Forgotten Heroes: The Black Cobra

“Not even his own superiors at the FBI know that the diligent young agent Steve Drake is the one-man army, BLACK COBRA, who will pit brain and brawn in his never-ending scourge of anyone threatening our star-spangled flag! Whether it’s luck, careful planning, or only coincidence, BLACK COBRA has a way of keeping a split-second schedule with danger!”

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In the 1940’s The Black Cobra was Jim Hornsby, a law clerk working in the office of his father, the local district attorney.  He dressed up as The Black Cobra to fight crime for no discernable reason other than wanting to fight crime.  His younger brother, Bob Hornsby helped him as his side-kick Cobra Kid.  Starting out in Harry A. Chesler’s Dynamic Comic # 1 this Black Cobra only appeared in that one issue.  Nobody knows who wrote or drew the story that introduced them.

Ajax revived the character in 1954.  Since it was evident from the cover that the character had been at least altered since his last appearance — he was depicted with his hair uncovered, rather than wearing his original cowl that resembled a real cobra’s, it was natural to assume that Ajax had simply wanted a superhero and grabbed a name for one that hadn’t been used in several years (or very prominently at all). But the fact that most of the interior had been reprinted from Captain Flight indicated that no, there was a connection to the original Black Cobra.

But this certainly did seem like a new character. The District Attorney’s office was gone. Instead, The Black Cobra was FBI agent Steve Drake, and Cobra Kid was just an office boy he worked with. His reason for putting on a costume was even less clear, because he did the same thing in both guises, i.e., bash Commies. But if there was confusion between new and reprinted material, the readers never saw an explanation.

This time, The Black Cobra lasted three issues.

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I’m not usually one for cold war/Soviet bad guys story lines, but who cares in this situation…Black Cobra is as badass as it got back then.  Who cares if he was two completely different people over the course of his short run?  Jim or Steve, it’s just window dressing for the art of the period, which I have an unexplained nostalgic love for (considering I was born a few decades after this was printed).

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