CCI: Comic Character Investigation #301 février 2013
[ENGLISH] This month: The Masked Marvel. Since the inception of The Golden Age of comics in 1938, many heroes, and many villains, have splashed their battles across artistic pages, have endured their struggles in those same pages and have intrigued a readership which has loved their adventures for 72 years. This column celebrates such characters by taking a look each month at one of them. Some you will know and some are more obscure, but all hold a significant place in comics, for the world of stories in any medium is about the characters who populate it. The spectacular citizens of the universe who inhabit the comic book nation might be brave or sinister, bold or fearful, but all are characters who we can never forget. So, The Golden Age becomes the Silver Age, The Silver becomes The Bronze and so on, until today and until tomorrow. . . in The Endless Age of comics, and the beings who live inside them.
Draw! The Masked Marvel
Debate (with myself) over who would get the illustrious slot in the (now) 30th! issue went back and forth between characters I will not tease readers with since I am not writing about them here. In any case, this character won the spot simply because more than anything else I wanted to present a character few would be talking about these days. I believe I have succeeded. To succeed further (and moreso) for my endeavor in this 30th! issue (yes, we have gone for 30 issues now, did I stress that enough?) I hope to leave you with some lingering memory of this strange hero. End of intro to the 30th issue. After a deep thank you to you all for taking us this far…THANK YOU!….Let’s see what this guy’s all about….
The son of a powerful oilman, Chet Fairchild harked back to the old Zorro and Superman ideals of the rather useless alter ego. Not mild-mannered or effeminate, however, but playboyish and irresponsible in his activities when not fighting bad guys in his true calling, to route the ruffians of the Old West.
Published by Youthful Magazines, he appeared in Gunsmoke #1 through #16 (not to be confused with the TV show of the same name to come later). The issues ran from the spring of 1949 through the winter of 1952. Not a bad run actually.
The Masked Marvel probably had some staying power for two major reasons. First, he was unusual and wore a green skull mask to hide his face with a slouch hat and a pair of six-guns blazing into battle. Second, the women were beautiful and very curvy. In any given situation The Masked Marvel would run into a sexy, voluptuous damsel and even in his alter ego, readers saw his sister was stacked and easy on the eyes as well. A touch of sex and the supernatural is a
potent misture and can keep readers returning for more adventures. Even if the “supernatural” touch is just a skull mask with Marvel having no real strange powers.
These mere sixteen stories were illustrated by Graham Ingels and sometimes other artists contributed as well. His slouch hat was black and his skull mask was a pale green, He also wore a yellow shirt and a blue cape, purple pants, a brown belt for his guns and then…red gloves and boots. The color scheme was off-the-wall and I is impossible to see him without thinking of that latter-day creation Ghost Rider (no relation) but The Masked Marvel was his own man and rode through the old west before Johnny Blaze did any stunt cycling so he well evades the mark of unoriginality. Ingels created the character as well as designed his costume and even though he gave him a skull mask (unlike Ghost Rider) there was not explanation of why he wore that particular kind of mask. He could have just as easily worn a bank robber bandana over his face. Later in the series he does go on to fight supernatural creatures but he is never one himself nor
does he carry any supernatural power.
One of The Masked Marvel’s feats however was being featured in stories that would precede his creator’s fame at EC Comics later on. “Ghastly” (Ingels’ pseudonym over there) became a noted name at the company. Considering where Ingels ended up, it is not that surprising that he would give Marvel a creepy skull mask. It was likely inspired by wanting something macabre set in the old west. Even without any supernatural abilities, the scary mask would be enough to at least express some of that inspiration.
For sixteen tales The Masked Marvel rode horses, shot his six-guns, felled villains and got to spend some time with some fine-looking ladies, as did his readers. So supernatural or not, he had a power of presence for a couple of years and was at least, an original. Yet where do heroes go when they disappear from the pages of a time? Have gun, will travel? I bet he did. And his enemies better draw, or ride, fast.
James Parducci (www.jparducci.blogspot.com) is the creator of the comic series Nighthunter. He has been published in multiple periodicals and runs his own freelance writing business in San Diego.
PS: We retro-published this column as it was send the 1st but not published in due time because our team was in Angoulême for the festival.