Thursday, October 27, 2016


"No thank you, I don't smoke."

The most prominent character to boast the moniker of The Black Orchid still thrives these days, in one form or another, having appeared as a mysterious superhero in the Seventies and spending some time as a woo-woo talking tree spirit monster thing in a Vertigo title later on. Me, I prefer that time she was in the Super Friends comic, because she looked exactly like a tulip bulb with arms.

She maced the dude.
At least two other female crimefighters used the handle prior to DC locking it down. No particularly common thread tied them together -- different costumes, different costume colors, different types of supporting casts, different calling cards, etc. Just the name united these two flowery florid crimefighters...

The Black Orchid who appeared in the monochrome red(-and-pink) pages of Tops Comics vol.1 No.2000 (wow!) from the excitingly-named Consolidated Book Publishers was "glamorous" Diana Dawn, a secretary to the district attorney and possessor of a magic ring of severely limited potential.

While other magic rings may have allowed its wearers to fly, shoot force beams, turn invisible or what-have-you, Diana's mysterious magic ring -- shat smoke. "Black vapors" would emerge from the ring at Diana's command, and I imagine these being the same thing as cartoon stink lines which you might see emanating from an outhouse in a Beetle Bailey cartoon.

Diana could have used a few more powers, since she barely seems to get out of her adventures with her clothes intact. Albert and Florence Magarian, the strip's creators, were apparently of the mind that a dishabelle damsel in distress would move volumes. In each of the two episodes which described the arc of her career, Black Orchid managed to lose her jacket and her clothes (grabbed by the villainous "Dr.Arso," lol, in one case and burned from her body in another). This left her fighting crime an spewing smoke in her skivvies. Frankly, this is a burlesque act worth reviving -- a stripping woman in a domino mask surrounded by smoke bombs. It's a fire hazard, but it would pack the house.

"While you're out, could you pick up a case of crumbling skyscrapers and some Pepsi?"

Meanwhile, the Black Orchid who appeared in All-new Short Story Comics No.2 was part of a working pair of crimefighters. Private Eye Rocky Ford and his assistant Judy Allen - names which wouldn't sound out of place if they were announced as guest panelists on What's My Line? -- both maintain superheroic alter egos. The thing is --- neither of them knows that the other is doing it!

"It's the safe, reasonable sign
of the Black Orchid!"
Rocky is The Scarlet Nemesis, a red-and-yellow crimefighter with a miner's lamp built into his mask. The overall effect is that of a hot dog with mustard which doubles as a lighthouse. His other powers include hitting dudes and staying awake after dudes hit him.

Judy boasts more style as The Black Orchid, in a fetching all-black figure-hugger and indigo cape. She also boasts a signature calling card - a black orchid tied to a knife that she just straight throws at dudes like right next to their faces and hands and stuff. I feel like she must carry a lot of knives and orchids with her all the time. Maybe she keeps them in the car.

In their sole adventure, Nemesis and Orchid fight a bird-crazed character called Jim Crow who loves birds and is willing to destroy whole cities so that the pigeon can live there in peace. Yo, man, the pigeons live there because people give them bread an stuff. Also your name is racist af.

Judith manages to get tied up on the splash panel and knocked unconscious halfway through the story, but she's still cooler than Rocky in either of his identities. Black is both slimming and looks better on crimefighters than yellow and orange. This is why Batman has like fourteen movies to Captain Marvel's none-so-far.

Lack of communication is the number one reason relationships fail.


Unknown said...

I think Consolidated's Black Orchid would have been better in longer stories. "Come on bad guys, she's still got clothes on! Keep fighting for a few more pages!!!" ;-)


James W. Fry 3.0 said...

Lord Jeebus, I'm a sucker for "If only he/ she knew..." In the sixties, Captain Atom,his archenemy The Ghost and distaff crimefighter Nightshade were all close friends---unwittingly, in their civilian identities. Frankly, outside of the Ditko artwork, that was my favorite thing about the series. You'd never get away with a storyline like that today---especially since it makes all your characters look like fucking idiots. Wa
tch me try it anyway someday.

James W. Fry 3.0 said...

Also, I can't believe you completely ignored "The Baxter Building's been blown up, Judy!" Really? REALLY??? I know some guys are above going after the low-hanging fruit, but come ON, Jon ....

Britt Reid said...

In point of fact, Captain Marvel had a movie serial before Batman (or Superman).

Calamity Jon said...

That was not really the point I was blithely making but, sure, that's factually correct.

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