We tend to think of the mid-1950s era between the publication of the last Fawcett Captain Marvel comics in 1953 and the reboot of the Flash in 1956 as a superhero wasteland, but this is not quite true. The success of the Superman TV show beginning in 1953 sparked a new superhero boom. DC Comics wisely expanded the franchise with Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen. Marvel took a shot at bringing back its foundational heroes, and Robert Farrell and Jerry Iger brought back a number of Fox superheroes and launched some new ones. This era was the dawn of the Cold War, and Marvel’s reboot attempt found a natural post-WWII enemy for America’s superheroes in Communism. Ajax/Farrell’s Black Cobra likewise leaned heavily into Communist enemies for its storylines, with stories that were heavily influenced by headlines of the day. A series that is deeply embedded in the Cold War history of its time, there’s a Black Cobra #1-3 Group (Ajax/Farrell, 1954-55) Condition: Average VG up for auction in the 2022 September 18-19 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122238 at Heritage Auctions.
The blurb on the title page of Black Cobra #1 sets the stage for what this series is about: ” The cold and cunning men in the Kremlin were worried, and they had reason to be. For out of nowhere, like a scourge of evil, came a man who was more than a match for the Red tyrants. His strength was as great as theirs, his guile even greater, and he made unrelenting war on the power-crazed clique who schemed to crush a world beneath their blood-stained boots.”
Steve Drake is an FBI agent who is secretly the Black Cobra. His powers include a bulletproof costume and some unexplained innate ability to transform into the Black Cobra at will. In the featured story of the first issue, The FBI gets a tip that Communists have planted an agent on the staff of Voice of America in Vienna, and the Black Cobra travels there to stop him. This concept is clearly based on real-world events of the prior year, as Senator Joseph McCarthy‘s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations examined alleged Communist infiltration of Voice of America, including the Vienna station.
The final story of that debut issue is also inspired by then-recent headlines, as Black Cobra helps the Czech underground assassinate the notorious head of the NKVD (Soviet secret police), a man known in the story as “the bloody executioner” and almost certainly inspired by the notorious Lavrentiy Beria, who himself had been executed a few months before this Black Cobra story was written.
A fascinating artifact of early Cold War history, you can get this entire series with Black Cobra #1-3 Group (Ajax/Farrell, 1954-55) Condition: Average VG up for auction in the 2022 September 18-19 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122238 at Heritage Auctions. If you’ve never bid at Heritage Auctions before, you can get further information, you can check out their FAQ on the bidding process and related matters.
Black Cobra #1-3 Group (Ajax/Farrell, 1954-55) Condition: Average VG. Includes issues #1, 2, and 3 (spine spitting, no top staple, tape repair to cover and interior cover at the spine). Ken Battefield, Paul Gattuso, and Robert Webb art. Approximate Overstreet value for group = $175.
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