Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Golden Age Throwbacks: The Arrow

Before DC Comics' Green Arrow or Marvel's Hawkeye came along, there was The Arrow, the original masked bowman and the public domain superhero featured in this installment of Golden Age Throwbacks. And while he wasn't the first costumed superhero (he was arguably the third costumed superhero published), the Arrow was the first archery master to appear in the comics. Unlike those that would follow, however, he did not have any trick arrows to rely on as gimmicks, although he too lacked any superpowers other than complete mastery of his weapon of choice. He wasn't bad with his fists either.

When the Arrow initially appeared in the comics, his real identity was never revealed although a few tantalizing clues were dropped in the stories. He was apparently very wealthy and lived in New York City where he had a penthouse apartment and a butler. At least one individual at the time knew who the Arrow really was - Inspector Carter of the Chicago Police Department knew where to find the Arrow to bring him in on a case. And the police trusted the Arrow enough to let suspects in their custody go if they received word from him (usually by a note attached to an arrow sent through the window) that the individual in question was innocent (or even guilty just so he could tail them). The Arrow was judge, jury and sometimes executioner, and he possessed a special black arrow reserved to take the lives of those criminals who were completely beyond remorse and redemption.

Ralph Payne
It wasn't until much later that readers learned the Arrow's true identity - Ralph Payne, United States Intelligence Agent. Disguised as the Arrow, Payne recognized he could operate more effectively outside the law without the restrictions imposed by his civilian identity. He would even operate behind enemy lines, and while on undercover assignment in Nazi Germany, he met British Intelligence agent Jane Markham where she became one of the few to learn of his secret identity. The two were able to foil a plot to send secret messages back and forth from Berlin to America in the radio broadcasts of a traitorous British journalist known as Lord Hawford working for the Gestapo with a treasonous American journalist counterpart.

The Arrow made many appearances in Funny Pages and Amazing Adventure Funnies (plus a guest appearance in Fantoman #2) before finally getting his own eponymous title. Unfortunately, The Arrow only lasted for three issues before being cancelled. Still, the Arrow is noteworthy as a public domain superhero for starting and helping to define the archer hero/vigilante archetype, and his influence can still be seen today in the new CW television series, Arrow, the latest telling of the Oliver Queen/Green Arrow story.
Ralph Payne AKA The Arrow!


Origin: Trained
Real Name: Ralph Payne
First Appearance: Funny Pages #21 [Centaur Publications September 1938] 

Prowess  5
Coordination  6
Strength  4
Intellect  3
Awareness  4
Willpower  4

Stamina  8
Determination  5

  • Acrobatics
  • Criminology Expert
  • Investigation Master
  • Stealth Master
  • Weapons Master (Bows)
  • Blast Device 6 (Shooting) - Bow and Arrows

Jane Markham
  • Epithet: Modern Day Robin Hood
  • Identity: Wealthy Bachelor turned US Intelligence Agent
  • Connections: Jane Markham, British Intelligence
  • Connections: Inspector Carter, Chicago Police Department
  • Enemy : Organized Crime
  • Enemy : Nazi Agents
Point Total: 44

The Arrow was created by Paul Gustavson and first appeared in Funny Pages #21 (September 1938) published by Centaur Publications.


  1. I've always had a thing for masked adventurers with no super powers. Great find by the way...