September-October, 1946

Another Holy Grail finally found, thanks to that addictive little monster known as ebay.

I first saw a reproduction of this cover in an issue of COMIC BOOK MARKETPLACE (a magazine I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested in the history of comic books), and I was immediately taken with the absurdity of the image. Not only doesn’t the Mad Hatter actually wear a hat, not only is his costume a bizarre purple and white and red and yellow color scheme, not only has his chest emblem seemed to have slipped down to his stomach, but he’s got a surprisingly large package, and that smile on his face seems to imply that he’s gotten a more-than-platonic satisfaction from whaling on those two criminals. 

That image inspired the creation of my own faux-Golden Age character Top Hat. And I’ve been on the lookout for a copy of the book ever since. I did locate a copy of the first issue at the San Diego con a couple of years ago, but the dealer who had it wouldn’t come down on the steep price he was charging. (He’s still had the book in his possession every year since then–and no wonder!)

Finally, I ran across an affordable copy of this issue on ebay, and was at last able to read the thing for myself. And it actually wasn’t half bad. The Mad Hatter was a non-powered costumed crusader in the Batman mold. By day, he was Grant Richmond (a wonderfully cliche secret identity name), the junior partner at the law firm of Fuddy and Bustle. Despite the allusion to Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter is really a pretty straightforward sort of chap, outside of a tendency to rhyme every now and then. We’re never given any reason why he’s adopted a costumed identity, nor why he’s chosen a hat as his symbol–nothing scarier and more intimidating than a hat, after all. But his adventures, by Bill Woolfolk and Morv Leav, had a subdued sort of Simon & Kirby flavor about them, and were quite entertaining.

Thanks go out to Jeffrey Chappell, for selling me the book.

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