The Black Terror

BLACK TERROR_col_smaller.jpegThe Black Terror is a character that dates all the way back to Exciting Comics # 9, published in January 1941 by Nedor Comics. His secret identity was pharmacist Bob Benton, who formulated a chemical he called “formic ethers”, which gave him various superpowers. He used these powers to fight crime with his sidekick, Tim Roland, together known as the “Terror Twins”. The character proved popular enough to survive until 1949 and his distinctive costume made for some truly memorable covers. After the Golden Age, the character eventually fell into the public domain – which led to a whole host of publishers reviving him for various projects. Over the years, he’s appeared in books published by AC, Eclipse, Wild Cat, Image, Moonstone and, of course, the Reese Unlimited imprint of Pro Se Press. I first wrote the character for Wild Cat back in 2008 as part of a book called Legends of the Golden Age and later used him in a couple of stories for The Peregrine. More recently, I’ve gone further back into his continuity to incorporate him into my Lazarus Gray stuff. Because his “later” appearances were written first there are a few discrepancies in how he’s portrayed.

In my universe, we first see The Black Terror in 1934 and learn that he’s the creation of a United States military operation overseen by General Arbogast and a scientist named Kenneth Butler. The Black Terror was, in fact, a plant-human hybrid — he had literally been grown in a tube. His memories (all the “facts” from the Golden Age comics) were implants designed to create a backstory that would make him a better soldier for the United States government — Jean Starr was there to give him a woman to fight to get back to and Tim gave him a sense of family. Neither actually existed, except in his own mind. When Bob found out the truth, he broke free and went rogue — but his programming was strong enough that he decided to continue fighting as The Black Terror. In 1936, this led him to Sovereign City in search of a man named Maxwell Schmidt. The German was running Omega Solutions. In conjunction with another product of the same government program that created The Black Terror — a man named McIness that was codenamed Titan – Schmidt hoped to transform himself into an entity dubbed Prometheus. In the end, Schmidt died for his hubris and The Black Terror was forced to kill Titan, the only other entity like him in the world. When all was said and done, The Black Terror used the technology that had created him to grow versions of Jean and Tim — he implanted similar memories into their minds and gave them life. All of this was recounted in “Making of a Hero” from Lazarus Gray Volume Two.

The next time we see Bob is in 1938, nearly two years after the previous story. The Black Terror was now well-known as a scourge of the underworld and this brought him into conflict with two superhuman criminals: The White Worm and Cassandra, the witch. During the events dubbed Gotterdammerung, The Black Terror confronted these two and learned that something greater — and more dangerous — was at play. Bob didn’t have much of a role in the affair beyond that. This was shown in the Gotterdammerung novel.

black_terror_01_smallThree months after this (still in 1938), Bob is approached by Assistance Unlimited and offered a spot with the team. With Tim’s encouragement, he accepts and begins splitting his time between an apartment he shares with his young ward and a bedroom at 6196 Robeson Avenue. Jean gets a job as secretary to the new Sovereign mayor, Mortimer Quinn. Bob becomes the team’s scientific expert and also serves as the muscle in most battles. He forms close friendships with the team though he struggles with Eun’s homosexuality. Over the course of 1938 and 1939, The Black Terror aids Assistance Unlimited in battles against Princess Femi, The Librarian, Nemesis, Mr. Death, The Torch, Heidi Von Sinn and El Demonio. These stories are told in Lazarus Gray Volumes 6 & 7.

The events of the next few years are still to be told. We do know that in 1943, Tim is approached by The Flame and Madame Masque – they say they need his help with some sort of emergency and he departs with them (“The Ivory Machine,” The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Two). While this is happening, The Black Terror is working for the United States government overseas – he confronts a Nazi scientist that is trying to recreate the Formic Ethers (“Terrors,” The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Two). Once Bob finds out that Tim has gone missing, he becomes more violent in his dealings with criminals and is briefly wanted by the authorities for his actions. He is finally reunited with Tim in 1946 and aids The Claws of the Peregrine team (along with The Flame and Madame Masque) in defeating the threat of Rainman and Dr. Gottlieb Hochmuller (“The Ivory Machine, The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Two). In the aftermath, Bob and Tim are offered a place with the Peregrine’s Claws team and they agree to aid them when possible. During these 1943-onward appearances, Bob doesn’t mention Assistance Unlimited so we’re not sure if he’s still associated with them.

I really like my version of Bob — he’s a solid, steadfast hero that occasionally gives in to his baser instincts. He’s sometimes troubled by his non-human origins but he’s too well-adjusted to dwell upon them.

Outstanding mysteries – what happens to Bob between 1940-1943? Did he ever have any follow-up encounters with the agency that created him? What becomes of him and Tim (and Jean) after 1946? It should be noted that the Tim of 1946 doesn’t look much different than the Tim of 1936, implying that these plant-human hybrids may not age the same as normal humans. Also, The Black Terror of 1946 doesn’t seem very familiar with The Peregrine, despite the fact that Assistance Unlimited and The Peregrine were allies. Is it possible that The Black Terror we saw in the 1946 story (and possibly the 1943 one) is actually a second version, grown at a later point? Or is it simply a case of an author writing stories out of sequence and screwing up?

Only time will tell!

Our artwork today is by Anthony Castrillo and George Sellas.

4 thoughts on “The Black Terror

  1. Looking forward to seeing Black Terror joining forces with Assistance Unlimited once again. Or really, all of Assistance Unlimited, after what You did with them in “Götterdämmerung”…

    When, oh when another volume of “Lazarus Gray Adventures” would be out? All that waiting is killing me…

    I loved how You had updated/modified Bob’s origin, which in my humble opinion made him much more interesting, than his classic comic book incarnation. Are You planning to use more classic, Public Domain heroes in Your future work?

    You did included Green Lama and Black Bat in Your “Peregrine” novels, as well as Captain Hazzard and Thunder Jim Wade, so I kinda wondered what You could done with some lesser known characters Leo Saint-Clair/Nyctalope, Jack Bradley/Fearless Flint, Daniel Lyons/Conqueror, or Pat Dempsey/Man O’ Metal…

    Especially Nyctalope would be interesting, since in contrast to most Pulp heroes he collaborated with Nazis instead of fighting them, and he is haunted by consequences of those actions in several modern stories with the character…

    Maybe The Peregrine could fight him during a trip to Paris? Just an idea…

    And getting back to the Black Terror and inconsistencies concerning his appearances in Your stories, after “Götterdämmerung” I came up with the theory that events happening in that story had changed the reality, so one of them is from the “old” reality, and the other from the “new” one.

    If Marvel can resolve their own inconsistent plot points that way, I can too! :)

    • I like the idea about the timeline having been altered in Gotterdammerung. I might steal that 😉

      The sixth volume of Lazarus Gray should be out before the end of the year and volume seven around the summer of 2017. I hate the wait, too!

      I love lots of public domain heroes and villains so I’m sure that more will appear in the future.

      • I am flattered, that You had liked my idea 🙂

        And getting back to the alternate timelines, do You plan to do something about the alternate timeline created at the end of “Die Glocke”? The one where Miya Shimada had found amnesiac Richard Winthrop on the shores of Sovereign City, and influenced him to destroy Illuminati, and take over the world?

        Cause after reading that part I kinda started to wonder what kind of character this kind of Lazarus Gray would be, one that is as skilled, and driven as “our” version of the character, but with more flexible morals, and added ruthlessness due to Miya’s influence.

        How would his version of Assistance Unlimited work? And who would be it’s members?

        After a bit of deliberation, I kinda, sorta created my take on this alternate reality, originally intended to work as a fanfic for Your universe, but since I can’t really write, the whole idea kinda died…

        For example “my” version of AU would consist of Richard/Lazarus, Miya, Doc Pemberley and Princess Femi, who where “redeemed” by our hero, who considered their skills useful in his fight with Illuminati.

        Since Morgan wasn’t turned to the side of angels by Gray in this timeline, he died during a gang shootout, but unexpectedly was resurrected by The Voice as the newest Gravedigger. In my opinion he would be more like The Shadow, or The Spider, fighting crime by gunning it down, his enhanced reflexes and healing factor giving him an edge.

        He was also de-aged by The Voice, now appearing as a man in his early 20’s, which enables him to pass as his own illegitimate son, when infiltrating Sovereign’s criminal underworld.

        Samantha’s history was basically the same, but here there was no Lazarus to give her direction, after she was disillusioned by her father’s dirty secrets, she instead started researching Grace family’s history, and found quite a few other skeletons in the closet, also finding old journal of her ancestor, Eobard Grace, as well as a certain old tome…

        After two years of adventuring in the World of Shadows, she returned home and found out only two months had passed since her “disappearance”, and decided to use the skills she earned to redeem her family’s honor by fighting crime.

        During her vigilante career she meets Morgan/Gravedigger, which starts a whirlwind romance between them… Yes, I ship Morgan and Samantha, so I made them a couple here 🙂

        As for Eun, his life was changed even more. During his short lived vigilante career he was saved by an (in)famous crimefighter Max Davies/The Peregrine, who saw a bit of himself in the angry youth, and began training him, as Warlike Manchu had trained him, to channel his anger and thirst for revenge into protecting the innocent.

        Initially Eun becomes Max’s sidekick, but after Mr. Davies marries Evelyn and retires, he succeeds him as The Peregrine, though his mentor still offers his aid, and acts as a mission control for our young hero. Second Peregrine also uses a lot more high-tech equipment, since Max has a lot more time to tinker in his workshop, and still sticks more to hand-to-hand combat, despite having access to many firearms.

        As for Max himself, since he never lost his power fighting Doctor Satan in this timeline, he had an opportunity to master it, gaining numerous new abilities like astral projection, using them to help Eun on the cases.

        Basically I intended for my “evil” Assistance Unlimited to come to the original Sovereign City in search of some artifact that was destroyed in their reality, and of course cross swords with Lazarus and his team, who would be helped by alternate versions of themselves from alternate reality.

        Just I silly idea, I guess, not to mention kinda cliched, but I was rather proud of it…

      • That’s a really great idea, actually. I haven’t really considered going back to that other reality – I pretty consider Miya’s story “over” but if I were to do so, a version of what you suggest not only makes sense but would make for a rousing adventure. Too bad you didn’t finish writing the story – I would have enjoyed reading it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s