Today we’re going to talk about one of the more interesting characters that didn’t survive the Golden Age of Comics, not because he was a template for a future superhero like the Blue Beetle or because he was too weird like the Vagabond but because he probably has one of the most interesting origin stories and motivations in all of comics
Origin and career:
#711 debuted in Police Comics #1 in 1941 and was published by a company named Quality Comics. He was never given his own series and spent his short career appearing in comics like the one below.
He was originally known as District Attorney Daniel Dyce. Now Dyce, in a coincidence that is the kind that could only be found in media like Golden Age Comics, had a friend who looked like an exact duplicate named Jacob Horn who just happened to be in prison.
Jacob had a wife who was just about to give birth and, desperate to see his newborn child, Jacob convinces Daniel to take his place in prison so he can go be with his family, because that is how the justice system works apparently. Unfortunately this happens.
Jacob is killed and Daniel is now stuck in prison. Desperate to clear his name Daniel forsakes all sane methods he could use to prove his innocence and manages to tunnel out of prison. Instead of hightailing to Mexico or Canada Dyce decides to go back into prison and use his tunnel to become a costumed crime fighter by night. He decides to call himself 711 in reference to his prisoner number and adopts a costume that has more similarities to the older pulp characters rather than modern superheroes.
While he had no special abilities other than being very good at fighting he did have an impressive calling card, a mirrored surface with black bars across it so the recipient could see himself behind bars.
So what happened?
Prisoner #711 appeared in 15 issues with Quality Comics. In his final appearance he was killed by a mobster named Oscar Jones. It’s worth noting that, unlike the Vagabond I talked about last week, he was deemed a decent enough character to be given a definite end and a rather touching send off
and he was replaced by a nearly identical hero called Destiny
Business wise Prisoner 711 would never see another issue because his publisher, Quality Comics, was bought by DC comics in 1956. While some of Quality’s most notable heroes like Plastic Man
Would become relatively well known superheroes DC comics didn’t have the time for Prisoner 711. He did make an appearance during a DC Millennium reprint although it was created to showcase Plastic Man’s first appearance.
Before I go I’d just like to say that while #711’s origin and short lived career may seem a bit odd and fantastical I personally think the idea is a good one. The idea that a hero has to break out of prison to go fight crime, and can use the prison grapevine for information, is something that I think could make a very intriguing story. What’s more, if there is anyone out there who is likewise inspired, you could make a very strong case that the #711 concept and story is in the public domain so anyone could potentially use it.