Friday, April 24, 2015


Quality Comics long-defunct and only occasionally revived line-up includes an improbable street level crimefighter named The Jester - secretly police officer Chuck Lane, latest in a long line of men descended from medieval court jesters, the crime-fightingest profession of them all. Donning an absurd, checkered, green, red and yellow suit, complete with dangly bells and both checks and stripes, "The Man Who Laughs At Crime" made for an unlikely superhero.

However, he's also something of a johnny-come-lately, bearing the name and costume of a villain who'd debuted against an even unlikelier Quality Comics character - Madam Fatal!

Fatal was famously comics' first (and still one of its very few) cross-dressing superheroes. A vigilante seeking out his long-lost daughter and the man who abducted her, Fatal - by way of cleverly disguising himself as he sought out his abducted darling - lived a convincing false life as a doddering old broad living in a crummy apartment building. And whose last name was "Fatal" (Probably she told everyone "it was Fatalovitch in the old country, but we change it here in America!").

Madam Fatal was shy on recurring villains and nemeses - it might've blown her cover to have a regular rogues gallery, as it would only take two villains telling the story of getting beaten down by the same blue-haired old dowager before things got weird - but The Jester makes for a colorful exception.

"Just a little trick I picked  up from Donkey Kong"

Billed as "The Man Who Laughs at Death" (all jesters gotta laugh at something, I guess), the Jester embarks on a crime wave across the city, leaving unconscious bodies lying around willy-nilly, despite being pictured repeatedly with a smoking gun.

The Jester is obviously being set up for a spin-off, or possibly as a partner for Madam Fatal, whose gimmick was getting a little long in the tooth. Despite being a crook and a thief, the Jester also proves to have something of a conscience, which spurs him to protecting a scientist named Mason from a gang working under the much less considerate crook Ratney.

While a member of Ratney's mob impersonates the Jester in order to pin the theft of a secret formula on the costumed criminal, Jester and Madam Fatal combine forces to retrieve the important chemical concoction and rout Ratney's rotters. In something of an afterthought, we're also informed that the real Jester is Robert Mason, the long-lost son of the beleaguered scientist mentioned above.

Where the Jester spent his missing years, why he embarked on a life of crime, and where he went following his single appearance in Crack Comics No.10, that's all a mystery. A few months later, the nearly-identical and less ambiguously heroic Jester took over the name and costume. I like to imagine they met at a gathering for men who've traced their genealogy back to medieval court jesters, and therefore dress up like clowns and either become career criminals or colorful vigilantes. They sound like a fun bunch.

No comments:

Popular Posts