Mandrake the Magician (Comic strip)
Mandrake the Magician is an American adventure comic strip created by Lee Falk - also creator of The Phantom - and represents a popular feature also adapted into many forms of media, including television and film. The series began with a daily newspaper strip on June 11, 1934, followed by a color Sunday strip on February 3, 1935.
Mandrake the Magician started as a daily strip on June 11, 1934 with the story "The Cobra", written by Lee Falk.
It is generally admit that a mysterious artist was responsible of the first two weeks art of the Mandrake comic strip. In several interviews, Phil Davis said he did these first weeks when, in interviews done after 1964, Lee Falk said it was he himself who did that artistic work, having just hired Phil Davis after the selling of the series to King Features Syndicate. Perhaps both versions were right as Lee Falk could have done some pencil work on the two initial weeks with the help of Phil Davis for the inking...
To make it a bit more complicated, Al Parker claimed that Lee Falk first offered Mandrake the Magician to him. But, since he alredy was a dedicated illustrator, he could not accept that task and so Lee Falk asked Phil Davis to draw the strip.
When the Sunday Mandrake the Magician strip was added on February 3, 1935, Ray Moore became an assistant on the Mandrake strips. He helped Phil Davis with the ink, until the creation of the Phantom in 1936.
During World War II, Lee Falk joined the Office of War Information, where he became chief of his radio foreign language division. Davis also served in the war, during which he left some of the work for the strip to his wife and assistant Martha Davis. It is also said that the author Alfred Bester took the place of Lee Falk as the series writer as the man was serving in World War II. It is however still speculated what was the real work of Alfred Bester in this creative aspect.
Davis died suddenly in 1964, Martha Davis filled in before a successor was found in Fred Fredericks. During Fredericks' early years, he and Lee Falk modernized the strip, and laid the foundation for what is considered the modern look of Mandrake the Magician.
Through the years, Lee Falk continued to script Mandrake (and the Phantom) until his death on March 13, 1999. After Falk's passing, the artist Fred Fredericks also became the writer of the series, the Sunday strip ended in 2002 but the daily newspaper strip did run until 6 weeks of "Vanguard of Shadows". Fred Fredericks announced his retirement, and from July the 8th of 2013 the ongoing daily strip now are reprints.
Mandrake stories have also been created for comic books in different parts of the world, among them by:
- Nerbini and Fratelli Spada in Italy,
- RGE in Brazil,
- Dell Publishing, King Comics and Marvel Comics in U.S.
It's worthy to note that Italian and Brazilian publications not only published original Mandrake stories but yet released "home-made" stories from various local creators, unfortunately mainly remained unknown.
Some people say Mandrake the Magician was the first superhero of the comics.
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