So lately I’ve been feeling a bit…down. I started this blog series on Golden Age superheros in order to showcase some of the crazy superheroes and heroines that didn’t make the cut and were doomed to the annals of history. Instead I’ve been focusing on the Golden Age versions of more modern and popular heroes like the Flash or the Human Torch and it’s just not fair. What can I do in order to return to form? What sort of superhero could possibly be crazy enough too…
Oh…oh God yes.
Origin and career:
This rather garishly costumed hero is the Black Condor. He first appeared as a cover character in an anthology title called Crack Comics in May 1941
and was created by none other than the legendary Will Eisner himself.
If you don’t know who he is don’t worry. All you need to know is that he helped coin the phrase “graphic novel” and was so influential to the comic book medium that they named the most prestigious award in comics after him.
Anyway, let’s get back to the Black Condor because his origin is a doozy. This hero’s original name was Richard Grey Jr. When Richard was just a baby his parents decided to take him on an archaeological dig into Outer Mongolia where they were tragically killed by a bandit named Gali Khan. Left to die the infant was rescued by a passing condor and instead of eating the infant the bird decided to raise the kid.
Don’t worry, it only gets sillier from here. It turns out that being raised by birds allowed the young Richard to believe that he could fly and, in the defiance of physics, gravity, and logic, he learned how by studying the way the birds wings moved and how they managed to balance themselves against the wind. Because that’s how flying works.
He was eventually discovered by a mountain hermit named Father Pierre who took the boy in, cleaned him up, and taught him English. Richard would eventually find and kill the bandit who killed his parents and decided to travel to America.
When he got to America young Richard discovered a plot to kill a Senator named Thomas Wright. Despite his ability to fly and years of survival experience he was unable to stop the assassination attempt and the Senator was dead. However, Richard and Thomas looked so similar that Richard was able to assume the Senator’s identity, because as it turns out you can learn a lot about politics from scavengers and thieves.
Richard would eventually adopt the superhero persona of the Black Condor and devote the early years of his career beating up gangsters, bootleggers, and corrupt politicians and if some of his cover art is to be believed he had quite the vicious streak about him as well.
So what happened?
The original Black Condor never got his own solo series and continued to exist as an anthology character in the pages of Crack Comics throughout the Golden Age. What’s interesting is that the Crack Comics anthology series was published by a company called Quality Comics.
Quality went out of business in 1956 and many of their characters were bough by the company that would later become DC Comics.
While Quality’s most famous and lasting legacy would be the hero Plastic Man, the Black Condor would receive a reboot as well. The original Richard Grey would appear in DC’s 1973 title Freedom Fighters which was an alternate history comic series where a group of superheroes had to assemble in order to beat back Nazis who continued to fight long after 1945.
Sadly the Black Condor’s origin was changed in this series. Instead of being raised by birds he got his powers of flight from a radioactive meteor (boo! BOOOO!!!) but the series got him enough attention that in 1992 the Black Condor actually got his own solo title.
This is Ryan Kendell. He was the product of genetic experiments carried out by his grandfather and an organization called The Society of the Golden Wing. This Black Condor had the powers of flight and telepathy and was killed by the super villain Sinestro in the DC crossover event Infinite Crisis.
DC would later revive the Black Condor with a new identity and new origin. The new hero was named John Trujillo and he inherited his powers from the Mayan Goddess Tocotl
So that’s the Black Condor. He’s still kicking around in the modern comic book scene but it’s important to remember that this character came from very wacky, and very awesome, roots.