MARK MERLINMedium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1959
Creator: Mort Meskin
Please contribute to its necessary financial support.
Amazon.com or PayPal
DC Comics published several mystery/horror/fantasy comics during the 1950s. They mostly ran without continuing characters. When, at the end of the '50s, one of them did
add a series, the fact was scarcely even noticed. Mark Merlin, who debuted in House of Secrets #23 (August, 1959), didn't have the sort of appearance or personality that stood out from the crowd, and the stories he appeared in were almost indistinguishable from those in which he didn't.
Mark's uncle was a stage magician who used the name "The Mighty Merlin". Like the later real-life stage magician James Randi, his sideline was to expose fraudulent claims of supernatural activity. It was a group of fake magicians, resentful of such goings-on, that murdered him. Mark's investigation exposed their crime — but then, they, too died of mysterious causes. Mark's fiancée, Elsa Magnusson, suggested they might have been done in by real supernatural beings. Unable to disprove her suggestion, Mark devoted the rest of his life to investigation of the supernatural. He handled a case in each issue of House of Secrets for the next several years, with Elsa as his only recurring supporting character.
It isn't known who scripted the early Mark Merlin stories, but the artist was Mort Meskin, whose prior credits include The Black Terror and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Meskin handled the series almost as long as it lasted, tho the last couple of stories were drawn by Bernard Baily (The Spectre, Americommando).
The same year as Mark's debut, DC gave The Flash his own title and introduced Green Lantern. More superheroes followed, and as they proliferated, Mark Merlin, never a particularly noticeable character, gradually looked less and less interesting. They tried to spiff him up a little in #60 (June, 1963) by giving him the power to switch bodies with a cat. A similar move seems to have added some interest when they turned Congo Bill into Congorilla, but this time it didn't.
Finally, they dumped him and brought in Prince Ra-Man as a replacement. The new guy doesn't seem to have done a notably better job of capturing reader interest, but at least he fit in with the superheroes. Mark Merlin, as such, was never seen again.