Graphic Content – Mandrake the Magician

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
16/501Title: Mandrake The Magician
Creator: Lee Falk
Year: 1934 onwards
Country: USA

Never heard of Mandrake the Magician? Well neither had I before reading these comics.

Mandrake the Magician is one of those comics where, once you know a bit about it, you can understand why it would place on the 1001  comics list. For one thing, he is arguably and one of the first comic book superheroes. There are one or two other candidates for this accolade, but for now let’s go with this superlative.

The powers of Mandrake the Magician are telepathy, mind control and illusion creation. If he had the power of telekinesis it would make him on par with Jean Gray or Professor Charles Xavier from the Marvel universe. He would certainly fit in with the X-Men with that ridiculous magician outfit that he insists on wearing.

Like any good superhero he has sidekicks. One of them is a woman who seems to do nothing (they would marry in 1997) and a black strongman which, by modern standards, feels rather racist. I had an awful feeling when I first started reading this that his sidekick was actually in blackface, but luckily that was due to the quality of the image rather than intent. Phew!

Similarly, like every superhero, he has weaknesses. Some of these only appeared in one adventure so it appears that they were dropped or were only included for the purposes of story. However, should you come into contact with Mandrake the Magician and wish to defeat him his weaknesses seem to include loud noises, strong perfume, being blindfolded and his target wearing sunglasses. So basically you need to take him to one of those “the great Gatsby” parties and you’ll be safe.

In comparison to modern comics Mandrake the Magician feels a little bit tame. Then again, he was created in the 1930s and censorship was a lot more widespread back then. If you read the first issue of Fantastic Four we get the same sort of sanitised feel.

There is no edge to the character of Mandrake. In fact he is a bit of a Mary Sue. To be fair though the entire comic is written in incredibly broad strokes. You can usually tell who the villain is in a room of faces by who most resembles a character from a Hammer Horror film.

As such this is the first comic that I’ve done for this list where I am not going to continue to read after the pre-established number.


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