Action, Adventure and Mystery! The Pulp Age
The 1920s and ’30s, known as the “pulp era” due to the popular magazines of the time, saw the first true flowering of the costumed adventurer concept. The number of “mystery men” and adventurers and their adversaries increased dramatically, and the concept of costumed crime fighting firmly entered the public consciousness.
1926 saw the first appearance of the enigmatic Raven. Battling mobsters on the streets of Hudson City with the aid of his assistants, the lovely Velvet Phantom and the Midnight Brigade, the Raven was armed with phenomenal accuracy and fast reflexes, and a mysterious deck of tarot cards which reputedly allowed him to foresee the future.
In 1929, Black Mask VII died, and the mantle passed to his son, Jeffrey Layton Ward, who was also a policeman in Vibora bay. And in 1932, the brilliant scientist Jimmy Tompion first appeared in London fighting the machinations of the villainous Air King.
It wasn’t until the mid-1930s that the floodgates really opened, however. For example, in 1936 Bill Jeffries declared his personal war on crime in Philadelphia, developing two alternate identities: the street thug Lefty LeGrand, who would learn of some crime about to be committed; and the mysterious dark avenger Black Owl, who would then thwart it.
In 1937, King Oceanus of Atlantis was betrayed and killed by Dargon the Usurper, a political rival who opposed Oceanus’s plans for peaceful first contact with the surface world. Turning the army against Oceanus with carefully-constructed lies, Dargon and his ally, the wizard Nereus, seized the throne. Dargon intended to legitimize his claim by marrying the young princess Mara, by force if necessary, but she fled the castle. Mara wound up on the rocky coast of New England, where she first befriended “landers". Later that year, she rescued the crew of a sinking destroyer off the coast of Massachusetts, and the press gave the mysterious figure the nickname Sea Hawk.
Other crimefighters and adventurers whose names frequently made the front pages during this period included: the Cobra, who used martial arts abilities learned in the mysterious Orient to battle crime in New York City; the fast-flying, foe-fighting Futurian, with his fantastic Rocket-Pack and fearsome Electro-Pistol; Nick Danger the indestructible man and the Grey Guardian of San Francisco.
Despite the fact that some of the early adventurers of the 1800s and the pulp era may have possessed minor paranormal abilities, or used unusually advanced technology, the true Age of Superheroes was yet to come.
[Note- a lot of this post has small editing or additions to reflect BWD lore, those should be pretty obvious.]