Ibis the Invincible is an Egyptian prince, Amentep, who used his magical Ibistick (looks like a bottle opener) to sleep away the centuries until his beloved Taia was revived from death. He emerges from his mummy case, retrieves the Ibistick and uses it to awaken Taia. In both tellings of his origin, Whiz Comics 2, and the later, more detailed version in Ibis the Invincible 1, he is to sleep until she is revived, but he wakes first and revives her. This irritates me, especially when the contradiction occurs on the same page!
But aside from that, this is not a bad series. It does take a while to find its bearings. Many of the stories in the first two years use cliffhanger endings, which get a bit tiresome. The Ibistick has the power to literally do anything, it acts on the person’s wishes, spoken or simply thought, so most cliffhangers are fairly easily resolved.
The difficulty in figuring out what can possibly challenge Ibis likely lead to the repetitive nature of his early stories. Ibis tends to lose/drop/loan the Ibistick, and the person who winds up in possession makes all manner of wishes, but when confronted by Ibis tries to use the Ibistick against him. The Ibistick then causes whatever the person intended for Ibis, to happen to the wisher instead.
Of the early Ibis stories, the best by far occurs in Whiz Comics 6. A fisherman finds the Ibistick, which was lost at the end of the previous chapter. It provides him with a huge haul of fish. The fisherman, not realizing the powers of the wand, gives it to his son, who wishes he had a bicycle instead. The bike materializes, and he rides off, leaving the Ibistick behind. A dog grabs the stick, wishing for a steak, which he then gets. A hobo tries to get the steak, but gets the wand instead, and winds up riding his own private train car. Ibis finally catches up with the wand, the hobo tries to use it against him, and loses everything.
Taia stays at Ibis’s side throughout his adventures. Sure she gets captured occasionally, but at least he doesn’t keep dropping or losing her. She has no powers, though she uses the Ibistick occasionally, but she is ready with her dagger when the need arises. Ibis also has a crystal ball that he can use to find Taia, or the Ibistick, but he rarely uses it.
Ibis wears a modern day suit, and a turban. There are a huge amount of artists who work on this series, so the basic simplicity of the costume was a plus. Even still, some artists gave him a cape as well.
In Whiz Comics 7, as Ibis and Taia drive across the country to California, they meet a young orphan boy at a carnival, working for a drunk who does a William Tell act, shooting an apple off the boys head. They more or less adopt him, and he travels with them as they deal with nebulous asian villain Piang in issues 9 and 10. At the end of the story in issue 19, they enroll Tommy in a military academy.
Tommy remains important over the next few issues, as he is framed for cheating, and later kidnapped by Trug, Ibis’ main rival in his debut appearance in Whiz 13. Trug is also of nebulous asian descent, maybe from India. He wears a turban as well, and has a knowledge of magic. He is able to disguise himself instantly, and pull off some other basic illusions, but craves the Ibistick. Trug appears in every story between issues 13 and 20, and returns periodically throughout the run. In issue 31 he tricks Tommy into believing Ibis is his real father, and the kid actually falls for this, at least until Ibis tells him otherwise. Tommy graduates from the Academy at the end of this story, and immediately enlists in the airforce. He is not seen again during this era. Trug acquires “The Horrible Hand in issue 34”, “The Living Paintings” in 40, and “The Murderous Ice Monkey” in 55, his final appearance in this era.
Ibis deals with a crazed Nazi, Half-Man, in issues 21 – 24. Severely wounded, missing limbs and a eye and just overall looking sort of like he should be dead, Half-Man pursues Ibis, hoping to get the Ibistick and heal himself. This story comes to a very nice conclusion, as Ibis defeats him, but then uses the stick to heal him anyway. Whole again, and grateful, Half-Man (or I guess Whole-Man now) deserts the German army and joins the US forces.
In issue 25 Ibis and Taia head to Egypt, where rebellious muslims revive Rameses to lead them against the British. Rameses is rendered in full-out horror movie style, a decaying mummified corpse, with his own agenda. He kills the men who revived him, taking their army as his own. The Rameses story runs to issue 28, and he returns in Ibis the Invincible 2.
The Flying Dutchman is introduced in Whiz 27, returning in issue 37. The first story is fairly good, though it interrupts the Rameses serial, but the return tale has such a painful ending. The Flying Dutchman finds love and is relieved of his curse. Yes, fine, that`s the traditional ending to the tale, but he and his crew return to life at this point, and as they are Dutch, they go off to fight the Nazis. Why bring a decent villain back just to get rid of him completely?
Ibis gets pitted against a variety of mystical foes, including the Headless Horseman (Whiz 30), a revived Atilla the Hun (33), the City of Skeletons (44) and even the norse trickster god Loki, in issue 50.
The worst Ibis story of the period is in Whiz Comics 46, “The Missing Leprechaun.” This story introduces Banshee O’Brien, a young boy apprentice, who does not get to use the Ibistick, instead he learns spells. Clearly intended as a thoroughly unnecessary boy sidekick for Ibis, he does not appear again. I know I breathed a sigh of relief when he was not in issue 47.
Ibis the Invincible continues in the Late Golden Age
Ibis the Invincible: Whiz Comics 2 – 56 (Feb 40 – July 44)
Ibis the Invincible 1 – 2 (Spring 42 – Spring 43)
All-Hero Comics 1 (Spring 43)