The first year of The Wizard’s stories are by far the best. Not that they are great, the art is mediocre and the stories jingoistic, but after the first year it would just get worse. How this character spun off into a shared book I have no idea.
The Wizard, Blaine Whitney, is credited at first solely with his brain powers, which we see largely in terms of his inventions, as well as a pill he has devised to give him added strength and stamina. In Top-Notch 4 he uses hypnosis to control a villain’s mind, but we don’t see that trick again. He also has visions of things that are happening, or about to happen. For a very long time these are explained as his “photographic” mind reasoning out what is occurring, even though there are instances where this clearly is not the case – for example, in Shield-Wizard 13, when he is reading a book, and gets a vision of Roy in trouble. It is not until 1943, in Shield-Wizard11, that he is finally credited with clairvoyance.
In his first year he battles an onslaught of foreign agents and troops, usually called in by his brother, Grover, of Naval Intelligence, and leaves behind a piece of paper with the phrase “Our country right or wrong” on it, which seems a little extreme for a hero. Shouldn’t they be above such mindless acquiesance?
There is a delightful slough of inventions in this period, though, often accompanied by cut-away diagrams. The Wizard creates a vibra-ray gun, a dynomagno saw ray, a contra-gravity flask, a neutronic vacuum ray, a strato-amphibian plane and an aerochute in a matter of months. It’s entirely possible these do not work as well as they might. We never see them used a second time, and the neutronic vacuum ray stops engines exactly the same way the vibra-ray did two issues earlier.
He also meets fellow MLJ star The Shield twice in this year, a brief meet and greet in Top-Notch 5, followed by an actual team up against the forces of Mosconia in issue 7. Shortly after this they begin sharing a book, Shield-Wizard, but never team up in its pages.
Top-Notch 5 also introduces Blaine’s fiancee, Jane Barlow, who has more interest in the Wizard than in Blaine. We learn that she is journalist in Top-Notch 11, though the paper is called the Daily Record in this issue, but the Daily Chronicle from issue 19 on, and that Blaine is the owner of the paper, though this is rarely mentioned again.
In issue 6 Blaine changes from his suit into more generic blue tights, with a red cape and shorts, still with his red domino mask.
The first two issues of his Shield-Wizard series are devoted to his ancestry. The first issue details the earliest Whitney settlers, and trhe one who was burned at the stake in Salem as a witch for the things he invented, and then goes on to show how they helped Washington win the Revolutionary War, with issue 2 covering his ancestors actions during the War of 1812.
In issue 8 it all goes wrong, as he finds a 12 year old shoeshine boy, Roy, and brings him home to train. He gives Roy a pair of blue shorts,a red and white striped shirt and a little blue kerchief and mask, and starts taking him out to fight crime as Roy the Super-Boy. Grover had made his final appearance in issue 7, and no longer will the Wizard deal with foreign foes, now he becomes a crime fighter. Sadly, he will also stop inventing cool weapons, preferring to fight it out alongside Roy.
Even worse is the addition of Oscar the Ostrich, who does little other than provide chaotic “comedy” in issues 22, 24 and Shield-Wizard 5.
In Top-Notch 25 Blaine and Jane head to the altar, but she is kidnapped by a jilted ex-boyfriend. The Wizard saves her, and they head back to the church at the end of the story, but Jane hears a news bulletin about an explosion at the waterfront and runs off. It seems they just give up on getting married after this, as Jane sticks around until the end of the series, but they clearly are not married in any of the later stories.
There is one genuinely good story in this run, a very powerful one that was written after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. In Top-Notch 27, the Wizard’s final appearance in that book, he reminisces about Randolph Blake, a long-time friend who went too much into the party world, got framed for murder and believed himself guilty because he had passed out. After the Wizard proved his innocence, he could not go back to his former life, and chose to join the army. He was stationed at Pearl Harbour, and died in the attack.
About the only other thing I can say about this series is that the Wizard does get two stories without Roy before his run ends, in Shield-Wizards 9 and 13.
The Wizard returns in some revival of the MLJ heroes, probably the 60s Mighty Crusaders series. I hope Roy gets left behind. If Oscar the Ostrich returns I will regret ever having read the MLJs
The Wizard: Top-Notch Comics 2 – 27 (Jan 40 – May 42)
Shield-Wizard 1 – 13 (Summer 40 – Winter 43)