Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of B.C. Boyer’s neglected 1980s superhero the Masked Man. For Part One click HERE
ECLIPSE MONTHLY Vol 1 #1 (August 1983)
Title: The Bank Robbery
Villains: The Incognito Gang
Note: With so many other sites covering the way the BBC has decided that the Doctor “was born a poor black child” as Steve Martin once said, I am instead proceeding with this series of reviews.
Synopsis: This 3rd Masked Man adventure was one of 5 features in the debut issue of Eclipse Monthly. B.C. Boyer’s massively underrated hero shared the gigantic magazine with the legendary Steve Ditko’s superhero called Static, Doug Wildey’s iconic gunslinger Rio and others.
The Masked Man (Dick Carstairs) wound up being the most popular character in the monthly publication and eventually graduated to his own solo series. As always, Boyer wrote AND drew the story.
The Bank Robbery opens with a little boy named Delbert being scorned and bullied by a bunch of other boys his age. They look down their noses at Delbert until, in a desperate bid for acceptance, he tells them he “helped” the Masked Man stop a bank robbery the previous week.
We learn that the boy’s father is dead and his financially struggling mother picked him up after school the previous Friday and then took him to the bank to cash her paycheck. While she was at the counter doing just that, the six-man Incognito Gang entered, guns drawn, to rob the bank.
Each of the gang members wore colorful masks fitting for supervillains in a comic book, except for one, who wore a Groucho Marx mask. Boyer’s fun ability to blend action, dark urban danger and occasional laughs makes me wish he had written the script for the 2008 movie about Will Eisner’s hero The Spirit.
Suddenly, the Masked Man burst through the bank’s front window and attacked the sextet of robbers. Dodging bullets and dishing out punches our hero accounted for 3 of the gang members before the others forced him to surrender by threatening to kill the bank customers and employees.
The gang tied up the Masked Man and put him on the floor against the wall with the innocent bystanders. The robbers were professionals and did not want to kill unnecessarily. In fact, they are so benign compared to the bloodthirsty villains of the first 2 Masked Man stories that this almost feels like it should be a light-hearted Christmas story.
At any rate, the Masked Man enlists the boy Delbert to pretend he badly has to pee to distract the robbers. The armed men again show less than ruthless behavior and try to pass off on each other the job of escorting the kid to the men’s room.
Delbert plays his part well enough that he provides a sufficient distraction for the Masked Man to free himself. Our hero then whispers to the boy’s mother and the other innocent bystanders against the wall to flee while he takes on the robbers.
The infuriated people refuse, and are so resentful of rampant crime that they attack the crooks alongside the Masked Man. He subdues the gang while keeping the bystanders-turned-vigilantes safe, except for Delbert’s mother, who gets a bullet wound in her arm.
While cops arrive to arrest the robbers, our main character scoops Delbert’s mother up in his arms and carries her to the nearby emergency room. The Masked Man sportingly allowed the little boy to “lead” him and his mother to medical aid, swelling the timid boy’s sense of worth.
In a poignant bit, Delbert, recounting this incident to his tormentors you’ll recall, noted that his mother – lonely and put-upon trying to raise him herself – was obviously a bit smitten with the Masked Man carrying her.
Among his remarks: “She seemed like, well, you know … happy. Like it was something she needed, being lonely ‘n’ all. She was looking at him real strange, too. Like when your big sister looks at rock stars … I guess Moms do that when Dads die.”
The flashback ends, with Delbert’s bullies refusing to believe he helped out the Masked Man. Our hero actually shows up, talks to Delbert and gives him the hat he lost during the confusion at the bank. The picked-on little boy becomes a celebrity with his peers and our hero’s reporter friend Barney McAlister admires the Masked Man’s way with handling his public.
Obviously if all of this character’s stories were this light and saccharine I wouldn’t like the series, but this made for a nice change of pace after the darker pair of tales that preceded it. I’ll mention again that it was so fluffy it should have been a Christmas story. +++
I’LL REVIEW THE NEXT MASKED MAN STORY SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
FOR MY LOOK AT HOMBRE, SPAIN’S POST-APOCALYPTIC COMIC BOOK FROM THE 1980s, CLICK HERE .
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