THE BLACK CAT
Hollywood’s glamorous detective star!
The Black Cat is a comic book super-hero published by Harvey Comics during the 1940s. She has no relation whatsoever to do with The Black Cat (Felicia Hardy) of Marvel Comics. The character’s creation is claimed by the Harvey family to have come from publisher Alfred Harvey but there is no evidence proving this. What we do know is that she was originally illustrated by artist Al Gabrielle.
The Black Cat made her debut in POCKET COMICS #1 (August 1941). It was called POCKET COMICS because it was an experimental digest-sized comic book that could easily fit into someone’s back pocket. Which is exactly what happened and newsstand dealers complained to Harvey Comics that people were walking off without paying. POCKET COMICS was subsequently canceled. So much for the experiment.
The Black Cat then made her way into an anthology comic book named SPEED COMICS and stayed there until 1947. By 1946 her popularity had earned the Black Cat her own title that lasted until 1951. Comic Books hit a slump following World War II and in an effort to recoup waning sales the title became known as BLACK CAT WESTERN COMICS, BLACK CAT MYSTERY COMICS, BLACK CAT WESTERN MYSTERY, and BLACK CAT MYSTIC before becoming BLACK CAT for the final three issues. Oh what publishers will do to keep the gravy train going. The Black Cat also appeared in another Harvey Comics anthology, ALL-NEW COMICS for three issues.
Writers who worked on her series are not positively known. The artists were Al Gabrielle, Pierce Rice, Arturo Caseneuve, Bob Powell, Jill Elgin, Joe Kubert, John Belfi, and Lee Elias. This last name is significant.
Linda Turner is the daughter of silent film Western star Tim Turner. She was also a Hollywood stuntwoman. Being especially beautiful – I love redheads – she made the transition from stuntwoman to movie star.
While filming a movie she come to suspect the director named Garboil of being a Nazi spy. She decides to follow him and try to gain evidence. She also decides to disguise herself with a backless blue blouse, red shorts, blue cavalry gloves, red buccaneer boots, and a blue opera mask. Because Garboil is afraid of black cats she calls herself The Black Cat.
While tailing the director she meets Rick Horne – a reporter for the Los Angeles Globe newspaper who is investigating rumors of a Nazi spy ring in the area. At first the two of them are contemptuous of each other but agree to work together. They discover that Garboil is passing on secret information in his motion pictures. She sneaks into the editing room of the studio and changes the film to make the information useless. When the two of them are discovered they outfight the bad guys and turn them in. However, Garboil escapes and she decides to keep her Black Cat identity in order to watch out for his activities.
Linda Turner/The Black Cat
Our two-fisted hero! Yay!!
Reporter and love interest. He may be brave and handsome but he isn’t terribly bright nor a very good investigative reporter if he can’t figure out Linda Turner is The Black Cat. Apparently he belongs to the Lois Lane school of journalism.
Linda’s cat and the inspiration for her Black Cat identity.
The villain of the first story and the only recurring bad guy.
Linda’s father a former silent film star.
Linda Turner’s personal secretary and assistant.
Kit Weston aka The Black Kitten
Kid sidekicks were all the age in the 1940s and The Black Cat was not immune. Luckily this was only for the last few issues of the comics run.
The Black Cat was easily Harvey Comics number one character. She teamed up with fellow Harvey stars Shock Gibson, Captain Freedom, Ted Parrish, War Nurse, and the Girl Commando to repel an invasion of Hollywood by the Japanese. If this was an attempt to create a super-team it was half-hearted and didn’t count.
She also teamed up with Shock Gibson and Captain Freedom in several text stories based on covers from SPEED COMICS.
Not to mention she teamed with the Spirit of ’76 and Agent 99 in two separate adventures in POCKET COMICS #4.
Although not appearing in person The Black Cat does get a mention in SUPER FRIENDS Vol. 2 #5 (June 1977). This puts her in the big leagues with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.
In the COMIC BUYER’S GUIDE “100 Sexiest Women in Comics” list she is ranked number 41.
The majority of The Black Cat’s enemies were ordinary criminals and Axis agents. However, she did fight mad scientists, vampires, and enemies with names like Fire Bug, the Scepter, Cleopatra, and the Crimson Raider.
Back in the Golden Age of comics female super-heroes were generally broken up into two categories – good girls and bad girls. Good girls were those female heroes who wore costumes that covered them from head to toe. A perfect example is Miss America published by Timely Comics (later known as Marvel Comics).
As you can see there is very little skin showing. That makes her a good girl. However, there were other characters that were not so shy. The worst was arguably The Phantom Lady originally published by Quality Comics and then later by Dc Comics.
She is a bad girl – yowza! The label had nothing to do with how the character acted and had everything to do with how they were dressed. The Black Cat was considered a bad girl and that led to much of her popularity.
In addition she was considered a biker babe and the publisher went to great pains to show her dressing and undressing within the story.
No wonder she was so popular amongst adolescent boys in the 1940s.
However, that was not the sole source of her popularity. She managed to appeal to both male readers and female readers. Issues of her comic had cut-outs where girls, and boys as well I suppose, could cut out her figure along with various fashion products – dresses, gowns, skirts, etc.
And just to remind us that she is a kick-ass super-hero her comic also had self-defense lessons demonstrated by The Black Cat herself.
Like I said she had something for everyone.
Just how popular was The Black Cat? Artist Lee Elias was lured away from Harvey Comics to help create a similar strip for DC Comics. She was called the Black Canary.
Get it? The cat and the canary.
I first came across The Black Cat in the 1960s when Harvey Comics reprinted her adventures. This was after Marvel Comics started a veritable comic book explosion and everyone was trying to get into the super-hero craze. Back then I was buying and reading every comic book in sight. I am not exaggerating. After buying up every single Marvel title I would buy up every single DC comic. Then I’d get all the Archie titles, and after that anything else from any other publisher that was out there. Naturally when Harvey reprinted The Black Cat I picked that up as well.
Little did I know the impact she would have on me.
The Black Cat is my absolute favorite female super-hero of all time bar none. I have been reading comics for more than sixty years so that encompasses a lot of comic book characters. This means in my estimation she surpasses such heavy-hitters as Wonder Woman, The Black Widow, and She-Hulk. She also surpasses such fan favorites as Jean Grey, Storm, and Catwoman. Yes, that is exactly what I am trying to say.
The Black Cat is a fun character that was published at a time when it was okay for comic books to be fun. She does not have a traumatic origin story. She was not born from tragedy. She is not riddled with guilt nor seeking revenge nor searching for answers. She puts on a mask and fights bad guys because it’s fun! It’s that simple and she looks and sounds like she is having fun the whole time. I love it!
She is also a character that has no super-powers and gets by on wits and skill. Having been a stuntwoman before becoming a movie star she came with the skill set she needed. But that only gets you so far the brains she needed to get by she supplied on her own. I like super-heroes with super-powers but quite often the super-power overshadows the character as if to say all they are is what they can do. For this reason I often prefer non-powered characters like Batman. But even Batman is often overshadowed by his gadgets. That is never the case with The Black Cat.
Plus she has a supporting cast that adds to the enjoyment. When a character is a solo player their supporting cast is vital to the enjoyment of the story. Where would Superman be without Perry White, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen? Often comic book publishers forget this and get too swept up in the action of their characters. They forget what Alfred brings to Batman. They forget what J.Jonah Jameson brings to Spider-Man. They forget what Mera brings to Aquaman. In the case of The Black Cat they never forgot the importance of the supporting cast.
For this and so much more The Black Cat holds a special place in my heart. And I really wouldn’t want to have it any other way. Being a Golden Age character I don’t know if anyone can find any of her adventures now. If you can check her out you will not be disappointed. If not, mores the pity. I wish I could share with the world the delightful adventures of Hollywood’s glamorous detective star –
One thought on “WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT MONTH – THE BLACK CAT”
I see your strong attachment to cats started long, long ago.
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