As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve continued working on Götterdämmerung, the big crossover novel that will pair up most of my major heroes. I’d been planning to use The Phantom Detective in the book, bringing him into my pulp adventure universe. But after reading a half dozen novels and perusing The Phantom Detective Companion, I’ve decided against it. The character is just soooooo boring. I could change him up, of course, but why keep the name if I was going to do that? Instead, I’ll be using The Dark Gentleman, who was kind of a Phantom Detective analogue that I introduced in “Darkness, Spreading Its Wings of Black,” the story that appeared in both The Rook Volume Six and The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume One. The Dark Gentleman has been mentioned repeatedly since then but he hasn’t had any other appearances. That story was set in 1935 and the crossover novel is set in 1938 so he should be a much more capable hero by that time. I think it’s going to work much better this way.
So who is The Dark Gentleman?
He’s Michael Groseclose, born in 1911. He’s 24 when we meet him in “Darkness,” so he’s be 27 in 1938. His father is Theodore Groseclose, the publisher of The Sovereign Gazette. Michael trained for months before putting on the mask but on his very first night, he ran afoul of Assistance Unlimited, who took him to be a criminal. He eventually proved his innocence and then helped Lazarus Gray and The Rook defeat the killer known as Devil Face.
In the story, we see him have a powerful argument with his father — during which, he gives strong clues as to his motivations:
“You know what, dad? I’ve had enough of you, too. You sit in your office and you print your stories but what do you really know about life in this city? Have you walked its streets? Have you seen all the joy and happiness sucked out of its people because they can’t believe in the system anymore? Do you know that there are dozens of mobs out there, all vying for power? And that the men in charge turn a blind eye to it because they’re too scared or to crooked to do what’s right?” Michael yanked his arm free. “Oh, but you would know about that last part, wouldn’t you? You’re the one keeping it quiet that good people are being out on the street so your buddies can build their high-rises.”
Obviously, The Dark Gentleman is driven by a need to clean up Sovereign and he despises the hypocrisy that he sees in his father. Unlike The Rook or Lazarus Gray, he’s just an ordinary man… intelligent, brave and athletic, to be sure, but there are no powers or secret societies in his origin story. He’s just doing what he thinks is right.
How does he dress? Here’s the description we get of him, complete with Eun Jiwon’s erroneous assumption about his villainy:
This man wore a white shirt covered by a gray vest, black tie and an ebony jacket. Over all of this was slung a dark opera-style cape that was clasped about his neck. With black slacks and shoes, as well as leather gloves and a top hat, the figure looked like he might on his way to a fancy ball. But the presence of an automatic in his right hand and a large domino-style mask made it quite clear to Eun that the man’s presence was a sinister one.
So The Dark Gentleman basically looks like the way cover artists usually depicted The Phantom Detective (as opposed to how The Phantom Detective actually appeared in the stories).
So there you have it — our newest Sovereign hero to get the spotlight will be a guy introduced several years ago!
Our image today is of The Phantom Detective but it works equally well for The Dark Gentleman!