Top-Notch Comics #20: The Black Hood

The Black Hood originated from the creative minds of Abner J. Sundell and Al Camy under the MLJ Comics banner. Debuting in Top-Notch Comics #9 in October 1940, The Black Hood swiftly became one of MLJ’s most beloved characters, earning such popularity that he received his own title, Black Hood Comics. The character traversed various comic series, including Pep Comics and Jackpot Comics, showcasing enduring appeal and enjoying a vibrant publication history that also included a radio show.

Top-Notch Comics #20: Barbara “Babs” Sutton.

The Black Hood, portrayed as a mysterious, costumed figure with uncertain superpowers, follows the journey of Matthew Kipling “Kip” Burland. An ex-cop framed for grand larceny, Burland becomes The Black Hood after surviving an attack by the villain known as the Skull. Burland’s path involves clearing his name, adopting the superhero persona, and evolving into a private detective. He drives a motorcycle called the Hoodcycle that can transform into other vehicles. Throughout his adventures, The Black Hood faces a diverse array of foes, including Panther Men, the Animal Man, the Mist, the Mold, Octavius, and the Crow. Matthew Burland’s love interest is a newspaper reporter named Barbara “Babs” Sutton.

The Wizard, created by Will Harr and Edd Ashe Jr. for MLJ Comics (later Archie Comics), emerged as a notable headliner in Top-Notch Comics during the Golden Age of comic books. First appearing in December 1939, The Wizard was a pioneering character in the superhero genre, making his mark shortly after the debut of Superman in 1938.

Top-Notch Comics #20: The Wizard

Blane Whitney, The Wizard’s alter ego, hailed from a distinguished family with a history of serving in America’s wars. Descending from notable figures like General Steven Whitney, who played a crucial role as General Washington’s chief aide during the Revolutionary War, Blane’s commitment to defending his country ran deep. Retroactively, it was revealed that Blane was not the first Whitney to adopt the red mask and cloak of The Wizard during significant events in early U.S. history.

Blane’s encounter with President Woodrow Wilson at the age of 14 left a lasting impression, with Wilson advising him to use his intellect for good. Equipped with various gadgets and machines of his own design, The Wizard’s wealth and resources allowed him to combat enemies efficiently. Initially lacking superpowers, he later developed superhuman strength and a “Super Brain,” granting him abilities like a photographic memory, supersensory perception, hypnosis, and telepathy. His final appearances showcased him relying solely on clairvoyant visions.

The Wizard, resembling Mandrake the Magician initially, evolved his costume over time.  Eventually, he adopted a bullet-proof, explosion-resistant costume consisting of blue tights, red trunks, cape, and mask.

As the narrative unfolded, The Wizard acquired a sidekick named Roy Carter, who eventually became Roy the Super Boy. Training him until he had the strength of ten men, The Wizard and Roy formed a formidable superhero duo. Additionally, Blane Whitney’s love interest, Jane Barlowe, added a layer of complexity to his life.

Top-Notch Comics #20: The Firefly

The Firefly, a fictional character created by Harry Shorten and Bob Wood for MLJ Comics in 1940, holds a unique place in the world of superheroes. First introduced in Top-Notch Comics #8, debuting as the fourth superhero launched by MLJ Comics, Firefly quickly became a mainstay in Top-Notch Comics, gracing its pages until the 28th issue.

Harley Hudson, the man behind the Firefly mask, is not your typical superhero. An entomologist and chemist by profession, Hudson’s journey begins with a fascinating discovery – the ability of insects to lift masses greater than their own weight through muscle coordination, defying the square-cube law. Inspired by this revelation, Hudson teaches himself to coordinate his muscles in a similar fashion, unlocking the potential for extraordinary physical feats.

Unlike superheroes with superhuman abilities, Firefly, much like his MLJ Comics counterparts, The Black Hood and The Wizard, relies on natural abilities and self-discipline. His physical and mental prowess, honed through his entomological pursuits, sets him apart in the superhero landscape.

Harley Hudson’s romantic interest, Joan Burton, adds a layer of complexity to his character. A newspaper reporter by profession, Joan joins the ranks of other female characters in MLJ comics, such as Barbara Sutton (romantic interest for The Black Hood) and Jane Barlowe (romantic interest for The Wizard), who also pursued careers in journalism.

Firefly’s adversaries include Dr. Dread, the Mummy, and the Dervish, providing ample opportunities for thrilling confrontations and dynamic storytelling within the MLJ Comics universe.

Top-Notch Comics #20: Bob Phantom

Jinx Friday

The mysterious Bob Phantom was another one of MLJ (of Archie fame) Comics Line’s first forays superhero characters. He first appeared in Blue Ribbon Comics #2 in 1939. Bob Phantom was Walter Whitney, reporter. He had invulnerability, the ability to teleport, and could create a cloud of yellow smoke. He demonstrated remarkable toughness, effortlessly fending off three lions or throwing a grown man through a plane’s side.

He also got a sidekick in 1941, a female reporter named Jinx Friday. Bob Phantom made about 25 appearances in various MLJ comics in the early forties.

As the late 1940s witnessed a decline in the popularity of superheroes, MLJ Comics transitioned Top-Notch Comics from a superhero-focused title to a humor book, marking a significant shift in the publication landscape and The Black Hood, The Wizard, The Firefly and Bob Phantom faded into comic book history.