Mandrake the Magician
Mandrake the Magician was a syndicated newspaper comic strip, created by Lee Falk (before he created The Phantom). Mandrake began publication on June 11, 1934. Phil Davis soon took over as the strip's illustrator, while Falk continued to script. The strip was distributed by King Features Syndicate.
|Mandrake the Magician|
1938 Mandrake comic
|Author(s)||Lee Falk (1934–1999)|
Fred Fredericks (1999–2013)
|Illustrator(s)||Phil Davis (c. 1934–1964)|
Fred Fredericks (1964–2013)
|Current status/schedule||Daily and Sunday; concluded; reruns|
|Launch date||June 11, 1934|
|End date||July 6, 2013|
|Syndicate(s)||King Features Syndicate|
|Mandrake the Magician|
|First appearance||June 11, 1934|
|Created by||Lee Falk|
|Team affiliations||Defenders of the Earth|
Mandrake, along with the Phantom Magician in Mel Graff's The Adventures of Patsy, is regarded by comics historians as the first superhero of comics, such as comics historian Don Markstein, who writes, "Some people say Mandrake the Magician, who started in 1934, was comics' first superhero."
Davis worked on the strip until his death in 1964, when Falk recruited artist Fred Fredericks. With Falk's death in 1999, Fredericks became both writer and artist. The Sunday-newspaper Mandrake strip ended December 29, 2002. The daily newspaper strip ended mid-story on July 6, 2013, when Fred Fredericks retired, and a reprint of Pursuit of the Cobra (D220) from 1995 began July 8, 2013.
Characters and story
Mandrake is a magician whose work is based on an unusually fast hypnotic technique. As noted in captions, when Mandrake "gestures hypnotically", his subjects see illusions, and Mandrake has used this technique against a variety of villains including gangsters, mad scientists, extraterrestrials, and characters from other dimensions. At various times in the comic strip, Mandrake also demonstrates other powers, including becoming invisible, shapeshifting, levitation, and teleporting. His hat, cloak, and wand, passed down from his father Theron, possess great magical properties, which in time Mandrake learns how to manipulate. Although Mandrake publicly works as a stage magician, he spends much of his time fighting criminals and combatting supernatural entities. Mandrake lives in Xanadu, a high-tech mansion atop a mountain in New York State. Xanadu's features closed-circuit TV, a sectional road which divides in half, and vertical iron gates.
Leon Mandrake, a real-life magician, had been performing for well over ten years before Lee Falk introduced the comic strip character. Thus, he is sometimes thought to have been the source for the origin of the strip. Leon Mandrake, like the fictional Mandrake, was also known for his top hat, pencil-line mustache, and scarlet-lined cape. Ironically, Leon Mandrake had changed his stage name to Mandrake to match the popular strip and then legally changed his surname from Giglio to Mandrake later. The resemblance between the comic-strip hero and the real-life magician was close enough to allow Leon to at least passively allow the illusion that the strip was based on his stage persona. Leon Mandrake was accompanied by Narda, his first wife and stage assistant, named after a similar character, who appears in the strip. Velvet, his replacement assistant and eventual lifetime partner, would also later make appearances in the strip along with his real-life side-kick, Lothar.
Lothar is Mandrake's best friend and crimefighting companion, whom Mandrake first met during his travels in Africa. Lothar was the Prince of the Seven Nations, a mighty federation of jungle tribes but forbore becoming king to followed Mandrake on his world travels. Lothar is often referred to as "the strongest man in the world", with the exception of Hojo — Mandrake's chef and secret chief of Inter Intel. Lothar is invulnerable to any weapon forged by man, impervious to heat and cold, and possesses the stamina of a thousand men. He also cannot be harmed by magic directly (such as by fire bolts, force bolts, or spell incantations). He can easily lift an elephant by one hand. One of the first African crimefighting heroes ever to appear in comics, Lothar's début alongside Mandrake was in the 1934 inaugural daily strip. In the beginning, Lothar spoke poor English and wore a fez, short pants, and a leopard skin. In a 1935 work by King Features Syndicate, Lothar is referred to as Mandrake's "giant black slave." When artist Fred Fredericks took over in 1965, Lothar spoke correct English and his clothing changed, although he often wore shirts with leopard-skin patterns.
Narda is Princess of the European nation Cockaigne, ruled by her brother Segrid. She made her first appearance in the second Mandrake story. Even though she and Mandrake were initially infatuated with each other, they did not marry until 1997, when an extravagant triple wedding ceremony at Mandrake's home of Xanadu, Narda's home country Cockaigne, and Mandrake's father Theron's College of Magic (Collegium Magikos) in the Himalayas. Narda learned martial arts from Hojo.
Theron is the headmaster of the College of Magic (Collegium Magikos) located in the Himalayas. He is hundreds of years old and may be kept alive by the Mind Crystal, of which he is the guardian.
Hojo, who knows six languages, is Mandrake's chef at his home of Xanadu and the secret chief of the international crimefighting organization Inter-Intel. He is also a superb martial-arts expert. As such, he has used Mandrake's help with many cases. Hojo's assistant at Inter-Intel is Jed.
The Police Chief is named Bradley but mostly called Chief. Mandrake aided him on several occasions. The Chief created the S.S.D. (Silly Stuff Dept.) for absurd and unbelievable cases that only Mandrake could solve. He has a son, Chris.
Magnon, the emperor of the galaxy, is Mandrake's most powerful friend and, with his wife Carola, has a daughter, Nardraka. She was named after Mandrake and Narda and is their godchild.
Lenore is Mandrake's younger half-sister. She is a world-renowned explorer.
Karma is Lothar's girlfriend, an African princess who works as a model.
The Cobra is Mandrake's most evil and dangerous foe, apparent from the start of the story. In 1937, the Cobra seemed to defeated, but returned in 1965, wearing a menacing silver mask. The Cobra's main goal is to acquire one of the two powerful Crystal Cubes, which increase mental energy. Mandrake and his father Theron guard them. Mandrake learned that The Cobra was secretly Luciphor, Theron's oldest son and, thus, Mandrake's half-brother. In later years, the Cobra was able to abandon his silver mask because his face had been reconstructed through surgery. He is sometimes accompanied by his assistant Ud.
Derek is Mandrake's twin brother and, thus, similar to Mandrake's appearance. The brother used his magical powers, which were near to Mandrake's, to achieve short-term personal satisfactions. Mandrake tried to remove Derek's knowledge of magic but never entirely succeeded. Derek son Eric, with an unknown mother, shows no signs of following in his father's footsteps.
The Clay Camel, real name Saki, is a master of disguise, able to mimic anyone and change his appearance in seconds. His name comes from the symbol he leaves at the scenes of his crimes, a small camel made of clay.
The Brass Monkey, daughter of the Clay Camel, has a similar talent for disguises.
Aleena the Enchantress is a former friend of Mandrake's from the College of Magic and a much-married spoiled temptress who uses her magic powers to benefit herself. She sometimes attempts to seduce Mandrake, but fails and, afterward, attempts to cause him trouble.
8 is an old and very powerful crime organization originating in medieval times. Members are known to often incorporate the number 8 in their crimes or leave the number 8 as a mark. They are organized like an octopus with eight arms, as in its headquarters, which are spread all over the world. One head — the mysterious leader Octon — is only shown as a menacing image on a computer screen. Over the years, Mandrake destroys the various headquarters one by one. In one episode, the Octon of 8 is revealed as Cobra, but the name later refers to an artificial intelligence wielded by Ming the Merciless in the television series Defenders of the Earth.
Ekardnam, 'Mandrake spelled backward, is Mandrake's "evil twin", who exists on the other side of a mirror. Like his world, in which the government is run by the Private of the Armies and generals do menial tasks, Ekardnam is an exact opposite and uses his "evil eye" to work his magic.
The Deleter is an extraterrestrial contract killer who will "delete" anyone for a price but will inflict justice on anyone who tries to cheat him out of his contract fee.
Nitro Cain is a mad bomber who throws sticks of explosives at people, including Mandrake. After the Mandrake comic strip appeared in the Australian newspaper Sunday Telegraph, the series was later abruptly withdrawn with the last panel showing that Nitro Cain had blown Mandrake off a horse, with Mandrake exclaiming: "Blast you, Nitro Cain", a clever reference to the explosive's blast.
Mandrake had a prominent role in Magic Comics, a compilation of newspaper comic strip reprints published by David McKay Company from 1939 to 1949. Mandrake was the cover star for issues nos. 8 through 24. Beginning with issue no. 25, an illustration of Mandrake became part of the magazine's logo.
- Mandrake the Magician (1935)
- Mandrake the Magician and the Midnight Monster (1939)
- Mandrake the Magician, Mighty Solver of Mysteries (1942)
- Mandrake the Magician and the Flame Pearls (1946)
Dell Comics published a Mandrake the Magician issue in its Four Color comic book series with various main characters. The Mandrake issue, no. 752, featured original stories by Stan Campell and written by Paul Newman.
In 1966–67, King Comics published ten issues of a Mandrake the Magician comic book. Most of the stories were remakes of past newspaper strip stories and featured art by André LeBlanc, Ray Bailey and others. Mandrake stories also ran as backup features in other King titles.
Italian publisher Fratelli Spada produced a considerable amount of original Mandrake comic-book stories in the 1960s and 1970s. A few were also published in the American Mandrake comic book mentioned above.
Mandrake has also enjoyed great success in comic books published in Britain, Australia, Brazil, India, France, Spain, Italy, Yugoslavia, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Turkey, and Sweden. Although, in the Nordic countries, it was most often a backup feature in The Phantom comic books. As well, Mandrake is popular in India through Indrajal Comics.
In 2013, Dynamite Entertainment launched a mini-series, Kings Watch, in which, much like Defenders of the Earth, Mandrake and Lothar teamed up with the Phantom, Flash Gordon, Dale Arden, and Hans Zarkov. The series pitted the six characters against the Cobra and Ming the Merciless. This was followed by a Mandrake solo comic, written by Roger Langridge and drawn by Jeremy Treece, as part of Dynamite's King: Dynamite series.
- Inside Magic publishes current Mandrake daily comic strip from King Features.
- Dragon Lady Press reprinted a 1937 Mandrake daily story in Classic Adventure Strips #1.
- Pacific Comics Club reprinted two Mandrake daily stories from 1938 Feature Books #18 and #23.
- Nostalgia Press published a hardback book reprinting two 1938 daily stories.
- Pioneer Comics reprinted a large number of Mandrake stories in comic book form.
- Comics Revue has reprinted several Mandrake daily and Sunday stories, including first Mandrake daily story and the first Mandrake Sunday story.
- JAL Publications has reprinted several Mandrake stories
- Hermes Press has begun reprinting the King comic book series, which will be published in two volumes.
- Titan Books reprinted the earliest Mandrake Sunday strips in 2016.
- Titan Books has also started to reprint the daily strips, by Phil Davis, and by Fred Fredericks.
In other media
An unauthorized Mandrake movie produced in Turkey was made in 1967, Mandrake Killing'in Peşinde (Mandrake Chasing Killing) was also known as Mandrake Killing'e Karşı / Mandrake Against Killing), directed by Oksal Pekmezoğlu and starring Güven Erte as Mandrake.
In 2007, Baldwin Entertainment Group and Hyde Park Entertainment purchased rights to make a Mandrake movie to be directed by Mimi Leder. The two companies own the rights to Lee Falk's The Phantom. Jonathan Rhys Meyers was origianally to play the title character with Chuck Russell as director. In 2009, However, Hayden Christensen replaced Rhys Meyers in the title role of the film with Djimon Honsou co-starring and Mimi Leder directing. Warner Bros announced that they are developing the film version of Mandrake. In June 2016, Sascha Baron Cohen was cast as Mandrake.
In the 1960s, Federico Fellini, a close friend of Falk, intended to make a Mandrake movie, but the project was never realized.
In the early 1980s, within two weeks of signing with his first agent, American filmmaker Michael Almereyda was hired by Embassy Pictures to rewrite a script for Mandrake the Magician. He told Filmmaker magazine that, upon receiving the assignment, he flew to New York City and checked himself into the Chelsea Hotel to work on the rewrite. Three weeks later, he emerged with a new draft, but by then the studio had changed heads, and, in as little time as his revision took, the project was dropped.
NBC made a pilot for a Mandrake the Magician TV series in 1954, but no other episodes were made. Stage magician Coe Norton starred as Mandrake and Woody Strode as Lothar.
In the animated series Defenders of the Earth (1986–87), Mandrake the Magician teams with fellow King Features adventurers Flash Gordon and The Phantom. Mandrake's best friend and crime-fighting partner Lothar also has a prominent role, as well as a teenage son nicknamed L.J. (Lothar Jr.) who is a martial artist. Mandrake has an adopted son of Asian blood named Kshin, whom he is training as his apprentice and heir. Peter Renaday provided the voice of Mandrake and Buster Jones provided Lothar's. The entire series has been released by BCI Eclipse as a two-DVD set in America, while Fremantle Media released the entire series on DVD in the UK.
In animated series Phantom 2040, featuring a future Phantom, Mandrake appears in the episode "The Magician". However, he is not named in the episode but rather presented as an old friend of that Phantom's father, a magician who helped build much of previous Phantom's previous equipment. His remarkably well-preserved shape is compatible with the longevity-conferring properties of the Crystals. Peter Renaday once again provides the voice of Mandrake.
The musical Mandrake the Magician and the Enchantress was produced during the late 1970s at the Lenox Arts Festival in Massachusetts. The script is by Falk and Thayer Burch with music by George Quincy and lyrics by Burch.
Mandrake is a character in the play King Kong Palace, written by Chilean playwright Marco Antonio de la Parra. In the play, Mandrake is now a performer at birthday parties, in which he attempts to seduce Jane, the ambitious wife of Tarzan, in order to satisfy his lust for power.
Parodies and tributes
Mandrake the Magician has inspired several other comic characters with magic powers, including Zatara, Kardak the Mystic Magician, Monako, Dakor the Magician, Ibis the Invincible, Mantor the Magician, Sargon the Sorcerer, Zatanna, Mr. Mystic, The Wizard, Mysto, and Magician Detective, as well as the short-lived Jim the Magician (Jadugar Jim in Hindi) by Sudhir Tailang in India.
In Mad no. 14 (August 1954), Mandrake was spoofed as "Manduck". He lives in a city dump, which he convinces visitors is a palatial home by "gesturing hypnotically". In this story, he matches wits with The Shadow; he, Lothar (called Loathar), and The Shadow all gesture hypnotically at each other, and, after a huge explosion, only Lothar (looking like Manduck) remains. In another issue, Manduck pulls off the trick of turning Loathar into a six-foot-tall blonde woman.
"In Pictopia" (first published in Anything Goes! no. 2 (August 1986) is a short story by Alan Moore and illustrator Don Simpson, which takes place in a limbo world of comic-book characters. Main character Nocturno the Necromancer is based on Mandrake. The story was reprinted in George Khoury's The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore (TwoMorrows, July 2003).
In popular culture
New Zealand-born Australian country and western singer Tex Morton had a successful song "Mandrake" recorded in 1941. It was about a rodeo horse named Mandrake, who never bucked the same, explaining, "Mandrake is a wizard so that's how he got his name".
Professional baseball player Don Mueller, active in Major League Baseball from 1948 to 1959, was nicknamed "Mandrake the Magician" for being adept at consistently putting the ball in play and delivering hits through the infield.
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- Ron Goulart, "The Glory Days, or Believe It or Not!" in Dean Mullaney, Bruce Canwell and Brian Walker, King of the Comics: One Hundred Years of King Features Syndicate. San Diego: IDW Publishing, 2015. ISBN 9781631403736. pp. 119, 122.
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- Tom Hawthorn (May 1, 2018) [April 12, 2011]. "On the centenary of his birth, B.C.'s greatest magician still has his secrets". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
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- "Cover Browser: Magic Comics". Cover Browser. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
- Lowery, Larry. "Big Little Books and Better Little Books: 1932-1949". Big Little Books.com. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
- "KINGS WATCH #4 Preview - Golden Age Heroes Team-Up in Penultimate Issue". Newsarama.com. 2014-02-18. Retrieved 2017-02-28.
- "KING: Five New Dynamite Launches of Classic Characters" Newsarama, 8 October 2014. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
- Marshall, Chris. "Mandrake the Magician: The King Years (and maybe a little more) To Be Collected". Collected Comics Library. Archived from the original on 11 June 2015. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
- Review: Mandrake The Magician: The Hidden Kingdom Of Murderers, Sundays 1935–1937 Scott VanderPloeg, comicbookdaily.com ,11 July 2016. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
- Kemp, Stuart (2007-10-31). "Rhys Meyers dons cape for 'Mandrake'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2012-09-04. Retrieved 2007-11-07.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-04-21. Retrieved 2009-05-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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- "Disciplina Kičme - Betmen, mandrak, fantom". YouTube. 1 December 2009.
- Mandrake the Magician at King Features
- Toonopedia: Mandrake the Magician
- MandrakeWiki – Wiki dedicated to everything related to Mandrake the Magician
- Xanadu: Mandrake the Magician
- The Phantom Phorum – Discussion forum dedicated to The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician
- Reprint Mandrake comics campaign-Online campaign to garner interest about getting the comics reprinted.
- Mandrake the Magician Sundays and dailies
- Chuck Russell to direct Mandrake movie
- Inside Magic Inside Magic carries daily Mandrake the Magician from King Features Syndicate