So, a little while back, I found an affordable copy of Master Comics #45, from 1943. One of the features was “Balbo the Boy Magician”, which I had never heard of before and I’m now sort of fascinated with. Two reasons for that: one, it’s a “magic” character but the stories have a strong skeptical bent, and two, Balbo’s partner is a man named John Smith, an African-American character not drawn in a stereotyped manner or speaking in dialect. In 1943. Giving the lie to the defense of characters like Ebony and Steamboat, that we shouldn’t consider those portrayals offensive because “no one knew better back then.”
Anyway…Balbo is performing a trick for a packed house when one spectator becomes agitated.
It seems that Mr. Walsh panicked because he’s being tormented by a man claiming to be immortal magician Caliostro who keeps threatening to show him things that grow bigger. Uhm…okay. I’m not sure why that’s so terrifying, but Balbo and John agree to help Walsh and expose this Cagliostro as a fraud.
Balbo chooses the wrong time to get smug.
After our heroes are tricked and overpowered by a dwarf, Cagliostro appears and delivers the least menacing line in super-villain history.
And now, terrifying “wearing glasses” horror!
Oh no! It’s a…larger than average guinea pig…
Ah, look at the apparently terrifying giant animals playing!
Uhm…that’s clearly an octopus…
John Smith saves the day with dwarf-tossing!
I have to admire the dwarf’s loyalty…after being tossed through a glass tank at an octopus, he’s still not betraying his boss.
Okay, so a villain who casually tosses off misspelled references to Lovecraft is kinda cool.
And now, Cagliostro’s peculiar plot explained!
And rationality triumphs.