Harry Blackstone Sr. (1885-1965) was one of the most famous and successful magicians of his time or any time. His career spanned over four decades, during which he toured extensively across the United States and Europe. Blackstone was known for his grandiose shows, which often featured elaborate illusions and large-scale productions. He helped popularize magic as a form of entertainment in the 20th century, and he was very successful in marketing himself with the help of the creator of Shadow. William Gibson among others. A magician himself, Gibson has written extensively on magic, including articles on ghostwriting for Harry Houdini and Blackstone, and writes comic books and a radio show based on Blackstone’s fictional adventures. There are several problems of the various incarnations of the Blackstone series auctioned in the June 5-6, 2022 Sunday and Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122223 heritage auctions.
Blackstone made his comic book debut in 1941 as the headliner of Street & Smith’s Comics Super-Magician. This lasted until the cover issue dated March 1946, when a magician called Nigel Elliman was abruptly created to replace Blackstone on the show. From the following month, Blackstone, Master Comic Book Magician debuted with publisher Vital Publications. The series only lasted three issues and was written by Gibson with artwork Elmer C. Stoner. Vital Publications was run by Julien J. Proskauerwho was himself a magician and also chairman of printing and publishing giant William C. Popper & Co. Like Gibson, Proskauer appears to have had multiple ties to Blackstone, as there is a signed contract between the three men for a project The magic of Blackstone book, and it appears that William C. Popper & Co. also published a 1946 how-to guide called Master Magician of the Blackstone Worlds and a souvenir program of the magician’s tour in 1948, both with covers designed by Stoner. The details of this contract also suggest that Proskauer may have been the publisher of the Gibson edition Conjurer’s Magazine from this period, and it’s possible he took the Gibson/Blackstone comic book concept away from Street & Smith by offering the two men a more ambitious magic-focused publishing platform.
But the comic book part of that, at least, didn’t last very long. The Blackstone comics come next with Blackstone, Detective Magician #1 by EC Comics. This series only lasted one issue under EC, with series numbering continuing with a Marvel/Timely series for three more issues. It has been suggested that the EC Comics series was interrupted by the death of the founder Max Gaines This year. It seems possible and possibly likely, because of course that wouldn’t have been the only course change EC Comics made during this time. Notably, Proskauer also had something unusual commercial links with Street & Smith and Timely, which could suggest that he played a role in the fate of the comic title throughout the period. Also, beyond the 1946 Vital Publications comic book series and articles published by William C. Popper & Co., Vital Publications published at least two Blackstone comic book giveaways, in 1948 and 1949, one of which also includes material published by Timely. Proskauer was in the Blackstone publishing business throughout this period.
Overall, Blackstone’s story in the comics takes some fascinating twists and includes contributions from important creators from Gibson and Stoner, among others. Unrecognized part of the Golden Age comics, there are several issues of the various incarnations of the Blackstone series auctioned in the June 5-6, 2022 Sunday and Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122223 heritage auctions.
Blackstone, Master Magician Comics #3 (Vital Publications, 1946) Condition: FN/VF. Covers EC Stoner and art. Last issue of the title. Overstreet 2021 FN 6.0 value = $72; VF value 8.0 = $142.
Blackstone, the Magician Detective #1 (EC, 1947) Condition: VG/FN. First appearance of the Happy Houlihans. Art by Don Cameron. Small lack on the back. Overstreet Value 2021 VG 4.0 = $130; Value FN 6.0 = $195.
Blackstone, the Magician #3 (Timely, 1948) Condition: VG-. Includes Mike Sekowsky’s Blonde Phantom. Small adhesive tape inside the front cover and damp spots. Overstreet 2021 VG 4.0 value = $114.
Blackstone, the Magician #4 (Timely, 1948) Condition: VG. Blonde Phantom backup feature. Overstreet 2021 VG 4.0 value = $114.