The 3Xs

First Appearance: Mystic Comics #1 (March 1940).
Golden Age Appearance: Mystic Comics #1.
Modern Appearances: None.
Years Active: 1940-?

The 3Xs starts with a pair of women, walking home from the office; one of the women is grabbed and dragged into a "sinister car" by a group of men wearing all-green uniforms--the men of the Green Terror. The car zooms away, "leaving a horrifying cloud of green fumes in it's (sic) wake!" A cop yells, "It's no use, boys! The Green Terror has outwitted us as usual!" Carol, the woman who survived the grabbing, tells Ted (no sign of Bob or Alice), her husband/boyfriend/fiance', about it, and he brings her to the Commissioner, who tells them that they've called in "the greatest crime-busting team in the United States," the Three Xs. The Xs check out the only available clue: a glove left behind at the last kidnaping.

The 3Xs take the glove back to their secret sanctum, where 2X finds "the pollen of a rare, South African orchid engrained in the weave of the glove." (Quite a piece of luck, that.) The men of the Green Terror, who followed the 3Xs from the Commissioner's office, rush in and overpower the 3Xs, and escape with the glove. Ted and Carol get the idea to help the 3Xs. The 3Xs, meanwhile, track the orchid to a ship that recently arrived in New York, and resolve to be on the next ship to go to South Africa. They rush in a taxi to the dock, followed in another taxi by Ted and Carol. At the ship the 3Xs recognize a group of thugs walking up the gangway as being the Green Terror's, and they produce passports and go on-board the ship. Ted and Carol, watching this, get caught by the Green Terror's thugs, and are brought on-board at gun-point.

The 3Xs spend the night in their cabin, and the next day are caught by the Green Terror's men. They are brought to the Green Terror, who is golden-skinned (at least, that's what he looks like to me--but then, I'm partially color-blind, so his skin may well be some hue or tinge of green). It turns out that the Green Terror has "come from Darkest Africa to drain rich red blood from the veins of healthy young Americans. More blood to add more years to the life of the immortal Green Terror." (He's not drawn as an African--he's drawn as an aged white man with a beard. Of course, the 3Xs' creative team may have meant him to be a Boer, who certainly had experience sucking blood from the veins of Africa.)

The Green Terror orders his Blood Machine to be switched on, which causes the 3Xs to leap into action. They beat everyone up, 2X using a disintegration gun on one of the sailors who is helping the Green Terror. The Three Xs win, good triumphs, the innocent are saved, and the guilty are sent to jail and the electric chair.

The 3Xs is an odd strip. It's credited to "Roe"; this is likely a pseudonym, but I've no idea who really did the strip. Nor does the art remind me of anyone in particular; it's a somewhat typical Golden Age strip, artistically speaking, with nothing particularly distinctive about it. The characters themselves, though, are definitely not cut from the usual Golden Age superhero cloth. The 3Xs don't wear costumes; they wear business suits. Differently colored business suits, which helps us keep them straight (although, to be fair, their faces are drawn differently, as well). 1X, the blond, is the detective; 2X, the bald-headed one with glasses, is the "walking encyclopedia" (and seeming inventor - else where'd he get the disintegration gun from?), and 3X, the tall, broad one who has a pug's face, is the strong-arm.

The idea of the 3Xs (the strip) seems to be to combine superheroes and comic strip detectives ala Dick Tracy. When the 3Xs are beat up by the Green Terror's thugs, they walk around with bandages on their face, and while the focus of the strip is on crime-solving, the Green Terror and his blood-induced immortality is a lot closer to a comic book villain than any of Dick Tracy's enemies. Needless to say, this attempt at melding the two genres isn't entirely, or even mostly, successful.

Whether this combination of types could have proved fruitful is, of course, not known, for the 3Xs never appeared again. In more skillful hands, perhaps the strip would have been memorable, but as it is, it's quite forgettable.

Note: Christopher Gildemeister points out that the concept of the 3Xs is not original to "Roe." Carleton E. Morse created and wrote the radio program "I Love A Mystery." ILAM featured three men, Jack, Doc, and Reggie, who combined detective work with cases involving the occult (with episode titles like "Temple of the Vampires" and "The Pirate Loot Of The Islands Of Skulls"). Doc, in ILAM, wasn't an inventor, but the similarities between ILAM and the 3Xs are undeniable. ILAM debuted on January 16, 1939 and became quite popular very soon thereafter. The 3Xs appeared in Mystic Comics #1, cover dated March 1940. Which means that ILAM had been popular, and in the public consciousness, at the time that "Roe" wrote the "3Xs." As with Excello and Zara, the source of the "inspiration" for this Timely strip is not the writer's imagination, but another creator's work.

Write me!

Go back to my Golden Age Heroes page.