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That does a disservice to history, rendering in hagiographic terms a man whose . African American Communists in the USSR who challenged the party line .. on the Moscow-supported “liberation” movements arising in Asia and Africa. .. and offers a variety of theories to explain his emotional decline.

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The other Wallace Shawn, the playwright, is a dark figure glowering on the margins of American consumer culture, muttering about blood and sex and torture. The two aspects of his public persona seem absurdly incompatible, almost as if Samuel Beckett had made regular guest appearances on The Brady Bunch or The Lone Ranger. It would be easy to suggest a complete contradiction, to use Shawn as a case study of the ways dissident artists are used by or make themselves useful to the mass media.

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This would be wrong. Even while the world around him is collapsing into barbarity, the dominant character, Jack, is drawn toward.

This is exclusive content for subscribers only. Johnston McCulley's Zorro, who premiered in The Curse of Capistrano , however, certainly does qualify, and he is often justly cited as a direct precursor of the masked vigilante pulp heroes of the '30s. However, Zorro himself had at least two predecessors, relatively little-known today, who had also manifested the "masked and costumed hero" mystique.

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Christopher Syn, alias the Scarecrow. Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh was set in the coastal English village of Dymchurch during the 18th century, at a time when the villagers could only sustain themselves through smuggling.


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  • Syn - who was formerly and secretly a feared pirate known as Captain Clegg, and currently the apparently meek and mild village parson - assumes a third identity, that of the masked Scarecrow, to protect his parishioners from the King's Revenue Men. The Scarecrow was an expert strategist, rider, fencer and marksman, whose intimidating mask, costume and shrieking laugh instilled fear into his enemies.

    THE BLACK WHIP serial restored Chapter 1: The Masked Avenger

    His sidekick, Mr. Mipps, also assumed a secret identity as the death-masked Hellspite and they were headquartered in a hidden barn on the outskirts of Dymchurch. Thorndike wrote a series of subsequent novels - actually prequels to Doctor Syn - and, eventually, they were adapted into several movies including three Disney tele-films in the early s:. Appearing decades even before the Scarecrow, however, the mysterious Spring Heeled Jack may very well be the actual originator of many "masked superhero" tropes.

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    Spring Heeled Jack had first emerged way back in the s, as an urban legend in the streets of London. Confused newspaper reports melded with rumor and gossip to conjure something approaching mass hysteria concerning this very strange figure, who was said to possess superhuman agility. This early, folkloric rendition of Jack was an amorphous figure, sometimes said to be the devil in more-or-less human form; an inner-city boogeyman who seemed to delight in leaping out from the shadows and molesting young girls.

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    Over a number of decades, though, actual fearful belief in Spring Heeled Jack gave way to nostalgia and whimsy. It then required only a short leap of the imagination to transform him into an outright hero. The several "penny dreadful" iterations of Spring Heeled Jack, many written by Alfred Burrage under the pseudonym "Charlton Lea", portrayed him as a nobleman who had been cheated out of his inheritance and who took up a devilish disguise to punish those responsible.