The Man in Black. Artist: Bob Powell.


Original Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Harvey Comics
First Appeared: 1957
Creator: Bob Powell
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The horror comic books published by EC Comics are the best-remembered of that genre from the early 1950s. A prominent element of them was that each had a "host" to narrate the stories, the exemplar being The Crypt Keeper in The Vault of Horror. They didn't have a lot of direct imitators at the time, but there was a scattering of characters during that decade who …

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… resembled them, but were also players in the stories themselves. The best known of these was DC's Phantom Stranger, who started in 1952, but he wasn't alone. In 1956, Charlton launched Tales of the Mysterious Traveler, and a year later, Harvey, which back then was publishing a lot of material far removed from its perennial mainstay, the likes of Wendy and Little Lotta, followed suit with The Man in Black.

Unlike the EC hosts, The Man in Black (no relation) had both a name and a supporting cast. He was usually addressed as Fate, but he also answered to Kismet and Luck. He was sometimes seen to perform the functions associated with those names, taking active (but unseen) steps in guiding characters toward their destiny. He worked for a woman called The Weaver, who wove the patterns of life. The Greek deities Venus and Cupid would also take part. They generally followed a muse of their own, taking the side of the occasional mortal and thwarting Fate's plans concerning them. They were usually played for comedy relief.

Cartoonist Bob Powell, whose earlier work included Mr. Mystic, a back-up feature in The Spirit's newspaper supplement, and Cave Girl, a typical jungle girl type, wrote and drew The Man in Black from beginning (September, 1957) to end (fourth issue, March 1958).

The Man in Black stayed dormant for the next few years, until Harvey launched a short-lived line of less juvenile comics. He turned up in reprint form in Thrill-O-Rama #1 (October, 1965), where his logo was slightly re-worded — he was billed on the cover as "The Man in Black Called Fate". It only lasted one issue. As of #2, a superhero named The Pirana took over the lead position, and Fate was relegated to the back pages. That, too, was short-lived, as Thrill-O-Rama ended with its third issue.

Again, years went by. In 1990, Lorne-Harvey, run by a Harvey family offshoot that retained ownership of a few Harvey characters while most were sold to media exploiters (the ones who put Casper and Richie Rich into feature-length movies) brought out two issues of The Man in Black — again, reprinting a few of the original Bob Powell stories.

Since then, nothing.


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Text ©2007-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Harvey Comics.