I’ve covered a number of lost, forgotten, misused, and occasionally unmemorable heroes and protagonists from various comic books over the previous 17 weeks.
Today’s entry will probably be the most obscure since the guy has no real personality of his own. His name is Darwin Jones.
In the grand scheme of things, Darwin Jones as a character is incredibly forgettable. I wouldn’t even bother with an entry if he wasn’t an oddity: the closest there was to a main character in DC’s Strange Adventures anthology. In that, I mean he appeared in something like a baker’s dozen worth of stories in that magazine between 1950 and 1964. DC will occasionally trot him out for a cameo, appearing in places ever so briefly like various Crisises and so forth, but he’s basically just a scientist.
I should probably explain Strange Adventures first. That book was an anthology, with three or so stories per issue, most coming out to six to eight pages, and they followed a basic formula. There’d be a threat of a generally science fiction nature, some often nameless white guy would narrate how he barely saved the world, and the world would be saved. This was the sort of series where characters would narrate their actions out loud, presumably for particularly slow children reading at home who couldn’t figure out what people were doing by just looking at them. There were often aliens or weird radiations and sometimes a talking gorilla, or even aliens masquerading as talking gorillas (I did not make that up), but the heroic nameless guy would always prevail. Oh, the nameless guy sometimes had a name, but there wasn’t much difference between that guy and any other protagonist, so why bother remembering their names?
What makes Darwin Jones even mildly memorable was he was the only really reoccurring character in the series. He was the Chief of Staff for a government agency, the Department of Scientific Investigation, and the D.S.I. as it was also called was charged with investigating the really weird stuff that happened and figure out how to stop it. It must have been a small department, because Darwin Jones seems to be the only operative they had to investigate anything. And this was a world where heat-proof snowmen from outer space would attack with laser vision in attempts to rule the world (again, I did not make that up).
The charm of these stories is that, basically, whoever wrote them had only a vague idea how science worked and they were going to just go with what they made up. Hence talking gorillas from space and fireproof snowmen. A number of the writers and artists that would revive DC’s superhero line worked on this stuff, and these stories can be enjoyable as long as you throw your own personal knowledge of science out the window and try to remember who these stories were written and drawn for…kids in the 1950s.
But why should I spend any time on Darwin Jones? Short answer: he’s a government operative. This is a pre-Watergate, pre-Vietnam era story. Government operatives are of course there to help. He’s got to be competent and benevolent. No one questions his authority or his competency in any story he appears in. Can you imagine a character given that much carte blanche today? I sure can’t.
Furthermore, stories he appears in are never billed as a Darwin Jones story. He basically just shows up at some point, and that may not be until the whole story is halfway done. And remember: most of these stories were only six to eight pages long, so having a presumed heroic figure skip the first half or more means even by the standards of the time where the protagonist was a fairly straightarrow white guy and that was about it, Darwin Jones had even less time to make an impression as a scientific detective, or whatever the heck he was.
I will say I was surprised Google Images had any pictures at all to choose from for the guy. Well, it did after I clarified I wanted the guy from DC Comics. It seems there is also a soccer player by that name who’s a heck of a lot more popular…