The black hand...is an inspiration. It just goes to show no matter how you start in life, you can live the life of your dreams. You don't need a fancy mutation or lab accident or alien parents. All the Black Hand had...was a black hand. An actual, diseased hand.
Gotta (diseased) hand it to him
Yeah, it wasn't, like, cursed or something from a sorcerer. He tells the hero's dad in his first panel that it is diseased. Anyone who is scratched will turn gray, like the hand, and die. Look at him. Turning lemons into lemonade...or a diseased hand into a thriving criminal career as the statement doesn't go but should.
But, to know the Black Hand, we have to know his nemesis: Captain Flag and his American Eagle, Yank.
Captain Flag began life as millionaire playboy Tommy Townsend. And, by the way, at this point it's probably safer to assume that if a guy calls himself a millionaire playboy it's 100% cover for him being a superhero. Who even uses that term other than people who are too worn out from being a superhero to think of something better to say?
But, at this time, Tommy Townsend was just a party guy. He loved alcohol more than work as he stated, like, twice on the first page of his existence, and when you have a dad who's getting rich making bombs for the government, well, why not?
But...what if he didn't have a dad?
As he would quickly learn after being knocked out after staggering down a dark alley drunk, his dad was in the literal clutches of the Black Hand, who wanted that bomb to sell it to Nazis because of course he did. Tommy's life immediately became way less fun when he saw what the Black Hand was capable of. He saw the gray disease creep up and down from his father's neck as the man died. And Tommy? Tommy was next.
Clean living, raw fish, and American flags
Or, he would have been. For some reason a villain with a perennially-diseased hand he uses to do supercrime doesn't make me question my suspension of disbelief...but an eagle of high eagle intelligence, likely-middling human intelligence crashing through the window and pulling Tommy from the table and to a mountain peak does. I mean, Batman had a bat crash through a window, so maybe they were going for the same vibe. The bat, though, didn't then carry Bruce Wayne bodily to a mountain peak where it taught him the values of clean living through a training montage culminating with the winged creature bringing him an American flag - which, quote, "really brings a thrill into a man's heart."
Like Batman, Captain Flag made a vow on that day. We...don't know what the vow is. He said the flag was a symbol of the vow and left it at that. He then said he would protect this flag at all costs...which is why he wore it on his back in every subsequent battle. Tommy Townsend was now Captain Flag, the, quote, "smashing, crashing, two-fisted, wise-cracking type of guy who's got that certain something," and he and his American Eagle, Yank, who was not a bald eagle, by the way, had a score to settle with a guy with a diseased hand.
In the time since Tommy left town, the Black Hand rose to the level of crime boss, but, with his clean life and American values, Captain Flag punched Black Hand's goons into unconsciousness and burned down his house. Nation, saved. Black Hand...dead.
Or was he? He wasn't.
Pirate justice for some reason
You don't let a villain with a diseased hand go that quickly. Black Hand returned for about five more issues and, in every one, has a different look. For Captain Flag's nemesis they really couldn't decide what he was supposed to look like. Does he have a ghost face like in the first one with a gray hand? Is he a suave guy with a pencil mustache and a gloved hand? Is he an actual skull that somehow still has forehead lines and a hairy, animalistic hand? Who know? Not the illustrator, that's for sure.
Captain Flag, though, stayed in uniform the entire time. He kept his blonde hair, lived atop a mountain, and somehow dated ex-movie star spy Veronica Darnell if you're itching for more deep-cut Captain Flag content.
As most people with diseased hands, the Black Hand met a pirate's death. Yeah, he...took over a yacht one time and used it to pillage rich people. As we've talked about, in the 1940s apparently the one unforgivable crime was robbing the rich. Captain Flag, in his creation, might have been inspired by Batman, but in the end the symbol of American justice did what The Dark Knight never could. When they captured the Black Hand in international waters, they summarily executed him. In his final issue, Captain Flag and his American Eagle, Yank, sailed in with their nemesis swinging in the wind.
Despite kind of a brutal end, when Archie Comics was scraping around for a super-hero team after the 1966 Batman show made campy superheroes popular for ten whole minutes, they brought back Captain Flag. Together with other superheroes you've definitely heard of named "Web" and "Fox," they traveled around in a car shaped like a fox and did taekwondo. Their book was cancelled after seven issues.
- Blue Ribbon Comics #16-22
- Mighty Crusaders #1-7
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