Created by Jack Cole
NAME + ALIASES:
Smash Comics #18 (January 1941)
Gabby: Smash #21 (April 1941)
Dr. Wackey: Smash #23 (June 1941)
- Secret Origins v.2 #28 (1988)
- Smash Comics #18-85 (January 1941–Oct. 1949)
- Ms. Tree Quarterly #1–8 (Summer 1990–Spring 1992)
NAME + ALIASES: Robert Mason/Robert Avery
FIRST APPEARANCE: Ms. Tree Quarterly #1 (Summer 1990)
APPEARANCES: Ms. Tree Quarterly #1-7
The Spirit was such an immediate success that Quality’s publisher, Busy Arnold, asked Jack Cole to create a Spirit knock-off. Cole wasn’t comfortable with that, so he spoke to the Spirit’s creator, Will Eisner. In an interview with Alter Ego, Eisner recalled the visit from Jack, who asked for his opinion. Eisner wasn’t thrilled but understood the situation. (Alter Ego #48) Despite this, Cole did create the copy, but did his best to make “Midnight” an entirely different kind of feature. Ironically, Jack Cole was one of the artists who produced “The Spirit” while Eisner was in the Army. Midnight was the perfect warm-up to Cole’s future blockbuster: Plastic Man. The character wasn’t the only Spirit copy; less successful Spirit-clones at Quality included the Mouthpiece and the Whistler. Lively storytelling and an appropriate amount of continuity helped give Cole’s strip the momentum to outlast most other super-heroes at Quality, and Cole’s own run on the feature. “Midnight” was published all the way into 1949 and was Smash Comics’ sole cover star beginning with issue #28 (Nov. 1941).
Dave Clark’s days as a mystery man began in mid-1941, as a humble spot announcer for station UXAM (later XABC). On his way home one evening, a building collapsed and Dave rushed to aid in the recovery effort. He noticed that the building materials were shoddy, and wasted no time taking up the matter with the building’s owner, Carleton. Clark became the masked Midnight, a Robin Hood-esque hero who collected money from the corrupt, and distributed it to the victims of the collapse. He failed to ensnare Carleton, and was captured, then lashed to a crumbling dam. Clark was anticipating his end when the dam cracked, freeing him. He managed to warn the town below, but much damage was done. Midnight returned to Carleton’s house to trounce him and his gang, then secured ten million dollars for the relief. (Smash #18) Note: This origin story was faithfully retold in DC's Secret Origins #28 (1988).
The classic Midnight has only appeared in DC Comics a couple of times. On the eve of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Midnight was tracking the hero known as Uncle Sam. En route, he encountered the Doll Man, who was on the same mission. They were too late, but just before Uncle Sam departed, both Midnight and the Doll Man dove into Sam’s tele-portal. Instead of materializing near Pearl Harbor, they were transported to occupied France, where they joined Mademoiselle Marie in the French resistance for several months. They intercepted a message concerning a second Japanese attack on Santa Barbara, California, but before they could act, they ran afoul of the evil Baron Blitzkrieg. As fate would have it, Uncle Sam’s portal appeared again just as the Baron blasted Doll Man. Midnight carried his partner through it to New York City, and barely made it to the All-Stars’ meeting in the Perisphere. Midnight was more than willing to keep fighting, but Dr. Mid-Nite hospitalized him instead. (All-Star Squadron #32) After this, Midnight was not known to be active with the All-Stars or Uncle Sam’s group, the Freedom Fighters.
On the splash page of Smash #36, Gabby announced that the feature was expanded to nine pages, like the readers “asked for” (although it had already done so the issue prior).
Fiction House also published a feature called “Midnight” about a black stallion, in Jumbo Comics.
Midnight was the inspiration for a character of the same name in John Arcudi’s 2002 Elseworlds series, JLA: Destiny. This character’s name was William Cole, in homage to Dave Clark’s creator, Jack.
Midnight was reinvented in DC’s Ms. Tree series. This back-up feature was “of its time,” depicting a somewhat grim and ruthless vigilante. This Midnight was perfectly willing to kill if he thought it was justified. Midnight operated from St. Michael’s church, where troubled citizens would light a candle for help, at midnight. If he agreed to take their case, he would appear the following night and hand them his clock-faced calling card—but he never spoke. He didn’t wear a mask, but his fedora cast a mask-like shadow over his eyes. His uniform was less formal than his predecessor: dark casual jacket, pants and gloves, and a striped tie. (Ms. Tree Quarterly #1)
[ … Q C. ]
Midnight had no super-powers, but frequently used a vacuum gun. This automatic weapon projected a strong suction cup that could adhere to any surface, and was connected to a super-strong silk cord. He also had a wrist radio to communicate with his helpers. Doc Wackey invented many other devices that helped on cases as needed. Midnight wore a reversible suit: blue during the day and black as the “midnight sky” when he was masked.