Super Magician Comics Vol 4 No. 4 - August 1945

In May of 1941 a new comic book called "Super Magic" hit the news stands. It portrayed a fictional magician loosely based on the real Harry Blackstone, Sr. In the comic, Blackstone solved crimes and captured evildoers, often at the request of government agencies such as the FBI. After the first issue, publisher Street & Smith renamed the periodical Super Magician Comics, and it ran under that name until slightly after World War II, hanging up the magic in 1947.

There's an interesting convergence in Super-Magician comics. The publisher was Street & Smith Publications, who also put out The Shadow pulp magazine. Walter B. Gibson, the creator of The Shadow, knew the real Harry Blackstone, and according to this article on Wikipedia, he ghost-wrote most of the magician's books, and also wrote the scripts to the Blackstone comics and radio show. This sort of melding of reality and fiction predates the fuzzy edges of 21st century reality TV shows by at least 60 years.

The cumulative effect of these stories didn't fall into a vacuum. The exploits of The Shadow and Harry Blackstone, on the radio, in pulps, and comics, inspired the imaginations and careers of many who heard them. The Amazing Kreskin, for example, explains how they started him on his road to stardom:
Walter B. Gibson's The Shadow was another character that captured Kreskin's imagination as a youth. Today, many copies of the pulp serial from the '30s are in his collection. "Gibson was an authority on crime and magic, and he was a friend of Houdini's," Kreskin said. "Through the character Lamont Cranston (The Shadow), Gibson combined the criminal mind and the crime fighter mind."

The Shadow, of course, became one of the most popular radio programs of all time, but it isn't the only character for which Walter Gibson is known. He also authored the Super Magician comics of the 1940s, often under the pseudonym Maxwell Grant. The main character was based on the real-life magician Harry Blackstone. The premise was that he performed magic and fought crime.

"I have a copy of every Super Magician comic book ever produced (it ran about six years), encased and in mint condition," Kreskin said. "I can't imagine what they're worth, but you know what? I don't care. These books and other items are part of the embroidery that make up the fabric of who I am. They're not for sale, and I don't care to have them appraised. That's not the point."

This issue from 1947 is uncredited, so the writer could have been Walter Gibson, but I couldn't find any corroborating evidence in any book or on the Internet.

The plot for the 14 page Blackstone story "Blackstone Battles Doctor Zero" is relatively simple: The FBI enlists Blackstone and his assistant Rhoda to investigate a strange character whom people have been visiting just before they get kidnapped. As Blackstone puts it "people go to Zero's and are seen there -- then they are found somewhere else, which makes it very uncanny!" The art is competent, although a bit sketchy. I like the "Little Nemo"-esque feeling of the inflating card players.

After the lead is another Blackstone piece, a bit of magic instruction, in "Blackstone Shows Tom and Dick How To Do the Color Trick."

I'll post the other stories, an 8 page Red Dragon story "Spheres of Satan", an 8 page Lady In White story "The Shrinking Giant", and an 8 page Blackstone story "The Riddle of the Rajpoot Ruby", in subsequent blog entries.

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