1X, 2X & 3X (The Three Xs)

Created by Robert O. Erisman (text) and Newt Alfred (art)

–3X pretty much sums it up

Is this where Marvel’s X-Men came from?

Except the THREE Xs weren’t a bunch of mutant bozos in desperate need of group therapy–they were  a team of Baltimore-based private eyes who first appeared in Mystic Comics #1 back in 1940, put out by Timely Comics, who would eventually become Marvel Comics.

Not that they were anywhere near the hard-boiled antics of the characters popping up in DC’s Detective Comics at the time–the Three X’s were already swimming in the sci-fi end of the pool.

We never learn their real names, but 1X was the real “detective,” the blond “boss” of the bunch, a skilled investigator and criminologist. 2X, meanwhile, was the “smart one” (he wore glasses–a sure sign of intelligence in comic book speak). He was a “walking encyclopedia” type, who happened to carry a “disintegrating gun” as a weapon. Finally, there was 3X, “the muscle” of the group, a big, broad-shouldered bruiser who was skilled in hand-to-hand combat and wasn’t shy about using those skills. Together, we’re told, they make up “the greatest crime-busting team in the United States.” Heck, they even had a “secret sanctum.”

In their only appearance, “The Green Terror,” the Three Xs are hired by police commissioner to find Maisie Leeds, a young woman he fears has been kidnapped by the deranged South African scientist (Yes, a mad scientist!) who drains his captives’ blood to prolong his own life.

The only side effect? He’s turned green from his diabolical experiments, hence the nickname.

After a suitable bit of hoo-hah and hokum and getting the snot beat out of them (the story is only a few pages, and isn’t even mentioned on the cover), the Three Xs, with the help of Maisee’s fiance, Ted, and one of her friends, Carol, manage to track the fiend to the SS Caribou, a  ship in Baltimore’s harbour which the Green Terror and his green-clad henchmen have commandeered. There’s a thrilling (well) rescue, the damsel is rescued and the intrepid trio save the day.

And that was it for the Three Xs. Despite a last panel suggestion to “Follow the startling adventures of the Threes Xs in the future issues of this magazine,” they were never seen again.

Or at least in any recognizable form. They were later retconned into some typical comic book baloney as a super hero team known as the Scientists Guild, with a slapped together backstory involving King Arthur, private eye Leslie “The Ferret” Lenrow, something called the Eternity Mask and all sorts of other crazy Marvel bullshit, but since their only appearance as actual detectives seems to have been in Mystic Comics #1, which itself only lasted 10 issues, it hardly seems worth relating their future exploits from Earth #8 or whatever. What’s interesting to me is their status as an early (but extremely obscure) example of Marvel private eyes.


    (1940-42, Timely Comics)
    10 issues

    • “The Green Terror” (March 1940, #1)
      Written by Robert O. Erisman
      Art by Newt Alfred


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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