The Black Angel.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Hillman Periodicals
First Appeared: 1942
Creators: unknown writer and John Cassone (artist)
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By 1942, with Wonder Woman, Wildfire and especially Phantom Lady having paved the way, it was no longer unusual to see women in superhero outfits, bashing evil alongside the guys. But it still seems odd for a costumed hero, male or female, complete with wimpy secret identity, to operate in a title called Air Fighters Comics, where, when they're …

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… being true to the theme and fighting in the air, nobody can even see what they're wearing. And yet, Air Fighters Comics, published by Hillman Periodicals, is where The Black Angel spent her entire superhero career.

As wimpy secret identities go, The Black Angel's (Sylvia Manners) takes the cake. Sylvia lived in a castle near London (where she kept her plane in an underground hangar). Yet, during her first story, in the middle of her large, fortified, solid stone residence, she excused not answering her aunt's knock on her bedroom door (while she'd been out for Black Angel action) by claiming she'd been afraid the polite knock was from Nazis, calling on her for purposes of ravishment. Later in the same issue, she excused herself for more Black Angel action with a story about having an attack of the wim-wams in the middle of a peaceful train ride; and she'd characterized herself as so delicate and sensitive, the aunt bought it. What that story did not have was any indication why she was hiding her identity while fighting the war on a freelance basis. In fact, readers never did find out.

The story appeared in Air Fighters #2 (November, 1942), the first "real" issue after a false start a year earlier. The writer is unknown, but the artist was John Cassone, who also did a hero who called himself "Twilight" for Hillman the following year, as well as a few of Doll Man's adventures for Quality Comics. Other characters introduced in that issue included The Flying Dutchman, The Iron Ace, The Bald Eagle and Sky Wolf.

The Black Angel ran in the back pages of Air Fighters as long as the title lasted — that is, for the duration of World War II. The last issue was #22 (Fall, 1945). When it continued under the name of its most popular character, Airboy, The Black Angel was gone.

But she returned in a minor way. Airboy was revived in 1986 by Eclipse Enterprises (Crossfire, Miracleman); and other Hillman characters, such as Valkyrie and The Heap, came with him. An older Sylvia appeared in a new role, as an ambassador, in a Valkyrie story; and during the story, her young aide, Holly, became the new Black Angel. But the revival lasted only a few years before fading away.

The character hasn't been used since. An extremely minor character called The Black Angel, who appeared in the back pages of a comic starring Wallace Wood's Cannon, is unrelated.


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Text ©2007-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Hillman Periodicals.