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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Profiles in Courage: The Black Dwarf

Since my second contribution to Prism's "Queer Eye On Comics" feature went up today--wherein I take on the slightly homoerotic subtext of otherwise two-fisted Western action hero The Gay Desperado--I figured now might be a good time to take a look at the other features from 1964's Danger Comics #12.

There are, after all, four reprinted Golden Age stories in there, and each one's ridiculous in its own special way. But really, they'd have to achieve some kind of Mantloesque level of nonsense if they wanted to out-crazy the story pictured on the cover.

The Black Dwarf!

Because there is no greater high concept for a character than "What if the Shadow was only three foot six?" Although really, he's not black, and considering that he's often depicted as standing the same height as other characters and knocking people on the back of the head with his pistol, I've got serious doubts as to whether he's actually a dwarf.

Regardless, he is pretty short, and apparently spends his time running around in the comically oversized trenchcoat and cape that make him look like a slightly more sinister version of the already-creepy Yellow Kid, doing his best to stick it to the mob.

Here's how it all works, according to what I've been able to piece together from this seven-page story:

The Black Dwarf, pint-size scourge of the Underworld, is in actuality "Shorty" Wilson, who--despite standing somewhere below 4'10"--apparently had a promising career in the world of professional football as an "All-American End," which sort of makes him 1945's equivalent of Rudy. But for some reason that remains a mystery to this day, Shorty retires from pro ball and turns his allegedly considerable talents to fighting crime, assisted by his Dirty Dozenish gang of former criminals.

Said gang includes Arsenic, shrill-voiced former "Queen of the Blackmail Racket"; The Human Fly, whose abilities allow him to get to high places in far more time than it would take if he used the stairs; and explosives expert and Jimmy Olsen simulacrum Nitro.

In this mind-melting installment of the Black Dwarf's adventures, we find Shorty and the gang hot on the trail of "Tiger," a mobster suspected of flooding the city with counterfiet bills, but as it turns out, Tiger's just a pawn in the game of some other mastermind. And in order to catch that guy, The Black Dwarf and company are going to have to weave an incredible tapestry of over-the-top mid-forties slang that can only be read in a staccato gangster-movie Brooklyn accent.

Case in point:


And of course....

And those are sequential panels. And incidentally, see what I mean about him not being a dwarf? In that last panel, he's standing on a lower stair and he's hunched over dragging an unconscious mobster, and he's still almost as tall as Human Fly there. I mean really, when your entire character concept is The Black Dwarf, he should probably be pretty short.

Still, with Doc Harvell evading G-Men and flooding the market with phony cash, random panel-to-panel changes in height are the least of Shorty's worries. But after casually murdering a couple of thugs, swinging from a chandelier while his girlfriend gets smacked around, and hanging Doc Harvell by a noose "till he stops kickin'," everything works out okay, and the Black Dwarf gets to take his rightful place in history as the second-greatest midget crimefighter of all-time.

Shorty Wilson, alias The Black Dwarf

More Fun-Size Shennanigans:
| The Terror of Super-Villain Sidekickery: Gaggy Gagsworthy |
| The Haunted Tank |
| The Vagabond |
| The Tiger Man |
| Banjo |
| The Hypno-Hustler |


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is he staring off panel left in all the panels, or just these? Is one of his sobriquets "The Dwarf Without a Face?"

6/26/2006 7:28 AM

Blogger Matthew E said...

Second greatest? What about Puck?

6/26/2006 9:38 AM

Blogger Frizbee said...

Tony Cox is the only black dwarf I can recognize quickly.


Maybe if they made a movie adaptation?

6/26/2006 9:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't quite see the publisher on the cover. Is it by DC by any chance? Because this would be just the kind of character that Grant Morrison could do wonders with.

6/26/2006 4:39 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Super Comics, actually. Not sure whatever happened to them, although I presume the fact that they're not around anymore has a lot to do with the Black Dwarf and the Gay Desperado.

6/28/2006 11:12 PM


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