Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, June 22, 2019


The Black Terror was, to cite don Markstein, one of the "1940's long underwear guys," clad in black with gold trim and with a skull and crossbones emblazoned on his chest.  The costume resembles that of the much later Punisher from Marvel Comics, except The Black Terror had a cape and a teeny tiny mask that did nothing to hide his face; in true Clark Kent style, when The Black Terror took off his glasses no one recognized him.  Because he first appeared in May 1942 (in Exciting Comics #9), this superhero was white  -- a 2011 version of him, dubbed "The Blackest Terror," had him African-American.

The Black Terror was created by Richard E. Hughes and was originally drawn by D. (for either David or Don, toss a coin) Gabrielson.  Later artists included Sheldon Moldoff, George Tuska, and the team of Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin.  Later writers are not know, save for Patricia Highsmith, who penned some episodes before she began writing novels.  (Sorry, I don't know which episodes Highsmith wrote.)

The Black Terror's secret iden tity was Bob Benton, a pharmacist who invented something called "formic ethers" while he was trying to develop a pick-me-up.  The formic ethers gave him superpowers of strength and limited invulnerabilty.  One supposes he adopted the name The Black Terror because no one would buy a comic book titled Bob Benton, Pharmacist.  Benton's assistant at the pharmacy became his costumed kid side-kick Tim.  Often lurking around the pharmacy was Benton's love interest, the pretty Jean Starr, the secretary to the town's mayor. The Black Terror and Tim (collectively known as the "Terror Twins") fought spies, saboteurs, and crooks with equal vigor.  They were featured in three of Better Publications comic:  Exciting Comics, The Black Terror, and America's Best Comics.  All three titles were cancelled in 1949 and Better Publications (and the many companies that were under its umbrella) bit the dust a few years later.

The Black Terror went into public domain and has since been revived/revisited/reimagined by fifteen different companies since 1983.

In Exciting Comics #50, The Black Terror takes the lead story as he investigates the supposed death of a well-known hypnotist.  Witnesses and suspects have been hypnotized by a huge pair of disembodied eyes.  Gangsters are trying to stop anyone from looking into the hypnotist's so-called death.  A helicopter is used to knock The Black terror out.  (You had to have been there.)  Things reach a peak when a bridge is blown up, sending The Black Terror and Tim's car hurtling through the air only to crash through the roof of the gang's hideout.

One perhaps prophetic take from this story takes place on the tale's fifth page, as the Terror goes after two gunmen:

Bad guy:  WOW!  HE IS FAST!   The Black Terror (delivering a knock-out punch):  FAST AND FURIOUS, THUG!

The Black terror isn't the only one to be featured in this issue.  There are also stories about Crash Carter, Air Cadet, The Crime Crushers, The American Eagle, and Sergeant Bill King, along with three text stories, one of which is signed by prolific pulpster Donald Bayne Hobart.  And there's neat cover art by Alex Schomburg!


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