The Purple Claw strikes, rendering all evil done for. Artists: Ben Brown and David Gantz.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Toby Press
First Appeared: 1953
Creators: unknown writer, Ben Brown and David Gantz (artists)
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After World War II was over, the superheroes who had dominated the American comic book industry faded in prominence. But they never quite went away, and new ones …

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… such as Captain Comet (1951), Fighting American (1954) and Nature Boy (1956) kept cropping up until the genre got dominant again. In the early 1950s, the dominant genre in comic books was horror. Even tho he was a superhero, The Purple Claw fit right in.

Technically, The Purple Claw wasn't a person, but a magical artifact, a bulky, ugly glove wielded by a succession of wearers going back many centuries, kind of like The Witchblade or The Mask. The user was likely to be called by the name of the object, but the two were actually distinct. The human hero of the series was Dr. Jonathan Weir, who, when first seen, was a member ot The US Army Medical Corps.

That was in Purple Claw #1, dated January, 1953. The publisher was Toby Press, which did a few original titles like Billy the Kid and Super Brat, a few newspaper comics reprints like Barney Google and Li'l Abner, and was owned by Elliot Caplin (co-creator of The Heart of Juliet Jones and Big Ben Bolt and the brother of Abner's creator, Al Capp).

Dr. Weir had an accident while flying an airplane across darkest Africa, just like Rulah and Thun'da had before him. When injury results from such a comic book mishap, the usual procedure is for the victim to be nursed back to health by natives, which is exactly what happened this time. In return, he saved the tribe from a plague. In gratitude, the tribe bestowed upon him the responsibility of wielding The Purple Claw.

The story was told in flashback form (when the series began, he'd already had the thing ten years) by an unknown writer in collaboration with penciller Ben Brown (The Black Diamond, Speedy Rabbit) and inker David Gantz (Buffalo Bee, Ziggy Pig & Silly Seal).

The Claw itself was said to be anathema to evil in all its forms. It used "powers which no living man can explain", but generally seemed to be pretty useful for evil bashing. Dr. Weir apparently made an attempt to trace its history, but was thwarted by the unfortunate circumstance of little or none of it having been written down.

Toby Press published only three issues of Purple Claw, all by Brown, Gantz and whoever. But it got good use out of the property, reprinting it the following year in its horror anthology, Tales of Horror. Also, it was pirated twice, first by Israel Waldman, who would steal intellectual property like The Avenger and Torchy right and left, as long as he could lay hands on artwork to reprint from.

The second was much later. AC Comics, which has taken it upon itself to ensure that no old-time superhero is ever forgotten, as long as it isn't protected by an active publisher's copyright. AC has guest-starred him with Femforce and published a couple of adventures of Dr. Weir by himself. For a forgotten superhero, the wearer of The Purple Claw is pretty well remembered.


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Text ©2007-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Toby Press.