Brow Beat

The Most Literal Superhero in Comic Book History

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.

THE EYE

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Created by: Frank Thomas

Debuted in: Keen Detective Funnies Vol. 2, No. 12 (Centaur Publications, December 1939)

Also known as: Detective Eye

© 1939 Centaur Publications

Most superheroic pseudonyms are intended to be understood metaphorically. Iron Man isn’t really a man made of iron, Green Lantern isn’t a piece of verdant camping equipment, and, by and large, the Beast is in fact a lovely fellow. When it comes to superheroes whose names can be taken literally, or, better yet, at—ahem—face value, there’s no more outstanding example than the Eye.

An actual living, speaking, crime-fighting disembodied floating giant eyeball, the Eye was a mysterious presence that loomed ominously in the pages of Keen Detective Funnies, a book that also offered more quotidian fare, such as Dean Denton (Scientific Detective), Dan Dennis F.B.I., and Spark O’Leary, Radio Newshawk.

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Appearing amid curtains of flame or billows of smoke, the Eye was in a class by himself (or, uh, itself?). A tireless witness and avenger of injustice, the seemingly supernatural entity possessed an array of powers bordering on the omnipotent. He also seemed to have a few limitations. Despite being able to fly, melt steel, appear and vanish suddenly, manipulate invisible forces, and, oh, be a giant flaming eye all the time, the Eye relied on human assistants to act as his agents against crime.

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After appearing in Keen Detective Funnies under the masthead of “The Eye Sees!” the Eye went on to star in its own solo book, with an apparent change of career: the ocular avenger was now billed as Detective Eye. Apparently, the Eye had been taking correspondence classes between adventures. After fewer than a dozen appearances, the Eye vanished as mysteriously as it debuted, and never once had an origin been so much as hinted at. Then again, what kind of origin would explain “The Eye”? Had it once been a man, bitten by a radioactive eye? Was an eye rocketed from a doomed planet, its only survivor? Did an eye burst through a brooding billionaire’s library window, inspiring him to fight crime? Perhaps we’re better off not knowing.

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

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