All-American Comics #25 (April 1941)
Infinity Inc. #19 (October 1985)
As Doctor Midnight:
Infinity Inc. (vol. 1) #21 (December 1985)
Doctor Mid-Nite #1 (September 1999)
Stanley Josephs Aschmeier
John K. Snyder
|Alter ego||-Dr. Charles McNider
-Dr. Elizabeth Chapel
-Dr. Pieter Anton Cross
|Team affiliations||(McNider, Cross)
Justice Society of America
U.S. Medical Corps
Black Lantern Corps
Perfect night vision
Ability to see in the light via infrared lenses
Brilliant doctor and mathematician
Gifted physician and author
Superb athlete and hand to hand combatant
Employs "blackout bombs"
Great physician and scientist
Employs special ultrasonic lenses and "blackout bombs"
Doctor Mid-Nite (also Doctor Midnight) is a fictional superhero physician in DC Comics. The figure has been represented in the comics by three different individuals, Charles McNider, Beth Chapel and Pieter Anton Cross. Dr. Mid-Nite was originally created by writer Charles Reizenstein and artist Stanley Josephs Aschmeier in 1941. The hero, represented first by Charles McNider, appeared for the first time in All-American Comics #25 (April 1941).
The character typically appears in stories of teamwork. Like many Golden Age heroic characters, the original Doctor Mid-Nite appeared as a member of DC's Justice Society of America. His two successors were also represented as members of the group or an offshoot. Doctor Mid-Nite has never appeared as the solo protagonist of a regular title magazine, but the figure has been the subject of an anthology and a mini-series (see below).
All three characters who have represented the heroic Doctor in the DC Universe have exhibited the same basic features: a cowled costume featuring a crescent moon symbol, keen ability to see in the darkness at the cost of near or total blindness in sunlight, and the use of special visors and “blackout” smoke bombs to gain tactical advantage in combat. All three have been physicians who see not only to the needs of normal human beings but also to the needs of DC's "metahumans" (superheroes). All are skilled in martial arts. Two of the doctors have been accompanied by sidekick owls.
Doctor Mid-Nite is widely regarded as the first superhero in comics to exhibit a physical impairment (blindness). (The figure pre-dates by over twenty years the arrival of Daredevil, also a blind character, in Marvel Comics.)
Fictional character biographies
The following biographies are presented "in universe."
Charles McNider, a surgeon, is called one night to remove a bullet from a witness who is soon to testify against mobsters. A mobster throws a grenade into the room, killing the witness and blinding McNider. McNider believes his days as a surgeon are over. One evening, as he is recovering, an owl crashes through his window (reminiscent of the bat that crashes through Bruce Wayne's window to inspire his identity as the Batman). McNider removes the bandages covering his eyes to find that he can still see, but only in perfect darkness. His vision is now 'inverted': he can see in the dark the way most people can see in light, and vice versa. He develops a special visor that allows him to see in light and "blackout bombs" that block out all light. These become useful in his effort to fight crime. The owl becomes his totem animal. He adopts the bird that flew through his window, naming it 'Hooty' and calling it his "sidekick." He later joins the Justice Society of America (JSA) and the All-Star Squadron. In 1942, McNider enlists in the U.S. Medical Corps as a physician during World War II, rising to the rank of Captain.[volume & issue needed]
Ten years after his debut, McNider briefly assumes the role of Starman after the JSA disbands. Ted Knight, the original Starman, suffers a nervous breakdown as a result of his participation in the development of the atomic bomb.
McNider suffers a devastating event in 1953, when the girl he loves, Myra Mason, is murdered by the Shadower, a foe who has learned Doctor Mid-Nite's secret identity. McNider apparently never reveals his identity to Myra, presumably - and ironically - to keep her "safe". McNider's later romantic history is unknown, but another "old friend" of McNider, Miss Alice King, makes an appearance in All-American Comics #90 (October 1947)
McNider apparently has no children, but at one point McNider rescues a pregnant woman from attack in Sogndal, Norway. He delivers her baby. The child, Pieter Cross, is destined to become the third Doctor Mid-Nite. Pre-Crisis he was one of the JSA members captured and placed in suspended animation by the Immortal villain Vandal Savage, before being freed by the Barry Allen Flash.
As the aging McNider spends less time in action, Beth Chapel, an African-American medical doctor, steps into the role of Doctor Midnight (note different spelling). Beth Chapel is a native of Orangeburg, South Carolina. Her father is a pastor. Her mother sings in the church choir and crafts her daughter's hero costume from a choir robe. Chapel has four brothers: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Chapel first appears when Jade of Infinity, Inc. is rushed to the hospital for treatment after Mister Bones' cyanide touch. Her superhero career soon kicks into fast and full gear. During the onset of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Beth is blinded by an oxygen explosion. She is rescued by Hourman's son Rick Tyler, who has taken his father's drug that enhances ability to see in the dark. Like McNider, Beth discovers that she can do the same. She and Rick assume the mantles of their predecessors as Doctor Midnight and Hourman.
Along with a new Wildcat, Chapel and Tyler apply for membership in Infinity, Inc. They are not immediately accepted but eventually both gain admission. The association is short-lived, though, as Infinity soon disbands. Doctor Midnight and Wildcat are recruited by the U.S. government for a mission to defeat the supervillain Eclipso. By now Chapel has begun a romantic relationship with Rick Tyler.
Cross is the Norwegian-born son of a noted scientist, the late Theodoric Cross. Pieter was delivered as a baby by the original Doctor Mid-Nite, Charles McNider, who had just rescued his mother from vagrants. As an adult Pieter is later unable to save his mother from Chagas disease, which she catches in Brazil while visiting him. Cross otherwise has no known relatives.
Cross's crime-fighting career begins as he runs a free clinic in Portsmouth, Washington. His work leads him to investigate a new street drug called A39, an accidental derivative of the steroid-like Venom. The drug, he soon learns, is produced by an evil corporation named Praeda Industries, run by the Terrible Trio (former foes of the Batman). Cross is drugged by company enforcers and soon involved in a car accident. The accident takes the life of a young woman named Katherine Blythe. After the accident, he finds that he can only see in pitch darkness via infrared vision (he can also employ ultrasonic vision). He takes the name Doctor Mid-Nite and resolves to fight crime. Cross joins the newest incarnation of the Justice Society of America, and enjoys a brief romance with teammate Black Canary.
Cross is usually portrayed as being a physician first and vigilante second. Scanners in his cowl-lenses identify health risks as well as threats. He is a vegetarian and practices yoga (JSA). Cross carries high-tech medical equipment in addition to weapons (including blackout bombs). Some individuals whom Cross assists eventually come to aid him in his work as both crime fighter and community surgeon. Allies gained in this way include reformed street kids "Nite Lite" and "Ice Sickle" and writer Camilla Marlowe. (Ice Sickle is later killed by the vengeful Spirit King) Dr. Mid-Nite also serves as a wise and kind mentor to young Jaime Reyes, the latest Blue Beetle.
Cross's Doctor Mid-Nite is one of the most prominent physicians in the DCU. He and his JSA colleague Mr. Terrific function as "go-to" scientists for the superhero set. Among Cross' notable achievements: the discovery that Alan Scott is composed of the green flame of the Starheart; conducting tests and annual checkups for Power Girl; emergency surgery on Hourman; removal of the Brainiac virus from Oracle; the autopsy of Sue Dibny (Identity Crisis); removing the sniper bullet that wounds Lois Lane in Umec (Battery story arc in Adventures of Superman); conducting DNA tests on Terra (Terra #3, 2009).
Cross is also called upon by medical agencies such as S.T.A.R. Labs during unusual cases. At one point he is called by S.T.A.R. to investigate the reappearance of Delores Winters, the first host for the Ultra-Humanite. Winters now steals the body parts of metahumans and calls herself Endless Winter. Doctor Mid-Nite puts an end to the thievery and helps restore the health of her victims. (JSA: Classified #19-20, 2007)
The Batman conducts covert research on Cross's abilities and concludes that the full extent of his enhanced vision has not yet been reached (JSA 31). The Batman has apparently not revealed this information to Cross.
When the Justice Society encounter Gog, last survivor of the Third World, the benevolent being restores Pieter's vision. Although initially a blessing, this later works to Pieter's disadvantage in the field, as he is no longer able to see through his own dark bombs, and the loss of his infrared vision prevents him from saving a mortally-wounded Lance as well as leaving him feeling challenged when trying to perform even normal operations. Eventually, the full JSA mount an all-out assault on Gog, having learned from Sandman that Gog is rooting himself into the Earth, and if he remains for one more day, the Earth will die if he ever leaves, leaving them with the one option of killing Gog and separating his head from the Earth, which is the only way to save the planet. The other society members following Gog attempt to protect him, until they see him attempt to attack a society member. All of the followers take up the fight, and Gog punishes them all by taking away his blessings, including Dr. Mid-Nite's sights.
After being contacted by current Teen Titan leader Beast Boy, Dr. Mid-Nite is called in to help Raven when she is attacked and possessed by an unknown demonic entity. Appearing in Titans Tower via hologram technology, Dr. Mid-Nite and Static are successfully able to drive the demon from Raven's body.
Dr. Mid-Nite has been a mentor to the young superhero Blue Beetle.
Owls of Doctor Mid-Nite
Both Charles McNider and Pieter Anton Cross train owls as sidekicks.
McNider trains the same owl which crashes through his window, an event that leads to the discovery of his powers. This owl, named "Hooty" (sometimes "Hootie"), shares many adventures during the Golden Age.
Cross keeps company with an owl named "Charlie". The bird is named after the original Doctor Mid-Nite, Charles McNider. Charlie keeps a mini-camera around his neck that can feed video directly to a display in Cross's goggles.
Powers, equipment, and abilities
McNider possesses the metahuman ability to see perfectly in the dark. Utilizing special infrared lenses, McNider can see in light; later in his life, his lenses become more ineffective as his eyesight continues to deteriorate even further, inhibiting his daylight vision. McNider also employs "blackout bombs" which release pitch-black gas that blind villains even as they allow McNider to see. For a time he used a weapon called a "cryotuber" which can either control the nervous system of an opponent or fire bursts of heat or cold. He is also a brilliant doctor, and a mathematician. In All-Star Comics #13 he is able to communicate with a Neptunian using mathematical equations. As Starman, McNider uses various star-themed gadgets, including an airship designed by the Red Torpedo. McNider is also a superb athlete and fighter, as well as a gifted physician and author.
In 1965, DC Comics had no plans to revive Doctor Mid-Nite. DC editor Julius Schwartz gave M.I.T. student and comic book letterhack Rick Norwood permission to publish a Dr. Midnight story in his fanzine, Five. The story written by Norwood and illustrated by Steve Sabo features a doctor named Tom Benson who is blinded in battle. He discovers that his other senses are super-sensitive and dons the Doctor Midnight costume to fight crime.
In Kingdom Come, Alex Ross portrays Doctor Mid-Nite (known here simply as Midnight) as a disembodied cowl amid thick black smoke reminiscent of his "blackout bombs". The wraith is said to be the spirit of Dr. Charles McNider.
Another version of the character was shown in Dan Jolley and Tony Harris' JSA: The Liberty File as a World War II United States intelligence agent code-named the Owl. This character, though a playboy, resembles other Doctor Mid-Nite representations. Though derided for his dalliances with the ladies, McNider was trusted as a valued field operative.
In the Elseworlds novel Batman: Holy Terror- set in a world where Oliver Cromwell lived longer and America is run by a corrupt theocracy- Doctor Charles McNider was a friend of Thomas and Martha Wayne before their deaths, losing his eyes and his wife for his defiance of the state. When Bruce comes to visit him, he warns Bruce against fighting the system, but also confirms that the Waynes were killed by the privy council for providing medical services to those the council has deemed undesirable, such as Jews or homosexuals.
In the Tangent: Superman's Reign series, a version of Doctor Mid-Nite his body completely covered by a black cloak is briefly seen.
The original Dr. Mid-Nite (Charles McNider) is one of seven JSA-related heroes whose solo appearances are collected in an anthology entry in the DC Archive Editions series:
|'JSA All-Stars Archives Vol. 1 HC (2007)||All-American Comics (1939 series) #25-29|
The introductory mini-series of the modern Dr. Mid-Nite (Pieter Cross) has been collected in a trade paperback.
|Doctor Mid-Nite TBP (2000)||Doctor Mid-Nite #1-3||Matt Wagner, John K. Snyder III||ISBN 1-56389-607-9|
In other media
- Doctor Mid-Nite made several brief appearances without dialogue in Justice League Unlimited, most notably in the episodes "Dark Heart", "Divided We Fall", and "Destroyer" (where he's highlighted along with fellow JSA members Doctor Fate, Hourman, and Wildcat).
- Doctor Mid-Nite appeared in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episodes "The Golden Age of Justice" and "Crisis 23,000 Miles Above the Earth", voiced by Corey Burton. He is shown as a member of the Justice Society of America and the team's resident doctor.
- Doctor Mid-Nite also appears in the Smallville episode "Absolute Justice" in the painting showing the roster of the Justice Society of America. He does not appear in person, but only in the painting.
- Pieter Cross appears in the Young Justice episode "Coldhearted," voiced by Bruce Greenwood. He appears as a surgeon who performs a heart transplant on Count Vertigo's niece Perdita. He is never named onscreen, but is identified in the credits. He later appears in the second season episode "True Colors" assisting Ray Palmer and Bumblebee in attempting to remove the Blue Beetle scarab from Jaime Reyes following the discovery of its connection to the Reach.
- Doctor Mid-Nite appears in Mad. In a musical segment, Doctor Mid-Nite joins the other superheroes into asking Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman about being called "Super Friends." Doctor Mid-Nite's part had him mentioning how he once asked Batman to take him to the airport where Batman stated that it was "best to take a cab."
- Dr. Mid-Nite also appears as a member of the Justice Society of America in the animated film Justice League: The New Frontier. He can be seen in a cameo at the opening credits of the film.
- Dr. Mid-Nite was featured as an action figure in the twelfth wave of the DC Universe Classics line. His accessory was his owl, Hooty, who rested on his arm.
Mattel released an action figure of the Justice League Unlimited version of Dr. Mid-Nite in its DC Universe: Justice League Unlimited Fan Collection line in November 2011.
- Greenberger, Robert (2008), "Doctor Mid-Nite I & II", in Dougall, Alastair, The DC Comics Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, p. 104, ISBN 0-7566-4119-5, OCLC 213309017
- All-Star Comics #11 (June–July 2012)
- Starman (vol. 2) #77
- Greenberger, Robert (2008), "Extant", in Dougall, Alastair, The DC Comics Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, p. 117, ISBN 0-7566-4119-5, OCLC 213309017
- Blackest Night #4
- Blackest Night: JSA #1–3 (February–April 2010)
- Infinity Inc. #21
- Eclipso #13
- JSA #11
- JSA #60
- Blue Beetle - Boundaries (2009) - ISBN 978-1-4012-2162-1
- Birds of Prey #85
- Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #17
- Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #18
- Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #21
- Teen Titans (vol. 3) #75
- Justice Society of America Annual #1