In December of 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt would establish the All-Star Squadron as an overarching group of superheroes brought together during the heightened tensions of World War II to fend off the Nazi threat. However, to not fall victim to Hitler’s Spear of Destiny’s influence, the team would be confined to defending America on the home front.
After acquiring various characters from Quality Comics, DC would introduce a branch of the squadron dubbed the Freedom Fighters, making their first appearance in Justice League of America #109.
Brought together by Uncle Sam, the team would pick up various incarnations of its heroes over its tenure to fight off the forces of tyranny. Contrary to having a spotty consistency in popularity, the team has possessed some incredibly heavy and bendy-hitters, some readers may or may not know of. Here are just 10 of the Freedom Fighters’ most powerful inductees.
10 Human Bomb – Andy Franklin
Originally a chemist named Dr. Roy Lincoln, Andy Franklin was the predecessor and fellow chemist caught in an explosion that resulted in every part of his physiology becoming explosive upon contact.
With his hair, nails, and blood becoming a threat due to involuntary detonation, he’d consume a fibra-wax fluid capable of suppressing his powers. It was stated by Uncle Sam that a single droplet of Franklin’s sweat could level the island of Manhattan. Franklin would turncoat from S.H.A.D.E. once he and the rest of the “Freedom Fighters” would come to learn that they were being used by Father Time.
9 Miss America – Joan Dale
Making her Golden Age debut in Military Comics #1, Joan Dale was a reporter in New York who had a dream that the Statue of Liberty granted her astounding abilities and beseeched her to combat the forces of evil. She awoke to find that she indeed had reality-warping powers ranging from molecular reconstruction and teleportation to telekinesis and retrocognition.
Her post-crisis reboot revealed her powers were, in fact, the result of a government experiment called Project M, who returned Dale after they deemed the experiment a failure.
8 Max Mercury
Max Mercury, the true first super-speedster, first appearing in 1945 as Quicksilver with National Comics #5. Mark Waid would roll the character over with a new origin, ironically depicting the “Zen Guru of Speed,” as a 19th-century soldier named Max Crandall who was given a connection to the speed force by a tribal shaman from the Blackfoot clan.
Pushing the knowledge of his capabilities, Max would accidentally make several time-jumps, with each jump resulting in the donning of a new identity. Initially dubbed Ahwehota by the tribesmen, he’d take on several alter-egos such as Blue Streak, Quicksilver, and, ultimately and most popularly, Max Mercury. Max has quite the grip on his abilities, is one of the most skilled speedsters, and serves as a mentor to the Flash family.
7 The Ray/Neon – Langford Terrill
Introduced in 1940’s Smash Comics #14, Langford “Happy” Terrill was a reporter who’d be swindled into a government program named RONOL (Research of the Nature Of Light), led by Dr. Dayzl who theorized that a dangerous cosmic light entity would return from whence it originated billions of years ago.
Believing the experiment’s offspring would bring forth a liaison between the entity and humans, Terrill is “accidentally” exposed to a light bomb while in the upper atmosphere, developing various powers including light-based energy projection, electromagnetism, and photokinesis. In the ’70s, Terrill and his wife bore a newborn-son who began displaying the illuminated aura of his father, now aware of Dr. Dayzl’s theory, and the truth to it, he absconds with his son to leave with his brother Thomas Corbett. Finding him in a magical oasis, Happy then drinks from the waters becoming further enhanced and donning himself Neon.
6 Firebrand – Danette Reilly
The character title would debut is 1941 in Police Comics #1, however, Firebrand would become a superhero alias used by several individuals throughout the character’s publication.
Initially, a non-powered, crime-fighting playboy named Rod Reilly, his sister Danette Reilly would take up the mantle after he would fall ill. A volcanologist, Danette would have a run-in with the time-traveling villain, Per Degaton, the encounter would result in Danette being imbued with the ability to manifest and manipulate flames. Alex Sanchez would become the third Firebrand following Danette’s death at the hands of Dragon King.
5 Plastic Man
Probably the most well-known character on this list, Patrick Eel O’Brian was a common criminal exposed to a strange acid after a botched robbery at a chemical plant led to his flesh becoming completely elastic. The DC equivalent to Marvel’s Mr. Fantastic, Plastic Man had actually wanted to be called Elastic Man, but miscommunication resulted in the reporter hearing ‘Plastic Man’ instead.
Plastic Man would gain further popularity though Batman: The Brave And The Bold. Though a jovial character, it’s said O’Brian’s nigh intangibility could allow him to go toe-to-toe with Superman, and it even being stated by the Dark Knight that anyone underestimating Patrick and his abilities, amounts to being brain dead.
4 Black Condor – John Trujillo
Another Freedom Fighter who’s had multiple incarnations, the character of Black Condor first debuted in Crack Comics #1 in 1940. At the outset, Richard Grey Jr. would become the first iteration after being raised by a flock of wild condors, proceeded by Ryan Kendal who had telekinesis to accompany his powers of flight.
The most recent revamp to the character came in 2006’s Uncle Same and the Freedom Fighters #3 with the introduction of John Trujillo, the newest Black Condor. Embued by a Native American sky goddess, John not only could fly as his predecessors did but was also given the ability to control the winds of the earth. He’d rescue the Freedom Fighters from the agents of S.H.A.D.E. and subsequently join the group.
3 Red Bee – Jenna Raleigh
Just as Danette Reilly took up the mantle of Firebrand proceeding her brother Rod, Jenna Raleigh would take the title of Red Bee following her great-uncle’s tenure and ultimately death. Originally Rick Raleigh, a district attorney masquerading as a vigilante, accompanied by a specially trained bee, Jenna would claim the title after his death at the hands of Baron Blitzkrieg.
Jenna would develop a battle suit with two mechanized bees that shot electricity until she was abducted and mutated by insectoid aliens, giving her a power enhancement. Changing her physiology, Jenna developed pheromone and mind control abilities and sought to colonize the earth, though this was a side effect of her mutation causing her and the Freedom Fighters to fight it out until she was eventually cured by Neon.
2 Damage – Grant Emerson
The son of the original Atom, Al Pratt, and a pivotal figure in 1994’s Zero Hour: Crisis in Time, Grant Emerson is a walking biochemical fusion reactor, meaning he’s consistently absorbing various kinds of energy and can expel that energy in a variety of ways. Stated as the catalyst to the “Big Bang” proceeding Parallax’s obliteration of the universe, Grant’s detonation stripped the entity of the possibility of forcing this new reality to bend to its whim, allowing the new universe to operate naturally.
The machinations of the villain Vandal Savage made him the mastermind behind Damage’s power, having an amalgamation of superhero DNA samples fused with that of Grant Emerson. In the massive Green Lantern crossover, Blackest Night, the death and resurrection of Damage was the final heart needed to bring forth the living embodiment of death, Nekron.
1 Uncle Sam
In DC, the character of Uncle Sam isn’t just a figure of speech nor a metaphor towards American idealism but, in fact, the tangible concept of the Spirit of America. Created in an occult ritual by the nations Founding Fathers, the spirit would bind itself to first a talisman and then various individuals and soldiers until resurrecting a political cartoonist in 1870 and donning the familiar Uncle Sam look.
Uncle Sam would be the founder of the Freedom Fighters during WWII when he’d have a premonition of the attack on Pearl Harbor but fail to prevent it, bringing the group together as a result. Immortality, inter-dimensional teleportation, and size alteration are just a few of the powers at Sam’s disposal, and the magnitude of his powers is in direct proportion with how much faith the nation has in its ideals.
DC's Freedom Fighters are a great force designed to protect America, with these being the group's most powerful members.