Sunday, March 10, 2013

King Of The Magicians!

Don Heck

With the success of Lee Falk's The Phantom, currently getting the archival reprint treatment from Hermes Press, the recent archives featuring Alex Raymond's fantstic Flash Gordon, the only member of the King Features "Big Three" not to have gotten a quality reprint package is Mandrake the Magician. Like both The Phantom and Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician was a key element of the King Features push into comic books in 1967.


The debut issue was drawn by "Dashing" Don Heck, a member of Marvel's illustrious Bullpen. The subsequent issues featured a hodge-podge of art and story, some original to the series and some imported from Europe. Alas Mandrake never seemed to break through like the Phantom and Flash who both found homes later at Charlton after King Features dropped out of the comic book game.


Mandrake even suffered the ignominy of a never-completed trilogy when briefly Marvel held control of the King license in the 90's. Mandrake and Lothar were part of the Defenders of the Earth team at Marvel's Star Comics brand during the 80's.


It was announced a few years ago that Mandrake would join Flash Gordon and The Phantom at Dynamite Comics, but while there have been comics for the other two, so far nothing that I'm aware of for Lee Falk's Magician.

Mandrake never seemed to find the respect among fans that his long tenure as a comic hero merits. He deserves an archive of his own, ideally collecting the vintage work which graced the newsstands in the late Silver Age. He deserves a place on the bookshelf next to Phantom and Flash.


While we wait (perhaps for a very long time alas), enjoy this cover gallery of Mandrake's King Features comic run. There's some intriguing images, many by long-time Mandrake artist Fred Fredericks, suggestive of stories that any fan might yearn to read.

Andre LeBlanc

Andre LeBlanc

Andre LeBlanc

Fred Fredericks

Ray Bailey and Fred Fredericks

Fred Fredericks

Fred Fredericks

Fred Fredericks

Fred Fredericks

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5 comments:

  1. I have that Defenders of the Earth comic and I remember really liking it as a kid. But I don't think I ever got the other 3 issues they made and I've never seen the cartoon. Wonder if it was any good.

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    1. I'm missing at least one of the Defenders of the Earth comics. I forget which one, but it's likely the fourth one.

      The cartoon is pretty decent for its time, an era defined by G.I.Joe. The King heroes don't really fit the roles they were given all that well as a squadron dedicated to battling Ming the Merciless. But it's fun to see these vintage heroes moving around at all, and at the time it was a treat indeed.

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  2. Defenders of the Earth was done by the same creative staff who did the original GI Joe cartoons (and the "Pryde of the X-Men" animated pilot) and easily matches them in quality of both writing and art (and really tacky theme songs).

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    1. That theme song does get into your head and stay there. I'm humming it now just because you mentioned it. Thanks a lot!

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  3. All these years I never realized MANDRAKE #1 had a Don Heck cover!

    While Heck illustrated the lead story (that took place in Central Park), the back-up-- and COVER story-- had art by Werner Roth, which totally blew away everything he ever did for Marvel. I found it interesting to see both Heck & Roth in this issue, as they later were teamed on X-MEN, with Heck doing the layouts & and Roth doing the prettty pencils. (Now if only they'd had decent inks...)

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