A Tribute to the of





The Crisis on Infinite Earths saga introduced the reader to very nearly every significant and even some not so significant character in the existing DC mythos.  Interestingly enough, of all the many fascinating villains that had been created over the decades, the one chosen as a sort of lackey for the main villain in the story, the Anti-Monitor was a pretty low-key baddie who had been around since the Golden Age known as the Psycho-Pirate.  Harbinger scooped him up from his padded cell and he went forth and served his purpose in the story, but that's not the story I'm covering for this review. 

That same Psycho-Pirate, Roger Hayden, made his first Silver Age appearance in Showcase #56, from June of 1965 when he bedeviled the Super-Team Supreme of Doctor Fate and Hourman in their second team-up in the Showcase series.  We'll now investigate how these Golden Age greats deal with "Perils of the Psycho-Pirate!"  The story is brought to us by Gardner Fox with art provided courtesy of Murphy Anderson. 

The first scene in the tale leads us to an archaeological dig in Asia Minor, where Kent Nelson, alias Doctor Fate is searching along with his wife, Inza for the masks of Medusa.  Soon he is successful in his search and uncovers a chamber with the dozen golden masks on the wall.  Nelson explains that they are the basis for the legend of Medusa and the notion that gazing upon her face turned the person to stone.  "Just as in the story of "Cinderella" the word "Vair" was thought to mean glass when it actually meant, "fur"---so "turned to stone" stood for words than meant—overcome with emotions!"  Each of the masks signify a particular human emotion and they are carefully removed and taken back stateside to be displayed at a party in the home of the Nelson's backer, Rex Tyler.  Rex is president of the Tyler Chemical Company and is also known as Hourman. 

At the party, Rex introduces his fiancée, Wendi Harris to Kent and Inza.  The young actress is soon viewing the masks when a bystander in a tuxedo surreptitiously makes his way to the display and activates one of the mysterious masks with a lighter equipped with irradiated gas.  The next moment finds Ms. Harris consumed with greed for the masks and she immediately begins to remove them from the display panels.

In the next moment, the lighter is brought into play again on a second mask, which in turn causes the assembled guests to laugh uproariously at Wendi's actions and then to applaud when she leaves with the masks.  When the effect wears off, Ken and Rex are baffled at their laughter and follow Wendi outdoors to try to learn what's going on.  They find her, overcome with embarrassment and explaining that when she walked outdoors she saw a beggar and she was abruptly filled with pity, giving the masks to him.  Kent whispers to Rex that they likely haven't seen the last of the masks.  Rex concurs and states that as soon as he gets his fiancée safely home, they'll investigate further in their more famous personas of Doctor Fate and Hourman. 

The scene fades to the stone tower in Salem where Doctor Fate is consulting his crystal ball, but cannot locate the masks.  He presumes they're protected by their own powerful magic, which obscures his attempts.

Another fade leads us to a seacoast mansion where the Psycho-Pirate lurks with the Medusa masks.  He is now in uniform (the same as you saw on the cover scan of this issue), which looks like he might be a refugee from "Alice in Wonderland" or perhaps a second stringer for The Royal Flush Gang.  We are soon privy to the background of Roger Hayden as he flashes back in his mind to his time in prison where his cellmate, an old and ailing man is none other than the original Psycho Pirate, whom the editor informs us first appeared in All-Star Comics #23, the Winter 1944-45 issue.  The dying man shared all his secrets with Hayden, to include his knowledge of human emotions with their causes and results.  He passes on his talents so that Hayden can one day exact revenge as the new Psycho-Pirate.  Upon his release from jail, Hayden learned of the Medusa mask find and knew it was his chance to make his debut. 

With a segue back to his hideout, we watch Roger arrange the masks that he'd taken from the beggar (Hayden was, of course, the mysterious wielder of the cigarette lighter at the party), on a wall between two torches. He then faces each mask in turn, his face a mimic of what they represent; envy, hate, fear, greed, pride, despair, conceit and others.  He mentions that now he'll be able to cause others to feel these same emotions by a simple gesture of his hand over his face. 

The next day, he puts his new abilities to the test at a Gotham City bank.  Upon his entrance, he discards a newspaper and then, using the gesture and facial expression movement, causes everyone in the lobby to be overcome with great curiosity about the contents of that paper.  Customers and staff alike crowd around it like a moth drawn to a flame, allowing Hayden's henchmen to enter the bank and load up on its loot unhindered.  Roger waits outside in order to intercept anyone who may be entering the bank, intending to affect them in the same fashion. 

Meanwhile, Doctor Fate continues to search via his crystal ball and sees the events at the bank.  Suspecting Hayden may have something to do with the masks, he decides to investigate.  He senses evil emanating from the vault and reduces himself to astral form in order to enter the building.  It isn't long before the fists are flying and Fate manages to take out all three of the looters with his fighting prowess and a touch of magic thrown in to even the odds. 

Outside, Hayden begins to wonder what's taking so long and thinks to himself that the curiosity mask only lasts for a short time.  As he enters the building he sees Doctor Fate mopping up and decides to use his powers on the hero.  First, he waves his hand over his face to fill Fate with pride in his prowess as a crime fighter, causing him to recall some of the villains he has overcome in the past.  Another movement of Roger's hand ensures a quick follow up of frustration for the Doctor, as he will not be able to defeat these villains.  Interestingly, Doctor Fate's featureless helmet soon shows the same facial expressions as the Psycho-Pirate.  (I must admit that at first I thought someone had drawn the faces on the helmet.)  A series of imaginary bubbles confront Fate and the first of his former foes spring at him, seeming real enough to the hero.  Another member of his rogues gallery arrives as well and Fate soon sees that his magic has no effect on them, causing him to consider the fact that they weren't real at all and the distraction has allowed the robbers to escape.  This closes Part I.

Part II brings us to another vault, this time in the subterranean quarters of the Tyler Chemical Company, where Rex stores his Hourman costume and Miraclo pills, the source of his powers.  He is determined to discover the cause of his fiancée's actions, particularly since she now feels too shamed to marry him.  Hourman's first stop is the bank where the holdup occurred.  There he learns that Doctor Fate was there, touched the newspaper and then left to pursue the criminals.  Hourman takes the paper to a corner newsstand to see if the proprietor remembers anything about the man who purchased it. (I was amused to note the offerings on the rack behind the gentleman, to include some familiar titles:  The Flash, Justice League of America, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Atom, Batman and Showcase #55, featuring Doctor Fate and Hourman.)  After receiving the description of the man who purchased the paper, the newsstand proprietor does recall him driving off in a Mercedes-Bentley.  (I guess they were worried about copyrights or some such with that name, but what can you do?)  Armed with this knowledge, Rex downs his Miraclo pill and takes a page from the Golden Age Superman's book by leaping high above the skyscrapers to try and catch a glimpse of the foreign car.  He is soon successful as they begin to raid an art museum display.  Hourman quickly descends and knocks Hayden senseless before he can use his unique abilities.  Showing some impressive acrobatics, the Man of the Hour takes down one perpetrator after another, even upending the "Mercedes-Bentley" to put the others out of play.  He then returns to Roger, convinced he is the one behind both the rash of curiosity at the bank and the greed that overcame Wendi Harris.  Unfortunately, Hayden has shaken off the blow and is able to influence Tyler into believing they are dear friends.  At Hayden's request, Rex even loads some of the loot into his truck before waving a fond farewell!  Part II ends on that ironic note.

Before Part III begins, we're given a page of text that describes the origin of the original Psycho-Pirate.  I hope you'll indulge me as I share this information that was new to me and hopefully to you as well:

Charley Halstead, the original Psycho-Pirate, was twice pitted against the heroes of the Justice Society of America.  The first of these battles took place just over twenty years ago.  ("The Plunder of the Psycho-Pirate!" [Written by Gardner Fox] – All Star Comics #23, Winter 1944-45)

Halstead was a linotyper on the Daily CourierAlthough considered a valued friend of publisher Rex Morgan, Halstead was jealous of his success.  He grew to hate his employer and was overcome by greed.  Conceiving the idea of basing crimes on emotions, he secretly embarked on a career as a successful gang leader, calling himself the Psycho-Pirate, while helping Morgan crusade against his crooked alter ego in his Charley Halstead identity.  Finally, made reckless through conceit, he sent challenges through the Courier, to the Justice Society.

The JSA's active members at the time were:  Hawkman, Chairman; Dr. Mid-Nite; the Spectre; The Atom; Starman; and Johnny Thunder.

One of the Psycho-Pirate's crimes was based on the love of a wealthy man for his daughter.  While one of the gang kept the girl out late on a date, others gained possession of her handbag and used it to convince her father that they had kidnapped her.  But they really kidnapped Shiera (Hawkgirl) Sanders in order to lure Hawkman into a trap.  However, the Flying Fury escaped, and, instead of ransom money, the crooks got jail sentences.

Another plot involved stirring up rich men to hate each other, charging them $100,000 apiece for dueling lessons, and letting them fight it out.  Starman intervened and exposed the scheme.

One of the Psycho-Pirate's most ambitious plans was to strike fear into the inhabitants of a city by threatening to release deadly plague germs unless they paid a huge ransom.  It was Dr. Mid-Nite who discovered the whole thing was a bluff—the gang had no such microbes!

A pair of safe manufacturers fell victim to their own conceit when they were asked to open one of their vaults, whose new owner, it was said, could not do so because it was so foolproof.  Only the caller was not the owner, but a thief.  Furthermore, the crooks used Johnny Thunder's conceit to trap him in the vault.  However, aided by the magical Thunderbolt he controlled, Johnny escaped and nabbed the outlaws.

There were two priceless idols – identical and the only ones of their kind.  Each was owned by a wealthy collector who wanted both.  One of the Psycho-Pirate's men made a deal with each of them to steal the other's idol.  Then he pretended the police were after him, he had thrown away the stolen idol, and both he and the collector, trapped by his greed, would go to prison unless he could replace it with its mate.  Both men fell for the story, and the swindler would have made off with both figurines if The Spectre had not caught up with him.

Meanwhile, at the Courier, Halstead embarked on a campaign to destroy Morgan through despair.  He convinced them that his whole world was crumbling.  Also, he lured The Atom into a trap by making him think his fellow JSA-ers had met defeat.  But the Mighty Mite discovered the fraud—and the Psycho-Pirate's secret identity!  To keep him quiet, Halstead shot him; but the wounded hero made his way back to the Courier and exposed him.  Halstead went to prison.

However, two years later, the Psycho-Pirate was back.  ("The Return of the Psycho-Pirate!" [Written by Gardner Fox] —All-Star No. 32,12/46-01/47)  By playing on a guard's emotions, he had lured him too near his cell door, overpowered him, and taken his keys.  Then he and his cellmate, Big Mike, escaped.

Big Mike, who had also been jailed by the JSA, wanted revenge.  So, to lure the heroes into traps, he arranged for Johnny Thunder, the only member without a secret identity, to find a wallet containing plans for his and the Psycho-Pirate's crimes.  Armed with this information, the six heroes swung into action.  (Green Lantern and The Flash had replaced Starman and The Spectre as active members.)

Hawkman broke up a plot to use an opera star's pride to blackmail her.  Dr. Mid-Nite stopped a plan to turn a man into a thief by appealing to his ambition.  Green Lantern saved another man from turning dishonest through envy.  The Atom kept a college student from innocently aiding crime by yielding to his curiosity.  When the Psycho-Pirate planned to drug a boxing champ so he could collect big money by betting on a has-been noted for his humility, Johnny Thunder turned the tables, humiliating the Master of Emotions.  And The Flash checked a scheme to steal a valuable invention by playing on the inventor's anger.

These things done, the JSA closed in on the Psycho-Pirate's hideout and captured him.  It was easy, for in the wallet planted by Big Mike was an identification card filled out with the address of the hideout!  Halstead and Mike were returned to their cell.

 

A pretty good history of our featured villain and a glimpse into the Golden Age to boot.  On to Part III:

Doctor Fate flies down to meet with Hourman and they compare notes.  Both reveal that they've been under the influence of the Psycho-Pirate and Fate also mentions that the purpose behind his touching the newspaper was to establish a magical contact, much like a bloodhound scenting someone with an object to track his quarry.  He saw Hourman's encounter and waited to see where the Psycho-Pirate would go so he could learn of his hideout.  Scooping up his fellow crime fighter in a mystically created chariot, Doctor Fate takes to the skies so that they can engage the gang. 

As they come upon the hideout and enter it through another spell, they find a bizarre welcoming committee.  The Psycho-Pirate's gang is standing ready; each one armed with a strange "weapon," to include a knitting needle, a pizza, an electric fan and a water pistol.  As the duo advance upon the gauntlet, they are unaware that Hayden, fully garbed in his Psycho-Pirate uniform is behind them, furiously motioning with his hand before his face in order to send a flurry of phobias toward the heroes.  Doctor Fate and Hourman are soon struck with paralyzing fear as Hayden explains each in turn for our benefit:  "Doctor Fate suffers from Aerophobia, a dread of air currents—while Hourman is affected by Hydrophobia, a fear of water!"  This, of course, makes the fan and water pistol much more formidable.  Then, as they turn away, only to be confronted by the knitting needle and pizza wielders:  "Now Doctor Fate is attacked by Sitophobia, a fear of food—while his companion is stricken by Aichmophobia, the fear of pointed objects!"

Summoning all his remaining courage, Doctor Fate decides that he must act and he uses his magic to cause the objects in Hourman's foes hands to dissipate into smoke.  Hourman, now free to act, engages the other henchmen, eliminating the source of Doctor Fate's fears.  Unfortunately, he realizes that his hour is up and his powers are at an end.  Grimly, he soldiers on.  Once the criminals are knocked cold, the two heroes turn their attention to the Psycho-Pirate himself, who has emerged and activated a control that has caused the Medusa masks to glow.  Soon another wave of conflicting emotions engulf the duo and they turn on one another, driven by jealousy, mockery and hatred while they exchange blows.  Soon they both stand trembling, exhausted.  Hayden advances, triumphant and knocks Hourman for a loop.  He smugly relates:  "Those masks roused up your emotions by an electrical stimulation of the body's emotional control centers, the Hypothalamus and the Septal region of the human brain!  Neurophysiologists have already proved this to be a scientific fact!"  A handy note from editor Julius Schwartz gives the proper credits for this statement:  By the experiments of Dr. C.W. Sem-Jacobsen of Norway, of Dr. Robert G. Heath of Tulane University, and Dr. Jose M. Delgado of Yale.

He then strikes a blow at Doctor Fate, but our hero quickly counterpunches, shocking the Psycho-Pirate.  It appears he isn't the only one who has knowledge of the brain control centers and Fate strikes back until he knocks the villain unconscious.  Sealing his victory, Doctor Fate places a magic mask over Hayden to preclude his using the power of emotions again.  When Hourman regains consciousness, Doctor Fate explains that he was aware that the Miraclo had worn off as The Sixty-Minute Superheroes hourglass had run out.  He also pulled his punches during the battle, lulling the Psycho-Pirate into a false sense of security until Fate could strike. 

The villain is jailed and the final panels show Rex Tyler revealing his identity of Hourman to his fiancée with an approving Doctor Fate looking on.  The End.          

Murphy Anderson's artwork on this story was superb, as usual and I liked the special details he provided in the panels, including the realistic forms he gave to each figure.  The story, unfortunately, wasn't a very strong follow-up to their previous team up in the prior issue of Showcase.  One of the things that disappointed me a bit was that once again the Super-Team Supreme found themselves combating each other.  I guess sometimes it's difficult to catch lightning in a bottle twice, even with the splendid talents of Gardner Fox in play.  Perhaps I wasn't the only one who felt this way, since it was the final pairing of Doctor Fate and Hourman.  Future appearances would be in the company of the rest of the Justice Society of America. 

Please don't misunderstand me.  This was far from a lousy read, but it wasn't on a par with some others, so I give it a rating of 7.             

Don't forget to join us again in about two weeks for the next installment in this feature.  Thanks for spending some of your valuable time here.  As always, I'd welcome your comments at:  silveragesage@thesilverlantern.com.  Meanwhile, very Happy Holidays and…

Long live the Silver Age!



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