For every Captain America there is an American Avenger; for every Wonder Woman an Amazona.The pages of Golden Age super-hero comics were rife with would-be supermen and women who received one chance at stardom but instead faded immediately into obscurity.
Sometimes the reasons for a character’s failure were woefully apparent (Centaur’s “The Buzzard,” a non-powered crime-fighter who disguised himself by donning a fake, bird-like nose) while other concepts worked well enough on paper but for whatever reason plummeted out of favor (“Ghost Woman,” a spectral heroine who fought werewolves. What’s not to love?).
Scarlet Nemesis and The Black Orchid were a crime-fighting duo that definitely deserved better exposure than a one-and-done. The set up was simple: a smug, condescending private eye and his hyper-competent Girl Friday fight crime as costumed mystery-persons. Although Nemesis and Orchid frequently team up, both are unaware of their partner’s true identity.
It’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” decades before the fact!
If we’re being honest, however, the Black Orchid is the true star of the story. She has a better codename, costume and “calling card” (a floral dagger!) than the generic at best Scarlet Nemesis.
Perhaps that’s what held the duo back, or maybe it was the simple fact that the publisher already had a darkly clad female vigilante who readily captured readers’ imaginations: the Black Cat.
Judge for yourself. From All-New Short Story #2 (Harvey, March 1943), here’s “The Case Of The Crumbling Skyscrapers.” The art is credited to Ken Battlefield.
Now that I think of it … there’s a slight similarity between the Harvey Black Orchid’s costume and the look of DC’s Black Orchid, who debuted in the 1970s.
Is it possible? Probably not, but then again …