Magazine Enterprises' Black Phantom by Frank Bolle, Up for Auction
The creation of artist Frank Bolle, the masked hero Black Phantom had a classic villain-to-hero story arc in the pages of the Tim Holt comic.
Nearly-forgotten western hero character Black Phantom was created by underappreciated artist Frank Bolle for her debut in Magazine Enterprises' Tim Holt #25 cover-dated August 1951. The character was a classic antagonist-turned-hero who appeared at a time when female heroes had rising star power in comic books. Originally a one-off villain in Tim Holt #25, the character returned to rehabilitate herself in Tim Holt #38, became a deputy sheriff in Black Phantom #1, and ultimately became Tim Holt/Red Mask's partner in Tim Holt #40. When the Tim Holt title was renamed Red Mask, Black Phantom continued to its conclusion in late 1957, riding out the wave of the popularity of comic book westerns of that era. An obscure western hero deserving of more attention, there's a Tim Holt #25 and #38 and a Black Phantom #1 along with other appearances up for auction in the 2023 March 12-13 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122311 at Heritage Auctions.
Magazine Enterprises launched the Tim Holt comic book in 1948 with expectations that they would sell half a million copies per issue. The prior year, Holt's casting in John Huston's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre alongside Humphrey Bogart for Warner Bros had RKO's Dore Schary vowing to make Holt an A-list star. RKO did just that, releasing five to seven Tim Holt westerns for the next few years starting in 1948. This seemed to be this rising wave that Magazine Enterprises hoped to catch. However, the increasing popularity of television soon put a damper on these films at the box office, and the evidence suggests that Holt's comic book star power faded along with those falling box office fortunes. After Dick Ayers' Ghost Rider stories had begun in Tim Holt #11, Frank Frazetta's Ghost Rider cover for Tim Holt #17 was the first issue that relegated Holt himself to a small photo in the corner of the cover. The next issue would feature Holt's last photo cover for the series. By Tim Holt #20, Magazine Enterprises had introduced a sort of Lone Ranger-style western hero masked persona for Tim Holt to assume called Red Mask, which further minimized the movie cowboy's profile in his own comic. The debut of Black Phantom in Tim Holt #25 was part of the title's new direction, which saw the introduction of several characters who were essentially costumed villains, both in the Bolle's Tim Holt and Ayers' Ghost Rider stories in the series.
Magazine Enterprises was launched in 1943 by comic book industry veteran Vin Sullivan, previously an editor at DC Comics and Columbia Comics. Notable titles and characters from Magazine Enterprises included Tim Holt, Ghost Rider, Cave Girl and Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's Funnyman. Red Mask and Black Phantom were an important part of the publisher's output, and there's a Tim Holt #25 and #38 and a Black Phantom #1, along with other appearances up for auction in the 2023 March 12-13 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122311 at Heritage Auctions. Bidders who are new to Heritage Auctions should check out their FAQ on the bidding process and related matters before placing a bid.