'Stupid' asks so many questions. Artist: Ken Battefield.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Fawcett Publications
First Appeared: 1940
Creators: Unknown writer and Ken Battefield (artist)
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In 1940, Fawcett Publications, long-time publisher of True Confessions, Family Circle and other nationally-distributed magazines, was just branching out into the comic book market, but was already learning how to ensure a comic's success. Its first title, Whiz Comics, debuted with a superhero,

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Captain Marvel, on the cover. Later in the year, its Master Comics came out with not only Master Man on the cover and in the lead position — the back pages, too, contained a guy who would have been a common, ordinary crusading journalist like like Hap Hopper or Brenda Starr, except for the fact that he bowed to comic book conventions and maintained a secret identity as he fought crime — The Devil's Dagger.

But The Dagger owed more, inspiration-wise, to the radio hero The Green Hornet, than to Superman, who'd first brought the genre to comic books. In this, he resembled The Wasp, the other early version of The Wasp, and many other heroes in comics.

The secret identity as a newspaperman (like The Hornet's alter ego, wealthy publisher Britt Reid) was only part of the resemblance. He also traveled around his urban setting in a chauffeur-driven car. The car had a name, The Speed Ghost, reminiscent of The Hornet's Black Beauty. The driver, Pat Gleason, knew his employer's secret and functioned as a sidekick, as did The Hornet's Kato.

Explaining Pat's presence, Ken Wyman, the everyday identity of The Devil's Dagger, had family money. He worked at The Carterville Daily Blade because he preferred it to an executive position at his father's bank. His girlfriend, Sandra Cole, thought he was just marking time until he exposed the real name of The Devil's Dagger. That would have pleased his boss, city editor Burton, who regarded that as the biggest story Carterville had ever had.

The whole scenario, plus the fact that his arch-enemy was gangster Jeff Marlowe, was sketched out in the 4-page introductory story in Master Comics #1 (March, 1940). But what that story lacked was any indication why Ken wore a mask to fight crime, and why he chose a name like The Devil's Dagger, to do so. Whatever the reason, the writer's name hasn't been preserved, but the artist has been identified as Ken Battefield (Tiger Girl, The Silver Knight.)

The Devil's Dagger continued, and Battefield continued to draw him, until #20 (November, 1941). After that, he was replaced by a sci-fi series, Captain Venture & the Planet Princess. The Dagger was never seen again.

Presumably, the character is now owned by DC Comics, which first licensed and later purchased all of Fawcett's superheroes. But DC, which already had two homegrown Green Hornet knock-offs, The Sandman and The Crimson Avenger, hasn't seen fit to use him.


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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Fawcett Publications.