Mr. Justice tells it like it is. Artist: Sam Cooper.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: MLJ (Archie) Comics
First Appeared: 1941
Creators: Joe Blair (writer) and Sam Cooper (artist)
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Mr. Justice belongs to a genre of stories that's as old as story-telling itself — dead men who return to wreak vengeance upon their foes. In comic books, this genre …

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… is found not just in series characters like Swamp Thing, but also in a vast number of non-series stories from EC Comics and the like. Tho this motif is most familiar in the form of a horror story, it's also found in quite a few superheroes.

The best-known of them, DC Comics' The Spectre, hadn't been out of his grave more than a year before MLJ Comics followed with one of its own. Mr. Justice debuted in Blue Ribbon Comics #9 (February, 1941), instantly displacing Richie the Amazing Boy (not one of your stand-out characters) and Rang-a-Tang the Wonder Dog (obviously derived from Rin-Tin-Tin) from the cover position. He went on to become — temporarily, at least — one of MLJ's biggest stars.

The Royal Wraith, as Mr. Justice was sometimes called, was Prince James of England, lured to his death by Scottish rebels in the year 1040. He murdered them back, but afterward, his destiny thwarted (according to an unseen voice), his spirit was trapped in the castle where all this took place. In 1940, the castle was dismantled and shipped to America, where it was to be re-assembled, but the ship carrying it was sunk by a Nazi submarine. James's spirit was thus released into the modern world. He then re-assumed corporeal form, took on the "Mr. Justice" monicker, and, love interest being de rigeur for a 1940s superhero, picked up with an American woman named Pat Clark. The story was written by MLJ regular Joe Blair and drawn by Sam Cooper, both of whom stayed with the character through most of his run.

A major villain, throughout Mr. Justice's sojourn in the Mortal Realm, was Satan himself. Busy guy — not only was he behind most of the lesser supernatural foes James fought in his 20th century incarnation — over in another MLJ comic, he was an every-issue regular in the Madam Satan series.

Aside from being the cover feature of Blue Ribbon Comics, Mr. Justice had a prominent spot in Jackpot Comics, where the most popular MLJ stars were gathered under one roof. Starting with its first issue (Spring, 1941), he shared Jackpot's covers with Steel Sterling, Sgt. Boyle and The Black Hood. But by Jackpot #6 (Summer, 1942), he was gone from that position. About the same time, he began sharing Blue Ribbon covers with a red, white and blue-draped superhero called Captain Flag; and as of Blue Ribbon #19 (December, 1941), Mr. Justice lost his cover spot entirely.

He hung on in the back pages of both Blue Ribbon and Jackpot Comics as long as those titles lasted — which wasn't long, as MLJ was rapidly getting out of the superhero business. After Jackpot #9 (Summer, 1943) he was completely out of comics, and MLJ's new star was Archie.

Mr. Justice wasn't quite forgotten, tho. He turned up in a couple of mid-1960s issues of Mighty Crusaders, and even became a member of a superhero team himself, The Terrific Three (the other two of whom were Steel Sterling and The Jaguar). That, however, lasted only one issue. The next time Archie Comics (as MLJ had been renamed years earlier) tried reviving its superheroes, in the 1980s, he was only briefly included in the festivities. Since then, he's been seen only in very rare cameos.

By the way, only a cynical churl would point out that before 1066, when the Normans came in, English princes didn't get named "James", and Scots were still centuries away from feeling a necessity to rebel against English royalty. So please, pay no attention to this paragraph.


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Text ©2002-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Archie Comics.