Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Black Hood: On the Page and in the Air

In the early 1940s, the Black Hood became MLJ Comics’ first cross-media star. The feat would later be repeated by Archie Andrews and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
Created by Harry Shorten and Al Camy for Top-Notch Comics 9 (1940), the Black Hood was New York City police officer Kip Burland, framed and all but murdered by the green-masked arch-criminal the Skull. Nursed back to health and trained by a hermit, Burland dons a black mask and yellow tights to evade both the police and criminals in his war to bring the Skull to justice, and finally clears his name.
Oddly for a company that would later be defined by Archie’s light-hearted romantic high jinks, MLJ’s superheroes often had brutally violent adventures in the 1940s. Light on super powers, the protagonists leaned toward being somewhat interchangeable tough bruisers in tights. Even the Shield, who began as a superman, eventually lost his powers.
The Black Hood also starred in a pulp magazine, Black Hood Detective, which morphed into Hooded Detective. “The Black Hood’s pulp adventures lasted only three issues, dated September, 1941, November, 1941, and January, 1942,” Richard Lupoff wrote. “The demise of the magazine may have resulted from paper rationing imposed by the government, the United States having entered World War II on Dec. 7, 1941.
“For the pulp adventures of the Black Hood, (publisher Louis) Silberkleit obtained the literary services of George Roberts, a solidly competent pulp scrivener who used the by-line G.T. Fleming-Roberts,” Lupoff wrote. “For the three book-length adventures of the Black Hood, Roberts grappled with some serious problems involved in converting a comic book hero to a pulp adventurer.”
“Kip wears his Black Hood costume under his street clothes, and in at least one instance we see him strip to his tights, hide his civvies in the bushes outside a mansion, and set off to chase the crooks. He seems to have forgotten to come back for them. Or maybe I missed that in all the excitement.”
“Roberts modified the Black Hood’s costume by adding a flowing black cloak, permitting him to disappear into the shadows when it suited him. (Shades of Walter Gibson's crime-fighter, the Shadow.)”
The Black Hood debuted on radio’s Mutual Network in 1943. Using Paul Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice as its theme music, the 15-minute show ran for 120 episodes over six months and starred Scott Douglas as Kip Burland/The Black Hood. Marjorie Cramer played his Margo Lane-like friend and confidant, reporter Barbara Sutton.
Sound effects: GONG Hit
ANNCR: The Black Hood!
ANNCR: Criminals beware... The Black Hood is everywhere!
HOOD: (filter) I, the Black Hood do solemnly swear that neither threat, nor bribe, nor bullet, nor death itself -- will keep me from fulfilling my vow: To erase crime from the face of the earth!
MUSIC: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, by Paul Dukas. UP AND FADE OUT UNDER ANNCR.
ANNCR: The Black Hood, who is really patrolman Kip Burland, a fact known only to newspaper woman Barbara Sutton, has just been talking to Barbara on the phone. They were discussing the old Miracle Man and his strange housekeeper Womba. Sergeant McGinty, Patrolman Burland's superior had thought their visit to the Voodoo doctor merely routine. But Kip Burland and Barbara Sutton were fascinated by the black magic of the Old Miracle Man. In fact, the old man had given Barbara an odd emerald ring in a twined serpent setting. Womba, the old housekeeper had objected to the gift. We find the telephone conversation between Burland and Barbara Sutton has been interrupted by a stranger at Barbara’s door — Burland is holding the line.
BARBARA: (Screams) What are you doing here with a gun? You can't come in!
GUNMAN: Oh, I can't --eh? Well, I’m coming in, and no one's going to stop me, either! Not till I get what I came for.
KIP: (filter) Barbara, are you alright?
GUNMAN: There's no one around. I checked and made sure the doorman was out...
KIP: (filter) Barbara!
GUNMAN: I came in and walked up the stairs...
KIP: Well, I've heard enough of that! I'd better get over to Barbara’s right away... (deeper) It’s time for THE BLACK HOOD to go to work!...
The Black Hood’s 1940s superheroic career was wide-ranging but short-lived. During the summer of 1946, in Black Hood Comics 19, he became one of the few Golden Age superheroes to have his secret identity exposed. Captured and unmasked by the Dick Tracyesque criminal Needlenoodle, Burland abandons his costumed identity and opens the Black Hood Detective Agency.
That development was conveniently forgotten, however, when the Black Hood returned to fight Silver Age crime in The Fly and the Black Hood Join Forces (The Adventures of the Fly 7, July 1960).

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