A Tribute to the of

Quick! Name the first costumed crime-fighter who is also blind!

Nope. Matt Murdock may be better known, but he’s actually kind of a Johnny-come-lately with that description. Preceding him by two decades plus is Dr. Charles McNider, otherwise known as Dr. Mid-Nite, who made his first bow in All-American Comics #25 (+ splash page) with a publication date of April 1941, making him 80 years old this year. [He does appear in a one page "Coming Attractions" ad in All-American Comics #24] The co-creation of Charles Reizenstein and Stan Aschmeir, this particular caped crusader primarily roamed the Golden Age until he began to show up in the Silver Age with the other members of the Justice Society of America in those highly anticipated annual crossover events with the Justice League of America (#29).

They also began to reprint those Golden Age adventures in the bronze age and one of the earliest was in one of our beloved 100-page Super Spectaculars. This one has the interesting number DC-20 (+ back cover) with a publication date of September 1973. Edited by E. Nelson Bridwell (who else?) and sporting a Nick Cardy cover, it seems to feature Batman, but includes multiple reprints from the 1940s and the story we’re focusing on is an untitled tale by John Broome with Alex Toth art originally seen in All-American Comics #88 from August of 1947. For a placeholder in the Grand Comics Database it’s been dubbed “Tarantula Unmasks Dr. Mid-Nite.”

This particular Tarantula is not to be confused with the Golden Age hero of the same name (in Star-Spangled Comics #1 + splash page to #19 + splash page) who seems to be the first spider-inspired hero to crawl a wall and goes by John Law when he’s not garbed up as Tarantula.

This brief tale opens in Tarantula’s hideout, where one of his “associates” who goes by Logger, is making the case that Dr. McNider and Dr. Mid-Nite are one and the same. Logger is projecting a side-by-side comparison of the two men, who match up at 6 feet in height, 180 pounds in weight, with a 42” chest measurement and a 30” waist. Tarantula is unconvinced, suggesting those are pretty common statistics, but Logger is not to be denied and drags in a large sack containing an unconscious Dr. McNider. Tarantula is not pleased, stating that kidnapping a blind detective story writer is unnecessarily risking a violation of Federal law.

Logger continues to press his point, that maybe McNider isn’t worth the risk, but Dr. Mid-Nite is and if it is in fact the hero in their clutches, they can knock him off and run the town. Logger then proceeds to explain his theory, how he happened to be walking by McNider’s residence and saw Charles’ shadow, which looked an awful lot like Dr. Mid-Nite’s profile, but as it turned out, he was simply wearing a towel over his head from a recent shower and it looked like Mid-Nite’s cape. Intrigued, Logger hung around and then was spotted by McNider, which only steeled Logger’s resolve. “Get it? He spotted me! He isn’t blind!

McNider retorts that any physician that were to examine him would confirm his blindness, but Tarantula decides to put things to the test, leaving the captive in Logger’s care while Tarantula pulls a job that would doubtless attract the attention of Dr. Mid-Nite. He even goes so far as to use his powerful radio to announce his plans to spring the Ramey gang from the Paul Street police station and to get their loot from the safe to the authorities and anyone else who happens to be monitoring that bandwidth.

Inserted is a handy panel with an editorial note: “Though really blind, Dr. McNider uses special infra-red glasses to see perfectly during the day…while at night his cat-like vision enables him to see in the dark.

Later, at the police station, the authorities are out cold thanks to the placement of sleeping gas in the station’s ventilation system. Tarantula and his gang wait long enough for the effects of the gas to subside so that they can enter and pull their job.

Just then, Dr. Mid-Nite arrives and a fracas erupts, but just as he’s getting the better of Tarantula and his gang, the police begin to awaken and while Mid-Nite addresses the desk sergeant, the crooks escape.

Back at the hide-out, Tarantula notes that McNider is still there, so Logger must have been mistaken in his theory. He instructs Logger to kill McNider as he knows too much and that he’ll be hiding out in the Rex Roadhouse.

After the door closes, McNider rises and states that if Tarantula had looked closer, he’d have noticed that Charles wasn’t bound to his chair after all, and in fact, he was speaking for Logger and manipulating him with a string.

When Tarantula enters the Roadhouse, he soon discovers he’s not alone. He and Dr. Mid-Nite trade blows and then our hero disorients the thug with handfuls of poker chips, following it with a Sunday punch that puts Tarantula down for the count.

Later, back at the other hideout, Dr. McNider is telling Logger to wake up just prior to the police bursting in. The boys in blue announce that they’d received a phone call from Dr. Mid-Nite tipping them to the kidnapping and in the final panel the readers are privy to Charles McNider’s thoughts: “Logger never knew I hypnotized him and I was able to come and go as I pleased! Whew! My secret identity as Dr. Mid-Nite is safe!

And that’s a wrap for another adventure of Dr. Mid-Nite.

Happy 80th Dr. McNider! While your adventures have never been quite enough to merit your own title, we’re glad you’re a part of the history of DC Comics. The next installment in this ongoing feature will be here just in time for tax day on April 15th, so don’t forget to return then.

As always, thoughts, questions and feedback will be entertained. All you’ve gotta do is fire off an e-mail to: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Until we meet again…

Long live the Silver Age!

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