Night Raven departs a scene of recent quasi-legal activity. Artist: David Lloyd.

NIGHT RAVEN

Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1979
Creators: Dez Skinn and Richard Burton
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The 1940s were when comic book heroes first flowered, and many '60s-and-later heroes were retroactively set in that time frame to match, heroes like Charlton's Judo Master and DC's Amazing-Man (no relation). But the '30s also saw a proliferation of heroes in American cheap fiction, notably pulp magazines, several of whom, such as Doc Savage and Justice, Inc.'s The Avenger (no relation), have been adapted into comic books over the years; and the '30s, too, have been the setting of several latter-day retro-heroes in the comics — heroes like The Scorpion …

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… (Atlas-Seaboard Comics) and his reprise, Dominic Fortune (Marvel). Marvel's Night Raven was one of those post-1930s '30s comic book heroes.

Night Raven was a product of Marvel's British division, Marvel UK, which was also responsible for Captain Britain. He first appeared in the back pages of the British edition of The Hulk #1 (March 7, 1979). He was created by editors Dez Skinn (who later, as publisher of Warrior, was involved in the transformation of Marvelman into Miracleman) and Richard Burton (whose background includes 2000 AD, where Judge Dredd was among the characters he handled.

The editors assigned writer Steve Parkhouse (Ka-Zar, Nick Fury) and artist David Lloyd (Sláine, V for Vendetta) to the new character. But company honcho Stan Lee, co-creator of practically the entire Marvel Universe, didn't like Lloyd's artwork, calling it "blocky". After a few weekly episodes, Lloyd was replaced by John Bolton (Batman: The Killing Joke, Camelot 3000).

Night Raven was one of those typical '30s urban adventures, who skulked around and thwarted evil in quasi-legal ways, like The Shadow (only nominally related) and The Spider (same, only more so), twin six-guns blazing as appropriate — but being a Marvel Comics guy, wore a superhero suit under his slouch hat and trenchcoat. He didn't maintain much of a personal life, and thus had no secret identity to speak of.

Like a lot of '30s characters, Night Raven had one of those "yellow peril" style enemies, Li Wong of The Dragonfire Tong (Chinese crime cartel), who has been compared to The Dragon Lady (whose foe, Terry Lee, was another from the '30s). She turned out to be crucial to his transitioning to a present-day character, so he could cavort and have adventures with most of the other familiar heroes in Marvel comics.

Li got him with a toxin that, instead of killing him outright, had the immediate effect of causing constant, excruciating pain. Another effect was to render him sleepless and immune to the ravages of age, with an accelerated healing ability that allowed him to recover quickly from any non-fatal wound. She, too, is less firmly anchored in time than most mortals, so they've carried on their conflict through all the decades that followed, him driven nearly insane by the constant pain.

Night Raven hasn't appeared regularly in comic books since the middle 1980s.

— DDM

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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.