Secret Origins: Tex Thomson
An American Tale
If you thought you knew the story of Tex Thomson, alias Mister America, alias the Americommando, you were wrong! Those are just three of the identities of this hero with many names!
The Journal of Tex Thomson, 1979:
“Batman dies saving city!”
That headline is one I could have done without seeing. He was a hero to me. He made life better for the whole world with just his daily or nightly work. I know I wish I could have known him better. I did know Terry Sloane. He died recently, too. He was a truly good man, the only man I knew other than Rod Gaynor who could handle a whip better than I could.
The passing of these legends make me feel my age.
It makes me decide to tell my story in full detail, at least in this journal. No one may see it for years, but it may set the record straight, and after so many years of lies and secrets, it would be a release for me to tell the whole truth. Not that I ever lied to gain anything personal. I only did what I did to better fight crime. You’ll see that if you read this.
My name is Timothy Thomson. Tim was my more commonly used name, although the wealth my family earned from land and oil in Texas made it natural that I would get the nickname Tex.
My childhood was a blissful time full of adventure and imagination. I loved the movies and longed to play a part myself. To lose plain old Tim Thomson gradually became my forté, as you’ll see.
I learned everything that you could pick up from a rural Texas life. I learned Indian lore, riding, roping, tracking, hunting, and of course, to use the whip. An old Mexican man taught me. I’ve often wondered if he didn’t teach Rod and Terry, too.
I know that in a life filled with heroes, the one I first met and grew to admire the most was one of the most obscure. Even I only knew him as Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise. I met him as a teenager in New York City. I was on summer break that day in 1929, and I was feeling my oats, as they say. I met him when he saved me from a gang of muggers. Here’s what happened.
I entered a park, and I admit I was somewhat worse for wear — young and foolish and a bit drunk. That habit ended immediately, since Cosmo insisted that his pupils be “pure of body and mind.”
Well, these thugs set on me. It was the Great Depression, and folks needed to eat any way they could. I didn’t know that, being a spoiled rich kid. I fought, but I was unsteady, and as I started to fall, the biggest man I had ever seen loomed into view. That’s exactly what he did, and constantly: he loomed! He just rose up from the shadows, and you’d never have guessed that he had been within a mile of you! I know I didn’t expect it back then.
He set into the thugs, and he was so graceful, like a serpent, or — no — some noble creature like a hawk! He set into them and effortlessly drove them off. He saw that I was almost out cold, and he did something downright miraculous to me, now that I think about that solitary man. He took me home and nursed me back to health. His house was amazing. It was high above the city, like some haunted mansion in a comic-book.
He never had visitors. He hated company. Yet, maybe he sensed something in me that led him to take an interest in my life. We talked, and in those shadowy rooms I never got a clear look at him. His hawk-like nose recalls one actor to me, though back then he was not yet famous: Basil Rathbone. Cosmo looked like Rathbone, if that was his true face.
You see Cosmo was the master of disguise. Better than me, better than Batman, even better for once than Mister Terrific. No one knew more about disguises and playing roles than Cosmo. I wondered how he picked it all up. He never told me. He even gained and lost accents effortlessly, so he could have been French, Southern, British, or even Chinese, for all I know. There was something… Eastern about him. I don’t know.
Cosmo taught me every secret he knew about acting, makeup, disguise, and using the shadows for a dramatic effect. Those skills made me the man I am now. They carried me through World War II behind Nazi lines.
I never saw Cosmo again after that year. He vanished. The old house remained there, empty, as far as I could ever tell. He disappeared, though I heard his name pop up in the late 1930s in association with a few cases. I often wonder if he trained a second mystery-man called the King. For all I know, he was the King. It would amuse his weird sense of humor to have abandoned one identity for another heroic one.
But I should talk!
I went back to Texas and finished college earlier. I was bright, if a bit boastful. I later became an aide to the D.A. in New York, and I fought crime. I did it the only way I knew how in those days — with knuckles and daring and a few tricks from the great Cosmo. I had a pal named Bob Daley. He is still my best friend, a loyal, lovable fat man who had and has real heart beneath that comic exterior. This man worked with me doing the work of justice.
That work almost ended my life in 1940.
I was on a ship that came under the gun, so to speak, of saboteurs. They literally destroyed the boat, and I was presumed dead. I survived, obviously. Too stubborn to die is how Cosmo described me.
I was rescued from the ocean off the shore of Portugal. Some fishermen found my wounded body and nursed me back to health. That little hut was the cradle that gave birth to my most life-altering decision.
I would let the world believe Tex Thomson had died. Even Bob. That cold act pains me as have other cold acts to loving friends.
It started when I learned from the fishermen that my injuries had been severe, bad enough to require the use of special potions handed down from generation to generation in that tiny village. As they pulled life from the ocean, they also gave me a new life.
The explorer called Ponce de Leon searched for the fountain of youth, or so goes the legend. Well, the reality is this: he found it and took it back home with him, where he passed it on down to these same descendants who graced me with a dose.
It not only healed me, but it stopped the aging process in me. Totally stopped it. I am now physically what I was in 1940. No older in looks or in vitality. That blessing has in some ways been a curse, as you’ll see. Oh, no one knows that about me except for Bob. I doubt Jon Law even figured it out. I never told them, and after I went behind Nazi lines, I never saw any of those All-Stars again, with one exception, as Tex Thomson.
Well, I left them considerably richer and made my way home, where I donned a costume for the first time. I admit it was a gaudy, foolish one at that. I called myself vainly Mister America and sought to lose Tex in that representative of Democracy’s final bastion.
I found the men behind the boat explosion, and I even revealed my secret to Bob. I have decided to let him know. Unlike the solitary Cosmo, I needed a pal. He had tears when he saw me alive and well.
I never regretted telling him, not even when the loyal duffer put on a costume and called himself Fatman. Yes, that’s what he called himself: Fatman.
We made a good team and fought the good fight, and when war finally broke out, we continued to wage our own struggle.
Cosmo had taught me theatrics. I used them to excess back then. I whistled Yankee Doodle as I battled! I blush at the idea now, but back then, with Hitler breathing down the neck of the free world and star-spangled legends like Liberty Belle, Wonder Woman, and Uncle Sam around, it seemed OK.
Now for a second big moment of truth. I realized that as Mister America I was about half as useful as I had been as merely Tex in a disguise or two.
So when the opportunity came along, offered by no less than President Roosevelt himself, I dropped the outfit and took a wise step for a man with my talents. I couldn’t stare down the likes of Baron Blitzkrieg or the Ultra-Humanite, but I could slip in and out of other men’s lives with ease and style. I served well overseas as another man without a true face: the Americommando!
As the Americommando, I fought the Nazi forces well behind the lines in Nazi Germany itself. I truly became my new role and forgot much of the old Tex Thomson. I did a lot of good posing as a Nazi officer. At war’s end, I did not kill Hitler, though that old chestnut has actually popped up from time to time. I never did meet any other mystery-men as Tex or the Americommando again, except for one hero who felt it was only fair to try to find me after the war ended. He couldn’t leave a fellow mystery-man in possible danger unaided. Terry Sloane, alias Mister Terrific, came to Germany in 1946, and we met up. He tracked me down, and we shared an adventure with some European heroes before he left. I swore Terry to secrecy, and he never told a soul that I had survived the war.
I made it back to America and gave up costumes for good, burning them like to make sure. I linked up with Bob again, and using my wealth and a few well-placed legal connections, I fought crime once more as just a plain, two-fisted adventurer with some tricks and a few disguises.
But I did this not as Tex Thomson. After the war when I partnered with Bob again, I used a variety of names with wigs, makeup, odd occupations, et cetera, across the to fight crime across the United States. I admit the old thrill of playacting was part of it. I inherited that game-playing passion from Cosmo’s lessons.
This actually started much earlier when I worked for the D.A. in the late ’30s. As an agent I went undercover a lot, using the legal ties I had back then to move around in disguise and work under odd names with totally unaware good folks who took me for the pilots, detectives, and troubleshooters I pretended to be. The wigs, makeup, accents, and odd phony backgrounds I created were fun, and they helped me do the job of fighting crime and rescuing those in need. Some names I used sounded odd, but I liked alliteration, and the colorful names distracted people from looking too closely into my past. Two names I used back then were Scoop Scanlon and Cliff Cornwall.
Scoop Scanlon was a five-star reporter for the Bulletin, and I did my fair share of reporting, but the role was mostly for information-gathering. I adopted this role in the spring of 1938 and kept it for a year before discarding it. But I’d say out of my early identities, Cliff Cornwall, agent of the FBI, was the only one that really lived, in a manner of speaking. I know I certainly spent at least the same amount of time under that identity as I did under my own from the fall of 1939 until the outbreak of war in December, 1941.
I had some wild times living those fake lives, and yet as an actor, I added nuances to each part. I did care for the friends I made under such roles as Cliff Cornwall, Scoop Scanlon, and others, but I couldn’t break character enough to ever tell them my secret. It was especially difficult when I ended up falling for a certain assistant of mine, Lys Valliere, who knew me only as Cliff. I guess she and many of the others thought they knew all about their heroic friend. They didn’t.
But that was the late 1930s and early 1940s, and I’m up to 1946 in my story. That was when I met Bruce Nelson on a train.
Did you ever see the Hitchcock film Strangers on a Train? In it two strangers meet on a train trip and agree to kill each other’s enemies. That’s not quite what happened when I met P.I. Bruce Nelson on a train in the Midwest. He and I struck up a conversation, and since I was travelling as Tex, he had heard of me from his days as a Gotham City cop. He told me he was on the trail of a thug named Wolf Brando. I knew Green Lantern and Batman had both put him away at various times.
Well, Brando’s agent caught up to Nelson, killing him on that very train. I was in time to catch the creep, but I was too late to save poor Nelson. So I did something odd. I took his identity and went to his destination. Posing as Bruce Nelson, I brought Wolf to justice. I think that sort of evened things up for my failing to protect the P.I.
Then it occurred to me that what I had done with a living man, I could do with my own creations as I did in 1939 with Cliff Cornwall and others. By the way, I had not escaped All-Star connections totally, since I later learned that Nelson was distantly related to a JSAer!
So, starting in 1946, I became a wide number of people who fought crime around the world under various names.
I found corruption in the shipping industry, and I’d loved yachting, so it followed that one of my I.D.s in the 1950s was Captain Mark Compass! Corny name, but it worked. I took a job for a shipping line and as Compass solved several crimes for a time.
After that I adopted a flashy identity as Rick Carter, a magician of stage called Mysto the Magician. He let me go almost anywhere in the world of performing and entertainment. I admit my ego enjoyed the shows as much as my heart liked fighting evil. It was pure showmanship, of course, not magic.
In the 1960s I added names like Jason Bard, Jonny Double, Johnny Peril, Christopher Chance, and Tom Tresser to my list of adventure-seeking creations.
As these men I dared much and lived bravely.
The Journal of Tex Thomson, 1985:
The weirdest thing I ever encountered just happened. During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, when heroes of various worlds mingled freely, I met a real Johnny Peril! He even looked like the identity I created in the 1960s! That makes me wonder if, through some weird twist of fate, there could be otherworldly counterparts for my other identities that lived separate real lives!