Last summer this blog explored the Golden Age comic theme of spectral avengers: murdered men who return from the afterlife as spirits of vengeance. The series of three posts discussed DC’s Spectre, MLJ’s Mr. Justice, and Gerona’s Duke of Darkness, three characters whose appearances were more than a bit similar. A few months ago I discovered a fourth spectral avenger (coincidentally from the same publisher as the aforementioned Duke of Darkness) which we’ll examine in today’s post.

The Collector was a pretty uninspired bit of business from Rural Home/Gerona Publishing, a somewhat fly-by-night publishing company which was discussed in some slight detail in the third part of our “spectral avenger” series. Due to the haphazard style of the publisher’s indicia, it’s not possible to reliably determine whether The Duke of Darkness or The Collector was the first to hit newsstands. The similarity of narrative (if not artistic design) is striking; both characters are police murdered in the line of duty who are given a “second chance” to exist in our mortal coil. While The Duke of Darkness (who has made two appearances in this blog, in the immediately previous link and in a post detailing his origin) is portrayed as a creepy spectre (*cough, cough*), The Collector is simply returned to life (as shown on the tale’s ninth page), albeit with some new superhuman powers – although it’s not expressly stated in the story, the first panel on page 10 indicates that the character now has super-speed, being as he’s able to outrun a speeding vehicle.

The story’s a lackluster affair overall, with the setup taking eight pages (although, in its defense, it is an origin story) and the predictable climax and denouement seemingly rushed and shoehorned into the final two pages. And “final” they were – this was The Collector’s only appearance, as well as the only issue of Mask Comics; the issue numbering was carried over from a previously discontinued magazine in order to circumvent postal regulations.

It’s of a bit more interest to speculate on why so many comics featuring resuscitated protagonists appeared during the same decade. I would like to be able to point to the 1941 Robert Montgomery and Claude Rains hit Here Comes Mr. Jordan as the main influence, but that movie was released a year after The Spectre made his first comic book appearance (and the plot and tone of the movie don’t match the “spectral avenger” theme anyway). There’s also I Married a Witch (briefly cited last fall in this blog) which also dealt with reincarnation and the supernatural, but that too was a comedy. And as long as we’re chasing the reincarnation red herring, we could toss Karloff’s classic The Mummy into the mix, but now we’re really going off-track. Ultimately, I’m stumped as to why the trope became so popular in such a short time.

Of mild curiosity to modern readers is the question of why Riodan would be standing in a trash can while directing traffic. It’s not a trash can; that would be dumb. The “can” is actually a shield to help protect the officer from being struck by a passing vehicle, as well as a device to make the officer more noticeable as he directs traffic. While these devices have gone the way of the dinosaur, they weren’t uncommon during the middle decades of the last century.

Now for your reading pleasure, here’s yet another “spectral avenger” story Golden Age style, courtesy of Comic Book Plus. As always, right-click a pic and open it in a new tab to embiggenize it.

Mask Comics #2, April-May 1945

Mask Comics #2, April-May 1945

Mask Comics #2, April-May 1945

Mask Comics #2, April-May 1945

Mask Comics #2, April-May 1945

Mask Comics #2, April-May 1945

Mask Comics #2, April-May 1945

Mask Comics #2, April-May 1945

Mask Comics #2, April-May 1945

Mask Comics #2, April-May 1945

Have fun! — Steve

Comic images are public domain. Text copyright 2016, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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