Brow Beat

The Comic-Book Star Who Was Less a Superhero Than a Handler

All week, we’ll be presenting our favorite half-baked superheroes from comic book history, excerpted from The League of Regrettable Superheroes by Jon Morris. Out now from Quirk Books.


Created by: S. M. Iger and Chuck Winters

Debuted in: Choice Comics No. 1 (Great Comics Publications, December 1941)

Notable characteristics: No pouch, no tail—hey, is this guy even really a kangaroo?

© 1941 Great Comics Publications

The cover of Choice Comics billed Kangaroo Man’s debut as “the most unusual feature in comics.” That’s a difficult claim to defend, but it’s clear this was an atypical sort of superhero. For one thing, Kangaroo Man wasn’t even really the star of his own feature. That honor fell to his marsupial sidekick, a crime-smashing, Nazi-bashing, and wise-cracking kangaroo named Bingo!

The saga commences as Jack Brian—the eponymous Kangaroo Man and “daredevil American explorer”—returns to his native country from a tour of Australia, arriving with a trained kangaroo in tow. “I found Bingo on the Australian plains two years ago,” he explains to an old friend. “He’s trained now so he’s practically human. He understands my commands and signals like a soldier.”

That description of Bingo’s responsiveness is blatantly underselling his potential. Gifted with an apparently unlimited understanding of human speech, Bingo also seems to possess a human intelligence and wry tough-talking personality. Although the ’roo’s own speech is limited to a series of hiss-like rasps—variations on “Rssp!” and “Rsp!”—Bingo’s often quite complicated thoughts are translated for the readers. “Trust me pals, Bingo won’t let you down,” he silently reassures his human friends in a moment of peril. “Who says kangaroos can’t master strategy,” he ponders while making short work of a deadly mountain lion. “Can’t say I enjoy this kind of transportation,” thinks Bingo while riding a motorcycle.

In addition to his human intelligence and nonstop patter, Bingo masters some pretty impressive skills. Besides possessing top-notch hand-to-hand (and foot and tail) fighting techniques and knowing his way around a motorbike, Bingo walks the wings of a plane in flight and hops away unharmed after his tail is run over by a German tank. On the cover of his second appearance, he’s mopping the floor with a trio of presumably superpowered masked herotypes. “These silly zooming ‘super guys’ amuse me!” thinks the cantankerous kangaroo while effortlessly batting his super-powerful opponents like rag dolls.

As for Jack Brian, so-called Kangaroo Man, he’s almost a supporting character in his own feature—but then again, how do you compete with a wisecracking kangaroo? Kangaroo Man is hard-pressed to offer much more than a roundhouse punch and the occasional bit of gunplay when trouble comes calling. In fact, the most important contribution Kangaroo Man seems to make is to reward Bingo with a tidbit of cod liver oil.

Excerpted from The League of Regrettable Superheroes by Jon Morris. Reprinted with permissions from Quirk Books.