Dakor the Magician

First Appearance: Mystic Comics #1 (March 1940).
Golden Age Appearances: Mystic Comics #1-3.
Modern Appearances: None.
Years Active: 1940-?

Dakor the Magician was--

(Who?)

Dakor is, for better or worse, about as obscure as a Timely hero can get. He appeared in Mystic Comics, and while Timely's dumping ground for new and unproven heroes and strips was Daring Mystery Comics, Mystic wasn't that far behind. To use a DC equivalent, Dakor isn't the Whip or the Black Pirate. Dakor is Timely's Sandra Of The Secret Service.

(Who?)

(Sandra was an obscure back-up who appeared briefly in the pages of New Fun and More Fun Comics.)

Dakor is a magician (hence his title). He's also a detective, and is described as dealing only with "unusual crimes." "His fees are high." But "his name is enough to strike terror into the hearts of criminals the world over."

Dakor is in his office, telling his assistant Williams that "things are a little quiet of late...guess people can't afford high-priced crimes these days." A man bursts in, complains that "the Ruby" has been stolen (this episode is called "The Blooded Ruby of Chung"), and then dies. Dakor goes to the dying man's father and finds out that the dying man's father stole (or had stolen) the ruby from "the oriental god Chung," and that his son's best friend saw the ruby and went mad with greed for it. So the best friend killed the son and fled with the Ruby.

Dakor, hired by the father, pursues the murderer--Tom Denver--to France. Finding that the murderer has joined the Foreign Legion, Dakor signs up too. (500 net.points to the person who correctly identifies what then-popular book this comic has stolen its plot from.) Denver, beset by paranoia, gets into a fight with the other Legionnaires over the ruby, and is about to get jumped and gang-slapped when Dakor saves him, conjuring up lions from nowhere to protect Denver. Later that night Dakor has hypnotized Denver so that Dakor can steal the ruby when he, Dakor, gets caught by the night guard, clubbed unconscious, and thrown in the guardhouse.

Then the Tuaregs attack. (Oh, sorry, didn't I mention we were in the desert now? No? Well, neither did the strip. It just assumed that the reader would assume that if the French Foreign Legion is involved, the scene will be set in a desert. There's both historical reasons for this--the French Foreign Legion had been busy enforcing France's will in the deserts of North Africa for decades when Dakor's adventures were written--and pop-cultural ones--c'mon, you haven't seen any of the endless Beau Geste movies?) The Legionnaires fight off the Tuaregs, with Denver deserting in mid-battle. Dakor pursues him (after turning the gun of a Legionnaire--who'd tried to stop Dakor--into a snake) but then gets caught by the Tuaregs and thrown into the Tuareg prison where Denver is confined. Denver mentions something about Dakor not getting the ruby, the Tuareg guard overhears him, one thing leads to another, and Dakor has to save Denver from being executed. Dakor ends up killing the chief of the Tuaregs--Denver having been rendered hors de combat by a guard--and recovers the ruby. Dakor then leaves the Tuaregs, calling down a sandstorm on their heads, and goes to "the land of the God, Kung...the great god Kung, revered by millions of Orientals, and over whom it almost exercises the power of life and death."

Kung's a big statue, almost Buddha like, but exhaling a continuous gout of smoke and possessing a long, drooping mustache and beard. Dakor sneaks into the temple of Kung, but while replacing the ruby in Kung's eye is seen by a priest of Kung, who orders Kung's followers to attack Dakor. They are about to slice up Dakor when Kung speaks (Dakor's ventriloquism at work) and tells them "Harm not the white man. He is your friend. Kung commands!" So the Kung cultists let Dakor go. He returns home and collects his check for $50,000.

In the adventures that follow Dakor rescues the British consul at Singapore, who's been captured by "Chinese bandits" who have taken him to Borneo (this is like saying that some Californians captured a British businessman in Florida and took him to Texas...oy...rarely has the Golden Age ignorance of foreign nations and peoples been so openly displayed). Next Dakor rescues the daughter of a friend, who has been kidnaped by a Sikh/Hindu tribe to serve as their Jungle Goddess (who really does seem to be hungry, at the end, for a hamburger sammich and some french-fried potatoes). And that's it for Dakor.

Visually, Dakor cuts a neat figure. He's got a nice blue half-jacket over a red cummerbund, a white dress shirt under that with no tie, and dress pants. The art for the strip is nothing particularly special, neither outstanding good nor eye-poppingly bad. The writing is average as well. But what you have to understand about Dakor is that he's part of the Mandrake Effect.

It is, perhaps, difficult for modern readers to completely comprehend the effect that Mandrake the Magician had on both comic creators and comic readers during the Golden Age. Lee Falk introduced Mandrake in 1934. Before Mandrake there were few, if any, strips involving magicians. After Mandrake a magician strip was almost required to use the Mandrake template. Mandrake became the archetype for magical strips and characters. There's no real modern analogue to it. It's almost as if, after the X-Files hit it big, every tv show that dealt with aliens, regardless of genre, had to be the X-Files.

There's always an element of copying-what's-hot in popular culture, and the influence of the X-Files on the tv shows that came out right after it became popular was clear, for there were a couple of blatant X-Files rip-offs. What's most remarkable about the Mandrake Effect, though, is that A) Mandrake dominated an entire genre, and B) he dominated it for a good ten years, which in Golden Age comics was an eternity. It wasn't until Dr. Fate came along, in 1940, that comic readers saw a magician who was significantly different from Mandrake. And Dr. Fate was a fluke; the magicians who came along after him (as main characters, I mean) were virtually all Mandrake copies. (Even Ibis the Invincible, the other major non-Mandrake magician, was not that dissimilar from Mandrake, although he had enough charms of his own to overcome that and make him distinctive in his own right.)

Actually, I just thought of one similarly dominant text: Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. It, too, dominated the fantasy field for years and years, still does, to a frighteningly large degree.

And that's who Dakor is ripping off (put more politely, that's the genre and archetype he's working from). He's got Mandrake's pencil-thin mustache and snazzy threads, as well as the vaguely-defined powers of Mandrake, who initially did have magic powers before they were replaced with hypnotism and the quick Mandrake wit.

One significant difference between Dakor and Mandrake is that Mandrake was a moral and good man. Dakor...well, his seeming insistence on being paid to solve crimes makes him not quite such a sterling person. Admittedly, he's a detective, and we are, I suppose, meant to think about the classic private eyes, who hire out to solve their crimes, but Dakor has magical powers, and doesn't have a need for cash. The fact that he charges for his time and actions doesn't speak well for him.

Frankly, Dakor does little for me. The best of the Mandrake rip-offs was DC's Zatara, who at least had Fred Guardineer art going for him as well as some creepy Gardner Fox scripts. What Fox understood, and what the creative team on Dakor apparently did not, is that magic, as a story device, is usually so undefined that pitting a magician (like Dakor) against non-magic-wielding adversaries (like the bums-of-the-month that he went up against) is a complete mismatch. It's like making Superman's enemies be common thugs (which happened in the Golden Age, of course, and which was also a writing mistake). There's no creative tension, because there's no way the magician is going to lose--no way, that is, unless you stack the deck with improbabilities and ridiculous happenings and coincidences. For a character like Dakor to work, he has to have magical or monstrous opponents, someone or something that can challenge him. Dakor didn't. And that's one of the many reasons why Dakor is almost wholly forgettable.


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