Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Black and White Wednesday: Black Brother

The only story I've never seen reprinted from Marvel's legendary Savage Tales #1 (February 1971) is Black Brother. Written by Denny O'Neil (under his nom de plume Sergius O'Shaugnessey), this story is part of O'Neil's "socially conscious" phase. While he was turning the comicbook world on its ear over at DC with his ground-breaking "relevant" work on Green Lantern/Green Arrow, he quietly slipped over to Marvel and wrote this story (to have been the first in a series) expressing his views on, as the editorial in the issue calls it, "...the awakening giant which is the New Africa, the Emerging Nations, the Third World." At first glance, one might think of Black Brother (especially due to that horrible title) as part of the then-popular "blaxploitation" movement, but that's until you read it. After you read it, though, you're still wondering, "What's it doing in a mag called Savage Tales?" Maybe O'Neil had some savage adventures in store for our hero after this set-up story. Maybe Editor Stan Lee just liked the story but had no where else to put such an adult piece. Here's a bit more insight from the editorial: "This tale may offend someone who's political education ended with Uncle Tom's Cabin. But it isn't designed to offend. Not anybody. It's simply a story--or at least, the beginning of a story--that we thought ought to be told. And to the best of our humble ability, it tells it like it is. The heroes are real because they are fallible. The villains live and breathe--because they don't really think they are villains at all, you see. But if each of them has God on its side--then who is left over to referee?" The fact is that Black Brother is there. And wonderfully illustrated by the team-supreme of Gene Colan and Tom Palmer, to boot. Dig it...


  1. Savage Tales was Marvel's first attempt at an adult comic, and featured more explicit violence and (near) nudity. In retrospect it seems much to tame to compete with the underground comics and yet too spicy to fit the general comics-buying public of the time. Of course as a 16-year-old boy back then, I loved it; only wish I'd taken better care of my copy.

  2. When I met Denny at a con in '99 and had him sign Savage Tales #1 for me, he indicated that the finished product was not totally his - there was some editorial re-writing.
    Also, it is a "savage" tale when you consider what the protagonist's wife did to him (betrayal).

  3. I've wanted to read this one ever since I first learned about it--one of the very few Marvel characters that hasn't been revisited since the Bronze Age (so far as I know). Now with this additional exposure, I wouldn't be surprised to see someone incorporate "Black Brother" into a modern strip.

  4. I used to won this comic book long, long ago and forgot about this story. Good stuff. Hey Groovy Agent, I do not see much underground stuff here (and that is cool) but I recently got in scans of Death Rattle from Kitchen Sink and some great stuff by Rand Holmes. I owe you for Red Nails. I can make a rapidhsare link and get that to you unless you already ahve all stuff. I will send a selection of the best. Or hang loose and I will do a post at the Cafe soon (tech issues lately have me way behind) and let you get them there.

    Keep it up.

  5. I'd love to see those scans, Bill! I was too young for the Undergrounds, but I sho nuff do appreciate 'em now.



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