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THE BLACK RIDER

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Full Name: Bill Brand
Nationality: British
Organization: Military Intelligence
Occupation Agent

Creator: Albert Vandeput
Time Span: 1972 - 1974

ABOUT THE SERIES

Bill Brand, aka the Black Rider, is an agent for British military intelligence.

The year is 1914 and the Great War had just recently begun. In one of the first "desperate battles" that the British Expeditionary Force has with German troops, a mysterious motorcycle rider dressed in black upsets the horse being ridden by a British Captain. That officer, quite irked, orders his Company Dispatch Rider, Corporal Bill Brand, to pursue the man to arrest him. Even though he was on a bicycle, Brand gamely gave chase but several miles down the road, two unfortunate events take place. First, the rider gets away. Second, German forces had advanced quickly and Brand was in danger of being captured, on foot with a busted bike. At that moment, the motorcyclist reappears and orders a startled Brand to jump into the sidecar. The two barely make their escape but not before the cyclist, a Major Rudd, was wounded.

"Expert motorcyclists are rare birds, corporal, the head of the Military Intelligence unit they finally made it to. "You were indirectly responsible for our Major Rudd being seriously wounded, so I suggest that you take over where he left off".

That is how a novice motorcyclist but apparently gifted bicyclist took to wearing the all black leathers and becoming an operative for Military Intelligence behind enemy lies.

It is at this time that Brand learns that the previous rider had been "a clever scientist [who] fitted various gadgets to the machine", nifty little odds-and-ends, such as an oil slick dispenser, which will come in quite handy as Brand, the new Black Rider, is sent on a variety of important and dangerous missions.

Some of the other gadgets include a level to activate a "special safety harness" in the sidecar to hold prisoners as well as an ejector seat button there to throw out undesired passengers.

Another switch puts spikes on his wheels allowing for mountain climbing. He also has the ability to put treads on the wheels to make traveling on sand possible.

In a special compartment at the front of the sidecar is a pop-up machine gun! That compartment also has a side window for a flame thrower.

Naturally he would have some method to silence his engines for when stealth riding is needed.

We learn very little about Bill Brand, other than he is very resourceful and totally intrepid, but we learn a great deal about his vehicle, the real hero of this series.

COMIC BOOKS, GRAPHIC NOVELS, AND MANGA

Number of Stories:22
First Appearance:1972
Last Appearance:1974

       The pages of the very long-lasting British adventure publication, The Victor, were filled each week with stories from a delightful assortment of genres. Sports, Wild West, Vikings, Futuristic, Mysteries, etc. And, of course, lots about Wars.

       This series dealt with an enjoyable mixture of motorbike riding and WWI combat with a nice touch of spy and sabotage thrown in.
       Each of the first eleven stories told were inventive and amusing for the teen boys that would read them. Each told a separate tale in just three graphic pages. There was a fair amount of suspension-of-belief called for but what the heck! Why not!
       Then the stories stopped and the adventures of the Black Rider, aka Bill Brand, came to an end.
       Until just over a year later when he was resurrected for one final, mind-blowing adventure which was rather unexpected.


Note: the first series of stories were all unnamed so I gave them my own titles, place inside quotes. The second series which really consisted of one long adventure was named so I used it.

1 'The New Black Rider Issue' 'The New Black Rider Issue'
Published by DC Thomson
Contributors: Albert Vandeput (artist)
Copyright: 1972

Published in The Victor #615, Dec 2, 1972.
Under orders to give chase to a motorcycle rider all dressed in black, Corporal Bill Brand finds himself suddenly behind enemy lines and selected to take the place of the black rider and work for British military intelligence.
Click here to read the story.

2 'The Photo Recon Issue' 'The Photo Recon Issue'
Published by DC Thomson
Contributors: Albert Vandeput (artist)
Copyright: 1972

Published in The Victor #616, Dec 9, 1972.
As British forces retreat from Mans, Bill Brand, the Black Rider, is sent to take photographs of the advancing German forces and then deliver that film back to headquarters for analysis. In an odd twist, he is surrounded by Germans and, mistaken for one of their own, ordered to transport a general to the front. After that, things get weird.
Click here to read the story.

3 'The Poison Gas Dump Issue' 'The Poison Gas Dump Issue'
Published by DC Thomson
Contributors: Albert Vandeput (artist)
Copyright: 1972

Published in The Victor #617, Dec 16, 1972.
In 1915, the Germans have just started using poison gas. Bill Brand, aka the Black Rider, is out to destroy a nearby supply of the terrible weapon. When his plan goes slightly awry and his own troops become imperiled, he luckily knows where a lot of German gas masks are stored.
Click here to read the story.

4 'The Stolen Motorcycle Issue' 'The Stolen Motorcycle Issue'
Published by DC Thomson
Contributors: Albert Vandeput (artist)
Copyright: 1972

Published in The Victor #618, Dec 23, 1972.
In the Dolomite Mountains on the Italian front, the Black Rider is sent to aid Italian soldiers fighting the Austrians. The Austrians have powerful howitzers which are devastating the oppositions, causing massive retreats. One captain, though is determined to press on and steals Bill Brand's special cycle to attack with.
Click here to read the story.

5 'The Bridge To Bomb Issue' 'The Bridge To Bomb Issue'
Published by DC Thomson
Contributors: Albert Vandeput (artist)
Copyright: 1972

Published in The Victor #619, Dec 30, 1972.
Bill Brand is given the mission of blowing up a Turkish-held bridge over the Tigris River during a campaign in Mesopotamia but local Arab fighters keep stealing his explosives!
Click here to read the story.

6 'The Turkish Delight Issue' 'The Turkish Delight Issue'
Published by DC Thomson
Contributors: Albert Vandeput (artist)
Copyright: 1973

Published in The Victor #620, Jan 6, 1973.
Bill Brand is out to rescue a spy. He is in Gallipoli as part of the ANZAC troops and he has to find a way into a Turkish fort to free the agent. That agent will teach the Black Rider a thing or two about the wonderful uses of Turkish Delight sweets.
Click here to read the story.

7 'The Magic Of A Witch Doctor Issue' 'The Magic Of A Witch Doctor Issue'
Published by DC Thomson
Contributors: Albert Vandeput (artist)
Copyright: 1973

Published in The Victor #621, Jan 13, 1973.
Now sent to aid in the campaign in German East Africa, Bill Brand is sent to deliver a new more powerful radio transmitter to his country's headquarters deep in the jungle. His journey will be complicated by a rampaging elephant but helped by a strange local shaman.
Click here to read the story.

8 'The Way Too Fast Tank Issue' 'The Way Too Fast Tank Issue'
Published by DC Thomson
Contributors: Albert Vandeput (artist)
Copyright: 1973

Published in The Victor #622, Jan 20, 1973.
Bill Brand is captured by some Senussi tribesmen and sentences to death! It is in the Libyan desert working to assist the Duke of Westminster's armored car brigade. His motorbike will be damaged in a race with a suped-up German tank and that is just the beginning of his troubles.
Click here to read the story.

9 'The Faux British Tank Issue' 'The Faux British Tank Issue'
Published by DC Thomson
Contributors: Albert Vandeput (artist)
Copyright: 1973

Published in The Victor #623, Jan 27, 1973.
The Black Rider does not get much thanks from a British tank crew that he rescues; they decide to take him prisoner! The year is 1917 and Bill Brand is working along the Western Front in France where the British has a new tank they are trying out but the Germans have new ones of their own. Helping the former against the latter turns bad when the former is the latter.
Click here to read the story.

10 'The Coward's Courage Issue' 'The Coward's Courage Issue'
Published by DC Thomson
Contributors: Albert Vandeput (artist)
Copyright: 1973

Published in The Victor #624, Feb 3, 1973.
The Black Rider is taking part in the grim Passchendaele battle of Flanders in 1917, ordered to investigate reports of German mining activities in a hill designated Hill Sixty-Two. He will encounter a captain totally unqualified to lead his troops and too scared to admit it.
Click here to read the story.

11 'The Fake Faux German Issue' 'The Fake Faux German Issue'
Published by DC Thomson
Contributors: Albert Vandeput (artist)
Copyright: 1973

Published in The Victor #625, Feb 10, 1973.
It is March, 1918. In Flanders the British forces are being drilled by a huge German offensive. The Black Rider uses a special underwater feature to cross the Yser Canal unnoticed. The mission is to disguise his vehicle as a German one to help an agent pose as a German general to get into their local HQ to confuse their plans. Things are not all what they seem.
Click here to read the story.

12 The Monster In No-Man's Land The Monster In No-Man's Land
Published by DC Thomson
Contributors: Albert Vandeput (artist)
Copyright: 1974

Published in The Victor #689-#698, May 4 - Jul. 6, 1974. 30 pages
A mining operation by British forces along the battle front near Ypres in Flanders has a major unexpected result when out of the blast area comes an enormous armadillo, very unhappy with everyone. It will fall to Bill Brand, the Black Rider, to find a way to corral the giant creature.
Click here to read the story.

MY COMMENTS

The first eleven adventures of this series are fun capers with a whole lot of illogical or unlikely events taking place which to the intended audience would not matter a whit.

A machine gun nestled in a side car? Okay! Next to or in place of a flame thrower? Who knows or cares! Obviously the original designer of the Black Rider's motorcycle would have an opening as the original Q in the Bond stories for the nifty gadgets he builds into the vehicle and Brand quickly becomes adept at using them.

Good fun stories for the teen male reader.

And then there is the giant armadillo. The what? I was floored with the return of the Black Rider, although he was being called that any more, and the spot of trouble he and the rest of the fighting forces in Europe during WWI have with  this New World placental mammal. The name is Spanish for "little armored one" which seems appropriate considering the participation in a war but ... giant?

Not sure what the writers were thinking but it is an odd way to go out, albeit just over a year later.

GRADE

My Grade: B-

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