REDMASKMedium: Comic books
Published by: Magazine Enterprises
First Appeared: 1950
Creators: Ray Krank (writer) and Frank Bolle (artist)
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As the western story grew in popularity in American comic books, its sub-genre, western star vehicles, grew right along with it. Dell Comics had Roy Rogers, while DC had Dale Evans. Meanwhile, a relatively small outfit called Magazine Enterprises, which also did comic book versions of Texas Slim, Dotty Dripple and Teena, got into the act by licensing RKO's resident cowboy actor, Tim Holt. He started in the 14th issue of the publisher's catch-all title,
A-1 Comics, which had widely varied contents including Jet Powers, Dogface Dooley and Thun'da. It even provided vehicles for non-western stars, like Jimmy Durante and Dick Powell. The issue was undated, but came out in 1948.
After a few appearances as part of the A-1 series, Tim moved out into his own title. Tim Holt #4 was dated February, 1949. But only a year and a half later, it seems to have needed a gimmick. In the 20th issue (November, 1950), Tim joined the ranks of masked western heroes with secret identities, like Marvel's Black Rider, Farrell's Lone Rider and ACG's Hooded Horseman. After that, the comic book version of him was firmly tied to the alter ego "Redmask". The new direction was decided on by writer/editor Ray Krank (Ghost Rider), and the story was drawn by Frank Bolle (Winnie Winkle).
Note that Redmask's name is spelled as one word. Like the World War II hero Sky Wolf, this varied according to whether it was used to refer to the character, or a story. "Red Mask" was usually the version used in story titles and on the cover.
Tim's adventures as Redmask continued in pretty much the same vein as always, except the villains got more colorful. One of Red's adversaries stood out from the crowd — a masked woman named The Black Phantom. Her relationship with Tim was similar to Valkyrie's with Airboy or P'Gell's with The Spirit. She followed a career path similar to that of The Catwoman, only compressed into a much shorter time. Eventually, she became Red's partner, albeit one with a slight edge. She was introduced in #25 (September, 1951), and stuck around until the very last issue.
The real-life Tim Holt's career as a cowboy star petered out in the early '50s — In fact, by the middle of 1952, he wasn't doing those roles at all anymore. But the comic book continued for another couple of years. There's little doubt that his activities as Redmask contributed to his longevity in that venue, because when the Tim Holt title finally bit the dust, it was replaced with Red Mask, which maintained the same numbering. The switch took place with #42 (July, 1954). The only difference in the content was that a couple of issues earlier, he'd switched from a triangular lower-half face mask like Vigilante wore, to a domino mask like that of Nighthawk.
As Red Mask, the title continued for another dozen issues, ending as a regular series with #53 (May, 1956). A final issue came out after the series had lost any momentum it might have had. #54 was dated September, 1957. He also appeared in the anthology title Best of the West. But even not counting that, Tim Holt/Red Mask was one of ME's longest-running series — tho the last four issues cover-featured another masked hero, The Presto Kid.
Red's post-series career began shortly afterward. Starting in 1958 he underwent an unauthorized revival, when comics entrepreneur Israel Waldman reprinted several issues without bothering to ask permission. Waldman, who used the imprints "IW" and "Super Comics" for his thieving activities, was famous as an unauthorized reprinter of Plastic Man, Yankee Girl, Wambi the Jungle Boy and anything else he could get his hands on. Later, partnered with Sol Bodsky (long-tenured production manager for Marvel), he reprinted Red Mask again, in an extra-large anthology titled Blazing Sixguns.
Then Tim and Red were neglected for a couple of decades, until AC Comics (Femforce) took on the project of seeing that no comic book hero is left behind — at least not those whose owners aren't active enough to make their properties too expensive to use. Redmask and The Black Phantom have both been part of AC's western line for years.
Tim Holt the actor died in 1973. But Tim Holt the comic book hero, both with and without his Redmask persona, seems to have a lot of life in him.