Exorcist Writer William Peter Blatty & Mystery Men Comics, at Auction

Mystery Men Comics #3 is perhaps best known for its spectacular Lou Fine cover featuring the Green Mask.  Comics featuring Fine's covers are highly sought after on that basis alone, and virtually all the comics he worked on have historical importance for many other reasons as well.  While Mystery Men Comics #3 features one of the most sought-after Lou Fine covers it also appears to have an interesting connection to William Peter Blatty, legendary author and Academy Award-winning screenwriter of The Exorcist.  Long considered an important Fox Feature Syndicate key, there's a copy of  Mystery Men Comics #3 (Fox, 1939) CGC VG 4.0 Cream to off-white pages along with several other spectacular issues of Mystery Men Comics up for auction in the 2022 December 1 Fox Comics Showcase Auction #40214 at Heritage Auctions.

Mystery Men Comics #3 (Fox, 1939)
Mystery Men Comics #3 (Fox, 1939)

What does William Peter Blatty have to do with Mystery Men Comics #3? Well, a boy named William Blatty was chosen as a contest winner of a one-dollar prize for the best letters received explaining what features readers liked from Mystery Men Comics #1.  His address as listed on the inside front cover of Mystery Men Comics #3 (cover-dated October 1939) is 225 East 35th Street, New York City.  According to the 1940 Census, Blatty's family's residence is somewhat vaguely identified on East 35th Street as "Apartments on NE corner of 35th and 3rd Av, Apartments at 209-15 E 35th", which might be a building or two away from modern-day 225 East 35th.  However, according to his obituary in the New York Times, the family changed addresses frequently due to what Blatty described as a "comfortably destitute" childhood.  One could imagine the family moving a couple of buildings down in the same neighborhood if the circumstances arose.

Blatty was born in 1928 and would have been the right age to have started reading comic books by the time Mystery Men Comics had launched in 1939. Overall, the idea that a then 11-year-old Blatty who lived in a specific neighborhood of East 35th Street and went on to a successful career as an author and screenwriter might be the same William Blatty who was a seemingly avid Mystery Men Comics reader in the same neighborhood in 1939 is convincing.  It's hard not to wonder what young William Blatty chose as his favorite feature from the debut issue of the series, which included Rex Dexter of Mars, the Green Mask, and of course, the Blue Beetle.  The inside cover editorial about the contest noted that the publisher had already started to act on the suggestions from the submitted letters, which could explain why Green Mask had returned to the cover after issue #2 had cover-featured Rex Dexter.

Mystery Men Comics and the Artistry of Lou Fine

Mystery Men Comics #3 cover artist Lou Fine is one of the most important and influential artists of the Golden Age of comics.  A creator who made his mark on characters ranging from Black Condor and the Ray to Uncle Sam and the Spirit, Fine was an artist that others of his generation admired.  Fellow Golden Age legend Joe Simon called him his favorite artist, and noted, "He was also Jack Kirby's favorite artist. I know that Jack was a fan of and greatly influenced by Fine's work".

In 2017, legendary collector and historian Jon Berk told Bleeding Cool about his love of Fox Features comics like Mystery Men Comics #3 and others, as well as the difficulty in obtaining some of them:

My favorite cover is Mystery Men Comics #3. From there it triggered my interest in obtaining other Fox books, especially those by Lou Fine. I obtained most of the runs. ("Runs" are a dwindling commodity) However, I was able to put together the Fox runs. Some Church Fox books do not exist.) Slowly, with the help from some of the larger personas in the hobby, I was able to go beyond the runs, and collect the smaller runs like Science Comics. If I could not find the Church copy I would focus on the Larson copies. It took a while to put the Wonderworlds together (but I did).

Storing the books was done with mylites, acid free boards and "shurlocks". I kept everything in a room with a dehumidifier. "The Comic Room". The Fox books are special and were the ones I focused on. These books even beat out my Centaur and "pre-Centaurs" addiction. Blame it on the Fox cover artists.

Long considered an important Fox key and one of the best comic book covers of the Golden Age, there's a copy of  Mystery Men Comics #3 (Fox, 1939) CGC VG 4.0 Cream to off-white pages along with several other spectacular issues of Mystery Men Comics up for auction in the 2022 December 1 Fox Comics Showcase Auction #40214 at Heritage Auctions. If you've never bid at Heritage Auctions before, you can get further information, you can check out their FAQ on the bidding process and related matters.

Mystery Men Comics #3 (Fox, 1939)
Mystery Men Comics #3 (Fox, 1939)
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About Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.
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