two covers. The one whose image I show above was created by altering an unused Fighting American cover. This and the other Night Fighter cover can also be seen in Greg Theakston’s Jack Kirby Treasury volume 2. Both covers show a hero with special equipment, boots that allow him to walk on walls and goggles that permit him to see in the dark.

But the use of name Night Fighter in the Mainline advertisement and for the unused superhero is not a coincidence. Compare the logo from the unused Night Fighter covers with the one in the In Love advertisement. There is no question, both are the same design. The most reasonable explanation is that the superhero Night Fighter was originally planned as part of the Mainline lineup and was included in the first state of the In Love ad. Before In Love #1 was sent to the printers Simon and Kirby decided to replace the superhero entry of the Mainline comics with one from the war genre. They replaced the blurb in the advertisement with one appropriate for the new war title. Somehow S&K never got around to changing the title from Night Fighter in the ad. Perhaps they had not yet decided what to call the war comic and simply forgot to correct it in the advertisement by the time they decided to name it Foxhole.

Why did Simon and Kirby decide to drop the superhero Night Fighter from their lineup? With the part that Jack played in the creation of the Marvel universe as well as all the superheroes Simon and Kirby worked on during the war, it is easy to conclude that superheroes were important for the S&K team. However during the years after the war until the breakup of the studio superheroes only played a small part of the comics that Simon and Kirby produced. Stuntman and the Red Demon quickly failed during the comic book blot that followed the war. Captain 3D had an even shorter life when 3D comics turned out to just be a fad. Simon & Kirby had created Fighting American for Prize Comics just before starting Mainline. Fighting American #1 has a cover date of April which would indicate a calendar date for its release as February. In Love #1 with a cover date of September would have gone to the printers at a calendar date of May. Since their deal with Prize was to share the profits, it is possible S&K may have known the sales return for FA #1 in May and perhaps these were not as good as hoped. The only problem with this scenario is that when In Love #1 was sent to the printers it would be expected that some work may have already begun for the next month’s titles. Yet all the art that seems to remain for Night Fighter are the two unused covers. So it is hard to be sure whether or not sales figures for Fighting American affected the decision not to launch Night Fighter. Whether influence by sales figures for Fighting American or not, Simon and Kirby apparently decided the time was not right for launching a new superhero. Perhaps if Mainline had been a success they might have later expanded their line to include Night Fighter.