Mandrake’s gimmick isn’t as straightforward as his name suggests; although he is a professional stage magician, his primary power is actually hypnosis, and the ability to convince foes and occasional bystanders that they’re witnessing things that aren’t really happening. That’s not to say that hypnosis is the only trick up his sleeve, however; he’s also shown the ability to change shape, fly and teleport in the decades since his creation, with the character occasionally powering up when the plot demands.
Although Mandrake’s traditional home is in the funny pages, that’s not the only place where he’s fought villains as varied as master of disguise the Clay Camel, his mirror world duplicate Ekadrnam or the criminal organization 8; in addition to his own radio serial which ran from November 1940 through February 1942, the character has anchored both a 1939 movie serial and 1979 TV movie centering on his exploits.
Fans of a certain generation are likely most familiar with the character not through his comic strip appearances, but through the animated series Defenders of the Earth, which teamed the hero with the Phantom, Flash Gordon, and traditional Mandrake supporting character Lothar as a superhero group fighting against Ming the Merciless’ attempts to overrun Earth.
In recent years, the character has undergone a revival via comic book publisher Dynamite Entertainment, who resurrected him for the 2013 series Kings Watch — the title being a play on the name of the King Features Syndicate, the company which owns Mandrake and other characters in the series — and two subsequent mini-series, Mandrake the Magician and the current Kings Reach.
Those wondering what a contemporary Mandrake might be ahead of his big screen return need look no further — especially considering just how charming the comic book Mandrake has turned on to be. Sacha Baron Cohen has his work cut out for him.