THE KINGMedium: Comic books
Published by: All-American Comics
First Appeared: 1940
Creators: Gardner Fox (writer) and William Smith (artist)
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early 1940s include The Black Terror's Tim, Mr. Scarlet's Pinky, Magno's Davey, and of course Captain America's Bucky. In fact, that cavalier attitude toward secret identities persisted as long as 1954, with Captain Flash's Ricky. But for an adult superhero to do such a thing seems unusual, to say the least.
And yet, that's what wealthy, young, sophisticated King Standish did when, like other members of his demographic such as The Crimson Avenger and Batman had done before him, he decided to devote his many leisure hours to being a scourge of evildoers. It isn't clear whether "King" was his first name or a nickname, but it's pretty darned clear he wasn't the least bit related to King Aroo, King Faraday, King Leonardo, King Kong, King of the Hill, The Little King, King of the Royal Mounted, Young King Cole, or even King Features Syndicate.
The King was a master of disguise, so skillful in both acting and make-up artistry that he could fool even a subject's personal friends and associates. Infiltrating an organization, criminal or otherwise, didn't require a tedious operation of worming his way in and painstakingly gaining their trust. Just get a trusted member out of the way for a little while, and impersonate him. Undisguised, except to conceal his non-superhero self, he wore a tuxedo with opera cape, top hat, and domino mask.
His first appearance was in All-American Publications' Flash Comics #3 (March, 1940). He was the first character added to a line-up that already included Johnny Thunder, Hawkman, The Whip and more. His writing creator was Gardner Fox, whose credits for other companies include Moon Girl and The Ghost Rider. The artist behind him was William Smith, whose few comic book credits include a trio of servicemen who called themselves Red, White & Blue. Smith did only a couple of The King's stories, but no other artist is very strongly associated with the character. Later ones include Harry Lampert (The Flash) and Joe Gallagher (The Atom).
Like many good-guy characters in comic books, including The Black Hood, Spider-Man and Kid Colt, The King started out believed by authorities to be on the wrong side of the law. His reputation was rehabilitated somewhat over time, but never did get straightened out completely. He had a recurring adversary who bore the same relation to him as The Catwoman to Batman — they clashed, but she often got away because he was sweet on her, and allowed it. Her nom du crime was The Witch, and she was his mirror image — wealthy, good with disguises and chased by lawmen; but female, and a real crook rather than a supposed one. He attempted to win her over to the law, but never quite succeeded.
All-American Publications and its sister company, DC Comics, began less careful about keeping their properties separate than they later became. The King appeared in early World's Finest Comics, where DC ran extra stories about popular characters like Superman and The Star-Spangled Kid; as well as in Comic Cavalcade, where All-American did the same with Green Lantern, Wonder Woman et al.
But he didn't appear all that long in Flash Comics. His last issue there was #41 (May, 1943), then he disappeared from both the All-American and DC sides of the aisle. He never appeared in a postwar adventure, but was seen in a period piece as recently as 1999.