Sunday, August 7, 2011

Three Black Orchids

I have to admit, back when I started reading super hero comics (early 1970's), I always favored the super heroine! Yes, I grew up in a very different time, and the idea that a girl could not only hold her own in a fight, but look so darn good doing it! So between my love for the heroines, and little known characters, I admit to my favorite being DC's Black Orchid!

(Adventure Comics #428, 1973) Not only was she strong, bulletproof, and had a really cool costume (which we did actually see much of in her adventures), but she was a master of disguise as well! I think this is what really attracted me to this character; she was different, more original. Almost like 1930's pulp hero. Nobody knew who she was, and nobody even saw her coming until they were caught.

She only appeared in 3 issues of Adventure Comics, then ran as a back-up in the Phantom Stranger for 10 issues. Then she basically disappeared for many years, and believe me the character has never been the same. She had a few guest spots or cameo appearances before joining the Suicide Squad for a few issues.
When DC announced that there was going to be a new Black Orchid Mini-series in 1988, I was beside myself with excitement! I though “Finally!!” Well, I thought that until I saw it. All I can think of the new Black Orchid was...why? Why would they take a great pulp heroine, and turn her into a plant elemental?? My exact thoughts really should never be printed but lets just say I was sorely disappointed and leave it at that, shall we?

The potential of the Black Orchid has never left my mind!

It was years later when I finally got a light at the end of my tunnel. I was researching what heroes were in public domain, and what ones that weren't currently in use, and I came across a familiar name: The Black Orchid! And I considered myself doubly blessed, because there was not just one, but two! (And for all you other writers out there, I call dibs!)

First, in 1943, there was one I call P.I. Black Orchid. She was created by George Tuska and appeared in Harvey Comics' All New Short Story Comics #2.

She was really Judy Allen, Private Investigator. She had a partner by the name of Rocky Ford. Now the rest of her story strikes me as the pilot for the Golden Age Green Lantern/Harlequin relationship, yet a bit different.

It turns out that Rocky Ford was really the super hero known as the Scarlet Nemesis, and apparently teamed up with the Black Orchid before. In their adventure called “The Case of the Crumbling Skyscrapers”, and I counted 2 times Black Orchid saved the Scarlet nemesis, to the 1 time he saves her. Not that anybody is keeping score.

At the end of the story, both Judy and Rocky think to themselves in a “if he only knew who I really was” kind of way.

This was the only appearance of either Black Orchid or Scarlet Nemesis. Too bad, it would have been a great on going series!

The second golden age Black Orchid I mentioned appeared in Tops Comics Top Comics (1944) No that is not really a repeat, That is what the comic was called, and it didn't have an issue number. I think I will call her secretary Black Orchid.

I confess, that I haven't actually read her story, simply because I can't find a downloadable issue of Tops Comics. But she really intrigues me and here is why:

She was really Diana Dawn secretary of District Attorney by day, glamorous costumed detective by night. She fought zombies and a villain by the name of Dr Arso (and I thought I had a bad name) in the only adventure I know she had.

Now this one had an interesting gimmick. I would say that she was both the most over dressed and under dressed heroine of her time. She wore what looks like a heavy sports coat and knee-length skirt. But the funny thing is her jacket and skirt always got damaged and had to be removed, so she ended up fighting in what looks like a nice little teddy.

Obviously she was created to appeal to the gentleman-type of reader.

I can only hope that somebody somewhere can bring these two heroines back, because I feel like their stories are far from over.

Check out this issue of 1944 issue of Consolidated Comics to read about Diana Dawn! Thanks to Narfstar and Richard B for the scan!

- Clayton


Trey said...

Interesting. I wonder if DC was consciously inspired by one of these other Black Orchids?

MattComix said...

Could be one of those names DC had lying around that they wanted to be sure they trademarked. I think it could also be possible that they were all born out of the mystique that seems to come with the name itself.

It just seems to readily conjure this feminine yet menacing vibe. I'd probably more inclined to use it for a villaness.

Roygbiv666 said...

On the remote chance anyone might be interested, and due to my massive ego, here's a link to some of my commissioned artwork featuring "secretary Black Orchid", in one form or another.

Popbox Entertainment said...

Trey, I thought that when I saw the PI Black Orchid. For some reason the two just reminded me of each other.

Trademarks are a funny thing Matt. But I think that the original Black Orchid that DC published was exactly what I think of when I think of the name. A dark and mysterious woman. Powerful yet quiet. A flower in a shadow. (sorry guys, very late here)

Roygbi, I tried to take a look but couldn't find it. I would like to see it sometime!

Thanks for the comments, guys!



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