[identity profile] dr_hermes.insanejournal.com

It's too bad about Lothar. The way he was presented really mars the MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN strip, and its marvelous Lee Falk storytelling and Phil Davis art (very Alex Raymond-influenced) are otherwise priceless. But even taking into account that it was 1934 and that Falk was only nineteen when he created Mandrake and Lothar, the presentation is just hard to overlook. Lothar is a physical giant, fearless against against any man or beast but easily frightened by the supernatural. He speaks a pidgin which (while similar varieties are after all spoken every day in cities around the world by people for whom English is a second or third language)is a bit too exaggerated. And he is way too subservient to Mandrake. All this changes in the early 1960s. Lothar's English becomes standard, he starts dressing in regular sports shirts, hiking shorts and boots, and he becomes much more Mandrake's partner than his servant. It's too bad he wasn't shown like that earlier, but hey that's the way it was. Rewriting history is one of the worst things you can do, and I would never want to see reprints clean up Lothar's dialogue or refine his features.

Anyway, even the way he was, Lothar had his moments. He was not above an occasional scoff about his master's claiming not to be in love with Narda, and he saved Mandrake dozens of times. Honestly, Mandrake would have had a short career without his friend; he was constantly getting into situations where his instant hypnosis was absolutely useless. Lothar would dive from a cliff into a whirpool or crash through a door into a burning building to haul the magician out. And when it came to a bunch of beefy thugs or hostile animals, Lothar just walked all over them. (Mandrake could throw a punch or two if he had absolutely had to, but he was not a two-fisted brawler by nature.)So here we find Mandrake and Lothar on a circus train investigating a series of mysterious "accidents" (you know the plot) and a bad-tempered gorilla gets loose to terrorize everyone. Lothar's reaction is to sigh, pick up a coil of rope and climb up on top of the speeding train after the beast...

So, Lothar, "Prince of the Seven Nations", what's the story with the German name?
[identity profile] dr_hermes.insanejournal.com

Lee Falk was one of the best storytellers ever to work in newspaper strips. It's a skill of precision. Every day you have to establish what's going on and have something happen, then leave a cliffhanger to make readers want to come back. Writing strips requires a certain rhythmn and economy of words unlike regular prose or comic books or radio or movies. Falk was great at it, there's a reason both Mandrake and the Phantom were so popular for so long.

From December 1936..


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