Introducing the world’s first comic book super hero, predating Superman by almost four years. Created by the legendary Lee Falk (creator of the Phantom) and drawn by Phil Davis, Mandrake the Magician and his ever-trusty man-servant, Lothar, first appeared to battle crime in 1934. This collection reprints the first 2 & 1/2 years worth of full-colour Sunday newspaper strips that debuted in 1935 – from The Hidden Kingdom of Murderers to Prince Paulo the Tyrant.
Titan brings us the first modern reprints of Mandrake, in this well-composed collection. As this publisher has shown through their Flash Gordon series they take newspaper reprints seriously and execute extraordinary well. The source of the material isn’t provided but colour restoration is credited to Ivan Pederson, with relettering by DML. Included here are the first six complete stories from Mandrake’s Sundays.
The stories can only be described as bizarre, but in an entertaining way. Mandrake is some sort of magician who can perform any feat, as long as he can make eye contact with the affected. While it seems to be illusions or hypnosis later on Mandrake is flying, shrinking, and all manner of extraordinary. No real explanation of why he wears a stage magician’s outfit, or how he’s able to do what he does. The stories seem just this side of believable until Mandrake runs across a civilization of tiny people and shrinks down for some adventures; it’s here we see anything is possible.
Phil Davis puts the artwork front and center. Starting off with clean lines and naturalistic environments the art was well defined but very flat. His style advances quickly, with a heavy emphasis on line shading and judicious use of blacks. By 1937 details are popping with excellent use of colour and rich backgrounds.
Design is well thought out. The table of contents lists each story, and every page has the story title top center and page number bottom center.
There is a wealth of extra material to enhance the strips, and it’s very well done. A detailed history of the character and its place in history is followed by knowledgeable biographies of the two creators. All three educate and entertain without getting too detailed or bogged down.
Production is excellent, with glued binding and heavy paper stock. Pages opened well enough for prolonged reading.
Originally published at Comic Book Daily.