SARGON THE SORCERERMedium: Comic Books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1941
Creators: John Wentworth (writer) and Howard Purcell (artist)
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Ibis the Invincible, Mr. Mystic and quite a few others, Sargon the Sorcerer was of the sub-sub-genre that wore a turban as part of the magician get-up. Prominently set in the turban was The Ruby of Life, from which he derived his magic powers.
The Ruby of Life started out 4,000 years ago, at the Temple of Asyreth, goddess of the Tiparanes, in a region that looked vaguely Middle Eastern. It was stolen, then re-stolen a few times over the centuries, and traveled the world until, in the early 20th century, it was found by archaeologist Richard Biddle Sargent in a Mexican Aztec ruin (of all places). A later retcon connected it with The Ring of Life, a magical artifact that figured into some of The Spectre's adventures.
The Ruby was made into a pendant and worn by Mrs. Sargent, and became the first thing consciously seen and touched by their baby, John. When John grew up, he learned anyone who had so early a relationship with the stone could, after the proper magical ritual, gain power over whatever he touched. He performed the necessary ritual and used the power, like so many of his contemporaries, to fight crime. To camouflage his magic, he became a stage magician; then he turned right around and de-camouflaged it by using his stage name, Sargon the Sorcerer, for his superhero activities.
This all happened in All-American Comics #26 (May, 1941), published by All-American Publications (which was affiliated with, and later a part of, DC Comics). The story was written by John Wentworth, who also wrote the first stories about Johnny Thunder and The Whip. The artist was Howard Purcell, who worked at DC for decades. Aside from illustrating hundreds of miscellaneous crime, war and mystery stories, Purcell was associated with several minor heroes, from co-creating The Gay Ghost and Lando, Man of Magic in the early 1940s, to drawing the last dozen or so Sea Devils stories and co-creating The Enchantress in the mid '60s. But Sargon's first appearance actually took place two months earlier, in a one-page promo that also included Dr. Mid-Nite.
Sargon remained in All-American for a couple of years, but was never one of the featured players. He lasted only until #50 (June, 1943), after which the title shed a few pages due to wartime paper shortages, and Sargon was squeezed out. He also had a few stories in Comic Cavalcade, the anthology comic that featured the brightest of the publisher's stars, The Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman; but his tenure there was even shorter. He next turned up in a crowd scene with Wildcat, Bulldog Drumhead, Hop Harrigan and many other All-American Publications characters on the cover of The Big All-American Comic Book, a 128-page oneshot that came out in 1944. Tho it was Sargon's only cover appearance, inside the comic he was nowhere to be found. Later that year, he transferred to the back pages of Sensation Comics, where he remained a few years, but his last appearance there was #83 (November, 1948). The 84th launched a new series in his slot, Lady Danger.
He stayed gone until March, 1969, when he turned up in The Flash #186 — as a villain. He made one or two more appearances that way, then was forgotten for another long while. Much later, this was explained away by claiming the Ruby of Life had messed with his mind, and he became a good guy again — but was never used very prominently, nor was he ever again a regular character in a series. He did have an adventure or two with The All-Star Squadron, but then, practically every hero DC owned that was set in the '40s did that.
He was killed off in Swamp Thing #50 (July, 1986). The publisher used the same incident to rid itself of another '40s stage magician superhero (this one of the sub-sub-genre that wore a top hat), Zatara the Magician.