Awhile back, Balladeer’s Blog examined a few dozen Golden Age superheroes from Quality Comics. Here’s a look at the first twenty stories of the number one entry on that list – the Black Condor.
Secret Identity: Senator Thomas Wright
First Appearance: Crack Comics #1 (May 1940)
Origin: Click HERE.
Powers: The Black Condor could fly at extraordinary speeds and was in peak physical condition. He was more agile than an acrobat and excelled at unarmed combat. In addition, he was a marksman with his handgun which fired powerful Black Energy rays.
CRACK COMICS #1 (May 1940)
Title: The Man Who Can Fly Like A Bird
Villains: Gali Kan and his Mongolian bandits.
Synopsis: Using his power of flight to battle evildoers all over Asia, the Black Condor becomes world-famous, though some people doubt the veracity of the “sightings” of this flying man. At last, our hero gets the opportunity to avenge the death of his parents on Gali Kan and his men while simultaneously saving a city in India from their depradations.
CRACK COMICS #2 (June 1940)
Title: The Man Who Can Fly
Villain: Rajah Ali Khan
Synopsis: The Black Condor saves Andrea Kent and her brother Denny from the evil plans of the Rajah Ali Khan, who seeks to seize their inheritance through a forced marriage to Andrea.
Our hero overcomes the Rajah and all his troops.
NOTE: In this story, which introduced the Black Energy ray-gun, the pistol’s rays simply paralyze large groups of the Rajah’s men and don’t destroy them.
CRACK COMICS #3 (July 1940)
Title: The Priceless Ruby
Villains: The Ras Gyn Gang
Synopsis: The Rajah of Singat has his friend the Black Condor accompany his daughter to New York City on an ocean liner to safeguard her and the priceless ruby that she has with her.
International criminal Ras Gyn and his gang attack our hero and the unnamed daughter on the ship at sea and again in New York. The Black Condor defeats Ras and all his gang members.
NOTE: The Black Energy gun is used to knock out the engine of a biplane that Ras Gyn uses in a dogfight with our hero.
CRACK COMICS #4 (August 1940)
Title: The Menace of Sihn Fang
Villains: Sihn Fang, De Graf and Sihn Fang’s daughter
Synopsis: In the Valley of Doom, a town unclaimed by the nations around it has come under attack by Sihn Fang, an evil Fu Manchu type. Sihn Fang lives in a futuristic castle atop Mount Doom (really). The castle and Fang’s armies use high-tech weaponry created by De Graf, Fang’s aide.
The Black Condor launches a war to free the town and to bring down Sihn Fang, De Graf and Sihn’s unnamed daughter. Our hero wins and all the villains blow up when the castle explodes. The Black Energy gun was used to blast through walls and destroy weaponry this time around.
NOTE: Very odd town in the story. Most of its inhabitants seem European and so does Sihn Fang’s daughter as well as De Graf, but Sihn Fang himself is sheer Yellow Peril material. The story reads like Sihn Fang and De Graf are meant to parallel Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany’s alliance but is too timid to go all the way.
CRACK COMICS #5 (September 1940)
Title: The Danger Islands
Villain: The Sapphire King
Synopsis: When ships going in and out of Ceylon start having their crews and cargoes vanish, the Black Condor investigates. It turns out the Danger Islands, just off the coast, serve as a hideout for a villain called the Sapphire King, his armed men AND their flock of gigantic, airplane-sized eagles.
The Sapphire King has the eagles and his men steal cargoes and abduct crews, then work them to death diving for more sapphires from a body of water in a hidden cave. The Black Condor shuts down the operation and even uses his Black Energy gun to blast the gigantic birds out of the sky during aerial battles with them.
CRACK COMICS #6 (October 1940)
Title: The Kite-Men
Villains: The Master, Karlo Klug and the Kite-Men.
Synopsis: From a hideout inside a volcanic crater a midget called the Master runs his right-hand man Karlo Krug and their flying army of Kite-Men.
Those Kite-Men are each armed with lightning blasts which they shoot from their wrist bands and, on behalf of a foreign power, have laid waste to New York City and plan to do the same to Washington D.C. The Black Condor engages in amazing dogfights with the Kite-Men and kills or captures them all, in addition to Klug and the Master.
CRACK COMICS #7 (November 1940)
Title: The Waquo Amulet
Synopsis: An amulet of the supposedly extinct Waquo Indian Tribe is taken from the archaeologist who has it by the last two surviving members of the tribe. Placing the amulet in the chest of their people’s 10 foot tall idol Yaho brings that idol to life. They send the super-strong and utterly invulnerable Yaho to kill all white people in America.
The being succeeds in wiping out an entire town in a western state before the Black Condor is able to defeat it. His gun’s Black Ray was unable to harm Yaho until he removed the amulet from the idol’s chest, and then the Black Energy rays destroyed the amulet while Yaho crumbled to dust.
CRACK COMICS #8 (December 1940)
Title: The Death Machines
Villains: The Spinning Death machines
Synopsis: Two Caucasian spies from an unnamed country pay a Chinese inventor named Lung Wo for his latest invention: an artificially intelligent tank-sized vessel which can fly as well as travel on tank treads. This “Spinning Death” machine” has a spinning drill mounted on the front and also sports metal arms and hands. The Spinning Death rampages through New York City, with the Black Condor unable to stop it.
The war machine begins thinking for itself and turns on its creator plus the spies, then designs and manufactures an entire fleet of similar Spinning Death machines and leads them in further destroying New York City. Before dying, Lung Wo tells our hero the only vulnerable spot on the first Spinning Death Machine and he manages to blast that spot with his Black Ray. That first Spinning Death Machine is destroyed, rendering the rest of the fleet inert.
Comment: Thousands of civilians and several military pilots were killed before the machines’ rampage was over.
CRACK COMICS #9 (January 1941)
Title: The Papers Racket
Villains: The Monks Gallagher Gang
Synopsis: The Black Condor saves a man from a late night stabbing and winds up clashing with Monks Gallagher, a racketeer who strings along illegal aliens regarding phony citizenship papers and turns them into slave labor and blackmail victims. Our hero shuts down the racket and makes Monks pay the stabbing victim’s wife enough money to get proper medical care for their child.
NOTE: At one point in this story the Black Condor flies from New York City to Chicago and back in less than an hour.
CRACK COMICS #10 (February 1941)
Title: Sophisticated Lady
Villainess: The Sophisticated Lady (Marta Cowen)
Synopsis: The Black Condor infiltrates the ring of jewel thieves run by beautiful Marta Cowen, known in underworld circles as the Sophisticated Lady.
Our hero corrals every member of the ring, from Marta to her muscle and her fences.
NOTE: This was the last story to not show the Black Condor having a traditional secret identity or life outside of his crimefighting efforts.
CRACK COMICS #11 (March 1941)
Title: Villainy in the Senate
Villain: Senator Jaspar Crow
Synopsis: Idealistic freshman Senator Thomas Wright from New York decides to stop cooperating with corrupt Senator Jaspar Crow, the shadiest politician in Washington DC. Crow doesn’t take that lightly and has his thugs shoot Wright to death so he can have another Senator cast a proxy vote on Crow’s dam bill which is really a graft racket.
The Black Condor finds the dying Wright, who tells him about Senator Crow’s corruption. Hilariously, our hero looks exactly like the late Senator Wright and assumes his identity to vote against Crow AND maintains that ruse for the rest of the Black Condor series. The hero defeats Crow’s thugs when Jaspar sends them to burn down the home of Senator Gibbs, who joins “Senator Wright’s” rebellion against Crow. Exposed, Crow is forced to leave the Senate.
NOTE: Jaspar Crow will be the Black Condor’s archenemy from now on. And yes, it’s cool having a superhero’s secret identity be a U.S. Senator, but this was an absurd way to do it. I would have had the Black Condor’s real identity of Richard Grey, Jr be a District Attorney at first, then get appointed Senator by the Governor to finish the term of the slain Thomas Wright. The “amazing resemblance” nonsense is hilarious, as is the way Wright’s physician Doctor Foster plays along with the ruse. It sounds like a sitcom premise. And not a good one.
CRACK COMICS #12 (April 1941)
Title: Call Him The Black Crow
Villain: The Black Crow (Jaspar Crow)
Synopsis: Though disgraced in Washington, Jaspar Crow has covertly returned to his home state of Pennsylvania, where he continues to run political graft and organized crime behind the scenes as a shadowy figure called “the Black Crow.” He wears no costume, he just has a kind of imposing sinister air like Daredevil’s foe the Owl.
Senator Thomas Wright has introduced the Wright Bill for Better Working and Living Conditions for Miners. Crow and his lackeys benefit from paying the miners a pittance and making them work under dangerous conditions so he bribes enough Senators to defeat Wright’s bill the first time. When miners in Pennsylvania strike, Crow has his men frame them for murdering a foreman and has the National Guard called in.
The Black Condor must battle Jaspar Crow’s hooded thugs who get violent against the miners AND save several miners from a cave-in caused by Crow’s tactics. Our hero defeats all the thugs but Jaspar Crow slips away.
NOTE: Doctor Foster’s daughter Wendy is our hero’s love interest.
CRACK COMICS #13 (June 1941)
Title: Silent Bombs
Villains: Defense Industry Saboteurs
Synopsis: When Senator Thomas Wright and General Korn find an inventor named Carl Stark murdered before he can demonstrate his new silent and remote-controlled bombs, the Black Condor investigates.
The villains stole Stark’s plans AND working bombs and use those silent explosives to blow up ten Washington DC residences and businesses before planning to blow up the Senate while it is in session. The Black Condor saves the Senate, smashes the sabotage ring and exposes its masked leader as General Korn himself.
Comment: Our hero’s love interest Wendy Foster starts to find the mysterious Black Condor to be a real turn-on.
CRACK COMICS #14 (July 1941)
Title: The False Black Condor
Villains: Jaspar Crow and a Black Condor impersonator.
Synopsis: “The Black Crow” himself has been making a fortune with his industries and steel mills while making his workers live on slave wages and paying them only in scrip good nowhere else but at the Company Store. When the workers try to organize, Jaspar hires a thug to dress up like the Black Condor and prey upon the workers to try to intimidate the men plus ruin our hero’s reputation. He also has the phony paint the Black Condor as a bully and a coward.
The real Black Condor gets involved, defeats and exposes the imposter and foils Crow’s plot to prevent his workers from unionizing. He also flies Jaspar up in the air and empties his pockets so that the workers can all grab some of their exploiter’s cash. That night, Senator Wright tells Wendy Foster that he’s been too busy to read the news accounts of the Black Condor’s latest adventure.
CRACK COMICS #15 (August 1941)
Title: The Miami Connection
Villains: Jaspar “Black” Crow and corrupt Cuban General Miranda.
Synopsis: In Miami, the Black Condor catches on to Jaspar Crow’s latest plot. He owns the Twin Seas shipping line and is having his goons sabotage rival shipping lines and frame them for running guns to rebels in Cuba, which is what HE is doing.
Our hero exposes the scheme, defeats the goons and General Miranda’s rebels and takes down Crow’s ship when it opens fire on the Coast Guard. Jaspar Crow and Miranda are taken into custody.
CRACK COMICS #16 (September 1941)
Title: The Great Northern Copper Mine Affair
Villains: Jaspar Crow and the Ghost Gun Killer
Synopsis: Jaspar Crow, somehow back at large, is trying to force the owners of the Great Northern Copper Mine to sell out to him. His goons are sabotaging the place and he’s using a hit man called the Ghost Gun Killer to use his rifle with a silencer to pick off a few workers here and there, too.
The Black Condor corrals all of Crow’s thugs, including the Ghost Gun Killer and prevents Jaspar from carrying out his sinister plan to kill 2,500 Great Northern Mine workers in one blow.
CRACK COMICS #17 (October 1941)
Villains: Jaspar Crow and Foreign Spies
Synopsis: While Senator Tom Wright works to try to defeat a horrific tax bill targeted at Native Americans, Jaspar Crow is pulling strings with his corrupt cronies in the Department of the Interior to shake down every reservation in the country. In unison with spies from an unnamed foreign government, the constant shakedowns get so bad that an actual armed uprising is launched by Native Americans in New Mexico and elsewhere.
The Black Condor wades into the middle of it all, fighting the spies, stopping Native Americans from blowing up dams and power stations, and shutting down Crow’s shakedown of the reservations. Ultimately all of the bloodshed stops and the spies are rounded up, plus the tax bill targeting Native Americans is defeated in the Senate. Wendy Foster tells Senator Wright that the Black Condor deserves more credit than he does.
CRACK COMICS #18 (November 1941)
Title: Brain Drain
Villains: The Leader and the Hypnotist
Synopsis: Defense industry scientists keep disappearing and all of Washington is abuzz about it and wondering what to do. Senator Wright becomes the Black Condor and investigates the disappearances. He traces all of the missing scientists to one of Jaspar Crow’s plants and finds a secret factory underground. All of the scientists get enthralled by a villain called the Hypnotist, who answers to a masked Leader.
The enthralled scientists have been making super-submarines with futuristic weapons to use against the American armed forces. The Black Condor gets the scientists freed from the mind control and defeats the submarines which are attacking the U.S. Navy on the high seas. Jaspar Crow turns out to be the masked Leader, surprising NOBODY, but he escapes, leaving behind a fall guy.
CRACK COMICS #19 (December 1941)
Title: The Presidential Imposter
Villains: Nazi Agents
Synopsis: When President Franklin Roosevelt reverses policies toward Great Britain and works to eliminate all military aid to the country, Hitler lauds the changes but Senator Thomas Wright launches a committee to investigate. When Wright’s investigation hits a dead end, he becomes the Black Condor and learns that FDR has been replaced by a Nazi Agent and is surrounded by other Nazi operatives at the White House.
Our hero defeats the spy ring, frees the real FDR before the Nazis kill him and Senator Wright gets in good with the White House by agreeing to quietly shut down his committee’s investigation so that the American public doesn’t learn an imposter was in the oval office for weeks. The president returns to his supportive policies toward Great Britain.
UNCLE SAM QUARTERLY Vol 1 #2 (December 1941)
Title: The Revolt of the Villains
Villain: The Villain
Synopsis: The Black Condor, Uncle Sam, the Ray, Quicksilver, Neon the Unknown and Hercules all appear in a crossover story about a supervillain known only as the Villain. That figure organizes all of America’s criminals into one big syndicate.
Comment: It’s a shame that Quality Comics didn’t decide to imitate DC’s Justice Society by keeping these heroes in a team after this adventure. If you want a superheroine to tie to the crossover event, Margo the Magician appears in this issue but in her own separate story.
Personally, I would have changed up some of the superheroes brought together in this tale. Uncle Sam, Black Condor, the Ray and Quicksilver are fine, but I’d have replaced Neon the Unknown with the superheroine Wildfire and replaced Hercules with Doll Man or Phantom Lady to secure that quintessential Freedom Fighters feel. The Human Bomb never did anything for me, so I’d be fine leaving him out of this first gathering of Quality Comics heroes.
NOTE: This story is the only time the Black Condor appeared wearing a mask and pants. It’s a good look for him.
FOR 1940s MARVEL SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE.
FOR FAWCETT SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE.
FOR THE QUALITY COMICS SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE.
FOR THE HILLMAN SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR THE HARVEY COMICS SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR THE FOX FEATURES SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR THE PRIZE COMICS SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR THE SPARK COMICS SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR THE HARRY CHESLER PUBLISHING SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR THE DELL SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR THE AUSTRALIAN SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR MORE SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE: Superheroes
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