In the Limelight

Founded by Joe Hardie, Fred Gardner, and Raymond Kelly, Centaur Publications was one of the earliest examples of American comic book publishers. The company ran from 1938 to 1942, during which time they created several colorful characters. One of the most fondly remembered creations was the fictional superhero, The Masked Marvel. 

The character originally debuted in Keen Detective Funnies #7 in 1939 and continued to appear as the feature in Keen Detective Funnies until issue 24, later spawning his own short-lived series. Initially, Masked Marvel was a non-powered hero clad in a scarlet suit, whose secret identity was never revealed. Operating out of a glass-domed headquarters atop a mountain, Masked Marvel fought crime alongside a trio of assistants known as ZL, ZR, and ZY. Along with a number of gadgets and weapons, he possessed a video device that would allow him to see anywhere in the world.

Following the close of Centaur Comics, the character remained dormant for a time before being revived by Malibu Comics. This new version of the character was essentially identical to the original, albeit an expanded origin story. Masked Marvel was revealed to be young prodigy Philip Reinhart. Despite his immensely successful business, Reinhart was searching for greater meaning. As a result, he became a crimefighter known as Nightmask. The writers changed Masked Marvel’s name to Nightmask out of fear over a potential lawsuit from Marvel Comics. Ironically, Marvel had already created a superhero by that name six years earlier, as part of their New Universe imprint. 

After the outbreak of World War II, Nightmask choose to give up crimefighting and enlist. Shortly thereafter he was briefly married to Erika Blaine and fathered a son, Richard. The marriage broke up when Richard was only 3 years old and resulted in a bitter custody battle. He spent much of his teenage years without direction, largely from the strained relationship with his father. In the 1990s, Reinhart returned to heroics, serving as director of the government-run superhero team, The Protectors. While his father worked behind the scenes directing, Richard took up his father’s superhero identity and became part of the team. Much to his father’s chagrin. 

Despite his lack of gadgets and extraordinary skills, Richard was determined to prove himself a formidable hero. Both Nightmasks remained prominent parts of the title until its cancellation. Malibu Comics was later acquired by Marvel, but any appearances from either Nightmask have been few and far between. Until now. 

Hake’s Auctions current Auction #226 is offering a rare promotional sheet for the Masked Marvel’s appearance in Keen Detective Funnies. This full color double-sided promotional sheet was sent to news dealers, wholesalers and distributors to help promote Centaur’s new superhero character back in 1939.

The sheet features a reprint of the three-page comic story, featuring Masked Marvel with ZR, ZY, and ZL on the trail of criminal The Hawk. On the back of sheet is a promotion that reads “Flash! Boys And Girls - Get A Free Red Mask From The Masked Marvel!” with an image of the Masked Marvel and the cover to Keen Detective Funnies Vol. 2 #8. This notes to pick up the issue to see how the story plays out. 

Bidding on this incredible rarity has already begun and closes on March 13-14, 2019. Head over to hakes.com to get started today!