QUICKSILVER (aka MAX MERCURY)Medium: Comic books
Published by: Quality Comics
First Appeared: 1940
Creators: unknown writer and Chuck Mazoujian (artist)
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Quicksilver was a very minor 1940s superhero from Quality Comics, and not at all connected with the more recent Marvel Comics character of the same name. He lasted longer than most, but his stories were all in the six-page range, and not once did he appear on a cover or in a crossover with another character. His main point of interest is that under the name "Max Mercury", he was brought back
a half-century later as a supporting character, exciting a great deal more interest than he did back when he held down a series of his own.
Quicksilver debuted in Quality's National Comics #5 (November, 1940), as probably the first imitator of The Flash's super-speed schtick. It isn't known who wrote his first adventure, but the artist was Chuck Mazoujian, who also had a hand in the creation of Lady Luck. The cover featured Uncle Sam, with Quicksilver stuck in the back pages alongside Wonder Boy (no relation), Kid Dixon and other luminaries of that calibre. There was no explanation of how he got his super power or why he put on a costume and mask to fight crime.
An origin story wasn't the only thing he lacked — he also didn't have a personal life or even a name other than Quicksilver (unless you count "The Laughing Robin Hood", which is what newspapers sometimes called him), and was never seen out of costume. His lifestyle was similar to that of The Spirit, also published by Quality Comics (among others). He lived with his young Chinese servant, Hoo Mee, in a cave, fitted out with living quarters and a chemical lab, in Oakwood Park, which was located in an unnamed urban area.
His series continued in the National Comics back pages until #71 (April, 1949). Along the way, he was handled by Nick Cardy (Teen Titans), Jack Cole (Plastic Man) and other top talents, but soon as he was gone, he was forgotten.
DC Comics acquired Quality characters in 1956, but didn't use this particular one until the '80s, when he made a few appearances with The All-Star Squadron (a team that included practically every DC-owned costumed crime fighter of the 1940s except Genius Jones and The Terrific Whatzit). The real revival came when he met The Flash in the 76th issue (May, 1993) of that character's comic. That's where he was first seen using the "Max Mercury" name. The creator of this version of the character is writer Mark Waid (Captain America, Kingdom Come). His early appearances were drawn by Greg LaRocque, who also drew DC's 1990s version of Fighting American.
It was in #97 (January, 1995) that he finally got his origin story. It seems his '40s career as Quicksilver hadn't been his first as a super-speedster — in fact, he went back to the early 19th century, when a Blackfoot Indian shaman gave him the power through magical means. Under the name Windrunner, he embarked on a do-gooding career that lasted years, until he felt the lure of what he called the Speed Force, source of his power (as well as that of every other DC-owned super-speedster, including Johnny Quick, the '60s Flash and a host of super-speedy villains). Attempting to merge with the Speed Force, he was catapulted years into the future. Later attempts did the same, resulting in a series of superhero careers under various names.
For his great experience and knowledge, and his understanding of the mystical aspects of his super power, Max Mercury has been dubbed "the zen master of speed". For several years, he was mentor to a teenage speedster named Impulse (who later adopted the old Kid Flash monicker and still later called himself The Flash). Max is currently missing (another trip to the future, apparently), but will no doubt be seen again.