BLACK X

 
Full Name: Richard Spencer
Series Name: Espionage
Codename: Black X
Nationality: American
Organization: The Espionage
Occupation Agent

Creator: Will Eisner
Time Span: 1938 - 1949
ABOUT THE SERIES

       Black X is an agent of Espionage.
       Espionage in its usual usage is a noun indicating an action or a line of work. As used in this series, though, it is apparently the name of the governmental department that employs the main character. On many occasions, there are references to working at Espionage (with the capitalization) or how things are done at "Espionage" or "we of Espionage".
       In fact, the very first adventure states quite clearly: "Espionage, a dangerous branch of the Service in which there is no turning back. No rescue if you are caught. No glory if you succeed."
       In that opening story we learn that the ruggedly handsome government employee Richard Spencer is killed in a plane crash. That, somehow, frees up Spencer to abandon his previous life and become the mysterious "X" (no reference to color). Why Spencer had to die to become this operative is never mentioned so it must still be classified. Where the "Black" came to be added to X is also not explained. Nor the reason for the name often having "the" precede it as in "a message from the Black X". Still another enigma is why for a while he was called Black Ace instead of Black X but shortly thereafter went back.
       His boss in Espionage is Colonel Atwater, a white-haired spy-master with an impressive mustache, who will over the next several years send the dashing Black X out to perform many acts of bravery, survive not a few stunts of brashness, and make far too many calls upon incredible luck.
       Black X is tall and very good looking. He is usually immaculately dressed but he can also show himself to be a master of disguise so the old man on the train, the lovely lady on the bus, or the beggar on the street could all be him.
       When he is not made up as someone else, he invariably is seen wearing a monocle over his right eye. Now, he obviously takes it out when he assumes a different identity but when it is in place, it is firmly fixed there as no amount of physical violence seems to dislodge it. He also loves to wear a brown derby that is just as compliant about staying atop his head.
       Spencer, aka Black X, aka Black Ace (for a short time), is in terrific physical condition. On a few occasions, he is shown without a shirt and he has washboard abs and a healthy set of muscles. He also does not seem to have any scars which is odd because he gets shot and stabbed and other unhealthy things done to him on a regular basis.
       Aiding Black X is his valet, Batu, a man of many talents, exceptional loyalty to his employer and friend, and an occasional practitioner of occult arts. Batu is sometimes able to communicate feelings to others and even make people think he is in two places at once. He does not do this often because it is so draining but obviously it is handy at times. Batu is referenced many times as Hindu (though I thought his headdress made him seem to be a Sikh). Batu is credited with being a mystic and he proves that over and over in many adventures by showing he can project a lifelike image of himself (even being able to do physical things with that image like punch people in the nose), He is also quite good with telepathy, at least with Black X.
       The world of espionage (with or without the capital letter) is a harsh one for Black X but one he clearly enjoys and one he is very good at. He can be compassionate on occasion (even foolishly gallant when he lets a lethal female beauty escape) but he can also be deathly severe. The latter is clearly part of his job because he is told once by his boss while on a hunt for a spy ring, "don't bring back any prisoners - spy trials get too much publicity."

       Over time, and the tales depicted run more than a decade, Black X seems to leave the world of Espionage and enter the one of adventurer. He no longer reports to an officer but wanders the city of New York and sometimes the rest of the world and steps in when strange cases pop up. They pop up a lot and they are all strange. He becomes close friends with an NYPD inspector named Beef Burton and helps him on many cases.
       He still works with Batu and still dresses immaculately and still sports the monocle. He also still uses the moniker "Black X" though it has stopped being a codename and now is an actual name as in "Hi, Black X, how're you doing?" No one seems to find that odd.

COMIC BOOKS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS

Number of Issues:95
First Appearance:1938
Last Appearance:1949

       Black X, aka "Espionage", was created by Will Eisner, the soon-to-be famous creator of a lot of different characters over the years, best known for The Spirit. The year before he would come up with that iconic hero, he was busy pounding out a lot of short illustrated stories for several new magazines.
       Quality Comics was one of his most often buyers and it was for that company that he created Black X. He also created a fair number of other characters depicted in those pages, often using different pennames to make it look like a lot of artists were hard at work. For Black X, he used the penname Will Erwin.
       Black X was just one of many so his page count in the first set of issues of his genesis magazine, Feature Funnies, was not much - 4 pages per adventure. The title of the series was actually "Espionage" with a subtitle of "A Complete Short Story Starring 'Black X'".
       In the stories, the handle "Black X" was often preceded by "the" especially when bad guys talked of him, as in "watch out for the Black X, boys!" Mostly, though, he was just Black X.
       After 10 issues with that magazine, Black X moved to a new magazine, still put out by Quality, called Smash Comics. This mag was also a collection of series like most of the comics put out in those days but Black X got star billing and a lead story and increased story size, more than doubling to 9 pages.
       He also got a name change with his move to Smash. Though the title logo of the story still remained "Espionage", the subtitle was now "A Complete Black Ace Story" with a nifty little seal having an eagle with wings unfurled above the text and a scroll beneath it which said "any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental". The artist remained Will Erwin.
       Black Ace was definitely Black X because he looked the same, dressed the same, wore the same monocle, and had a Hindu valet named Batu. Little chance there were two different major American operatives at work, each with a Batu as an assistant.
       An explanation of why he chose to change his name would have been nice, though, but probably not worth the time because he went by that moniker for only five issues when he, again without warning or statement, was back to being Black X.
       From then until issue 63, the series was "Espionage" sometimes with "Starring Black X" attached and often without it but always with Black X as the hero. From issue 64 until the last issue of Smash Comics, the title was "Black X" alone.

Note: When in quotes, the title for an adventure is my invention."

1 'Welcome To The Black X' 'Welcome To The Black X'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 10/01/1938

From Feature Funnies #13 - Faking his own death, Spencer becomes Black X to ferret out a spy stealing the plans for a 'floating base'.

2 'Sabotage of the Clipper' 'Sabotage of the Clipper'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 11/01/1938

Feature Funnies #14 - An American airline is inaugurating a transatlantic service and an agent from a foreign power wants to destroy it to give his own country a boost.

3 'Sunk By A Foreign 'Pirate' Submarine' 'Sunk By A Foreign 'Pirate' Submarine'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 12/01/1938

Feature Funnies #15 - A foreign power is using a "pirate" submarine to sink American ships and Black X is sent to stop them before the US is drawn into another world war.

4 'Men of the Purple Hoods' 'Men of the Purple Hoods'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 01/01/1939

Feature Funnies #16 - Enemy agents are planning on exploding a bomb during an American army parade, killing hundreds. The Black X foils their plot but gets the police unhappy with him.

5 'House of Evil Doctor' 'House of Evil Doctor'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 02/01/1939

Feature Funnies #17 - Dr. Steible of New York is a mercenary bad guy has a network of agents planning on sabotage against the army. Black X learns of this and is sent to disrupt his operation - permanently.

6 - -
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 03/01/1939

Feature Funnies #18 - unknown plot - I do not have this issue.

7 'An Insurrection In Panama? Incredible!' 'An Insurrection In Panama? Incredible!'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 04/01/1939

Feature Funnies #19 - A small foreign gang is planning on fomenting rebellion in Panama and destroying some locks to disrupt American commerce. Black X and Batu head there.

8 'Tuvania Is Up In Arms' 'Tuvania Is Up In Arms'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 05/01/1939

Feature Funnies #20 - The Klegwater Arms Plant has been purchased by agents of the Tuvania government who plan to destroy it and leave the US without arms when they demand Hawaii be ceded to them.

9 'Grab The Green Case' 'Grab The Green Case'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 06/01/1939

Feature Funnies #21 - After Black X steals back secret plans from an enemy spy and heads to D.C., the agent sends his minions to get back the green case the plans were stashed in.

10 'Batu! You're In Trouble!' 'Batu! You're In Trouble!'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 07/01/1939

Feature Funnies #22 - In a restaurant, Batu overhears some spies talking and investigates. When he is captured and tortured, he must use his Hindu mysticism to contact Black X in a call for help.

11 'Supreme Dictator of All South America' 'Supreme Dictator of All South America'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 08/01/1939

Smash Comics #1 - Vlamir Koran, head of the Black Spot, leads a coup to take control of Argentina. From there, he starts to conquer all of South America with the U.S. in his sites. To help lead his spies, he calls on the femme fatale Mara Hani.

12 'War! In The Far East!' 'War! In The Far East!'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 09/01/1939

Smash Comics #2 - As war between Soviet Russia and Japan heats up in China, two enterprising crooks in New York decide to hijack a scientist's "X-Beam" which can knock planes out of the sky and sell it to highest bidder.

13 'A Chance To Grab Alaska' 'A Chance To Grab Alaska'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 10/01/1939

Smash Comics #3 - The US President issues an order for all Americans in Europe to return home to not become pawns in the upcoming was. A crafty Soviet leader sees a chance to sink the ships carrying them causing America to enter the war and letting him take over Alaska and its mines.

14 'Madame Doom' 'Madame Doom'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 11/01/1939

Smash Comics #4 - Several countries agree to join together in a defense pact to protect California from the Japanese. The plans for this must get to San Fransisco and Black X (Ace) is delivering them unless the beautiful Madame Doom can stop him.

15 'Basil Taneo' 'Basil Taneo'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 12/01/1939

Smash Comics #5 - As America begins to arm as the prospects for war increase, a European leader decides a bout of sabotage will weaken US resolve. He sends Basil Taneo to carry them out. When plants start exploding, Black X (Ace) is sent to stop him.

16 'Jumping Claims' 'Jumping Claims'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 01/01/1940

Smash Comics #6 - The European nation of Govania is deep in debt due to its dictator's war efforts. When gold is again discovered in Alaska, he orders his country's agents to set up "an elaborate system of jumping claims" to enrich his nation. Note: the cover of the comic depicted Black X tied to a rocket. There are no rockets in the story.

17 'Gentlemen of the Death Battalion' 'Gentlemen of the Death Battalion'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 02/01/1940

Smash Comics #7 - To destroy the blockade that America has erected along its shores, stopping Axis ships from getting needed food supplies, enemy agents led by femme fatale Madame LaCoquin launch man-driven suicide torpedoes.

18 'Saving Gayle Payson' 'Saving Gayle Payson'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 03/01/1940

Smash Comics #8 - The 'High Official of the German Intelligence', fleeing his leader because he had fallen from favor, hands an American female reporter some secret documents and then is killed on the streets. The reporter is now in danger and appeals to Black X. He encounters Madame Doom again.

19 'The Men Who Welcomed Death' 'The Men Who Welcomed Death'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 04/01/1940

Smash Comics #9 - The evil Proxoff has built a fortress in Russia's close border with Alaska, preparing to attack the US. Black X is sent to investigate and gets two harrowing rides, one in the air and the other under the sea.

20 'A Mission To Finland' 'A Mission To Finland'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 05/01/1940

Smash Comics #10 - Finland is about to be attacked by Russia and is in urgent need of arms supplies. The plans for the shipments is stolen, their holder killed, and his son kidnapped (why take the kid?). Black X goes on a mission.

21 'A Cargo of Waiting Death' 'A Cargo of Waiting Death'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 06/01/1940

Smash Comics #11 - Having rescued the American boy, Tommy, Black X and he are onboard a Finnish train heading into trouble with the invading Russians. When wrecked, the two people are lost in a blizzard.

22 'Black X and the Hunchback of Notre Dame' 'Black X and the Hunchback of Notre Dame'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 07/01/1940

Smash Comics #12 - The US President send Ambassador Blank to Europe to try to start peace talks. Many want him to fail. Black X is sent to be his unseen bodyguard. This brings him again into contact with Madame Doom.

23 'The Dread Devil's Island' 'The Dread Devil's Island'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 08/01/1940

Smash Comics #13 - With a new weapon almost perfected, one of the inventors kills his partner to steal the other half. Fleeing to Paris, he runs afoul of the law and is sent to Devil's Island. Black X gets himself sent there to free the man and bring back to the US as a prisoner, all without the French learning.

24 The Legion of Living Bombs The Legion of Living Bombs
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 09/01/1940

Smash Comics #14 - Pining for Madam Doom, Black X does the unthinkable and resigns. When he finds the woman, he finds that she has an explosive liquid which she makes her minions drink and then sends them on suicide missions, knowing they will explode and kill their victims.

25 'A Reign of Sabotage' 'A Reign of Sabotage'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 10/01/1940

Smash Comics #15 - A foreign nation has hired a band of freelance saboteurs, all wearing gas masks to hide their identities, to produce a reign of sabotage upon a major US city.

26 'The Invasion of Central America' 'The Invasion of Central America'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 11/01/1940

Smash Comics #16 - An oriental nation, wanting to eventually launch an attack against the US, sends troops to Nicaragua to invade there as a stepping stone. Black X is in place to find and disrupt their plans.

27 'Ring of Desparate Super-Spies' 'Ring of Desparate Super-Spies'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 12/01/1940

Smash Comics #17 - Someone is stealing valuable parts from an important fighter plane manufacturer. Black X goes undercover to join the gang to bring it down. There are no real super-spies to be found.

28 'The Invasion of Bermuda' 'The Invasion of Bermuda'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 01/01/1941

Smash Comics #18 - As a toe-hold in the plans by a European nation to invade the US, a blockade is built around Bermuda and an attack by their parachutists is imminent. Black X sneaks past the blockade and comes up with a plan to stop the whole thing.

29 'Death In Basic Training' 'Death In Basic Training'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 02/01/1941

Smash Comics #19 - Recruits going through basic training are dying of mysterious causes. Black X is sent in as such a recruit to find out who is doing what and why.

30 'Disaster Strikes the War Games' 'Disaster Strikes the War Games'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 03/01/1941

Smash Comics #20 - Training maneuvers by the US Navy in the Pacific are stricken when several ships are mysteriously torpedoed. Black X wants to know why so he heads there and will soon come upon Madame Doom.

31 'A Little Trouble With The Rajahs' 'A Little Trouble With The Rajahs'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 04/01/1941

Smash Comics #21 - Batu returns to India and soon asks Black X to come help. Madame Doom follows. European dictators, and the lovely lady, are inciting the rajahs to stir up trouble.

32 'A Threat To The Suez' 'A Threat To The Suez'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 05/01/1941

Smash Comics #22 - A European dictator readies for global war by landing tanks near India to head to Turkestan to threaten the Suez (a bit geographically challenged). Black X decides to intercede.

33 'Bad Note At The Opera' 'Bad Note At The Opera'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 06/01/1941

Smash Comics #23 - Attending the opera, Black X sees an Italian singer murdered. Investigating, he soon finds Madame Doom (who does not seem involved) and a note pointing to a secret meeting of Italians plotting to destroy America's air force.

34 'That's The Way The Rubber Bounces' 'That's The Way The Rubber Bounces'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 07/01/1941

Smash Comics #24 - Madame Doom is working with a turncoat American owner of a Far East rubber plantation to help the enemy control rubber production. Black X and Batu go there to stop them.

35 'The Duplicate Basil' 'The Duplicate Basil'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 08/01/1941

Smash Comics #25 - Taking the place of a captured enemy agent named Basil, Black X is able to get his hands on some stolen top secret documents. Keeping them, though, will prove challenging.

36 'Treachery Walks The Planks' 'Treachery Walks The Planks'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 09/01/1941

Smash Comics #26 - Black X is dining with Madame Doom and discussing eliminating an enemy spy that Doom actually hates. A waiter in his employ overhears and sets a trap.

37 'A Trap South of the Border' 'A Trap South of the Border'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 10/01/1941

Smash Comics #27 - An anonymous map delivered in the mail leads Black X to suspect enemy agents are active in Mexico. He is about to head there when Madame Doom appears, He takes her with him unaware she was using him to escape the country.

38 'A Planned Conspiracy Afoot' 'A Planned Conspiracy Afoot'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 11/01/1941

Smash Comics #28 - Stealing the Navy's latest charts of the West Indies from Espionage headquarters, Madame Doom again prompts Black X to leap into action.

39 'Alien Termites' 'Alien Termites'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 12/01/1941

Smash Comics #29 - Rather than just kill a visiting diplomat, Madame Doom and team kidnap him to use plastic surgery on him to make everyone think he was an impostor. Alien termites are mentioned in the beginning - not sure I understand.

40 'Oil On Troubled Waters' 'Oil On Troubled Waters'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 01/01/1942

Smash Comics #30 - U-Boats are getting refueled off the coast of Baja California and the Navy asks for help locating the supply depot. Black X and Batu lend a hand.

41 'The Hidden Skycraper Floor' 'The Hidden Skycraper Floor'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 02/01/1942

Smash Comics #31 - Enemy agents are using a hidden floor near the top of a skyscraper as their headquarters. This includes the naughty femme fatale, Madame Doom. Somehow they use a plane overhead in their transmissions to Europe. Black X stops them.z

42 'Disaster Over the Arizona Desert' 'Disaster Over the Arizona Desert'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 03/01/1942

Smash Comics #32 - The Arizona desert is a great secluded place for enemy agents to test out their new smoke gun, a nasty invention that shoots something that causes a "thick filmy cloud of smoke" to surround and disable any plane.

43 'Bombing the Bomber Thieves' 'Bombing the Bomber Thieves'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 05/01/1942

Smash Comics #33 - Taking place right after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Black X is sent to the West Coast on a secret mission. His last stopover is where he is board the latest in bombers. Unknown to everyone, though, it has been commandeered by Japanese agents. Black X and kidnapped crew are able to turn the tables on them.

44 'The Manila Triple-Cross' 'The Manila Triple-Cross'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Will Erwin (writer and artist)
Copyright: 07/01/1942

Smash Comics #34 - An American commanding offficer in the Phillipines has been corrupted into betraying his command by his Japanese wife. Black X is sent to Manila to bring things back to right. A soldier he meets helps out. When asked if he was an American, the soldier replies, "In a way. I'm from Brooklyn."

45 'The Masterminds of Tokyo' 'The Masterminds of Tokyo'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Alex Kotzky (writer and artist)
Copyright: 09/01/1942

Smash Comics #35 - To help safeguard the convoy ships taking needed supplies to Australia, Black X is sent on a mission to make love to a Japanese actress ... in Tokyo. Unfortunately, Japanese Intelligence knows he is coming.

46 'The Temple of Secret Sighs' 'The Temple of Secret Sighs'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Alex Kotzky (writer and artist)
Copyright: 10/01/1942

Smash Comics #36 - According to Black X, every port in the Far East has a V-man, an agent of the Japanese government watching and working on their behalf. In one such port, Black X and Batu seek out the local agent.

47 'I Am Tinka Van Doorne' 'I Am Tinka Van Doorne'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Alex Kotzky (writer and artist)
Copyright: 11/01/1942

Smash Comics #37 - A little Dutch girl walks into the secret offices of Espionage in D.C. and, recognizing Black X, asks for his help. He takes her for ice cream and learns that her mom is being threatened. He discovers it is Nazi agents wanting to get from the dad secrets of the Resistance.

48 'The Castle of Peril' 'The Castle of Peril'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Alex Kotzky (writer and artist)
Copyright: 12/01/1942

Smash Comics #38 - A Middle-Eastern emir, known as the "Ruler of Souls Over Iraquan" is being courted by both the Nazis and the Allies. He will go with whoever can get for him the Ivory Buddha, held in a dangerous fortress.

49 'Terror Rides Today' 'Terror Rides Today'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 01/01/1943

Smash Comics #39 - The key spy for the Nazis is sent in search of the scientist who has poisoned their water. Black X gets from him the identity and plans to reach the scientist first.

50 'A Blind Man Who Could See' 'A Blind Man Who Could See'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 02/01/1943

Smash Comics #40 - On a small but important isle in the Solomon Islands, a former German fort remains on what is now Japanese occupied land. Black X's job is to make sure the Japanese do not turn the castle into a fort.

51 'Trumpet of Doom' 'Trumpet of Doom'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 03/01/1943

Smash Comics #41 - Doctor Stultz, an evil scientist, is working with Madame Doom and has created a plastic resin that can trap men in a cube like a mosquito in amber. They set a trap for Black X and Batu who willingly head to Egypt where they lie in wait.

52 Dead Pigeons Tell No Tales Dead Pigeons Tell No Tales
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 04/01/1943

Smash Comics #42 - Black X is completing a mission against the Japanese when he rescues a missionary who has secret photos showing the mine layout in Tokyo harbor. The enemy will do anything to get that info back.

53 'And Lost His Own Soul' 'And Lost His Own Soul'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 06/01/1943

Smash Comics #43 - On Easter Island, a scientist thinks he is close to discovering the mystery of the stone relics. Hearing the Japanese are going to land there to establish a base, he refuses to leave. Soon he will have to decide between his patriotism and his research.

54 'On The Air' 'On The Air'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 07/01/1943

Smash Comics #44 - A troop transport ship is attacked in New York harbor and Black X is sent to find out who. Note: in one scene, Black X and Batu enter their secret headquarters by going through a laundry shop - 20+ years before U.N.C.L.E.

55 Traitor's Doom Traitor's Doom
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 08/01/1943

Smash Comics #45 - Black X is asked to help find who are the enemy agents hiding near a base in a friendly nation. He assumes the identity of visiting royalty to lure the culprits out. Batu's mystic powers seem a tad over-indulged.

56 'Adventure In India' 'Adventure In India'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 09/01/1943

Smash Comics #46 - The Veiled Prophet is a new Indian fakir hoping to bring rebel bands together to disrupt British control. The Germans send an envoy with counterfeit money to pay for the consolidation. Black X follows.

57 'Menace of the Would-Be Conquerors' 'Menace of the Would-Be Conquerors'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Bernard Sachs (writer and artist)
Copyright: 10/01/1943

Smash Comics #47 - After a mission to China, Black X and Batu are the only passengers on a luxury plane heading home. Except it heads to Tibet where people want his help ferreting out those who would take over the government.

58 'A Trip To Tokyo' 'A Trip To Tokyo'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 11/01/1943

Smash Comics #48 - In Istanbul, two German officers are preparing to fly to Japan to be military liaisons. Black X and Batu kidnap them and take their place (Batu says he has a great suntan). In Tokyo, they attend a conference and learn lots of secret stuff, including a new poisonous gas being perfected.

59 'Island of Dark Secrets' 'Island of Dark Secrets'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 01/01/1944

Smash Comics #49 - Ceylon plantation owners are complaining their workers are abandoning the fields to worship in the ancient temples. British Intelligence believe something is afoot and asks Black X to lend a hand. He finds the Voice of Suva is extolling rebellion.

60 The Garrison of Ghouls The Garrison of Ghouls
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 02/01/1944

Smash Comics #50 - The Allies are starting to win in the Far East but one area is particularly guarded. Black X is asked to sneak into that region and wreck havoc from inside.

61 Crown of Clovis Crown of Clovis
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Don Rico (writer and artist)
Copyright: 03/01/1944

Smash Comics #51 - As the German forces begin to lose territory, thoughts of one regional leader turns to escape and his future. That includes being able to sell the priceless jeweled Crown of Clovis. Unfortunately the museum curator had hidden it and must be made to talk. Meanwhile, Black X and Batu parachute into the area to help the rebels.

62 'Sealed Dispatches' 'Sealed Dispatches'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 04/01/1944

Smash Comics #52 - Sealed papers containing answers to some key defense questions are being sent by one country's leader to the Western Command. Japanese agents are determined to intercept them. Black X and Batu are ordered to guard the messenger.

63 False Surrender False Surrender
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Don Rico (writer and artist)
Copyright: 05/01/1944

Smash Comics #53 - As the Germans are driven from some lands, the occupants, used to being suppressed, are wondering if the incoming Allies are but another invading army. One such native, Kortis, sees a great opportunity to lead his own army to take control.

64 'Hosts of Pursuers' 'Hosts of Pursuers'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Don Rico (writer and artist)
Copyright: 08/01/1944

Smash Comics #54 - When the Japanese invaded his homeland in China, a scientist, Dr. Yong, destroyed his work on a secret weapon to keep it from their grasp. They grasped him instead. Black X and Batu are sent into the region to free him but he sees them as just different oppressors.

65 'No Neutral Countries Today' 'No Neutral Countries Today'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 10/01/1944

Smash Comics #55 - A young woman, Miss Niloa, has escaped from behind enemy lines with some important information. Black X is ordered to escort her to headquarters and interview her. On the way she spots someone and faints. A doctor rushes to help her but he is really not a doctor and really not planning on helping.

66 Black X Marks The Spot Black X Marks The Spot
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 12/01/1944

Smash Comics #56 - Black X and Batu came to China to help organize the underground resistance but in an aborted mission, Batu is taken prisoner. Black X is determined to free his friend and sneaking into the fortress where he is held, he also saves a young woman about to be ravaged.

67 'Brute of the Rising Sun' 'Brute of the Rising Sun'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Bill Quackenbush (writer and artist)
Copyright: 02/01/1945

Smash Comics #57 - In a castle fortress in China, Osharu, Japanese overlord of the region, worries about the advancing Allied forces and how it will end for him. Black X is sent in to answer that question rather forcefully.

68 Fair Play Fair Play
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 04/01/1945

Smash Comics #58 - Black X is put in charge of a huge prisoner exchange, 1000 Allies for as many Japanese. The Japanese command, however, sends a ship to intercept the American vessel after the transfer and sink it.

69 'The Puppet King Grodoro' 'The Puppet King Grodoro'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 06/01/1945

Smash Comics #59 - The country is Zazarstan, a small Asian nation, and it is there that Black X is conducting his latest assignment but before he done much of anything, word of his presence leaks out and the authorities go searching.

70 'The Foremost' 'The Foremost'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 08/01/1945

Smash Comics #60 - Returning to America after his many missions abroad, Black X is surprised to learn that his return is met with some celebration. He is invited to a party given by one of Society's leading hostesses. A nasty fellow called the Foremost, though, is using the opportunity to dispatch the master spy permanently.

71 'Who Knows the Heart of a Ruler' 'Who Knows the Heart of a Ruler'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 10/01/1945

Smash Comics #61 - The country is called Xanxal and it is "the thrice forbidden kingdom in Asia." Black X and Batu enter the land in pursuit of a Japanese spy and since entry is not allowed, they are taken prisoner. Black X must win the trust and perhaps heart of the ruler, Queen Mai.

72 Let Peace Return To Earth Let Peace Return To Earth
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Bill Quackenbush (artist)
Copyright: 12/01/1945

Smash Comics #62 -"Seljukana is an old Eastern nation" according to the opening line and it is here that Black X and Batu are to meet the new ruler. His father had been deposed and the usurper had backed the losing side in the War. The ruler is wanting to bring peace to his land. Many forces are desiring this now happen.

73 'No New Face For Me' 'No New Face For Me'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Bill Quackenbush (artist)
Copyright: 02/01/1946

Smash Comics #63 - The tyrant leader of Chengow has been overthrown and killed by firing squad. Only Black X knows the victim was a body double and the real tyrant loose. Finding him puts Black X and Batu in great danger.

74 'Who Can Predict the Wheel of Fortune?' 'Who Can Predict the Wheel of Fortune?'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Bill Quackenbush (artist)
Copyright: 04/01/1946

Smash Comics #64 - The rulers of gaming mecca Murgastan plan to open their borders to crooks from around the world, providing a haven while taking a percentage. Black X does not like the idea.

75 'Death Haunts the Upper Crust of Society' 'Death Haunts the Upper Crust of Society'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 06/01/1946

Smash Comics #65 - A woman calls upon Black X because someone has been passing her notes warning her of her fiancee. Since he had much money and she only some, the reason was obscure enough to interest Black X.

76 'The Blood Of Kali Ruby' 'The Blood Of Kali Ruby'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 08/01/1946

Smash Comics #66 - A man writes a note to Black X saying he wants to leave in his possession the Blood Of Kali ruby but is murdered outside Black X's door. The killer is easy to spot but is himself murdered and the ruby disappears. The new thief is himself killed and so on.

77 'The Man Who Lived Too Long' 'The Man Who Lived Too Long'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 10/01/1946

Smash Comics #67 - A successful businessman, known for his honesty, is being driven mad by constant voices only he can hear, telling him he has lived too long. He appeals to Black X for help.

78 'Tobacco Can Be The Death Of You' 'Tobacco Can Be The Death Of You'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 12/01/1946

Smash Comics #68 - A murdered man had a hobby of tobacco blending which resulted in his finding a combination whose vapor makes the inhaler susceptible to suggests. Black X decides to find the killer

79 'Case of the Lost Rajah of Lashore' 'Case of the Lost Rajah of Lashore'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Dan Zolnerowich (artist)
Copyright: 02/01/1947

Smash Comics #69 - Black X is asked to go to Lashore, a country ruled for years by dictators but now the rightful ruler might be unmasked to bring justice to the nation.

80 'The Mystery of the Green Box' 'The Mystery of the Green Box'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: unknown (artist)
Copyright: 04/01/1947

Smash Comics #70 - A formula and a sample of a cure for swamp fever was being kept in a green box by the scientist doctor working on it. It is stolen and Black X is asked to get it back.

81 'Blood - The Stuff of Life and Death' 'Blood - The Stuff of Life and Death'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 06/01/1947

Smash Comics #71 - The executors of a rich explorer's estate are being targeted. The weapon is a batch of poisonous insects. Is the next victim the explorer's daughter or is she the culprit?

82 'The Redhead at the Next Table' 'The Redhead at the Next Table'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Dan Zolnerowich (penciler)
Copyright: 08/01/1947

Smash Comics #72 - Inspector Beef Burton, an old friend of Black X, asks for his help in finding not only drug peddlers responsible for the death of two cops but also how they got on to the investigation.

83 'The Cellini Chalice' 'The Cellini Chalice'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 10/01/1947

Smash Comics #73 - A gang holding a valuable work of art, the Cellini Chalice, are ransoming it for $50k and the buyers want Black X to handle the exchange.

84 'The Riddle of the Lady of the Pearls' 'The Riddle of the Lady of the Pearls'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 12/01/1947

Smash Comics #74 - Coming across a pine box in the street being argued over by two men, Black X and Batu take it home with them and discover inside a beautiful young woman wearing priceless pearls. Who is she and why is a gang determined to get her and them back?

85 'Killer's Choice' 'Killer's Choice'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 02/01/1948

Smash Comics #75 - In the play Black X is attending, the lead character is murdered in the final act. Unfortunately the actor playing him really was killed and Black X helps the police find the killer. (I loved a librarian calling him Mr. Black X.)

86 'Lost Memories' 'Lost Memories'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 04/01/1948

Smash Comics #76 - Black X meets a famous architect who confides that ten years ago he had awakened with no memory of his past. Now someone is blackmailing him about the past he cannot recall.

87 'A Weapon of Deadly Destruction' 'A Weapon of Deadly Destruction'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 06/01/1948

Smash Comics #77 - An old friend of Black X has proof a gang of foreign thieves are moving to America and he knows how to stop them. Before he can reveal his facts, he is found hanging. Black X knows it was not suicide.

88 'Black X - Suspect' 'Black X - Suspect'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 08/01/1948

Smash Comics #78 - Black X is the first suspect when a murdered man is discovered on a street and Black X's name and address is found in his pocket. Black X wants to know who was obviously seeking his help and why.

89 'The Silver Idol of Katmandu' 'The Silver Idol of Katmandu'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 10/01/1948

Smash Comics #79 - The theft of the silver idol of Katmandu has brought with it a curse on the men who snuck into the shrine holding it and absconded with it. Black X is interested in solving the murder of one Jasper Swage.

90 'The Dreadful TSIN' 'The Dreadful TSIN'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 12/01/1948

Smash Comics #80 - The Tsin is a small totem representing the "Tiger Demon of Vengeance", feared in the Far East, especially the republic of Melanesia. The new President of the country, visiting in the US, has received such an object and the Black X is intrigued.

91 'The Face of Terror' 'The Face of Terror'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 02/01/1949

Smash Comics #81 - Leatrice Lane, confidential secretary to a wealthy banker, learned of his murder in the morning and then saw him across the city on several occasions. Fearing she is losing her mind, she turns to the police and Black X to explain it and save her.

92 'The Fire Beetle' 'The Fire Beetle'
Published by Quality Comics

Copyright: 04/01/1949

Smash Comics #82 - The arrival of a dying man at Black X's door interrupts his dinner but not as much as the next group of visitors, all wanting to find a stolen Fire Beetle, a valuable Native American relic.

93 'Case of the Engraved Cuff-link' 'Case of the Engraved Cuff-link'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Chuck Winter (artist)
Copyright: 06/01/1949

Smash Comics #83 - The chief engraver at the mint goes missing. Inspector Beef Burton enlists Black X to help locate the man and his daughter who also vanishes.

94 'A Single Hour' 'A Single Hour'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Chuck Winter (artist)
Copyright: 08/01/1949

Smash Comics #84 - The janitor of Black X's apartment building shows up at his doorstep wounded. He is followed shortly by Inspector Burton searching for the robber he just shot. Black X is certain the custodian is innocent but proving it turns out deadly.

95 'Case of the False Masterpiece' 'Case of the False Masterpiece'
Published by Quality Comics
Contributors: Chuck Winters (artist)
Copyright: 10/01/1949

Smash Comics #85 - Black X follows Inspector Burton to the home of a wealthy art collector when word comes from the man's valet that there was stolen artwork at the mansion. Then the art forgery gang show up with murder on their minds.

MY COMMENTS

       I greatly appreciate staying power and Black X demonstrated his with over a decade worth of month adventures. That is a lot of brushes with death and an almost uncountable number of blows to the head and other indignities to the body. And never once did the monocle pop loose. Amazing!
       I tease a bit but it is not meant mean-spiritedly. The monocle is an affectation that is carried a bit too far but it does not hurt anything and, truth be told, it does identify him to, well, everyone he meets and that has stopped more than a few incidents of friendly fire when he comes upon soldiers and guards and police folk.
       Batu is a terrific partner for Black X. He is called valet and servant and he definitely carries out those duties but he is also a close friend and there is not doubt that the bond between he and Black X is tremendous and goes both ways. They have saved each other's lives on numerous occasions and both have willingly offered their own to help the other.
       Batu's mystic abilities endures some alterations over time. At first he has little and uses it sparingly. After a couple of years, though, he starts being able to project an image of himself. Initially it is just standing there but after a while (and obvious practice) he gets to move it and it can even engage in hand-to-hand combat. That is useful! As the series progresses, though, especially in the later years, he stops using it. Let's go with it being too draining.

       The entire series made a huge swing in direction with the 73rd adventure. All 72 stories leading up to that had been titled Espionage, most with the subtitle of "Starring Black X". In each one he was the star operative of that U.S. intelligence agency.
       From #73 on, though, the title of the series was simply Black X and his previous employment is never really touched upon. He is still available for calls for help and is always eager to jump into a conflict but his official status seems to have stopped. Retirement?
       It is in #82 that we are introduced to Beef Burton, a NYPD inspector Black X calls an old friend. It is also the start of the final phase of Black X's adventures. No longer joy-hopping around the world saving damsels and nations. He is very much an amateur detective now, famed around the city and still well respected.
       At least he still has his monocle.

GRADE

My Grade: B

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