THE BLACK DWARFMedium: Comic books
Published by: Harry "A" Chesler
First Appeared: 1944
Creators: Unknown writer and Paul Gattuso, artist
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The Black Dwarf was an off-brand superhero. Considering how oddball even those from big-time, "name" publishers could get (for example, this one, this one and this one), you might expect one that hasn't been in print (or even much talked-about) since the early 1960s (and even that recently, only in the form of unauthorized reprints), from a publisher that didn't even have a name to put on the cover, would be
pretty off-the-wall. With Blackie, they tried to make him stand out from the crowd, but succeeded only in raising questions — or would have, if he'd drawn enough interest for anybody to care about asking them.
The first question, of any character, is — why? Putting on a bizarre outfit to battle crime on an unpaid, freelance, anonymous basis seems pretty strenuous, requiring strong motivation. But his isn't much. He just hates crime, no particular reason cited.
Next, what's with the name? He was shorter than average, but not so short he qualified as a Little Person. Santa Claus would reject him on sight. And would identifying himself as a dwarf instill fear in criminals, confer fighting prowess on himself, or in any other way be an asset in his war on evildoers? It just sends a message that he's small, so the evildoers can probably beat him up. At least he made up for his shortcomings by packing a gun.
The Black Dwarf was Shorty Wilson, formerly a pro football player and still a scrappy little guy. He'd chuckle when the odds were against him in a fight, even if they leaned toward him getting killed. He hung around with a tough crowd, including some fairly shady characters. He got some of his pals, all reformed criminals, to help him out in his crime-busting activities. There were two men, Nitro and Fly (no relation) and a woman, Arsenic.
The four went on their first mission together in Spotlight Comics #1, dated November, 1944. The publishing company's name was given as Dynamic Comics. This was part of the comics packaging operation of Harry "A" Chesler, former publisher of Centaur Comics (Speed Centaur, The Eye Sees). When asked what the "A" stood for, Chesler would quip, "Anything".
The credits are a little harder to pin down. At least one source credits a Fran Smith, whose other credits in comics, if any, don't seem to have been recorded. The artist more commonly credited with the overwhelming bulk of Black Dwarf covers and stories was Paul Gattuso, whose sparse other credits were mostly at ACG. The credits on Spotlight #1 itself, however, don't seem to be available, other than the fact that the cover, which did feature the Dwarf, was by George Tuska (Buck Rogers, Zanzibar the Magician).
The Black Dwarf continued to appear on the cover and in the lead position of each bimonthly issue of Spotlight Comics, as long as that title lasted — which was only three issues. Then he spent half a year in comic book limbo, until the story and cover intended for Spotlight #4 were published in Red Seal Comics #14 (October, 1945). He continued in the quarterly Red Seal, not always on the cover, until that title's demise with its 22nd issue, dated December, 1947, and that was the end of him as a first-run character.
A dozen or so years later, his production materials fell into the hands of comic book entrepreneur Israel Waldman, as did those capable of reprinting The Green Lama, Yankee Girl, Doll Man and any number of other defunct comics characters Waldman didn't have legal rights to. He reprinted several Black Dwarf stories, along with other Chesler properties like Lucky Coyne, Doctor Justice and The Gay Desperado. But the reprinting was over by the mid-1960s, and that was the end of The Black Dwarf altogether.