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Funny Pages #6 (Nov 1936)
Centaur (Comics Magazine Company), Quality
Golden Age Origin
The first original costumed crime fighter to appear in American comic books, the Clock could be considered the “missing link” between pulp and comic book heroes. It was the first attempt to transpose a pulp magazine style costumed hero into comic books (which, at the time, were little more then bundles of existing comic strips and original humorous content). While it was Superman who started the superhero character archetype as we know it, the Clock helped to inspire the parallel masked detective tradition. During the course of the Golden Age, those influences would occasionally overlap, becoming one of the base archetypes for the street-level, more down-to-earth superheroes that continue to play a significant role in superhero comics to this day.
His secret identity was that of Brian O'Brien, a wealthy member of high society. As the Clock, he wore a three-piece suit, a fedora, and a black curtain mask that covered his entire face. He demonstrated mastery of disguise and used clever gadgets such as a cane whose head became a projectile and a diamond stud that fired tear gas, and he usually left behind a calling card bearing the image of a clock-face over a domino mask and the words "The Clock Has Struck" or "The Clock Will Strike At..."
When he moved from Centaur to Quality, he acquired a sidekick in the form of Pat "Pug" Brady, a down on his luck businessman (and ex-collegiate boxer and football player) who bore a striking resemblance to O'Brien. They met while picking each others pockets (Crack Comics #1). Pug also wore a disguise -- a handkerchief worn "bandito" style over his face.
In Crack Comics #21, Pug disappeared from the feature with no explanation. In that same issue, the Clock was almost fatally wounded in a confrontation with dope dealers, but managed to make his way into the basement of a abandoned waterfront shack. Fortunately for him, a young girl named "Butch" Buchanan was squatting in that same basement and nursed him back to health over the course of time. Thinking him a mobster, Butch attached herself to O'Brien as his would-be "moll." With issue #22, the Clock switched from his curtain mask to the more common domino mask. Butch's introduction may have been an attempt to reinvigorate the feature's popularity, introducing humor into the strip and theoretically giving the young readers a character they could relate to. While it added a new dimension to Clock's personality, it wasn't enough to save the feature in the long run and America's first masked hero vanished from the funny pages fourteen issues later.
- Note only the original golden age Clock is public domain subsequent version used by Dynamite Entertainment, Malibu Comics, and others are NOT.
- According to the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, the Clock was the first masked hero to appear in American comic books.
- In 1992, Malibu Comics published 20 issues of The Protectors, a superhero team that included several characters from the Centaur comics line including the Clock.
- The Clock was mentioned in the appendix of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Alternate Universes and OHotMU handcover volumn 2 as part of the entry for Earth-1136, where the Protectors took place. It states that reality's first was Funny Pages #6.
- In 2013, Dynamite Entertainment published an 8-issue mini-series called Masks which teamed-up several pulp and comic book characters, including Black Terror and Zorro, fighting the "Justice Party" that has taken over New York state. In issues #7, its revealed that Brian O'Brien is the leader of the Justice Party.
- Will Eisner's character the Spirit is vaguely based on the Clock.
Golden Age Appearances
- Funny Picture Stories #1-2
- Funny Pages #6-11
- Feature Funnies #3-20
- Keen Detective Funnies #8-9
- Feature Comics #21-31
- Crack Comics #1-35
- Detective Picture Stories #2, 5