Thursday, October 2, 2014


I think we're owed a Hate Cupid series now.
Since the debut of the horror comic genre, it’s been the practice of the medium to employ the horror host. Primarily, the hosts gave horror-themed anthology comics such much needed personal branding – with the books typically featuring no recurring characters, no distinctive costumes, and starring a rotating cast of unlucky victims and slavering maniacs who’d very rarely repeat from one issue to the next (much less for an entire series’ run) the host provided a valuable identification mark for the returning reader as they perused their local drugstore’s new comic rack. Besides that, the hosts removed the reader a step back from the action, probably providing a valuable psychological buffer between the impressionable minds of the pre-adolescent reader and the horrors depicted therein. I dunno, though, I’m no child psychiatrist, probably we should leave these guessing games up to someone  more qualified, like Frederic Wertham.

The Man In Black Called Fate (so, therefore, “Fate” as his friends called him) was part of an exclusive fraternity of these hosts who not only played the role of narrator and subtext-illustrator, but played an intercessory role in the stories themselves!

While characters like the Mysterious Traveler made a habit of kibitzing all the way through some unfortunate’s journey of terror, The Man In Black Called Fate (also, according to his personal CV, called Destiny or Kismet, and I assume also Prince and The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, and also for one album of 90s contemporary pop “Chris Gaines”) actually interfered in his subject’s tales – sometimes unwillingly.

Among his supernatural powers - petty vandalism!
Also unique for the Man in Black was that he was part of a larger cast of characters, all of whom often played a role of some sort in the story. Fate himself was specifically the right-hand man of The Weaver, an extrapolation of the Fates or Norns or possibly actually one of these mythological figures left remaining after some sort of celestial downsizing. The Man in Black acted as her agent on Earth, ensuring that destiny played through as depicted on the Weaver’s tapestries, so basically he was kind of her gofer. He got coffee … FOR THE GODS!

Hampering The Man in Black in his earthly efforts was basically every other god and spirit in mythology, depicted in this series as a gaggle of impetuous, argumentative and generally troublesome meddlers and near-omnipotent layabouts who messed around with human affairs just to pass the time. While the “Hate Cupids” promised on the debut cover of his revival at Harvey Comics never really manifested themselves, despite the obvious promise of the idea, Fate does have to tap-dance around Aphrodite and Cupid generally hanging out where he works and telling him how to stock the Twinkie machine.

The Man in Black and his assorted cast of daffy deities was created by Bob Powell, which is pretty much the kind of suspense and horror story you might expect from a guy who’d been hanging around Will Eisner and Wally Wood most of his career. By which I mean the series abounded in “irony and sometimes tits.”

This is pure gold.

While Fate and his colleagues kibitzed from the panel gutters (which, make no mistake, that is legit a groundbreaking innovation in comic book storytelling) like some sort of four-color MST3K, the Man in Black did his best to ensure proscribed and ironic endings for such tense tales as a nervous sculptor actually managing to sculpt something after all and a pair of American art dealers scamming a rural European genius and ending up on the Andrea Doria. Which I’m sure is ironic, let me diagram it a

Alternatively peevish and smug, and representing an apparent cosmology where the gods of the universe grated on one another’s nerves and watched humanity for entertainment (which, you know, sounds about right), Fate made for a fun character. Although the Man in Black was never revived, he was of course reinvented as Johnny Cash, and now you know … the rest of the tale!

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