Halloween month hurls toward its conclusion as Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at another vintage superhero ideal for the season.
Secret Identity: Gary Kennedy, dead policeman
First Appearance: Mystery Men # 27 (October 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1942.
Origin: When police officer Gary Kennedy and his brother are shot to death by Silky Weaver and his subordinate gangsters, Gary dies swearing by Heaven above to avenge his and his brother’s deaths. He returns from the grave several nights later and makes good on his vow.
Afterward, the newly-christened Wraith continues to rise from his grave to deal out justice to evildoers on behalf of their dead victims, whose souls beg him to take action.
The Wraith possessed the ghostly powers of invisibility and intangibility. He could also fly and when he willed himself into solid form he had the strength of two men. In addition, the Wraith could invade and commandeer/ “possess” the bodies of other people whenever he chose – long before the DC Comics character Dead Man.
The activities of this hero were limited, time-wise. He could not rise from his grave until Midnight and had to return to that grave by dawn or else be destroyed by the sunlight. This provided fodder for frequent last-minute desperation heroics.
Comment: Obviously the Wraith was very similar to the DC Comics character the Spectre, right down to being a slain police officer. Creator Paul Develin did, however, at least reverse the Spectre’s green and white coloring for this new hero. And instead of a cape and cowl, the Wraith wore two long, white, Isadora Duncan scarves.
The Wraith’s cemetery HQ also puts one in mind of Will Eisner’s iconic superhero the Spirit, a detective who came back to life and from then on used Wildwood Cemetery, where he was buried, as his lair.
Unfortunately this hero appeared in only five issues before fading into history:
STORY ONE: The Wraith – The hero’s origin story, which saw him getting revenge on Silky Weaver and his gang while thwarting their attempt to ransom off their kidnapping victim – wealthy heiress Brenda Blaine.
STORY TWO: As The Hours Tick Away – The Wraith struggles to prevent the execution of Larry Abbot, a young man framed for the murder of a local D.A. Our hero also punishes the gangsters who were really responsible for the slaying while saving Larry’s sleuthing sister Irene from the killers.
In this tale the Wraith pulls his Dead Man-style “possession” of a corpse already dead for several days, making for a suitably macabre addition to the story as he shambles around partially decomposed.
STORY THREE: Codicil of Death – The Wraith continues his involvement with Irene and Larry Abbot and we get the start of a potential tragic, impossible love affair between Irene and our hero, Ghost and Mrs Muir style.
This time the Wraith has to save the siblings from an evil inheritance plot. They must spend the night in a mansion they’ve inherited and survive attempts to bump them off by another potential heir. That villain dresses in a black robe and hood with a skull logo on his chest.
STORY FOUR: The Walking Corpse – Grave robbers raiding the Wraith’s cemetery home attract his attention when they dig up and make off with Gary Kennedy’s long-dead body. Needless to say at one point our hero “possesses” his own moldy corpse and animates it at the height of the action.
More inheritance shenanigans this time, NOT involving the Abbots but their inherent nosiness lands them in the middle of the evildoing. The Wraith must keep them alive while exposing a plot involving a fake magician who claims he can raise the dead.
STORY FIVE: Murder Holds The Stakes – Very uninspired writing gives us a THIRD inheritance plot in a row! Now Larry and Irene have inherited a gold mine. A pack of crooks plan to kill them off and rob them of their inheritance.
The Wraith comes to their aid, urged on by the spirit of their dead uncle who owned the mine. Once again the siblings are saved by the supernatural hero as his adventures unceremoniously come to a close.
FOR MY REVIEWS OF MARVEL COMICS HORROR STORIES LIKE SATANA, THE LIVING MUMMY, WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, THE GOLEM AND TALES OF THE ZOMBIE CLICK HERE
FOR MORE HALLOWEEN ITEMS CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/category/halloween-season/
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