THE WIZARDMedium: Comic books
Published by: MLJ (Archie) Comics
First Appeared: 1939
Creators: Will Harr (writer) and Edd Ashe Jr. (artist)
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superheroes. Pulp publishers Morris Coyne, Louis Silberkleit and John Goldwater got into the comic book superhero business in 1939, when they founded MLJ Comics. Their first cover-featured entry in the up-and-coming genre was The Wizard, written by Will Harr (who did several other features for MLJ, Marvel and Lev Gleason Publications) and drawn by Edd Ashe Jr. (who also worked for Fiction House, Hillman Periodicals and The American Comics Group).
When first seen, The Wizard looked more like Mandrake the Magician (comics' first successful costumed, super-powered adventure character) than Superman (who is generally held to have kicked off the genre). His powers resembled stage magic, like Mandrake's; and he wore a pencil-thin moustache, also like Mandrake. The main difference was that his tuxedo and cape were white in Top-Notch Comics #1 (December, 1939), where he first appeared. It wasn't until the second issue that the tux turned a more traditional blue-black, the cape became red, and he added a mask to conceal his identity.
Of course, he was far from the only Mandrake clone in comic books — Zatara the Magician, for example, debuted simultaneous with Superman himself, and Fox's Zanzibar the Magician came not long after. In fact, The Wizard wasn't even the only Mandrake clone in Top-Notch Comics — while he was debuting in the book's lead position, Kardak the Mystic (who, like DC's Sargon the Sorcerer and Fawcett's Ibis the Invincible, belonged to the sub-species that wore turbans with their suits) was debuting in the back pages.
The Wizard's real name was Blane Whitney. Starting in early childhood, he worked to develop a "Super Brain". As a result of his rigorous training, he gained clairvoyance, psychokinesis and other powers that appear magical. Naturally, his extreme intelligence told him the best use of these powers would be to join the burgeoning throngs of superheroes.
He became more superhero-like in the seventh issue (August, 1940), in which he traded in the tux for more conventional superhero garb, blue skin-tights with red trunks, keeping only the mask, cape and moustache from his original togs. Also in that issue, he participated in what eventually became a staple of the superhero genre, the crossover, by having The Shield, from MLJ's Pep Comics as a guest star. An issue later, he became more superheroey yet, by adding a sidekick, Roy the Super-Boy (no relation).
The Wizard proved popular enough to get a comic of his own — almost. Shield-Wizard Comics, which he shared with his pal from Pep Comics, began with a Summer, 1940 cover date. Also, Roy teamed up regularly with The Shield's sidekick, Dustoy the Boy Detective, as Boy Buddies, in the back pages of The Hangman's comic. He lost some ground in the October, 1940 issue of Top-Notch, when The Black Hood started, and he had to share the covers with the new star. But he continued to appear in that position until #27 (May, 1942), after which he, like most of Top-Notch's non-humorous features, was dropped, and the comic's title was changed to Top-Notch Laugh in response to waning popularity of the superhero genre. Shield-Wizard Comics continued until Spring, 1944, but after that The Wizard wasn't seen for another couple of decades.
In the mid-1960s, Archie Comics (as MLJ had renamed itself, after its most enduring character) revived most of its old superheroes — but The Wizard was revived as a villain. In Fly Man #33 (September, 1965), he and The Hangman, another old good guy gone bad, returned to bedevil The Mighty Crusaders, the team comic where the company's current crop of super guys hung out. In this incarnation, The Wizard wore a completely different outfit, along with a thick, gray beard. You'd never even know it was the same character, if they hadn't made a point of mentioning his earlier career as a superhero.
He returned again in the '80s, a hero again, his '60s evil deeds (as well as his '60s new look) apparently forgotten. Since then, like most of the Archie-owned superheroes, he's been seen on rare occasions — not a regular character, by any means, but neither are any of them completely forgotten.