For this superhero-crazed world 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 #2 (September 1983)
Villain: The enigmatic crimelord known only as “Frankie.”
Synopsis: A mentally challenged street informant named Herbie gets caught in the middle of the feud between our favorite masked vigilante and his archenemy, who is part Professor Moriarty, part Kingpin and part Octopus from The Spirit.
This fourth Masked Man story, written AND drawn by B.C. Boyer, featured the return of the hero’s mysterious crimelord nemesis known only as “Frankie” on the streets. The former boxer worked and killed his way to the top of one of the Five Families and he’s determined to stop the Masked Man’s interference with his criminal empire.
(I’d be obliged if anyone could tell me if Boyer named the crimelord “Frankie” as a shoutout to Frank Miller, who by 1983 was two years into his legendary run on Daredevil. The Masked Man’s adventures have a certain air of urban danger that often reminds me of Miller’s work. And Miller DID do some free-lance artwork for Eclipse Comics in the early 80s.)
In this issue of Eclipse Monthly, the Masked Man (Dick Carstairs) once again shared the large book with stories featuring Steve Ditko’s superhero Static and other Eclipse characters. Our hero’s friend, newspaper reporter Barney McAlister relates another of the superhero’s adventures, like Watson did with Sherlock Holmes.
Running low on leads regarding the next big cocaine shipment rumored to be hitting town soon, the Masked Man sought information from 28 year old Herbie Wilcox, a big, blonde, mentally challenged inner-city figure with a Rain Man ability to pick up on the criminal meaning of conversations taking place around him on the street. After all, why watch your mouth around such an obvious non-threat, the criminal element apparently feels.
Herbie clues in our hero to the fact that the cocaine deal will be going down Saturday night behind the chemical factory. From even more of the Masked Man’s snitches down at Vagabond Corner he learns the additional fact that Frankie himself will be overseeing the deal to guard against the hero’s interference.
On Saturday night our hero and Barney are staking out the area behind the chemical factory, with the Masked Man ready for action. McAlister once again reflects on his wary awe of his old pal Dick Carstairs and ponders whatever inner flame drives him forward in his crusade.
When the fighting erupts it turns out the cocaine deal is fake and was just a trap for the Masked Man set up by Frankie, and the vigilante is facing overwhelming odds. The battle royal has turned against our hero when the hapless Herbie stumbles onto the scene.
Initially the reader suspects they’ll see poor Herbie tragically die in the crossfire, Will Eisner-style, while inadvertently buying time for the Masked Man to turn the tables on the criminals. In a twist ending it turns out Herbie is really an undercover cop named Fred Stone.
His “mentally challenged” alter ego is just a Man With The Twisted Lip charade. He was enticed into taking direct action this night by the prospect of corraling the elusive Frankie. With Fred’s help the Masked Man survives and all the hitmen are killed.
B.C. Boyer’s narration – through Barney McAlister – reflects on the similarities between the Masked Man and the undercover cop. Fred Stone himself offers a glimpse into what may fuel our main character’s vendetta when he reveals that in his own case it’s partly because he has nothing else waiting for him at home at day’s end.
This was far from the greatest Masked Man story but it is always nice to see a superhero actually fighting street-level crime instead of saving the world from assorted megalomaniacs. +++
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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