Anyone who's been reading comic books and/or watching comic book movies for any length of time knows that superhero origins are subject to change. This has been going on since the Golden Age. We discussed some early Blue Beetle origin revisions recently, and a similar situation developed with another Fox Features Syndicate hero named Green Mask. Both characters had debuted in Mystery Men Comics #1 in 1939 and got a soft reboot with added superpowers when they both received their own series early the next year. In Green Mask's case, it was being bombarded by power from a "Vita-Ray machine", giving him incredible strength and other abilities. One of the most sought-after issues from the series is Green Mask #6 due to that spectacularly strange cover, and there's a Green Mask #6 (Fox Features Syndicate, 1941) CGC VG- 3.5 Off-white pages up for auction in this week's 2021 July 25-26 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122130 from Heritage Auctions.
If that Vita-Ray origin sounds a little familiar, it's because another version of it is known today for being a part of Captain America's transformation from scrawny soldier to superhero. But not only was Green Mask's version of this on the newsstands well before Captain America hit in the Golden Age, but Vita-Rays were not part of the equation in Captain America Comics #1. Jack Kirby added that to the mix to go along with the original super-soldier serum in Captain America #109 in the Silver Age, and the Vita-Rays have persisted as part of his origin lore since then.
Of course, "Vita-Ray" is a fairly generic-sounding name to our ears today and probably was so even in the late 1960s of the Captain America #109 era. But it may have been quite a bit more familiar to readers of the 1930s and 1940s. The term was used by a heavily advertised cosmetics brand and marketed as a scientific path towards a healthy look. "Irradiation enables Vita-Ray to give one's skin the healthful beauty… Today its merit is an established scientific fact."
With that kind of hype behind it in newspapers and magazines on a regular basis, being able to get superpowers from a Vita-Ray machine seems perfectly reasonable — no super-soldier serum required. The Green Mask series has ridiculously low CGC Census numbers, and Green Mask #6 has been highly sought after in recent times for that cover. Luckily, there's a Green Mask #6 (Fox Features Syndicate, 1941) CGC VG- 3.5 Off-white pages up for auction in this week's 2021 July 25-26 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122130 from Heritage Auctions.
Green Mask #6 (Fox Features Syndicate, 1941) CGC VG- 3.5 Off-white pages. Overstreet notes, "Bondage/torture cover." CGC notes, "Moderate amount of tape on interior cover." Overstreet 2020 VG 4.0 value = $252. CGC census 7/21: 1 in 3.5, 7 higher.