Friday, April 4, 2014

D is for the Duke of Darkness

The Duke of Darkness saw print three times during 1945, in three different one-shot comics from Holyoak/Gerona -- Triple Threat Comics (which featured five different characters, oddly enough), K.O. Comics, and Top Spot Comics. He used to be  a cop killed in the line of duty, but who is actually happy to be an earthbound spirit as it frees him up to do a different kind of crime-fighting. How did he come by the name the Duke of Darkness? That's a question that's as mysterious as the "physics" that disembodied spirits operate under in the world of this series. In the Duke of Darkness series, ghosts can become visible at will, but they can also become fully solid. In fact, they can become so solid that they can be knocked unconscious, which happens to the Duke and leads him to be sent to jail. A running gag in the series is that he's sneaking in and out of his cell to fight crime while serving his sentence.

The Duke of Darkness, created by Sam Cooper and John Giunta

The second Duke of Darkness is story is by far the most interesting one, both due to it being the most unusual and weird but also from a historical perspetive. Readers familiar with this blog and the Shades of Gray blog, or of the Science Sleuths series have read about the possible connection between Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's creation Spider-Man and the obscure heroine Spider Queen. Well, in the second of the Duke's adventures, he fights a nightmare spirit that's pretty much identical to the Dr. Strange villain Nightmare created by Lee & Ditko. It seems someone on that partnership may have been mining 20 year old comic books for ideas to plunder whole-cloth....

We were considering making the Duke of Darkness the star of a future installment of Complete Golden Age Oddballs, but our sources might be too degraded to make a decent-looking book. We'll see what we can make happen, though.

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