Prince Ra-Man explores alien dimensions. Artist: Bernard Baily.

PRINCE RA-MAN, MIND MASTER

Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1965
Creators: Jack Miller (writer) and Bernard Baily (artist)
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DC Comics introduced some fairly prominent characters during the 1960s — Hawkman, Metal Men, The Doom Patrol … The list goes on and on. But they also introduced some real obscuros. Prince Ra-Man may not be the winner of the "Most Obscure" …

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… sweepstakes — would that be B'wana Beast Super-Hip, Automan, or something even less well known? But Ra-Man is certainly in the running.

The character came to be when powers within the company apparently decided Mark Merlin, whose series had been running in House of Secrets for years, wasn't working. Superheroes were what was selling, so that's what Mark needed to be replaced with. But instead of simply not using Mark Merlin anymore, and introducing something new where he'd formerly been, they attempted to retain whatever fans he may or may not have had by linking him to the new guy.

In the 73rd issue (August, 1965), writer Jack Miller (Deadman, Rip Hunter), who had been handling Mark Merlin for some time; and artist Bernard Baily (The Spectre, Hourman), who had recently taken over the feature from creator Mort Meskin (Sheena, Vigilante), contrived to transport Mark to the alien dimension of Ra, where he fell in with a couple of immortal ancient Egyptians. There, he gained the power of mind over matter, which enabled him to return home — but only in the body of another man. He reappeared on Earth as Prince Ra-Man, who had all Mark's memories as well as Mark's new mental powers, making the difference between him and Mark (other than Ra-Man's beard, gaudy costume, and black hair with a shock of white) rather a subtle one. As for Mark himself, he was left in Ra, probably more-or-less dead, tho the best evidence of that is the title of the story, "The Death of Mark Merlin".

Prince Ra-Man went on to fight supernatural evil in every issue of House of Secrets, but nowhere else — and House of Secrets was far from the most prominent possible venue for a DC hero. His only interactions with other denizens of the DC Universe were in #s 76 and 79 (February and August, 1966), when he fought Eclipso, the other star of House of Secrets, and also, at the time, almost as obscure as Ra-Man himself.

Ra-Man had only eight adventures before House of Secrets went on hiatus with its 80th issue (October, 1966). Years later, when the title came back, it showed no trace of either series protagonist. Prince Ra-Man was next seen in DC's first big crossover series, Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985-86), where he was killed off like the useless loose end that he was. Unlike many of his comic book brethren, he remains dead.

— DDM

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Text ©2004-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.