365 Reasons to Love Comics #85
Doctor Week, day two! Who’s the doctor du jour? Well, it’s not so much “jour” as “nuit.”
In comics, two major characteristics are associated with “Doctor” characters: The Golden Age and the occult. Today’s star is just the former.
85. Dr. Mid-Nite
Dr. Mid-Nite is the best (and first!) blind superhero. Sure, Daredevil’s a lawyer, but Mid-Nite is an actual medical doctor, even though he can’t see. That takes a lot of skill.
There have been three Dr. Mid-Nites over the course of superhero history, but I’d have to say the first is my favorite. Dr. Charles McNider was a doctor blinded by a mobster (Killer Maroni. Any relation to Boss Maroni, the guy who scarred Two-Face? That’d be neat). He then discovered he could only see in perfect darkness, and so designed a visor and his handy blackout bombs to assist him in his new crimefighting career. He’s one of my favorite original JSA members (along with Sandman, Hourman, and the Atom). Back in the day, he was featured in All-American Comics, and later All-Star Comics, never getting the cover spot unless he was in the back of a group shot. He also appeared in All-Star Squadron but suffered the same fate. Finally, in the fantastic Strazewski/Parobeck Justice Society series, he got a cover of his own. Of course, they killed him off shortly after in Zero Hour. Bah.
Man, what a fun costume design, with the half-moon buttons and the vest and the random conglomeration of colors. At least Dr. Mid-Nite has an excuse for the gaudiness– he’s blind! Alan Scott is just fashion deficient. Even the blind guy dresses better than him. Heh.
McNider also had a pet owl, with the totally awesome name of Hooty. As far as animal sidekicks go, an owl is probably tops. Maybe Zabu or Beppo is cooler, but that’s about it.
The second Dr. Mid-Nite was actually Dr. Midnight, a young medical student of McNider’s named Beth Chapel who ended up with the same powers, joined Infinity Inc, and was killed off by Eclipso in the early 90’s. Shame she was never used to a fuller advantage.
The third (and current) Dr. Mid-Nite is Pieter Cross, a member of the current JSA and chief medical advisor of the entire superhero community, it seems. He uses all the same gimmicks of the original, but there’s a greater focus on his medical abilities. My favorite touch is his pet owl, named Charlie in honor of Dr. McNider. And he’s had a lot of covers to himself, making up the deficit from McNider’s run. Heck, he even had his own three issue mini, written by Matt Wagner, which served as his debut:
Now, let’s talk concept. Dr. Mid-Nite is Batman if Bruce had followed in his father’s footsteps and become a doctor. I love it when medical doctors become superheroes, especially when their backgrounds and careers as physicians are not forgotten by the writers. I like that he’s blind but can still “see” simply through his medical skills. The goggles and the “can see in the dark” thing takes away from his triumph over his handicap, but it also makes him extremely unique, a hard feat to achieve back in the Golden Age superhero explosion. A series starring Mid-Nite would be a medical mystery noir! That’s a cool genre hybrid.
Hell, I love that he spells his name “Mid-Nite.” There’s some ’40s flavor for you.
There are so many great Doctors in comics that this theme might have to run slightly longer than intended. I’m trying to fold other really cool ones into other themes to come later in the year. We’ll see what happens in the end. As for next month, I have a very exciting plan. (Oh, yes. Now you’re scared.)