Sunday, May 9, 2010
Mandrake the Magician
One of the best comic strips to straddle the style boundaries and timeline between Steampunk and Dieselpunk is Mandrake the Magician, which began June 11, 1934 and still runs to this very day.
Depending on how you define the term, Mandrake was the first superhero comic, arriving four years prior to Superman. He certainly has mental super-powers, and he wears a costume with a cape. (The same could be said for The Shadow, who debuted in 1930, but he was a radio serial character first, then a pulp-fiction hero, and not a comic strip until 1940.)
If you're not familiar with Mandrake, here's the Jeff's Notes version:
A man in a tuxedo and top hat runs around fighting crime and solving mysteries with his girlfriend Narda (a Princess from Cockaigne) and his African muscleman Lothar. Lothar, probably the first black crimefighting superhero in comics, was a Prince of "The Seven Nations", a federation of tribes. Mandrake's father Theron is the headmaster of the Collegium Magikos (College of Magic) in a remote Shambala-like kingdom hidden deep in the Himalayan mountains. Mandrake lives in a stately home called Xanadu. His enemies include The Cobra (whose face was scarred and disfigured in battle with Mandrake), The Deleter (an extraterrestrial hit man), and The Clay Camel (who leaves a small camel made of clay at each of his crime scenes.)