Red delivers a left to the jaw. Artist: Jack W.  McGuire.

THE RED KNIGHT

Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: The Register and Tribune Syndicate
First Appeared: 1940
Creators: John Welch (writer) and Jack McGuire (artist)
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By the early 1940s, the superhero trend was pretty well established in comic books, but they were rare in newspaper comics. Superman, Batman and a handful of others made it …

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… in both venues; and Lady Luck, Miss Fury and Invisible Scarlet O'Neill started in newspapers and later established a presence in comic books. But only The Red Knight started in daily papers and never got into comic books at all.

Red was launched by The Register & Tribune Syndicate (Wee Pals, The Louisiana Purchase) as a direct attempt to compete with comic books in the kids' market — grown-up comics readers, too, evidenced by the fact that their advance publicity materials were sure to mention that his adventures would be full of beautiful women. It began during June, 1940. That same month, the syndicate made an even more direct attempt to compete with comic books, with its Sunday comic book section, starring The Spirit.

The hero's name wasn't given before a scientist named Van Lear powered him up; thus he didn't maintain a secret identity. Dr. Van Lear made him super by treating him with Power Plus, which seemed even better than Captain America's super soldier formula. In addition to the usual super strength and super speed, Red could turn invisible and control people's minds. The one thing he couldn't do was fly — in fact, he didn't even have the equivalent of a Batmobile. Frequently, he reached the super-deed site in a mere taxicab.

This origin story was devised by writer John J. Welch (Flying to Fame, On Our Block) and artist Jack W. McGuire (Ella Cinders, Jane Arden). McGuire's crude but action-packed art would have fit right into contemporary comic books, but Welch's overwrought dialog, tho it may have struck the non-comics-reading public as the way a superhero would talk, was the sort rarely found in real comic books of the time. In any case, both stuck with Red his entire run, which was brief.

After about three years of superheroing, Red got shot down on a flying mission to Japan, and thus cut off from recharging his Power Plus. He got de-powered, thus becoming non-super adventurer Alan Knight (no relation to Sandra or Ted), giving him a mortal-style name for the first time. That September, as that adventure was approaching (but not quite at) its conclusion, the strip abruptly ended. A caption, which was obviously (and unskillfully) pasted on at the last minute, wrapped up the loose ends, and that was that.

Neither as Red nor as Alan was Mr. Knight ever seen again.

— DDM

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Text ©2008=10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © The Register and Tribune Syndicate.