ZANZIBAR THE MAGICIANOriginal Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Fox Feature Syndicate
First Appeared: 1939
Creators: Unknown writer and George Tuska, artist
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There's little doubt that Superman triggered the superhero phenomenon in American comic books of the early 1940s, and that most members of the genre were inspired by him. But terms of who they were copying, a lot owed more to Mandrake the Magician than to the Man of Tomorrow. Mandrake imitators were so common among
the first wave of superheroes, readers practically had to look at their headgear to tell them apart. Some, such as Zatara the Magician and the early Wizard, wore top hats as part of their stage magician outfits. Others, such as Lando, Man of Magic, and Ibis the Invincible, wore turbans. Zanzibar the Magician stood out from the crowd. He wore a fez.
Otherwise, Zanzibar was pretty much like the others. Instead of confining his magic-making activities to the stage, which is what he dressed for, he liked to go adventuring and duke it out with villains. And he augmented his stage magic skills with a little real magic. Nothing fancy, just a little telekinesis and hypnotic mind control, but he was also stronger than normal humans.
He was a product of Fox Feature Syndicate, a publisher not noted for its startling originality even in a field of very derivative publishers; hence the general sameness of his appearance and behavior except for the superficial difference of the hat. He first appeared in Mystery Men Comics #1 (August, 1939), the comic that also introduced Rex Dexter of Mars, The Green Mask and more. His original writer isn't known for sure (tho Will Eisner, creator of The Spirit, is a credible candidate), but the artist was George Tuska (Scorchy Smith, Buck Rogers).
Zanzibar never made the cover, but he did get around during his brief existence — his stories were seen in the back pages of The Blue Beetle's, The Flame's and other heroes' titles, as well as in all subsequent issues of Mystery Men (no relation, by the way).
But Mystery Men Comics ended with its 31st issue (February, 1942), and Zanzibar went away with it. Despite having long since fallen into the public domain and thus become easy prey for any publisher interested in taking him, Zanzibar, offering little that can't be found in a dozen other public-domain characters, hasn't been revived.