Mandrake the Magician: The Hidden Kingdom of Murderers, by Lee Falk and Phil Davis ISBN 9780857685728
Five of five stars
When I was young Mandrake the Magician was one of my favorite regular comic strips that appeared in our local paper. The phrase, “Mandrake gestures hypnotically” was the cue that made you realize something strange was about to happen. With his powerful companion Lothar, depicted as a semi-literate black man, Mandrake engaged in a series of unusual adventures on Earth and other locations.
This book contains the complete set of Mandrake’s first six adventures and they are a bit different from the later ones. His magic is depicted as far more real rather than illusory in these stories. Through it all, Mandrake never loses his cape or top hat, it is the equivalent of his superhero costume.
Mandrake debuted in 1934, shortly after the first appearance of another hero, Doc Savage. Both were created in the depths of the Depression, when many people had no money, but they needed the hope and momentary escape that heroes could bring them. Being a comic strip, even the illiterate could generally understand the events in the life of Mandrake.
The content and depictions are of course somewhat dated, the dialog occasionally will raise the eyebrow of the more politically correct readership. However, it was Mandrake, a hero with powers that were never precisely determined, yet one where young readers couldn’t wait to read the next installment in the Sunday paper.