The 1930s and 40s were a ripe era of comic book history that yielded some of the celebrated names of today. Without the high adventures of Bob Kane’s Batman in 1939, we’d never have heard of the dark knight that has now appeared in 14 feature length films. Without Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s creation a year before, the world would not have come to know Superman.
An Era of Excitement
This was a time of derring-do and excitement. It was also a time where the comic medium really found its feet. After the birth of the medium’s most archetypal characters, many a new style of comic hero was born. These include Fawcett comic’s Shazam, who was secretly schoolboy Billy Batson and Timely Comics’ (now Marvel) Captain America, who had been a “98 pound weakling” before being made into a perfect specimen by the legendary super soldier serum.
Yank and Doodle
Another non-traditional set of superheroes was Yank and Doodle, a set of identical twins named Richard and Dick Walters who were only super powered when they were in close proximity. These two fighters were rambunctious in their civilian lives and prone to fisticuffs in their secret identities.
The first appearance of this superduo was in 1941’s Prize Comics #13, and the two identical twins would go on to fight evil in many adventures. As these adventures took place during World War II, the two young protagonists initially created their superhero personas as a result of being too young to fight in the war and considered their adventures attempts at doing their part. As a matter of fact, each issue set during the war started with these words:
“American youth shall not be denied its chance to safeguard democracy…with this in mind the Walters twins, Rick and Dick, crusade against all injustice as Yank and Doodle…”
Adventures with the twins were always complete, with the protection the American way always at the heart of the twin’s actions. Even in their civilian guises, the twins would do everything they could to toughen up their compatriots. In one adventure, they even bully one of their schoolmates for not being tough during the war. They refer to him as little Lord Fauntleroy and are ejected from a dinner party.
Despite this rebelliousness, the twins had a genuine heroic streak that they used to defeat crooks, support each other, and survive a plethora of dangerous situations. As mentioned, proximity was important to their powers, which included super strength, fighting prowess, agility, and limited invulnerability.
Fortunately, brawn wasn’t the limit of their abilities; the boys were also competent detectives who were able to discover duplicity in many of the nefarious characters that they encountered in their adventures. Still, their tempers and rebelliousness often caused issues, even seeing the boys briefly running afoul of the law in Prize Comics #21.
The Twin’s Design
In Their Civvies
As identical twins, the two young super-fighters typically dressed the same, even in their civilian identities. In their early issues and for an unexplained reason, the two typically dressed in a green sweater emblazoned with a large letter “M.” They would accompany this identifying clothing with white pants. Interestingly enough, their street regalia were often completely identical, so that you could never tell the difference between Rick and Dick Walters. This wasn’t quite the case with their heroic outfits.
As Yank and Doodle
Yank and Doodle’s superhero attire proudly displayed the red, white, and blue of the American flag. Their upper tights even proudly displayed a large white star that represented the stars of the flag. It was on these stars that their costumes differed. On Yank’s (Rick) Star, there was a large letter “Y” in the center of the shape.
For his brother Dick, who was Doodle, the star actually had a “D” in its center. Outside of these concessions, the two’s outfits had some other interesting design elements. One that would catch the eye of anyone who knew about the modern superhero’s love affair with capes would instantly recognize that Yank and Doodle did not have them. Instead, the two heroes wore small, western-like bandanas that they never used to hide their faces.
The face masks that they wore utilized the stripes of the American flag. Rather than using the white colored eye slits that were common in the era, the duo Yank & Doodle actually used white stripes as eye holes.
• The Original Black Owl, Doug Danville: Another Prize Comics hero, Doug Danville existed in the archetype that Bruce Wayne became famous for: the rich playboy. The chief difference between the two characters is that Doug was often referred to as an idler.
This greatly contrasted with his identity as the brave and action-packed Black Owl, and it was this difference that made the character interesting. The Black Owl had more than a few adventures with Yank and Doodle until his retirement.
• Walt Walters, the Second Black Owl: Walt Walters, the twins daring dad was always important to the narrative of his brave sons. Typically serving as a foil for the twin’s musings, Walt took more of an active role when he became the Black Owl.
As mentioned, the Owl was a superhero that the twins had already worked with in the past, so when their father donned the heroic identity in issue# 34, the family became a trio of heroes. This triple threat lasted the way through to issue# 64 where Walt was injured by a gunshot and hung up his cape permanently.
• The Walters’ Butler, James: James was often depicted as fed up with the twins lively antics. Always seeming discontent, the James was eventually framed and incarcerated. Despite the turbulent history, the twins mounted an effort to free James from his prison time.
Yank and Doodles’s Behind-the Scenes History
Yank and Doodle were created by artist and writer Paul Norris. Norris unfortunately is a creative talent who very few know much about today other than he worked on the earliest Aquaman stories. One thing that is of note about Yank and Doodle’s creator is that he both illustrated and wrote the plots for the early issues.
This is rare even today in American comics. With the exception of very rare cases like Frank Miller’s run on Batman in the 80s and John Byrne’s run on the Fantastic Four in the same era, illustration and writing duties are typically a team effort. The fact that Paul Norris did both is certainly exceptional, especially for the time.
Norris based the character’s heroic identities and naming off of the patriotic song entitled “Yankee Doodle” and based his character’s prime motivation in patriotism.
Prize Comics History and the Duo’s Retirement
Prize Comics, a now defunct company, was famous for its magazine-style monthly publications. Yank and Doodle were both mere stories in a series of monthly “funnies” and each comic section varied greatly from the last. During its run, Prize Comics created interesting adventure-oriented characters like the previously mentioned Black Owl, The Green Llama, Boom Boom Brannigan, and the ice-powered Doctor Frost.
In addition to these heroic figures, they also delved into the macabre with a Frankenstein series that eventually transitioned into a comedy-oriented comic strip. Another monthly story was called “Jason” that was very similar to the “Blondie” comic.
Prize featured a plethora of artists and writers, most notably the legendary Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, the co-creators of Captain America. In 1949, Prize underwent a major change that saw them transition to more western-themed stories. As a result, the new Prize Comics Western found that they no longer had a need for Yank and Doodle or the Black Owl and ended their comic runs. Today, all three characters fall under public domain.
Important Issues from the Prize Comics Series
Yank and Doodle had a plethora of great stories that fit well in the WWII and post-WWII era. Adventures were entertaining and you always knew that despite the odds, the duo would come out ahead. Let’s take a look at some of the key adventures in their eight year history.
The Duo Era
Prize Comics Issue 13 (1941)
The origin story of Yank and Doodle simply told us of the story of these two strong-willed twins. It explained that the rambunctious duo were too old to enlist, but still wanted to fight for their country on the warfront.
Memorable quotes from the issue: This is the first appearance of beginning narration that stated, “American youth shall not be denied its chance to safeguard democracy… with this in mind, the Walters twins, Rick and Dick – too young for military or naval service, crusade against all un-American activities as Yank and Doodle!”
Prize Comics Issue 19 (1942)
In this issue, Rick and Dick are up to their old antics and are making life miserable for the family butler. At a point, they trick James the butler and he ends up on the floor. Angered, the butler leaves the estate with the intent to never return. Unfortunately, he is then ambushed by German spied and is forced to grant them entrance into the Walters’ home.
James is then though to be in cahoots with the spies and the twins work to exonerate their former adversary. This is a great issue that shows how mischievous Yank and Doodle could be, but it also illustrates their dedication to doing the right thing.
Memorable quotes from the issue: A great illustration of some of the bullying antics of the twins is when James picks himself up off the ground and says, “You tripped me! You young ruffians! You did it deliberately; you’ve made life miserable for me and my son. I’ve had to send him to live with my friends!”
Prize Comics Issue 21 (1942)
In this issue, which is set during a point when the U.S. was still deep in the throes of the second Great War, young Rick and Dick find themselves expelled from a dinner party at their palatial home. As they sought a snack, the twins become embroiled in a plot at a diner near the waterfront.
After getting kicked out of the diner, the twins come back as their alter-egos and shake up the gang activity going on in the diner. To their surprise, they find out that the cook is actually a Japanese double agent who frames them for murder.
Through fisticuffs and quick thinking, the twins are able to clear their name and life returns to normal.
Memorable quotes from the issue: When the twins, who were accused as Rick and Dick, are exonerated, they say this to the police chief who gave them the good news, “We’d like to see Fauntleroy do somethin’ like that; and compared to us, Yank and Doodle are small fry!”
The Later Issues with The Black Owl
Prize Comics Issue 64 (1945)
This episode is important because it marks a departure from the series’ tradition and a departure from the styles of that era. Firstly, Norris didn’t draw this issue but still served as its chief writer. Secondly, the main artist on this issue was a woman named Ann Brewster. Female artist were relatively rare in comic books in that era; as a matter of fact, Brewster served as artist for the prior issue# 63, but worked under a male pen name.
This issue also marks the retirement of the twin’s dad as the Black Owl. Unfortunately, during hot pursuit, he’s shot and later realizes that he’s too old for the types of adventures that accompany superheroics.
Memorable quotes from the issue: While talking to two policemen, Walt says, “Miller eh? He’s the worst of the whole lot. Good thing we brought our skis. We’ll combine business with pleasure!” There’s nothing like being prepared.
The adventures of Yank and Doodle provided some genuine fun for readers for almost a full decade. While the series did eventually become defunct, the following era might have seen the end of the series anyway. It was during this era that marked the end of huge comics sales for decades.
Just six years after the last Yank Doodle issue, the book that almost destroyed the comics world was released; 1954’s Seduction of the Innocent. This marked the end of the golden era of comics that Rick and Dick’s adventures were part of. Still, the innocence of the World War II years in the United States has been forever immortalized in this book about the adventures of these super twins.