Masks: The OGs of Superheroes.
(AfroGamers.com) Dynamite Entertainment is a publisher that found a specific niche in taking properties from way back when and turning them into comics. If it was on television any time between the 1960s and 1980s or had a radio serial, Dynamite has done a series on it. IDW Publishing does the same but this is about a Dynamite mini-series that stood out: Masks.
Masks: The Original Caped Crusaders in One Place
Before Batman, there were a number masked and caped vigilantes who inspired a number of heroes. Chris Roberson brings the heavy hitters of pulp and old-time radio together in an alliance to battle the Justice Party and forces around it. What also sold me was that Alex Ross was doing the art on some of the comics. He normally does covers so and that first issue looked like one long painting with a story.
The Justice Party is a political party that has taken over New York City and is backed and led by underworld forces in the city. This results in the vigilantes arrive when things escalate after the Justice Party unleashes their new special police force. Heavily armored and given carte blanche, these cops have numbers on their side after tons of street criminals flood their ranks.
Something that was really cool was how all these heroes came together. It points out that only the Green Hornet and Kato were the only ones out of town. We also have The Spider, an inspiration for Spider-Man thirty years later. This guy doesn’t play but he has nothing on my favorite number one from the series.
The Standouts in Masks
Yes, The Shadow. This guy was the main inspiration for the Batman series that came a couple of years later. He would kill villains, as would the gun-toting Batman, had the ability to control minds, and had one of the coolest superhero costumes. It’s all about the red scarf that stands out like the symbol on Batman’s suit.
My other favorite in this was Zorro. Apparently, this Zorro is the artistic descendant of the original. He has moved out East and is instantly arrested by the police force. Witnessing this injustice, he is considering doing something about it.
You have some oddballs in here like some of the Golden Age comic book heroes who debut but they’re pretty much at home in this universe. One hero I’ve always enjoyed reading from the 1940s who appeared was The Black Terror or second coolest and intimidating costume in Masks.
A True Throwback
The mix of modern art with these heroes from pulp magazines, radio, and Golden Age comics was incredible. I love the choice to have Alex Ross and his art start the mini-series. He is known for the covers of my favorite series Astro City and it always looked classic. It just fit given Astro City is a series steeped in history starting from the Golden Age.
While Ross’ stuff doesn’t look like the interior covers of a comic from that period, it was perfect for Masks. Dennis Calero’s artwork fit the story as well. The team assembled here was just as awesome as the one between the pages.
Really, the only place where it falters is in leaping forward from Masks. On one hand, it didn’t really establish an origin story for anyone except the new Zorro. All of these masked vigilantes have established crime-fighting careers and just meet up by chance.
This would’ve been an incredible story to kick off a shared universe of heroes and base it in the World War II period. At this time, your major companies hand heroes fighting crime here and fighting the war over there. This would’ve been a true change for comics story-wise.
Despite this, Dynamite Entertainment did deliver on several comics and mini-series based around this same crew of heroes. If you’d like something different and drenched in comic book history, give the 8-issue mini-series Masks a read.
Staff Writer; M. Swift
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.