10 Public Domain Superheroes That Deserve A Modern Revival

There are a ton of interesting superheroes in the public domain that have never been revived.

Many consider public domain superheroes as one of the American comic book industry's most unique aspects. The term Public Domain Superheroes refers to superheroes whose publisher's never renewed their copyrights. Therefore these superheroes can be used by any creator without needing to pay the original creator or publisher.

The explosive rise and fall of Superhero comics during the 1940s prevented many publishers from renewing their characters' copyright.  These companies' inability to reestablish their copyrights resulted in many intriguing superheroes being in the public domain.  

Some comic-book publishers like Dynamite Comics and AC Comics have made efforts to revive some public domain superheroes. However, there are still many public domain superheroes that have never seen a revival. 

Here is the list of 10 public-domain superheroes worth revamping for the modern age.   

1. Nelvana 

Cover of IDW's Collection of Nelvana Comics:
Image Source

Thanks to reduced trade between the US and Canada during the Second World War, Canada had a short-live comic book industry during the early 1940s. One of this industry's most imaginative creations was Nelvana of the Northern Light

Nelvana was born the daughter of the Inuit god Koliak and a mortal woman. Exile from her home, Nelvana fights various foes in the Artic with her powers of flight, telepathy, heat generation. Her stories are a great example of Golden Age bizarreness with enemies like the Mammoth men or situations like the Northern Lights magnetizing some bombs.

Sadly despite being the first created First Nation superhero, Nelvana has not appeared since 1947. Despite Marvel comics creating the character of Snowbird as a homage to Nelvana, nobody has made any effort to bring back this intriguing obscure superhero. 

2. El Kuraan 

El Kuraan riding a horse on the cover of Red Circle
#4: Image Source

While white male superheroes dominated the Golden Age of Superheroes, there were some exceptions. One understated exception is the Egyptian hero El Kuraan.

Created by the small US publisher Rural House in 1945, El Kuraan is a compelling take on the Masked Cowboy archetype. El Kurran's real name is Jahn, chief of the Santar people. El Kurran's only appearance saw him take on the Egyptian noble that stole his people's land. 

It's disappointing that El Kuraan only appeared in a single story despite him being quite compelling. Beyond being one of the few Middle Eastern heroes in American comic books, he also showcases a historical period barely covered in Western media.  

3. The Press Guardian 

The Press Guardian in action: Image Source

While many superheroes work as journalists in their secret identity, few make journalism a central part of their superhero identity. A refreshing exception to this standard comes in the form of MLJ Comics' Press Guardian

Press Guardian, whose real name is Perry Chase, is a young reporter working for his father's newspaper. Perry's father, however, lacks confidence in his skills as a reporter.  In response, Perry becomes the masked Press Guardian to reveal the city's corruption on his terms.   

In this age of "fake news" and concerns over press freedom, the idea of a masked journalist resonates now more than ever. With this in mind, the Press Guardian seems to be one of the better options among MLJ's catalog of heroes to revive for the modern age. 

4. The Eye 

The Eye taking on a group of criminals:
Image Source

The strangest character on this list, the Eye, is one of the Golden age's more bizarre protagonists. Recognition for the Eye being a flying eyeball with superpowers. 

The character first appeared in Centaur Publication's Keen Detective Funnies at the end of 1939. In these strips, the Eye was a mysterious force of justice trying to convince someone to attain justice. If the person could not do it themselves, the Eye would step in with its god-like powers.

Unlike the other entries on this list, the Eye was brought briefly back in the 90s by Malibu Comics. Malibu's revamp, however, lacks any of the bizarreness of its original incarnation. So any modern revival of the Eye should take inspiration from Golden Age Eye.  

5. Master Mystic

Profile picture of Master Mystic from his opening
splash page: Image Source

The Golden Age of Superhero Comics saw no shortage of eerie all-powerful superheroes. One of the most obscure and intriguing examples of this superhero type is Master Mystic

Appearing as a back-up strip in the infamously rare Green Giant Comics, the Master Mystic is a mysterious psychic living at the top of the world. In Master Mystic's only appearance, he defeats a giant Slovenian scientist named Rango. 

Similar to the Eye, any revival of Master Mystic should focus on the character's strange nature. Maybe even examining what might this character's origins and motives are?  

6. Purple Zombie  

The Purple Zombie's Splash Page: Image Source

Despite the recurring popularity of zombies in pop culture, there have not been many attempts to make a series with a zombie protagonist. Interestingly the 1940s presents us with an early example.

That early example being Eastern Color Printing's Purple Zombie. the creation of two doctors' experiments to extend human life, the Purple Zombie rebelled when one of the scientists attempted to use him for his zombie army.

The Purple Zombie is a rather compelling character because instead of being driven by heroism, he wants to be left alone. Despite this unique origin and motive for a superhero, the Purple Zombie saw one revival in a Golden Key published horror anthology.  

7. Spirit Man 

Spirit Man preparing to use the Futuroscope:
Image Source

Sometimes a public domain superhero requires an intriguing power to be worthy of reviving. A great insistence of this is the case of Lev Gleason's Spirit Man

Spirit man's powers are twofold. One, he can turn himself invisible by exposing himself to Mistidione Rays. He can also use a device called the Futurescope to teleport anywhere the device is locked on. 

While the character was a bog-standard superhero, his power creates the opportunity for some intriguing modern revamps. An example being that his abilities would make him a great infiltrator.   

8. The Music Master 

Music Master takes on a hooded criminal.
Image Source

Another example of a public domain superhero with a compelling superpower would be Eastern Color Publishing's The Music Master

The Music Master is John Wallace. a concert violinist empowers by a magical pipe organ. He can fly whenever he hears a fixed note, use musical notes as a shield or weapon, and used musical notes as his servants. 

With an intriguing set of musical power that is not just about creating loud noises, Music Master deserves a modern revival. Maybe even expanding his abilities to be affected by things like the genre of the music.  

9. Blackout 

Blackout escapes from the Germans.
Image Source

Sometimes a public domain superhero has the right combination of powers and backstory. Lev Gleason's Blackout is one such superhero. 

After a German bomb hit his lab,  released chemical transformed Yugoslavian scientist Basil Brusilof into a shadowy being. Now Blackout fights the German occupation of Yugoslavia with his super strength and shadowy form. 

Blackout's combination of unique abilities and taking place in a forgotten part of the Second World Two make him worthy of a modern revamp. The only changes required for Blackout are his name and appearance to empathize with his power and backstory. 

10. Futuro 

Futuro forces Hitler to confront his crimes.:
Image Source

Another disturbing public domain superhero is Futuro. Futuro stands out for appearing in a rather intriguing one-off story. That story sees Futuro sending Adolf Hitler to the afterlife to punish him for his crimes. 

This story portrays Futuro as a cloak supernatural being with the power to see into the future. He also seems to have some ties with the afterlife, given the story of his only appearance.  

Based on this story, the best way to revamp Futuro would be to make him a Ghost of Christmas's Future-like figure. For example, have him try to convince Historical "villains" to change their way by showing them their eventual fates. 


Of course, there are a ton more Superheroes in the public domain. However, these ten heroes are the ones most worthy of being brought back in modern comic books.  
So any comic creators looking for a character to include in their comics, these ten superheroes are a great choice. Thanks to the fact that their public domain status means you can use them for free.

History Major that loves to write about entertainment and history.

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