13 superheroes that rock red, white, and blue costumes

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Phantom Eagle/Karl Kaufman (Image via Marvel)

7. Phantom Eagle

This is one serious deep-cut in the realm of patriotic comics history. Still, Phantom Eagle’s story is so interesting that it’s worth a dive.

There are actually two Phantom Eagle characters. The first one, created by Fawcett Comics, was a World War II teen named Mickey Malone. Though Malone is forbidden to fight by his superior officer (why, exactly, is a teenager in the military? Of course, this isn’t really answered), he goes ahead and makes plans to fight. Malone actually builds his own airplane and goes on to become an anonymous flying ace. He even forms a group of teenaged pilots known as the Phoenix Squadron.

However, the second Phantom Eagle created at Marvel Comics has a far more interesting backstory. He begins as Karl Kaufman, a German-American pilot who becomes active during World War I. Because Kaufman’s parents have returned to their native Germany, he decides to conceal his identity in order to protect them.

As Phantom Eagle, Kaufman leads fighter squadrons, fights the Hulk, and joins a team known as Freedom’s Five. Come to think of it, there have been a lot of patriotic superteams through comics history. At any rate, though Phantom Eagle’s disguise is predictably goofy — it’s a Silver Age amalgamation of capes and weird headgear — his backstory is surprisingly compelling. It’s worth tracking down at least a couple of the old issues.