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The Oddity of Black Condor

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DC Comics has had a multitude of characters, which leaves little room for the hundreds of other characters they have acquired over the years. Of course, these hundreds of characters pale in comparison to the literal thousands, if not tens of thousands of characters DC Comics has created over the years. Oddly though, they have discarded a majority of these characters in favor of those they have acquired. One of these characters they have acquired comes from the defunct 1940s publishing company Quality Comics. Quality Comics was founded in the late 1930s by Everett M. “Busy” Arnold. Arnold was a printer who saw an opportunity in the fresh new medium of comic books. The character in question is the Quality Comics character Black Condor. 


The first Black Condor, Richard Grey Jr., was the only Black Condor to be published by Quality Comics, but he is the most famous of the Black Condors. The first Black Condor was created by The Spirit creator Will Eisner and influential artist Lou Fine, who was Jack Kirby’s favorite artist and a huge influence on him. This Black Condor got his start in Crack Comics #1 in May of 1940. Black Condor only lasted until issue 31, in October 1943. 


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Black Condor in Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #2. Credit: Jerry Ordway


Grey was an infant who was traveling with his family through Mongolia when he and his family were attacked by a group of bandits. Grey’s parents were killed, but Grey was spared and left there. Grey was rescued by a condor, who raised him as one of their own. The condor taught Grey to fly because Grey studied the way his bird siblings flew. That is not a joke. Black Condor’s powers actually are that he was taught how to fly by a group of birds after being raised by them. I guess not every creation of Eisner’s can be The Spirit. 


Crack Comics #1. Credit: Quality Comics, unknown artist.


Eventually, a mountain hermit found him and taught him English. Grey then tracked down the bandits who murdered his parents and killed them. During that, Grey uncovered a plot to kill the United States Senator Thomas Wright. Sadly, he was too late, and the Senator was killed. What do you think Grey did next? Is it: a. Report the assassination, b. Track down the criminals, or c. Hide the body and assume his identity. If you chose anything other than c, you must not read enough Golden Age comics. After covering up an assassination and committing multiple felonies by taking his identity, Grey created the superhero identity of Black Condor


Apparently, no one took any issues with that bizarre origins, as he quickly became the book’s premiere feature, and he lasted all the way until issue 31 when cartoonist George Brenner became the editor. After he was bought by DC Comics, he was retconned into having his powers being derived from a meteor’s radiation. 


This retcon from DC by Roy Thomas in the pages of All-Star Squadron added him to the roster of the All-Star Squadron. Black Condor then joined the Freedom Fighters, which was a group of heroes made up of former Quality Comics characters. The members of the Freedom Fighters consisted of: Black Condor, Doll Man, Firebrand,  Human Bomb, Invisible Hood, Jester, Magno the Magnetic Man, Manhunter, Thor the Thunder Dog, Midnight, Miss America, Neon the Unknown, Phantom Lady, Plastic Man, Ray, Red Bee, Red Torpedo, and they were lead by Uncle Sam. 


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The Freedom Fighters on Earth-X in Justice League of America #107. Credit: Dick Dillin and Dick Giordano


The Freedom Fighters would move to Earth-X. On this Earth, Nazi Germany did not lose to the Allies at the same time as our world and instead reached a stalemate. To combat this, Uncle Sam sent a majority of the Freedom Fighters to Earth-X in order to help stop the Nazis. The Nazis ended up winning the war because the Nazi army created a mind-control machine that controlled the allied armies, which allowed the Nazis to take over the world. Luckily though, there were a lot of people that were immune to mind control, and they formed pockets of resurgence groups. In 1973, the people of Earth-X were freed of Nazi control when the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America teamed up with the Freedom Fighters, and they beat the Nazis and set history back on course.


After freeing Earth-X, the Freedom Fighters stayed on Earth-X for a while in order to try and rebuild the civilization. Quickly, though, they fell into boredom because they were used to fighting, and were not good at working during times of peace. After a few months, they relocated once more to a new earth, this time Earth-One. This means they moved from Earth-Two to Earth-X to Earth-Two. 


Homilus in Freedom Fighters #6. Credit: Ramona Fradon and Bob Smith


After moving to Earth-One, they tried to start a crime-fighting career. They unfortunately fell prey to the Silver Ghost who framed them and forced them to go on the run. They were fugitives for several months, and we as an audience find out Black Condor somehow gained telepathic powers while he was on Earth-X. During this time on the run, Black Condor was taken control of by the demon Homilus, who secretly orchestrated these events. After a while, the Freedom Fighters returned back to Earth-X and that last thing that happened before they fought the Anti-Monitor during Crisis on Infinite Earths. 


After the universe reset, Black Condor did not show up again, and instead was shown to be dead, and a ghost. His Crisis on Infinite Earths appearance would be the last time he was shown alive. 


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Black Condor #1. Credit: Rags Morales


The next Black Condor is Ryan Kendall, who was the second Black Condor. Ryan Kendall was created by Brian Augustyn and Rags Morales in Black Condor #1. Ryan Kendall was an environmental champion instead of a superhero, but he would soon prove that wrong. He quickly started fighting supervillains, including the Sky Pirate and The Shark. Ryan Kendall gained the powers of flight, telekinesis, and healing. The first one was the main power of the original Black Condor, with the other two being new to the mantle. Kendall gained his powers because of genetic experiments done to him by his grandfather. Kendall later joined the Freedom Fighters, which was the team his first predecessor was a part of. Sometime after that, Ryan Kendall was killed by an energy blast by Sinestro. During the events of Blackest Night, Ryan Kendall was brought back to life by a Black Lantern ring, and he became Black Lantern. 


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Black Condor (John Trujillo) in Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #3.Credit: Daniel Acuña


The third and final Black Condor is John Trujillo, who was created by Grant Morrison, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Daniel Acuña for Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #3 in November of 2006. Trujillo was a Navajo who was granted the power of flight by the Spider Woman (no relation to the Marvel character.) Trujillo first appeared when he saved Uncle Sam and the other Freedom Fighters from the agents of S.H.A.D.E. He did not appear after Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters ended, and it is unlikely he will appear again now that the universe has been reset. 


The original Black Condor and his successors are all weird cases who all suffered because of the time they were in. It would be interesting for them to come back, but at the very least we can hold them in high regard with the other legacy characters people clamor DC to publish more of. 

Written by Donovan Reed