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Howard Purcell

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Howard Purcell
Born(1918-11-11)November 11, 1918
Bremerton, Washington
DiedApril 24, 1981(1981-04-24) (aged 62)
Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
Area(s)Writer, Penciller
Notable works
Gay Ghost
Sargon the Sorcerer

Howard Purcell (November 10, 1918 – April 24, 1981)[1][2] was an American comics artist and writer active from the 1940s Golden Age of Comic Books through the 1960s Silver Age.

A longtime penciler and cover artist for DC Comics, one of the field's two largest firms, he co-created the Golden Age characters Sargon the Sorcerer and the Gay Ghost (renamed in the 1970s the Grim Ghost) for All-American Publications, one of the companies, with National Comics and Detective Comics, that merged to form DC. Purcell also drew the famous cover of Green Lantern #1 (Fall 1941).


Green Lantern #1 (Fall 1941). Cover art by Purcell

Early life and career


Howard Purcell, whose early influences included the adventure comic strip artists Hal Foster and Alex Raymond, as well as illustrators Harvey Dunn and Dean Cornwell,[3] took art classes at the Art Students League of New York.[4] He worked as an animator in New York City studios[3] before entering the comics industry, where his earliest known credit is National's Adventure Comics #53 (Aug. 1940), for which he wrote and drew the six-page feature "Mark Lansing".[5] The titular adventurer's exploits with subterranean races and other science fiction conceits ran through issue #62. By that time Purcell had drawn the cover of All-American Publications' All Star Comics #2 (Fall 1940) – reprinted as the cover of DC Comics' quirkily numbered, 2006 hardcover collection All Star Archives #0 – as well as the feature "Lando, Man of Magic" in World's Best Comics #1 (Spring 1941),[6] and both the Green Lantern cover of, and the humorous adventure feature "Red, White and Blue" in, All-American Comics #25 (April 1941).[5]

Purcell and writer John Wentworth created Sargon the Sorcerer in the following month's issue.[7] A minor character in what would become the DC Universe, Sargon was John Sargent, whose exposure to the "Ruby of Life" during infancy granted him magical powers that he used in adulthood to fight crime, keeping his supernatural abilities camouflaged in his guise as a stage magician. Purcell and Wentworth continued with the character through All-American Comics #50 (June 1943).[5]

With writer Gardner Fox, Purcell created the Gay Ghost in All-American's Sensation Comics #1 (Jan. 1942).[8] The character, renamed the Grim Ghost in the 1970s,[8] was similar to National Comics' the Spectre in that he was a ghost (of Keith Everet, the fictional 18th-century Earl of Strethmere) who inhabited the body of a modern man, Charles Collins, to fight injustice – although unlike the genuinely grim Spectre, he did so with cheery (i.e., gay) swashbuckling.

Later life and career


Purcell drew the Mr. District Attorney series, a comics adaptation of the radio crime drama, from 1948 to 1957.[5] His 1960s work included drawing the DC series Sea Devils and co-creating the supernatural character the Enchantress with writer Bob Haney in Strange Adventures #187 (April 1966).[9] The Enchantress appears in the 2016 live-action movie Suicide Squad, portrayed by Cara Delevingne.[10] Purcell did a smattering for Marvel Comics, including two "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." stories, over Jack Kirby layouts, in Strange Tales #143–144 (April–May 1966); a Black Knight solo feature in Marvel Super-Heroes #17 (Nov. 1968); and three 10-page, semi-anthological backup stories featuring the Watcher, in Silver Surfer #4–5 and #7 (Feb.–April 1969 and Aug. 1969).[5] Purcell's last known work was a story each in the DC supernatural anthology Weird Mystery Tales #1–3 (Aug.–Dec. 1972), plus the cover of #2.[5]

By at least 1968,[11] Purcell was additionally a teacher at a high school in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania[3] and at the Luzerne County Community College in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania,[4][11] and was chairman of that college's commercial art department.[12] Purcell died April 24, 1981, in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.[1][2]



DC Comics


EC Comics

  • International Comics #1, 3 (1947)

Fawcett Comics


Marvel Comics



  1. ^ a b Howard Purcell at the Social Security Death Index, Social Security Number 711-05-1720.
  2. ^ a b Catron, Michael (August 1981). "Howard Purcell Dies". Amazing Heroes (3). Stamford, Connecticut: Fantagraphics Books: 23.
  3. ^ a b c Shaw, Scott (May 31, 2009). "Mr. District Attorney, No. 53". Oddball-Comics.com. Archived from the original on February 2, 2012. Retrieved September 3, 2011. Note: Source claims "Wilkes-Barre High School", but of four high schools in that city, none have that name
  4. ^ a b "Howard Purcell". Lambiek Comiclopedia. 2016. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Howard Purcell at the Grand Comics Database
  6. ^ Markstein, Don (2010). "Lando, Man of Magic". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on May 25, 2024.
  7. ^ Markstein, Don (2008). "Sargon the Sorcerer". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on May 25, 2024.
  8. ^ a b Markstein, Don (2008). "The Gay Ghost". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on May 25, 2024.
  9. ^ Markstein, Don (2010). "The Enchantress". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on May 27, 2024.
  10. ^ Kroll, Justin (December 2, 2014). "Suicide Squad Cast Revealed: Jared Leto to Play the Joker, Will Smith is Deadshot". Variety. Archived from the original on November 1, 2015.
  11. ^ a b "Michael Molnar". Eleanor Ettinger Gallery. Archived from the original on September 29, 2010.
  12. ^ "Arthur Miller Fine Art". Fine Art Studio Online. Archived from the original on February 17, 2008.
Preceded by
Sam Citron
Mr. District Attorney penciller
Succeeded by
Preceded by Sea Devils penciller
Succeeded by