Golden Age Showcase: The Mad Monk

Let’s take a bite into the comic book industry’s version of vanilla ice cream and talk about Batman.

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Batman is one of the most popular superheroes in the world for a reason.  He’s got a great design, he’s got a cool story, he’s got tonnes of history, but most importantly…he has great villains.

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Yes, it seems pretty cliche to talk about how awesome Batman’s villains are but we all know that Poison Ivy is awesome,

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Mister Freeze is tragic and deep,

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and the Joker needs no introduction.

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But how does Batman manage to have so many great villains?

Easy, because he doesn’t kill them.

Batman’s aversion to killing criminals (even if the justice system he’s sworn to protect would have put the Joker to death a long time ago) and distaste at using guns is well documented.  With that being said, we’ve talked about how the Batman of the Golden Age wasn’t above using guns, or even killing criminals.

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The Golden Age Batman was a much darker and violent superhero than a lot of modern iterations and as a result, he either needed equally dark and violent villains or a small army’s worth of disposable henchmen.

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Today we’re going to talk about one of Batman’s first adversaries, a creature of the night who wasn’t just violent and unquestionably evil, but one of Batman’s first important villains: The Mad Monk.

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Origin and Career

The Mad Monk made his first appearance in Detective Comics #31 in September of 1939.

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He beat out the Joker by 8 months.

The character was created by Bob Kane and Garner Fox.

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Kane is the man who is widely credited with the creation of Batman (while he did play a part, a lion’s share of the credit does go to Bill Finger) and Fox is the man who helped create little known DC heroes like the Flash, Dr. Fate, and Hawkman.

The Mad Monk is special because he was the main villain for one of the first multi part stories in Batman’s career.  While the first super villain to face Batman in a multi issue series was the imaginatively named Dr. Death,

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The Mad Monk was a bigger, and much more mystical and terrifying, threat.

The Monk’s real name was Niccolai Tepes, a homage to historical crazy person and real life inspiration for the actual Dracula: Vlad Tepes aka “Vlad the Impaler”.

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The Mad Monk was a literal vampire complete with the need to drink blood, the ability to turn into a wolf, the ability to hypnotize people into a trance, and an assistant named Dala.


While it is unknown why the Monk wants to kill Batman it is made apparent that the Monk does know his secret identity as Bruce Wayne when he kidnaps Bruce’s girl friend Julie Madison.

The Monk and Dala hypnotize her and use her to lure Batman into a trap in Paris where he has to fight a giant gorilla.

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After defeating the beast, Batman is captured and is trapped in a net dangling over a pit of snakes.  Because this is a comic book and nobody just wants to shoot their captured adversary.

Fun fact: This is the first time Batman ever uses the Batarang in comics.

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After escaping, Batman tracks the Monk to Transylvania (because of course) and confronts the villain in his mountain castle.  The Monk puts up a good fight by transforming into a wolf but Batman manages to knock the wolves out and escape.

The comic ends with Batman shooting The Mad Monk and Dala as they lie in their coffins.

If you ask me, this was a brilliant display of common sense.  While I think the idea for the Mad Monk is cool, I certainly wouldn’t want an immortal blood sucking creature  roaming the streets of Gotham or anywhere else in the world.

So what happened?

The Monk remained dead for a long time, probably because he was just two scary and dark for the censorship police known as the Comics Code Authority.

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But, like the vampires that he took his inspiration from, he would arise from the grave many years later.  In 1986 Gerry Conway, the co creator of the Punisher and the man who killed Gwen Stacy,

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reworked the original 1939 story into a modern origin for the Mad Monk in the 1980’s.

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In the new version the Mad Monk was a former plantation owner who owned slaves in post Civil War America.  He and his sister Dala were attacked by their slaves and turned into the undead in a voodoo ritual.

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Personally, I preferred the earlier version better.

The Mad Monk manged to turn Batman into a vampire but was eventually defeated by a wandering priest named Father Green.

The character would be given another fresh coat of paint in 2006 when a six issue mini series was published by DC Comics entitled Batman and the Mad Monk.

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It was pretty good.

The Mad Monk is a villain that has been mostly forgotten to history.  While he was a pretty one note character who didn’t have much staying power, and while he has been overshadowed by much more complex and interesting villains, he deserves a lot more attention and respect.

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He was one of Batman’s first true challenges and paved the way for the rogue gallery that keeps us coming back to Batman comics again and again.

Golden Age Showcase: Doiby Dickles

Let’s talk about sidekicks.

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The sidekick’s job is to watch the main hero’s back and help in any way possible.  Sometimes this means providing support and help from afar and sometimes it means getting their hands dirty and joining the hero in his/her adventures.

More often than not, comic book publishers use sidekicks as a way to fill a need in the comic that the hero can’t fill.  In the case of Robin the Boy Wonder, it was a way for DC Comics to make one of their most popular heroes more kid friendly and accessible in a time where comic book superheroes were facing a lot of scrutiny.

Over the course of comic book history there have been plenty of other sidekicks.  Some have worked,

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and some have not.

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Today we’re talking about a Golden Age super sidekick that belongs in the “did not work” category, although if you ask me it’s a crying shame.

Today we’re going to talk about Doiby Dickles.

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Origin and Career

The Green Lantern of the 1940’s was radically different from the Green Lantern we know today.

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Instead of being an interstellar cop who got his powers from an advanced piece of alien technology, the Golden Age Green Lantern was a railroad engineer named Alan Scott who used a ring powered by magic.

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When popular heroes like Batman and Superman experienced a sales boost by adopting sidekicks, National Comics turned to legendary comic book creator Bill Finger to create a sidekick for Alan.

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I know I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: Bill Finger wasn’t just a big name for the Green Lantern, he also helped create a huge chunk of the Batman mythos we know and love today.

Doiby made his first appearance in All American Comics #27 in June of 1941.

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The man was a Brooklyn taxi driver who drove Alan Scott around as needed.

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He spoke with a thick Brooklyn accent, always wore a derby hat, and wasn’t afraid to get into a fight when he needed to.

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He had something of a temper as well and could swing a wrench with enough power to make him a force to be reckoned with.

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Also, he was incredibly attached to his cab, who he named “Goitrude”.

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In short, Doiby Dickles was an ill tempered, foul mouthed cab driver who was quick in a fight and wanted to do everything he could to help.

He was magnificent.

So what happened?

The Golden Age of superheroes ended and the ensuing Silver Age took more of a science fiction bent.

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This included a dramatic revamping of the Green Lantern series which shifted from the magic wielder Alan Scott to the galactic space cop Hal Jordan that we know and love today.

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Sadly, this meant that the new age of comics didn’t have time and room for a hard talking fast punching maniac like Doiby,

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so DC decided to ship him off into space and marry an alien princess named Ramia from the planet Myrg after saving her from a forced marriage to a man named Prince Peril.

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Doiby and Ramia would return to Myrg where Doiby would become it’s king.  The people of Myrg would go on to adopt Brooklyn accents and recreate the baseball field where the Brooklyn Dodgers played.

God, the Silver Age was weird.

While Doiby was no longer a member of the main supporting cast he did manage the odd guest appearance where he actually helped the Green Lanterns defeat Sinestro.

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Sadly, Goitrude was destroyed in the battle.  It’s one of the most heartbreaking deaths in all of comics.

While that was the extent of his Silver Age career, Doiby was nowhere near done as a character.  He would continue to have revival after unlikely revival, even into the modern age.

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He made an appearance with a superhero group known as “Old Justice”.

It was a joke group of old superheroes who made it their mission to keep the younger generation of superheroes in check and make sure they didn’t mess things up too much,

Naturally they became a thorn in the side of the more famous “Young Justice” superhero team, although in the end they did manage to put aside their differences and let the young ones do their jobs.

If you want to read more stories with Doiby in them, I recommend the Young Justice “Sins of Youth” story line.

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Doiby’s next adventure would be with Young Justice again, when they agreed to help him travel back to Myrg and defeat an alien race known as the Slag by playing a game of baseball.


It’s worth mentioning that the team was only able to win by blatantly cheating.

Sadly, the baseball game was the last major appearance for Doiby Dickles.  The rest of his appearances are guest spots and flashbacks with Alan Scott.

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So, according to DC continuity, Doiby is still out there on an alien planet and is enjoying a long and happy life with an alien queen while ruling a race of Brooklyn accented extra terrestrials.

Shine on you crazy bastard, you deserve it.

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Golden Age #11: Golden Age Green Lantern

Today is part two of of our series on the Justice Society of America.


Since we already talked about the man on the far right of this picture we’re going to move over one and talk about the man with the green mask and cape.  This is a special post because that hero is the Golden Age version of the Green Lantern, the blue print for one of the most famous and prominent heroes around today.


Origin and career:

Thanks to the Green Lantern’s popularity we know quite a bit about the Green Lantern’s history.  However, what’s really interesting is that the original version of Green Lantern shared almost none of the traits and history of the Green Lantern we know today.


The original Green Lantern’s name was Alan Scott.  He was a humble railroad engineer who was minding his own business when an alien entity named Starheart saved him from a terrible accident.  Starheart took the form of ring and pushed Alan towards adopting the persona of the Green Lantern.


What makes this iteration of the Green Lantern interesting is just how similar he is to the Green Lantern we know and love and how different he is at the same time.  It turns out that this Green Lantern had more of a mystical tint to it since it was discovered that Starheart was actually a meteor that crash landed on Earth thousands of years ago and has had quite a history with humans prophesying that it would act three times: once to destroy, once to heal, and once to give power.  Alan Scott just happened to be the third one.

Like the current Green Lantern the original Green Lantern had a wide variety of powers.  The ring allowed Alan Scott to fly, project light that could blind opponents, and project solid light constructs that could knock someone out.

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The ring also made him invulnerable to every type of weapon except those made out of wood for some reason (the Golden Age was weird) and had to be recharged but touching a large Green device shaped like a lantern every 24 hours.

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In terms of stories and enemies the Green Lantern had a pretty lackluster career.  In his solo work he mostly fought human antagonists although he did introduce future DC heavyweight villains Vandal Savage


and Solomon Grundy.


He would later join his other superhero compatriots that weren’t selling well and become one of the founding members of the Justice Society.  During this time he became the head of a Broadcasting Company and spent the war making money and kicking Nazi butt.

So what happened?

After fulfilling his Nazi beating quota Green Lantern suffered the same post war decline in readership that almost every hero who wasn’t named Batman or Superman had.  His books were cancelled in 1949 but he would make a roaring comeback in 1959 with the dawn of the Silver Age of Comics.

A quick note about the Silver Age of Comics.  This period of comic book history took place between 1956-1970 and was known for two things.  First, it saw the rise of Stan Lee and Marvel Comics.


and for drawing most of its influence from this

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and this.

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Yes, the Silver Age was a time when popular culture was dominated by science, the power and possibilities of atomic energy, and mankind’s first forays into space.  Comic books were quick to pick up on these new fascinations and nowhere was it more apparent that Green Lantern who introduced a new face of the franchise in 1959: Hal Jordan.

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Right away you can see several differences between Hal and Alan.  For starters there’s no cape and the comic has more of a science fiction feel to it rather than a gangster/fantasy spin.  The new comic also featured several other changes that would become standard Green Lantern lore.  Hal was a test pilot instead of a railroad engineer and while the ring could still use green light to project solid light constructs and provide powers of flight and protection it could also work against wooden weapons.  Instead it’s new weakness was the color yellow (just the color yellow, the Sinestro Corps didn’t exist yet).  As for its origin the new Green Lantern wasn’t just a hero who had been given magic powers.  Now he was actually a member of an intergalactic police force run by the immortal Guardians.

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So DC comics now had a new Green Lantern with a more detailed backstory and a focus on science fiction over fantasy which, looking back, made him quite a bit more interesting.

That being said Alan Scott didn’t just disappear.  In fact, he would go on to have a long and illustrious career as his own character.  One of DC Comic’s big Silver Age stunts was the creation of the Multiverse, the idea that the DC universe existed in multiple universes which gave the writers and creators the excuse to keep a lot of characters around without having to deal with a lot of pesky continuity flaws.  The idea was introduced in the Flash of Two World’s story and allowed DC to keep a lot of it’s old Golden Age heroes around.

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As one of the founding members of the JSA, Alan Scott continued to exist as his own man through the Silver Age, even working with Hal Jordan on several occasions.


And he’s been hanging around the DC universe ever since. No matter what has happened within the DC universe and no matter what Earth shattering event has occurred, the original Green Lantern has always been there watching over Earth’s other heroes with his magic ring.