Comic Collection Review: Mandrake the Magicians Vol. 1 by Lee Falk & Phil Davis

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Welcome back True Believers as we once again go into the official Root Beer Party Comic Archives and check out one of our classic volumes.  Today we have a new collection brought to us by Titan Comics.  This is the first collection of daily strips of Mandrake the Magician by Lee Falk and drawn by Phil Davis.

This collection covers the first six adventures of Mandrake or 650 daily comics from 6/11/1934 – 7/18/1936, the first 2 years of one of comics most influential and classic adventure heroes.

We begin with Mandrakes first adventure where he confronts one of his most deadly villains, the Cobra.  The Cobra would appear many times over the course of Mandrake’s career.  He would become his most enduring villain and the mastermind behind many of the adventures that Mandrake would embark upon.

Here we see Mandrake as he was originally conceptualized.  He was a magician who could basically do just about anything.  In later life Mandrake would come to rely on Hypnosis as his main power, but in these original tales, he could do just about anything that the adventure required of him.  Some of the “magic” is a little far fetched by today’s standards of believability, but in the era before superheroes, Mandrake was his era’s equivalent to Doctor Strange.

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His companion Lothar is a bit of a historical anachronism in these comics, but taken in the context of the time, it was not an unpopular depiction of his faithful manservant.  Lothar would evolve over time into a progressive hero in his own right, but some people may be a little taken aback by the original concept of his character.

In the second adventure The Hawk, Mandrake has his first encounter with Princess Narda, who would become the main love interest of Mandrake later on.  As with most comics of the era, the beautiful damsel in distress was a common theme, but Narda would soon develop her own character and evolve into more than just a foil for Mandrake’s heroics.

mandrake_strip2The third adventure is The Monster of Tanov Pass.  It sets up a lot like Dracula but quickly turns into a Frankenstein style story.  Mandrake is confronted by a Mad doctor who has placed a human brain inside a giant ape and created a monster.  It sounds a lot like what would become a B movie serial from Universal Monsters and plays out in a similar fashion.  A bit predictable by today’s standards but unique for it’s time.  The ending where the Doctor learns from his evil deeds seems a little rushed, but redemption in a comic is not something that needed to be dragged out and tortured over like it is in today’s comics.

The forth adventure we meet Saki, the Clay Camel.  This is a great mystery tale about a thief who can take on any disguise to carry out his crime.  Princess Narda returns in this adventure and advances the storyline between herself and Mandrake.

In the fifth story The Werewolf, Mandrake uncovers a great mystery and even alludes to what the series was originally conceptualized as .  Mandrake is a magician and Lothar is a strongman.  They are taken from the old circus sideshows.  In this adventure he comes to the aid of another beautiful woman who is being tormented and frightened in order to drive her away from her family legacy.

The collection’s final tale involves Saki, the Clay Camel, once again.  In this one the thief takes on an amazing ability to change characters at the drop of a hat.  I think it was done in order to challenge Mandrakes immense growth in power at this point in the series.  It seems there is nothing Mandrake can’t do.  He draws the attention of Jane who is enthralled by his adventurous lifestyle, and in a rare play into humor, Mandrake finally sets her straight and she returns to her fiancé Ronald.

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All in all there is a lot of ground covered in the first two years of Mandrake the Magician.  The main characters and storylines which would stretch on for decades were all originally mapped out in these first few adventures.  If you like the modern magical stories of Doctor Strange or Harry Potter than you might like to see where it all began and check out this collection.  The high adventure of the 1930’s comics are really hard to beat for fast paced action and drama.

Mandrake was Lee Falk’s first creation and is considered to be one of the first superheroes in comics.  He would later create another iconic hero in The Phantom, but Mandrake was his original masterpiece.  So check this collection out, it really is well presented and is a great publication of one of the most influential comics of it’s era.  You can find it here at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mandrake-Magician-Dailies-1-Cobra/dp/1782766901/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485660473&sr=8-1&keywords=mandrake+the+magician+the+dailies+volume+1+-+the+cobra

So now we return this volume into the vast catacombs of bookshelves of The Official Root Beer Party Comics Archives, we hope that you will check it out and until next time True Believers,  may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

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