A Tribute to the of

Welcome to December, dear readers and one of the final installments of the Silver Age Sage for 2018. Much like last time, when we featured Bomba the Jungle Boy for the first time, I’ve decided to look into another character I’ve not read before and as I’ve mentioned more than a couple of times, it was triggered by an intriguing cover from 1965.

The character is Mark Merlin, who had a regular gig in the House of Secrets back in the day and he’s also got a connection to Prince Ra-Man, who I also intend to get to in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, here’s a wiki snippet to help introduce Mark Merlin:

Mark Merlin was a supernatural detective and nephew of “The Mighty Merlin,” a famous stage magician who debunked the supernatural. Mark Merlin began his career by solving his uncle’s murder and inheriting his mansion, magical curios and his assistant, Elsa. He continued his interest in the occult, and became a skilled magician, who used a “Magic Eye” trinket to cast illusions. He, and Elsa, spent their lives dedicated to exposing fakes and battling the supernatural.

Mark Merlin made his debut in House of Secrets #23 (+ splash page) (August 1959) and is the co-creation of artist Mort Meskin and Jack Miller.

The particular issue of HOS that we’ll explore is #72 (May/June 1964) with a cover by Bernard Baily and letters by Ira Schnapp. The Revolt of the Morloo! was written by Bob Haney with Bailey doing interior art and letters by Stan Stakman.

Let’s see what this master of the occult has in store for us.

The splash page features the strange creature called the Morloo trapping some innocent people in a river just off a dock by seemingly causing the water to solidify while Doctor 7 cackles evilly and Mark Merlin and Elsa are rushing onto the scene to try and help.

The story begins with a convict walking the last mile in a prison, but pausing long enough to shake the hand of Doctor 7 and passing along what appears to be a bit of cloth. 7 is next seen working on the prison farm, where his thoughts reveal that he’s discovered the ground he is tilling used to be the site of an ancient Indian civilization.

Switching scenes, we find Mark Merlin toiling away on a potion described as an antidote while Elsa, his assistant and fiancée looks on and pleads with him to leave his lab long enough to pay her some attention. He says he will, but in the meantime requests that she check in with the warden on his old nemesis Dr. 7. She soon reports back that he’s a model prisoner, spending a lot of time working in the prison garden and feeding stray birds.

This gets Merlin’s attention and he realizes what Doctor 7 is up to, as birds are part of the formula for bringing back the supernatural Morloo. Soon the couple is burning up the road in Merlin’s sports car. Elsa suggests that surely Doctor 7 cannot summon the Morloo from the prison, but Mark explains that all he would need is a piece of a murderer’s clothing and a rare bird feather. Elsa interjects that he would also require an ancient receptacle and some radium, which would be tough to obtain.

As you might suspect, 7 has accomplished just that, by digging up that receptacle from the grounds, getting the feather from one of the birds he’s been feeding (Birdman of Alcatraz, anyone?) using the bit of cloth from his fellow convict and getting some radium smuggled in. He is in the midst of combining the ingredients in his cell and summoning forth the Morloo.

Merlin and Elsa pull up just as the Morloo is busting 7 out of the joint and it soon turns its powers on Mark’s vehicle, causing it to disintegrate just like the prison walls. The couple survive, but now must hightail it back to Mark’s lab sans wheels while we join the Morloo and Doctor 7 at the docks, where they’re demonstrating to onlookers the strange creature’s power to transform the waters into a fountain of youth by shoving an elderly man in and restoring him to a much younger man.

Soon, people are leaping into the river to regain their lost youth, but the touch of the Morloo turns the water into a concrete-like substance. Then, the pair of malefactors are off again, this time flying high above a traffic-jammed cloverleaf. An energy burst from the eyes of the Morloo cause the chunk of superhighway to detach and float above the ground and the commuters are trapped on an endless loop.

Just then a helicopter lands and Mark Merlin arrives with a potion designed to send the Morloo back to its own dimension. At first, it seems to be ineffective, but then the Morloo announces that the potion has freed it from the control of Doctor 7 and it will now rid itself of both conjurers.

The Morloo goes on the attack and Merlin responds with mystical defenses, but only enough to slow the creature down. Soon, Doctor 7, Mark Merlin and Elsa are aboard the chopper trying to escape, but the Morloo flies after them, causing the rotors to droop, sending the craft earthward. Mark Merlin again uses his magical abilities to create a soft landing in a tree that sprouts huge hands that gently lower it to the ground.

Doctor 7 is told by Mark Merlin that only he can banish the Morloo back to where it belongs. 7 agrees, but states that his formula is in his old lab nearby. Merlin tells the villain to give the directions to Elsa while they fight off the Morloo.

Sure enough, the green, cloud-like creature reappears and fires energy bolts at the two sorcerers, who rapidly retreat into a culvert, leading them back to the helicopter, but the rotor blades seem to be restored. It is then that Doctor 7 realizes he’s been hoodwinked. Mark Merlin’s potion merely made 7 believe the Morloo had revolted and was no longer under his control. It was all an illusion created by Merlin.

Doctor 7 commands the Morloo to destroy Mark Merlin and just when it looks like it’s curtains, Elsa returns with the formula from Doctor 7’s lab and splashes it on the creature, sending it back to whence it came and leaving Doctor 7 helpless as he again faces justice.

Just a short little tale in an anthology book, backed up by none other than Eclipso, but this was an interesting story and I kind of appreciated seeing Bob Haney in a little bit different setting with his scripting.

Bailey’s art wasn’t the most inspiring, but I kind of got a kick out of the imaginative design of the Morloo.

I’m not exactly certain yet how long Mark Merlin lasted, but it couldn’t have been for long and as I alluded to before, it appears he might have morphed into Prince Ra-Man, but again, we’ll get to that in the future. One initial impression is that he’s cut from some of the same cloth as Doctor Strange and perhaps a few other occultists out there like maybe the Phantom Stranger or Doctor Occult.

Meanwhile, I’ll give it a middle-of-the-road rating of 5 on the 10-point scale, but am glad once again to finally be exposed to a character from DC’s Silver Age that was new to me.

We shall return (don’t we always?) to this very spot on the World Wide Web with another installment around the 15th of December, so be sure to return yourself, and in the interim, our invitation stands. Any feedback, questions or comments are welcome. Just direct them to my e-mail at professor_the@hotmail.com.

Until next time…

Long live the Silver Age!

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