Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Red Mask, the first black masked hero or a white man who passed as black?


Some readers argue that the Red Mask, a dark-skinned man who was clearly inspired by the Phantom, was the first black comic book superhero. Some insist he was a white man who acquired a dark tan after staying in Africa. The mystery of his identity had not been revealed when his newspaper strip was cancelled in 1936. He is Schrodinger's black masked hero.

But even if the writer intended to reveal him as white, the white cast thought he was black. Either way, he's an unusual character in the very white history of masked adventure heroes.

Sadly, the only scans I've found of his first adventures are in muddy black and white, but the dialogue is clear:

After his strip was cancelled, some of his story was published in the first four issues of Best Comics. The Digital Comic Museum provides these pages from the second:

The Best Comics covers aren't helpful for deciding his race. The interiors kept him dark-skinned, but after the first issue, he looked white on the covers. Via Comicvine:


Out Of This World: Early Black Comic Book Heroes: The Red Mask

Stripper's Guide: The Comics of Syndicated Features: Adventures of the Red Mask