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Plain simple question: Who (and when) was the first superhero to wear a cape in comics?

By cape I mean:

  • Superman man type
  • Mandrake type

By cape I DON'T mean:

  • Pelts, e.g., Hercules lion pelt

By comic book I mean:

  • comic books itself
  • comic strip

By comic book I DON'T mean:

  • Pulp magazines BUT if a superhero migrates from pulp to comics then is a valid target/answer.
  • Books BUT if a superhero migrates from books to comics then is a valid target/answer.

By superhero I mean:

  • One hero with superpowers/technology that elevates his actions beyond normal human patterns.
  • One without superpowers but face daily super villains as equal.
  • One with absolute extreme training. E.g.: DC's Batman, Marvel's Hawkeye, Marvel's Shang-Chi.

By superhero I DON'T mean:

  • Religion saints/deities/gods or like are not superheroes UNLESS it's portrayed as superhero, e.g., Marvel's Thor or Marvel's Hercules.
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    I don't like this question as it promotes the idea of wearing capes to superheroes... No capes! – TheLethalCarrot Jul 9 '18 at 14:10
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    Do all sorts of saints count as super heroes? They performed miracles and many wore capes as it was the fashion of that time. For example, Saint Nicholas is often depicted wearing a cape and Santa Clause clearly is a super hero – Raditz_35 Jul 9 '18 at 14:16
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    @RodrigoGurgel "Comic book"? There are century old paintings of them wearing capes, many of them depicting their adventures so people know who they were. Is that a comic book? – Raditz_35 Jul 9 '18 at 14:20
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    A comic is not a well-defined term. I'm asking because we get into a grey area here. You can choose to count a picture telling the story of a saint as a comic or not. You have to make that call. If you choose to say any story in pictures is a comic, we might have pretty interesting results – Raditz_35 Jul 9 '18 at 14:27
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    NO CAPES! youtube.com/watch?v=1WL7TeX9jhM – Naib Jul 13 '18 at 13:48
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+100

I propose it was indeed...

Mandrake the Magician

with his first appearance on June 11, 1934.

mandrake cover

  • Cape? Check! He wears a traditional magicians cape.

  • Comic Book/Strip? Check! Published by King Comics and King Features Syndicate in various forms.

  • Super? Check! His hypnotize powers definitely fit your description of "beyond normal human patterns" or possibly "extreme training", but beyond that he is shown to have invisibility, shape-shifting, levitation, and teleportation. He also faces gangsters, mad scientists, extraterrestrials, and characters from other dimensions, so that fits the "faces super-villains as equals."

Like most comic super heroes is power seem to have grown over time, but magic was part of his act from start as well,

mandrake promo

Meet Mandrake the Magician. He'll lead you through amazing adventures of Mystery and Magic in a great new daily strip. Story by Lee Falk; drawing by Phil Davis

The mysterious world of the occult - of black magic, and white - of mighty, secret powers known only to the initiated - that's where Mandrake the Magician takes you as he battles against the weird underworld forces of the sorcerer, Cobra. It's the newest thrill in adventure strips and it will hold you fascinated wit its excitement-packed story. Be sure to watch for it every day!

first appearance

  • Made it so the click through for the images are the original size so they are easier to read. – TheLethalCarrot Jul 13 '18 at 13:27
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Define "Superhero".

Mandrake has no powers, save for being a good hypnotist and stage magician. Flash Gordon was just a guy who flew to another planet.

And yeah, we could list any number of pulp heroes, literary characters, figures from legend, all having been adapted to comics at one point or another.

Superman was the first "superhero", as in he had "powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men", and he wore a cape. So if you don't want to do any hairsplitting, it's Superman.

If you open the definition up a bit, it's not so simple.

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    "At various times in the comic strip, Mandrake has also demonstrated other powers, including turning invisible, shapeshifting, levitation, and teleportation." The Encyclopedia of American Comics. New York : Facts on File, 1990. ISBN 0816018529 (p. 91, 249–250). Yep, Mandrake had superpowers. – Rodrigo Gurgel Jul 9 '18 at 14:21
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    To be a bit pedantic this reads as a bit of an extended comment at the moment rather than an actual answer. I know what you're getting at but still probably best to edit it into shape. – TheLethalCarrot Jul 9 '18 at 14:26
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    Mandrake's powers grew over time, very possibly to compete with the new "superheroes" that had come along. It all hangs on the OP's definition. He already discounted pulp characters. – VBartilucci Jul 9 '18 at 14:40
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    @TheLethalCarrot: Your comment confuses me. OP asked "Who was the first super to wear a cape?" and this answer says "Superman, probably." In what way does that fail to answer the question? – Kevin Jul 9 '18 at 16:59
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    @Kevin If you’d kindly point me to where I said this doesn’t answer the question that’d be grand. Cos at the moment I’m 100% sure I never said that. – TheLethalCarrot Jul 9 '18 at 18:12
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The Shadow, who began in 1930 as a narrator of a series of radio dramas, but gained a distinct identity in pulp magazines from 1931. The Shadow laid the foundations for the archetype of the superhero, including stylized imagery and title, sidekicks, supervillains, and a secret identity. Clad in black, The Shadow operated mainly after dark as a vigilante in the name of justice, and terrifying criminals into vulnerability. He has the power to cloud people's minds; a sort of hypnotism using his red-stoned ring. Several comics adaptations have been made, beginning in 1940, most notably several DC Comics series. He is portrayed as having a black cape with a red reverse.

For more information, see the Wikipedia entry.

enter image description here

  • unfortunately the comics adaptations began in 1940. After Mandrake and Superman. – Rodrigo Gurgel Jul 16 '18 at 13:35
  • True, but the question states that "if a superhero migrates from pulp to comics then is a valid target/answer", which I take to mean that the original pulp hero counts. Certainly, pulp covers of a caped Shadow existed and were widely known before Mandrake and Superman. – Klaus Æ. Mogensen Jul 17 '18 at 14:39

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