Who was the first super hero with super-speed powers in comics?

Plus question: Any prior hero from Pulp magazines or books with super-speed?

Mythological species not included.

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    If you count ancient Greek paintings as comics, and Hermes as a superhero, then you've got your answer. – Gallifreyan Jun 27 '17 at 17:25
  • Mithology not included. I'll edit the question. Other media than comic books are a plus information. – Rodrigo Gurgel Jun 27 '17 at 17:27
  • Do they have to be heroic? – FuzzyBoots Jun 27 '17 at 17:51
  • yes @FuzzyBoots – Rodrigo Gurgel Jun 27 '17 at 18:00
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    Do you specifically want comics? You mention it in the question title, and in the tags, but then mention "Pulp magazines or books," which a lot of the answerers are using to justify answers from non-comics books. Please clarify the scope of your question. – Shokhet Jun 27 '17 at 19:22

Hugo Hercules was featured in a comic that ran for five months between 1902 and 1903. While specifically described as having super strength, in one comic he was able to pull a line of train cars at the same speed as a train.

From Wikipedia

A good-natured man endowed with superhuman strength, the character of Hugo wandered about town, helping people with their problems and shocking them with his surprising displays of power. He was so strong he could pick up an elephant, kick a house like a football, wield an artillery cannon like a handgun, and lift a locomotive engine off the tracks and pull its cargo behind him at train speeds.

Hugo coming to the rescure of the Cannon Ball* Limited

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  • @FuzzyBoots Thanks for the image, I was trying to find one but the only one I could see was so blurry I couldn't make out anything – Forral Jun 27 '17 at 18:09
  • This one still isn't great, but it's the best I could find. – FuzzyBoots Jun 27 '17 at 18:10
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    @DasBeasto That then raises the question of what is considered super speed. Do we only count Superman and Flash type speeds where they are a complete blur or do we count instances like this where the person is moving faster than an unaided human would be able to otherwise? – Forral Jun 27 '17 at 19:21
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    The slowest trains I could find from that era are the Saxon V K (19 mph) and the Bavarian D XI (28 mph). Other trains that I found had speeds ranging from 37 to 75 mph. The speed record at the time was 82 mph (Bristol & Exeter Railway #41) set back in 1854 though the Pennsylvania Railroad 7002 claimed an eye-popping 127 mph over a 3-mile stretch. – Charles Jun 27 '17 at 20:27
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    @Mark Agreed, and so I think the 15-28 is right out. So he's not just running a bit fast, he's running well faster than a human could. Not like a blur, but like a car on the highway probably. – Charles Jun 29 '17 at 1:09

I'll put forward Prof. Gibberne of H.G. Wells's 1901 The New Accelerator until I'm certain how "heroic" you're wanting submissions.

The story addresses an elixir, invented by a Prof. Gibberne, that accelerates all of an individual's physiological and cognitive processes by some orders of magnitude, such that although the individual perceives no change in themselves, the external world appears almost frozen into immobility and only the motion of most rapidly moving objects - such as the tip of a cracked whip - can be perceived.

The exploration of the consequences of this is incomplete; for example, the inventor and his companion find that while under the influence of the elixir they can easily singe their clothing from the heat produced by friction against the air as they walk, such is the rapidity of their motion; but this same air friction would render it impossible to breathe at a correspondingly accelerated rate, and this difficulty is ignored.

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    H.G. Wells wrote comics? – T.E.D. Jun 27 '17 at 17:59
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    @T.E.D. : "Any prior hero from Pulp magazines or books with super-speed" – FuzzyBoots Jun 27 '17 at 18:01
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    disappointed. – T.E.D. Jun 27 '17 at 18:07
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    @T.E.D. The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, and The Food of the Gods were Classics Illustrated titles. So in that sense he "wrote comics". Probably many other comic book adaptations. – user14111 Jun 27 '17 at 18:40
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    The protagonists of "The New Accelerator", fine story though it is, aren't heroic. They're indulging in a bit of experimentation/amusement. Actually, I have difficulty thinking of a single character in HG Wells' writings who is heroic. Perhaps Mr. Polly in the episode that ends the book - see Ch. 9. But Mr. Polly definitely does not have superpowers. – Faheem Mitha Jun 28 '17 at 17:00

For an earlier literary hero who admittedly toes the border of mythology, Hiawatha from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous Song of Hiawatha published in 1855:

Swift of foot was Hiawatha
He could shoot an arrow from him
And run forward with such fleetness,
That the arrow fell behind him!

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    -1, not comics. Question asked for and is tagged comics. – Shokhet Jun 27 '17 at 19:18
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    @Shokhet: From the question: "Any prior hero from Pulp magazines or books with super-speed?" – FuzzyBoots Jun 27 '17 at 19:18
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    -1 removed, then. The question is confused about its own boundaries, then. – Shokhet Jun 27 '17 at 19:21
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    @Shokhet: Yeah. I personally think they'd be better off splitting it. – FuzzyBoots Jun 27 '17 at 19:34
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    Not exactly pulp fiction, either, though! – mattdm Jun 28 '17 at 23:30

For the first actual comics superhero, I'm going to suggest The Whizzer who debuted in USA Comics #1 (Aug. 1941), published by Timely Comics.

The Whizzer in action

Robert L. Frank was born in St. Louis, Missouri. The origin of the Golden Age character begins while Robert Frank is on a trip to Africa with his father, Dr. Emil Frank, where Robert is bitten by a cobra. Dr. Frank saves Robert by a transfusion of mongoose blood, and soon discovers that his son has developed super-speed. Frank then decides to fight crime and eventually accepts the offer of Invaders member Bucky, who forms the superhero team the Liberty Legion to rescue the other Invaders, who have been brainwashed by the villain the Red Skull. When the Liberty Legion and Invaders eventually disband after World War II, the Whizzer joins the newly formed All-Winners Squad. The Whizzer afterward spent some years battling alcoholism and depression, and was, for some time, homeless in the Bowery section of Manhattan. He also works as a nuclear laboratory technician.

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  • Superman had him beat by about three years in Action Comics #1 June 1938 – Forral Jun 27 '17 at 18:02
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    Did Superman had super-speed at beginning? I know he was through a lot of retcons. He didn't even fly at the beginning. @Forral – Rodrigo Gurgel Jun 27 '17 at 18:04
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    "Robert is bitten by a cobra. Dr. Frank saves Robert by a transfusion of mongoose blood, and soon discovers that his son has developed super-speed." Man, I love Golden Age science. – KSmarts Jun 27 '17 at 18:39
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    they really gave the "Whizzer" a bright yellow suit? – Azor Ahai -- he him Jun 27 '17 at 21:28
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    @Azor-Ahai Saves on dry cleaning – Yakk Jun 28 '17 at 14:58

As we are including novels, I propose the 1785 book "Baron Munchausen's Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia". One of the cohorts and friends described therein is Berthold, the world's fastest runner.



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