Monday, April 18, 2016

Number 1881: The Man in Black...called Death or Mr Twilight or Fate or Kismet...

Researching the Man in Black in, I see that only his incarnation in the 1950s and '60s is mentioned, and his history from the 1940s is not. It is true that they seem to be two characters with the same name and appearance, both drawn by Bob Powell and his studio. The Man in Black (also called Fate, or Kismet) of the 1950s (see the link below) is a character who observes people at that moment when they have arrived at a fork in the road, and are deciding which one to take. The character we are showing today is also called Mr Twilight, or Death. In this incarnation he guides the spirits of the recently deceased to an afterlife. The afterlife is even referred to in one panel as Valhalla, although it doesn’t sound, from Mr Twilight’s description, to be the Viking Valhalla.

There is a bad guy, Dr Hideki, who is obviously Japanese, but the story was published in 1947, and the late unpleasantness of war against the Japanese is not mentioned. People die, and Dr Hideki brings 'em back to life. In this story we are supposed to root for them to die and be taken to their reward by Mr Twilight. If it sounds confusing...well, I guess it is. If anything, it probably isn’t a standard comic book plot. It is beautifully illustrated by Powell, who did his usual superb job, no matter how screwball the story.

From Green Hornet Fights Crime #34 (1947):

As promised, here is the Man in Black from 1957. Just click on the thumbnail.


Daniel [] said...

Haha! “That's the first time that's happened in nineteen hundred years!” Geezus! To what prior event d'ya think Mr Black were implicitly referring?

The story seems inconsistent about Mr Twilight's ability to kill. Possibly Mr Twilight actually planned on Len's revival, but it seems that Twilight were taken off-guard by the timing of Hideki's effort, and were just going to arrest Hideki. I don't see what would distinguish life from death if, on the one hand, the dead could be revived and, on the other hand, the living could be given a one-way trip to Valhalla.

Powell, of course, at one time worked for Eisner. And, even though Powell was embittered by that experience, one sees some of Eisner's influence in the art-work here.

Brian Barnes said...

I've never been one to demand a story has a moral, or explanations (though making fun of inconsistencies is hilarious) -- but this thing is just all over the place. And I love it for it.

Death is baffled, the imp is a chaotic element, the powerful forces of Valhalla/Heaven/Whatever are all dicks, we still have the racist characters but one is actually kind of half-good, things happens, Death gets surprised at something he's currently viewing, and the heroes survive because ... other things happen.

Now that's a comic!

Nice art, too.

Pappy said...

Daniel, Brian, yep, this story was all over the place, which doesn't make it bad, but I thought it didn't know whether it wanted to be funny or serious, although I enjoyed the funny panels. Mr Twilight jumping up on a cloud, and the imp in chains, both on the last page, are comical, and I enjoyed them.

I've showed many stories by Powell because even though he drew the same he could go from superheroes to horror to love to humor, without changing his style. His association with Eisner apparently taught him a lot.

Debbie American Hooray! said...

OMG I thot Man In Black was cre8ed by Will Smith LOL LOL LOL! Did u get it? That was a joke yo LOL OMG we luv u Pappity this is Alicia's idiot sis Debbei American Hooray OMG 2morro my Devo single & Vine & Press Confidence all come out #BADASS #NeoTrad xoxoxoxoxo I dont no how 2 put a pic in a bloggerer post Pappy LOL

This dude Powell is good, I hope we can hire him 2 drawer us yo! #BADASSEREST Eisneris good also! Didnt he used 2 run Dizney? #MultiTalenteded

Say hi 2 Moronica 4 me Pappy xoxoxoxo

Darci said...

See for the true story of Jerrie Mock, the first woman to fly around the world (and Joan Smith, who almost did). There's a graphic of the route, which doesn't go anywhere near Moscow. Neither did Amelia Earhart's.

I also wonder about that scene with Len Martin at the "lonely China airfield". What was the USAAF doing there in 1947? See to see she would have to fly 3000 miles, while the range for a Lockheed Electra was 713 miles. (I'm guessing she was heading for Peishiyi Airfield, present-day Baishiyi Air Base, see ).

Pappy said...

Darci, awright, awright! I believe you! Thanks for doing the research.

Whew, Darci, you are like the Junior Woodchuck's Guidebook of Inexhaustible Knowledge.

Pappy said...

Debbie, no, I refuse to think of you as the idiot sis. You know enough to do a song by Gerald Cazale. Good on ya.

Alicia American said...

WUT?? Mr Casale tweeteded that 2 ME & I gaveded Deb tha gig ucchh. Deb, u dolt, Pappy sez ur not dumb! Ur tha BLONDE! Its ut like JOB 2B dumb!!!! OMG do ur job or I'll like hire a DIFFRERENT dumb blonde chick named Debbie 2B my flavor8 sister, its not like theirs a shortidge yo ucchh.

Sorry Pappy, its just show biz yo. Sumtimes I gotta get tuff. If a show biz group dont have a Johnny Ramone or a Moe Howard than its gunna fall apart yo #ShowBizTruth OMG Yay! We luv u Pappy!!