Friday, October 17, 2008

Frightening First Fridays: Deadman

I can't wait any longer! For sixteen days I put it off, but Ol' Groove is only human. I can't go another day of... without sharing the story of my all-time favorite supernatural superhero, Deadman!

Created with equal parts desperation and inspiration by Arnold Drake, designed with class and dynamism by Carmine Infantino, and made legendary by the stunning art of Neal Adams, Deadman was the character that truly broke the DC mold. Boston Brand (Deadman's alter ego) was an unlikeable show-off with a chip on his shoulder that was matched in size only by his ego. He was a trapeze artist for a flea-bag circus. He was murdered by seemingly random circumstances by a one-armed man who was being initiated into a secret crime society. His one act of kindness toward an Indian fakir granted him the power to posses the bodies of others as he tried to track down his murderer. No rich playboys out for revenge, here. No strange beings from other planets, noble police scientists, fearless test pilots, or policemen from other planets. Marvel Comics had been stealing DC's thunder by nabbing the college crowd for most of the Silver Age. Now DC was going after the grown-ups!

I first discovered Deadman's origin when it was re-printed in the back of Brave and the Bold #97 (May, 1971), and immediately flipped over the character. I was just getting serious about comics (I'd picked 'em up now and again, but looked at the pictures and lost 'em, traded 'em, or whatever...but by 71, I could actually read 'em!), and Deadman was like nothing I'd ever seen. In his origin story he was mean, sullen, and yet there was a cool factor about him. And the idea that he was really dead...that he had to actually die to get his powers? Man, Young Groove really dug that for some reason. B&B kept reprinting those Deadman stories from Strange Adventures (issues 205-216), and I kept reading--and loving--them, especially when Neal Adams took over the art chores. Now those team-ups with Batman in earlier issues of B&B (#s 79 and 86), as well as those cool back-ups in Aquaman (issues 50-52, December, 1969-March, 1970) made a lot more sense. Soon, Deadman was appearing in the Justice League of America (#94, August, 1971), the Forever People--by Jack Kirby, no less (Forever People #s 9-10, May-June, 1972), the Phantom Stranger (#33, July, 1974), and after that, seemingly everywhere, like in World's Finest (#s 223, 226, 227, 230), back in the Phantom Stranger (issues 39-41, August-December, 1975) and Brave and the Bold (#133, January, 1977), then DC Special Series #8, DC Super-Stars #18, Challengers of the Unknown #87, and finally, back in his own series (by Len Wein, Jim Aparo, and Jose Louis Garcia-Lopez) in Adventure Comics (issues 459-466). Young Groove tracked Deadman down with the same zeal of Boston Brand tracking down his one-armed killer.

But Groove, you're saying, this is a First Friday. Let's have the origin, man! Okay, first up is the creation of Deadman, in his creator Arnold Drake's own words (from the Deadman mini-series, issue #1, February, 1985):And now, for our main feature, the origin of Deadman, from Strange Adventures #205 (July, 1967)!


  1. very sweet! gotta admit, I've been wondering how long it'd be before you got around to Boston Brand. what a cracking yarn, and how cool is that art? nice one, centurian!

  2. Glad you dug the post, man! Yeah, I was actually planning to save Deadman for the week of Halloween, but I was afraid some cool cat blogger out there would beat me to it! ;D

    Infantino's designs, layouts, and storytelling in this particular story are brilliant, aren't they? I suppose folks were used to his brilliance, though, 'cause it was Adams' art that shook everyone up. Weird in a way, but not weird in another...



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