TITLE: The Masked Man – Vol. 1, Issue #11
YEAR: December 1984
COMPANY: Eclipse Comics
Created, Written and Drawn by B.C. Boyer
For those who collected Eclipse Comics in the ’80s, there is part of you that has deep respect for what Jan and Dean Mullaney were able to accomplish since they founded the company in 1977 and published one of the first original graphic novels and the first to be sold through the new “direct market” with “Sabre: Slow Fade of an Endangered Species” by Don McGregor and Paul Gulacy.
Unfortunately, the company also ran through bad luck by losing most of its back-issue stock in a flood back in 1986 and the collapse of the direct-market distribution system in the ’90s which affected many other comic book companies.
Unfortunately, Eclipse Comics would close down in 1994 and while the intellectual property rights were later acquired by Todd McFarlane in 1996, there were several titles that kept readers captivated thanks to the company’s “Eclipse, the Magazine” which was a black and white comics anthology magazine published between 1981-1983 and later with its full color comics anthology title “Eclipse Monthly”.
But back in 1982, “Eclipse, the Magazine” issue #7 would debut B.C. Boyer’s crime fighter, The Masked Man.
Considered an inspiration or tribute to Will Eisner’s “The Spirit”, “The Masked Man” would have a 12-issue run from 1984-1988 but chapters would be featured in Eclipse comics anthologies.
And similar to other independent comics back then and even decades earlier, one man creating the comic and only a few issues released each year.
The first issue would revolve around news director Jon Athens a bit despondent about his idol, the superhero who saved his life… The Masked Man.
Everyone around Jon is wondering why he is so sad and Jon tells his story of how he first saw the Masked Man and despite how he took out crime, he was branded as a man who steals from the rich and keeps for himself.
Athens had wanted to right the wrong printed about the Masked Man but when he covered The Masked Man taking out terrorists and saving his and many others lives, he respected of what the man represented.
Until it was revealed that he was now going to work with Mayor Doright for his re-election campaign, which Athens feel The Masked Man was going against everything he stood for.
But is that what is really happening?
The first issue does remind one of the classic Superman stories with how Lois Lane or Jimmy Olsen had mad respect for Superman. But in this case, The Masked Man is a scrapper with no special abilities but to fight crime with his fists and wearing a mask.
Of course, the story of The Masked Man and his true identity is revealed later but it’s no doubt an entertaining read.
Also, included is a story about Hiram Nash, Private Eye by E. Yarber and art by Val Mayerik about a Miss Mundy demanding her money back as she paid him to find the man that left her at the alter.
But what I loved about this comic book series is that it was a straightforward comic book with no superpowers. And these stories deal with human emotion and come from the heart. At the time, it was rare to come upon stories like this in a dominated superhero landscape. So, “The Masked Man” was no doubt a rarity and its comparisons to Will Eisner’s “The Spirit” is warranted but interesting enough, B.C. Boyer wrote in a response to a writer about the character, “There is no comparison. Will Eisner and “The Spirit” are legends….while “The Masked Man” is simply the ‘new kid’ on the block!” and ’nuff said.
But of course, it depended if you had access to Eclipse Comics, as I discovered the series late in my life, because comics were obtained in my younger years through supermarkets and stores. In fact, I wouldn’t have any access to a comic store until the early ’90s when I got back into comics after high school.
So, I discovered Eclipse Series titles much later after they were released. But no doubt I will be writing more about “The Masked Man” and also Will Eisner’s “The Spirit” in a future post.