Saturday, July 30, 2016

At the 11th Hour, Call Doctor Mid-Nite...

Dr. Mid-Nite was, in a way, the child of the Black Bat and the father of Daredevil.
Blinded by a mobster’s grenade, Dr. Charles McNider lost the bandages over his eyes when a fortuitous owl crashed through his window and the surgeon discovered he could see in the dark.
Created by writer Chuck Reizenstein and Stan Asch, Dr. Mid-Nite first appeared in All-American Comics 25 (April 1941), a comic book headlined by a champion of light, the Green Lantern. The green-caped and red-vested Dr. Mid-Nite became its champion of darkness, wielding blackout bombs and assisted by that helpful owl. With infrared goggles of his own design, the hero was able to see in daylight as well. Like the Shadow, he made the very darkness an ally.
Though technologically savvy, McNider wasn’t very creative with names — he called his owl “Hooty” and sported a nom de guerre that sounded almost exactly like his own name.
But the real origin of his name was a wink at a radio melodrama then airing that boasted an audience in the millions. Captain Midnight featured a World War I flier fighting superhero battles against the villainous Ivan Shark as the head of the Secret Squadron, an aviation-oriented paramilitary organization. I suspect copyright infringement conerns were behind the idiosyncratic spelling “Mid-Nite.”
Turnabout being fair play, when Fawcett brought its version of Captain Midnight to the comic books in 1942, they superheroed-him up with “a skintight scarlet suit and used an array of gizmos like Dr. Mid-Nite which released clouds of blinding darkness,” Wikipedia notes.
Dr. Mid-Nite wasn’t the first superhero who could see in the dark. The Nyctalope, a French cyborg champion created by author Jean de La Hire in 1911, also had that power, among others. And Dr. Mid-Nite’s origin was virtually lifted from that of the Black Bat, the pulp superhero created in 1939 who had also been blinded by criminals, and who could also secretly see in the dark.
This disability-as-superability theme would be amplified and explored by Stan Lee and Bill Everett with Daredevil in 1964. Like both the Black Bat and Dr. Mid-Nite, attorney Matt Murdock would use his “blindness” as a convenient means of keeping people from suspecting his dual identity.

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