Golden Age Showcase: The Blue Diamond

When you look at the subject of today’s blog post, the Blue Diamond is probably one of the more thought out and coherent Golden Age superheroes we’ve ever talked about.

Despite the fact the he was well put together and could have made it though the 1940’s with more famous Timely heroes like Captain America and Namor the Submariner he appears on this series because he was only able to last through two issues in the 1940’s.  However, the Blue Diamond does have one thing that sets him apart from many of the other heroes we’ve talked about on this blog.  He is one of the best showcases of how to take an old school hero who doesn’t have a whole lot of backstory and character and turn him/her into a fully fleshed out and realized part of a much larger comic book universe.

Origin and Career

The Blue Diamond first appeared in Daring Mystery Comics #7 in April of 1941.

Daring Mystery Comics Vol 1 7

The hero’s real name was Professor Elton Morrow (get it?) and he was an archaeologist.

Professor Morrow was on an expedition to the Antarctic and instead of finding an army of Shaggoths and Elder Things (H.P Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness if you’re interested) he found a giant glowing diamond.

Unfortunately while on the journey home Morrow’s ship was found by a German U boat.  Despite the fact that the United States was technically neutral at this time the Nazis torpedoed the boat and when they discovered Morrow floating in the wreckage clutching the container that held the diamond they shot at him with a machine gun.

Historical side note: it is nearly impossible to overstate just how terrifying German U boats were to the American population at the time.

The Nazis were actually able to attack American shipping in American waters for a time during the war, which explains why a large number of villains in the early war period comic books were U boat captains and enemy submarines.

Anyway, back to the Blue Diamond.

Despite the fact that Professor Morrow had been machine gunned in the middle of the ocean he actually wound up surviving.  It turned out that the diamond had absorbed most of the impacts from the bullets and had fractured into thousands of pieces and most of those pieces had embedded themselves into Professor Morrow, granting him diamond hard skin and immunity from pain and external damage.

Naturally, the heroic minded professor decided to use his powers to become a hero and the Blue Diamond was born.

Professor Morrow would go on to have one more adventure in the 1940’s in the following issue of Daring Mystery Comics.  

Daring Mystery Comics Vol 1 8

In this issue Professor Morrow was investigating a collection of bodies that appeared to be “Mongolian aboriginals” (he was an archaeologist after all) when suddenly the bodies sprang to life and walked out the door!

Morrow changed into his Blue Diamond costume and followed the ghouls to the basement of the Federal Reserve bank where he literally beats some sense into the helpless zombies.

It turned out that the “ghouls” were actually hypnotized people who were under the influence of the evil Dr. Eric Karlin.

 

Karlin was a master hypnotist who was sent to America by the Nazis in order to steal back German gold that America had confiscated at the beginning of the war.

The wicked doctor also had a habit of throwing his enemies into a vat of acid and displaying their remains in his lab.  The Blue Diamond confronted Dr. Karlin at his hide out and during the fight the hero knocked the villain into that vat of acid, killing him.

The Blue Diamond was horrified at what he had done but felt that his actions were justified because they helped give Dr. Karlin’s victims some peace.

So what happened?

The Blue Diamond got lost in the explosion of comics during and after World War Two.  Daring Mystery Comics was replaced by the Comedy Comics title the following month,

and while Timely would later revive the Daring Mystery line a few years later the Blue Diamond was in the new line up.

However, the Blue Diamond had something that a lot of comic book characters of the time didn’t have: pedigree.

The Blue Diamond had been created by comic book legends Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, two men who were responsible for the creation of Captain America among other famous Marvel heroes.

which meant that even though the Blue Diamond didn’t survive the 1940’s, he was still big enough for other comic book creators to remember him.

The Blue Diamond would be reborn in Marvel Premiere #29 in April of 1976.

Marvel Premiere Vol 1 29

This was the first appearance of a group known as the Liberty Legion, a superhero team that was set in the past of World War Two and was made up of old Timely characters.

It’s worth noting that this book was first published in the 1970’s, which makes the idea of mining older titles and stories for nostalgia dollars nothing new.

In their first adventure the Liberty Legion was tasked with saving another old school superhero team, the Invaders, from the mind control of the Red Skull.

The Blue Diamond went face to face with Namor the Submariner and managed to capture him although he managed to escape.  The Liberty Legion would later face down the brainwashed Invaders and defeat them a couple issues later.

The Blue Diamond would follow up this adventure by teaming up with the Fantastic Four’s “The Thing”, who had traveled back in time and found himself in several adventures with a variety of Marvel’s heroes.

Marvel Two-In-One Vol 1 79

You’ll notice that the cover of the comic introduces a new character named “Star Dancer”

See? Ballet!

It turned out that Star Dancer and the Blue Diamond were destined to be husband and wife (as if comics weren’t sappy enough) and she saved the Blue Diamond’s life after he suffered from a heart attack while trying to hold back an angry mob that wanted to attack her.

Star Dancer gave The Blue Diamond a new, more durable body made entirely out of diamond and the two left Earth for the stars.

That was his final appearance as a comic book character, although it was later revealed that the diamond that had given Professor Morrow his powers was actually part of a rock called the Lifestone in Thunderbolts #46

While The Blue Diamond didn’t have much of a Golden Age career he is a prime example of how some characters managed to get a second chance further down the road.  He was a hero with a solid origin story, a cool power set, and most importantly his adventures showcased a special kindness and passion for doing good and protecting those around him that transformed him from a decent superhero to a pretty gosh darn good one.

Here’s hoping he’s still wandering the universe as a happy man.

Golden Age Showcase: Monako

So I’m really excited for the new Dr. Strange movie coming out in November.

What’s even better is that, thanks to this movie, Marvel decided to give Dr. Strange his own modern comic book series in order to increase awareness and interest in the character.

I really like this series, mostly because it’s written by one of my favorite comic book writers: Jason Aaron.

If you’ve never heard of him I HIGHLY recommend Southern Bastards and Scalped.  They are fantastic comic books that elevate the comic book medium to an entirely different level.

The reason why I bring this up is because in Mr. Aaron’s Dr. Strange run there is a character named Monako.

Without going into too much detail (I don’t want to spoil anything, you should really be going out and buying the comic) Monako is a grizzled old veteran magician who takes no crap from anyone and is one of the most powerful magicians in the Marvel Universe.

Also, he was originally created in 1940 so we’re going to talk about him today.

Origin and career:

Monako first appeared in Daring Mystery Comics #1 in January of 1940.

He was written and created by writer Larry Antonette.

Larry Antonette 001

In Monako’s first appearance he rescues a childhood friend, Josie Nottington, from being run over by a car.

Monako sees that the car was being driven by his mortal enemy Mr. Muro,

It turns out that Mr. Muro is after Josie’s brother Al Nottington because he as developed a secret formula for an explosive that Mr. Muro wants.  However, it turns out that Al has memorized the formula and destroyed all his notes, prompting Muro to kidnap Al and attempted to torture him into revealing the formula.

Monako manages to follow Mr. Muro using his magic (he uses an astral form, kind of similar to what Dr. Strange uses) and Monako manages to put up a good fight.

but unfortunately he is captured and tied up beside Al.  Muro intends to torture them with a swinging ax blade.

Here’s where it gets fun.  Monako manages to escape by talking to the ax blade and convincing it to let them go, and the ax listens.

Monako manages to escape by shrinking himself down to the size of an ant and crawling through a key hole.

He proceeds to save Josie from a bomb,

and they all manage to escape and save the day.  Sadly, Muro has escaped as well and would return for another round.

Muro and Monako would meet three issues later in Daring Mystery Comics #4 when Muro attempted to take over secret military fortifications that were supposed to guard the Panama Canal (not a bad plan actually) and Monako was able to stop him.

You’ll notice that Monako has a fez now, which is awesome.

Despite the fact that Muro managed to escape the two would never meet again.  Monako would have two more appearances, one where he thwarted a gang of jewel thieves, and another where he helped a man rescue his sister from a gang of thugs.

His last story featured the first and only appearance of Pere Kauraka, Monako’s super strong and super durable assistant.

It should be noted that while the artwork is somewhat lacking (not necessarily the artist fault since it’s fair to assume they were pressured to cut corners due to tight deadlines) Monako’s stories feature the magician using his powers in very interesting and creative ways.  He could project his form on the astral plane, he could talk to and influence inanimate objects, he could use magic to punch people, and in possibly the greatest use of magic ever…in his final adventure he turned a pit of snakes into puppies (god I wish I could find a picture of that).

So what happened?

Monako disappeared.  I wish there was more to his story but it’s probably because he just wasn’t popular enough to warrant future stories.  His last appearance was in September of 1940 so he never got to kick some Nazi butt during the war.

Also, he didn’t have any sort of revival in the post war comic book scene (although someone like that would have been perfect for the boom in horror comics that were popular after World War 2) and he would remain unused until recently where he was re introduced in Jason Aaron’s Dr. Strange.

Monako was an interesting hero.  Despite his short story run the man was one of the first Timely heroes to utilize magic in some of the most interesting and creative ways imaginable.  He was an interesting hero and one of the most interesting characters to come out of the Golden Age.