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MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN SUNDAYS Volume 1

MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN SUNDAYS Volume 1
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Bud's Highest Recommendation
This is not from one the traditional archives publishers but from Titan Books, and thus is priced at less than we are used to for such a handsome package. But that is just the beginning. Bear with me here—I know that many fans dismiss magician characters—there were a zillion of them in the 1940s and onward, and most were not very interesting. Here, however, is the very first one of them all. And better yet, Mandrake is beautifully written by Lee Falk, who also created and was writing the world famous Phantom at just the same time.

And the art is by Phil Davis, a superlative artist that came out of the advertising world (I compare him to Hal Foster, who was also a full blown professional when he was tapped to do Tarzan in the daily papers in 1929). Phil Davis' artwork is VERY much in the style and splendor of Alex Raymond, wonderful brush work and highly original. I kid you not.

Even better, the Lee Falk stories are captivating and page-turners from the very beginning. Mandrake has occasionally caught my eye with this early art style, and with a sci-fi sequence I'd seen a page or two from. But until this collection, I'd never sat down and read his adventures. I now know what I was missing, and I want you to know just how good these are.

To force a comparison, think of Gil Kane's 1960's Green Lantern, when GL used his power ring to create all sorts of things to aid him in battle. That's how Mandrake works—he sports a suit coat and hat and sleek 1930s pants and vest and cape, very much in the style of The Thin Man and the handsome 1930s detective heroes in the films. But he isn't a two-fisted cowboy type...he uses his head and his illusions and his (somewhat superhero-ish) magical abilities to fool and change and create when he needs to defend himself and the beautiful damsels in distress who are part of EVERY early adventure. His companion Lothar gets to do the muscle work when it's called for, and he's more than willing.

In fact, the strip opens with Mandrake's beautiful companion, a woman he quickly turns into a panther at a wave of his hand. For weeks (remember these are Sunday pages) we don't know if she's actually a woman or a real panther. She mysteriously never speaks. But from there it goes on to one beautiful lady after another, each one in a new adventure as Mandrake and Lothar quite literally tour far corners of the world in search of adventure.
The absolute killer episode is when they both go into Dimension X, in search of the (again, beautiful) daughter of a scientist. It's sci-fi at its best, with human-like robots on wheels, hairy men, tree people...it's like Flash Gordon on Mongo and all the crazy races there. But this is even weirder in an alien dimension! If you've ever read the Philip Pullman trilogy, His Dark Materials, you just might recognize the wheeled other-dimensional people in The Subtle Knife are a LOT like the folks in this 1937 Mandrake episode!

I took a copy to the Vintage Paperback show, not really the venue for it, but I liked it so much I wanted to have one there. Dealer and old friend Tony Raiola was there—many of you may know him as the longtime newspaper strips expert and also the publisher of the Pacific Comics Club reprint books. I took it over to his booth because I just wanted to share with him how much I liked it, knowing that Tony had surely read all the Mandrake adventures long ago. Turns out the hadn't yet seen this new book, and practically snatched it out of my hands. So he got my copy, and I got to tell him how much I'd enjoyed reading it. It gets my highest recommendation and I hope you will check it out. Review by Bud / (Posted on 5/13/2016)

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