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The Black Terror

Amazing Heroes
by yo go re

This guy sounds like he was either named by or specifically dedicated to fighting against the actual literal Nazis who support Donald Trump.

When pharmacist Bob Benton is exposed to experimental vapors, he becomes an unstoppable crimefighting machine, along with his sidekick Tim. The best of the early Black Terror stories were produced by the team of artists Mort Meskin and Jerry Robinson, after Robinson helped create Batman's trademark atmosphere.

Black Terror was created in 1942, when superheroes had really taken root and flourished. Wildly colorful characters could be found everywhere, but Black Terror stood out from the crowd by going the opposite direction: he dressed all in black. It's like when you're watching TV, and a commercial comes on that's super quiet instead of super loud. You look up, right? To make sure the cable hasn't gone out? It's the same principle, just for a different one of your senses.

As we've mentioned before, the Amazing Heroes line is all about taking public domain Golden Age characters and creating retro-style action figures of them. Despite sharing the same head mold as Stardust the Super Wizard, Black Terror really looks nothing like him - the black makes the curly hair look different, and the domino mask covering his eyes changes the face enough to keep this from looking like a retread.

Of course, all the Amazing Heroes have the same "Mattel Secret Wars"-inspired body, with decently detailed musculature that's soft by modern standards, but right on par for these toy's intended era of origin - the poorly photocopied OAFEzine personally folded up, stuffed in an envelope, and physically sent to subscribers through the mail in the early 1980s would have totally praised the work the sculptors did here.

And also the work of the painters. When we said Black Terror wore black in the comics, he really wore black - not "this could either be blue with black shadows or black with blue highlights" like Spider-Man or the X-Men. When they drew Black Terror, he was almost solid black with a minimum of highlights in white, gray, or sometimes pale blue - there was no mistaking what color he was supposed to be. This figure does that, then provides painted yellow band to represent the tops of his boots and gloves, the bottom of his shorts, and the cord around his neck. The belt is white with a yellow buckle, and all of those are painted crisply and cleanly, with the paint thick enough to fully cover the black. We can't quite say the same for the skull and crossbones on his chest, though: you can't really do thick paint apps in tampograph form (it's just a big stamp, and if you try to repeat it, all it's going to do is get blurry), so the skull is more of a light light gray than a white.

Black Terror is different from the other Amazing Heroes we've reviewed so far, because he wears a cape. Not even the real Secret Wars toys got capes! This is softgoods, which is a better choice than vinyl, and has a C-clamp to hold it on his neck. In the comics, his cape was two colors - blue with a red lining - while this one is solid red. Molding a plastic cape would have allowed them to do it right, but might have interfered with the playability; like the rest of the figures, he swivels at the neck, shoulders and hips.

Last time you learned about the front of the package, so this time you get to learn about the back. In addition to showing the 10 figures of Series 1 down the sides, there's a comic in the middle - a comic that features Black Terror prominently and references the Secret Wars storyline: "Transported to a strange world by a mysterious villain from beyond the stars, Earth's most amazing heroes fight their fiercest enemies in a hidden battle to save the universe from annihilation." It even refers to this as a contest of champions! This comic does give a reason for all these heroes to come together, but remember: they're (mostly) in the public domain, which means you already own them. You can legally make, publish and sell a Black Terror comicbook today (and in fact, several companies have done exactly that since the '80s).

You know that Black Terror was a pharmacist who got his powers by huffing fumes, but exactly what powers did he get? Super strength and skin durable enough to deflect bullets. So basically, he's like Luke Cage. Some versions have had no powers and used guns, other versions have had extra powers like flight (or at least jumping, like Hulk/Golden Age Superman). His sidekick Tim had all the same powers, and they fought crime for no reason other than that was a thing to do - no oaths of vengeance, no end goal, just a good old-fashioned American sense of seeing something wrong and swearing to right it. Also, recognizing that, rather than a boss and a minion, the word "sidekick" implies they're equals (but apparently having a very loose grasp on biology), Black Terror and Tim were known as "the Terror Twins." Black Terror is a successful and memorable comic character, and now we have a toy of him.

-- 03/23/16

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