Who is Mr. Incognito?
JUST WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN?
The True Story of Mr. Incognito (Give or take a lie or two.)
There aren't too many substantiated facts to be found about the man know to the world as Mr. Incognito. This is to be expected of a man who spent his time in the public eye wearing any one of a dozen masks. It more than a little difficult to separate the fact from the fiction. But as someone once said,When the legend becomes bigger than the truth, you throw out the truth and print the legend. Or something like that. Legend has it that the masked man was an amateur wrestling champion who later took up judo, earning the coveted black belt. While earning some extra money as an artist's model he was encouraged to enter a local bodybuilding contest where he won a sub-division and the title of Mr. Perfect Pecs. A wrestling promoter who was in attendance at the contest, and who was impressed by the future masked mans sense of showmanship, offered him a contract to turn professional. After a month learning the intricacies of the pro mat game, he was ready to enter the squared circle. A lifelong comic book fan, he decided to wear a mask similar to those of Mexico luchadors and took the name of Mr. Incognito after an obscure comic book villain.
Billed as a judo master, though he only held the rank of shodan (first degree black belt); Mr. Incognito spent his first year wrestling professionally, playing David to the Goliaths of the wrestling world. Using the science of judo, he often triumphed over villainous grapplers who outweighed him by as much as fifty pounds. Once established as a fan favorite, the masked man became the I.W.O.'s first junior heavyweight champ, after winning a tournament that featured the likes of Spyder Ricco, Piano Mover Jones, Young Samson and Lightning McCoy.
There were a number of things that made Mr. Incognito, the Masked Marvel, a fan favorite. As mentioned earlier, the six foot tall, two hundred pound judoka quite often wrestled against larger opponents. This immediately put the fans in his corner. As basketball great Wilt Chamberlain so eloquently put it, Nobody roots for Goliath.Ã� His masks, of course, lent as air of mystery to him. Once you cover something up, everybody wants to see whats underneath. And in an era when a good number of professional wrestlers were built like beer truck drivers, Mr. Incognito had a physique like a Charles Atlas student. Not the rococo body of todays steroid monsters, but the type of functional, athletic body that a decathlete would have. A physique that was more tarzanic than it was Herculean.
Another thing that put the masked man over the top was his use of valets. Mr. Incognito was one of the few baby face wrestlers to use the valet gimmick. This was something, as a rule, that was reserved for heels. Usually the preening, peroxide and pompadour, pretty boys whose narcissist mannerisms generated heat from the fans. In the case of the masked man, it added to his mystique. When he entered the squared circle with a beautiful woman attending him, you could not help but wonder what he must like unmasked.
A shameless and tireless self-promoter, Mr. Incognito once wrestled an alligator on a bet, while vacationing one winter in Florida. He then, in turn, laid claim to the title of worlds champion alligator wrestler light-heavyweight division. A claim that realistically couldn't be disputed. Sort of like years later when Andy Kaufman would lay claim to the title of Intergender Wrestling Champion of the Universe. He even had a special belt made that he would sometimes take into the ring with him along with his I.W.O. Junior Heavyweight strap. It even got him featured in the nationally syndicated Believe it or dont! strip. But the thing that really put him over the top was a guest appearance in Superior Man No. 152.
The Superior Man comic book was based on the short lived syndicated television series from the early 1950, staring former Olympic swimming champion and movie serial hero Bust Crabbe. A blatant rip-off of The Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves, The Superior Man show told the story of the last survivor of fabled Atlantis. Coming to America with powers beyond those of mere surface-dwellers, he spent most of his time fighting commie spies, racketeers and the occasional mad scientist. Only twenty-six episodes were filmed and of these only twenty-two were aired. Over the years this low-budget offering with its juvenile storylines and cheesy special effects has become a cult favorite.
The Superior Man comic book proved to be even more popular than the television show that spawned it. Running for sixteen years and nearly two hundred issues, it was in Superior Man No. 152 from September 1966 that Mr. Incognito made his first comic book appearance. Legend has it that Goode Guy Productions, the published of Superior Man, approached N.W.A. champion Gene Kiniski, A.W.A. champ Verne Gagne and W.W.W.F. titleholder Bruno Sammartino with an offer to appear as a guest star in the comic book but were turned down. It was a simple matter of economics. The small publisher wasn't able to meet the price any of the superstars were looking for to appear in the periodical. So Goode Guy settled on using the junior heavyweight champion of the lesser know International Wrestling Organization.
In the story, Superior Man agrees to meet the Masked Marvel in an exhibition match for charity. During the course of the match, the Man of Mystery uses judo to keep the Man of Might off balance. This was another example of how pulp fiction from the 1960s made anyone who wore a black belt appear to have magical powers, capable of tossing the most cyclopean of opponents with a mere flick of the wrist. Judos principle of using an opponent's own strength against them, probably wouldn't work against someone like Superior Man, who could clean-and-jerk a tank, if that person existed in the real world. He could dispatch a regiment of black belts without working up a sweat.
In any case, while the two heroes are grappling, a group of criminals decide to know over the box-office. After their escape is cut off by the police, the thieves try to escape through the arena itself. They end up on the squared circle where Mr. Incognito uses his grappling skills to subdue them. The story ends with Superior Man and Mr. Incognito shaking hands while the man of might casually remarks that the masked man's judo prowess would be a welcome addition in the fight against crime and injustice. This story almost seemed like a tryout for a Mr. Incognito comic book. Sadly, this was not to be the case. But it did bring more fans to I.W.O. matches, especially when the masked marvel was on the card. And the man of mystery would end up a comic book hero. In a fashion.
Mr. Incognito and his valet, Delilah were featured on the cover of the February 1967 edition of Judo World magazine. On the inside was a three page article (complete with photos) about the masked marvel and how he used judo to become a wrestling champion. When the editors of Judo World found out that this issue double the sales on the previous best-selling issue of their magazine, it was decided that they would feature the masked man in their magazine every issue. But how? The answer would come with the May 1967 issue of Judo World. Once again Mr. Incognito and Delilah were featured on the magazine cover. On the inside, about halfway through the periodical, was a three page comic strip starring the masked marvel. The strip reflected something that occurred in the months between Incognito's appearance in the February issue and this one. The loss of his world championship to Cowboy Bob Watson. In the course of the story, sports promoter Stan Saperstein talks to Incognito about getting the masked man a rematch with Watson who had lost the title himself to Luis Chacon, the Tijuana Tarzan. The reader got to see Mr. Incognito put his grappling shills to good use rescuing a night club waitress from two would be assailants. The waitress turns out to be Delilah, an exotic beauty the masked man had planned on hiring to act as his valet.
In the next issue the reader gets to see glimpses of how a pro wrestler trains for a bout. Part of Mr. Incognito's regimen has him in a randori session with a sparring partner who looks suspiciously like the infamous Count Dante. In the next issue Mr. Incognito regains the junior heavyweight championship from the Tijuana Tarzan and takes down a purse-snatcher for the local police.
The next two installments of the strip found Mr. Incognito entering into the world of B-movies like his Mexican counterparts el Santo, Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras. This was something the masked man would be doing soon in real life. When Mr. Incognito first began wrestling professionally, he was approached by the Dynamic Models Guild to appear in a series of 8mm loops. The DMG was known for its homo-erotic shorts featuring athletic young men, garbed as various sexual icons, grappling. You had cowboys fighting Indians, motorcycle cops pinning outlaw bikers, Marines wrestling Sailors and of course gladiators in the arena. The loops featuring Mr. Incognito had the masked man either performing katas or demonstrating tameshiwari techniques. Usually while the presence of his valets so the viewer would have no doubt about which team the man of mystery played for. These short subjects helped prepare the masked man for his starring roles in such C-movie classics as Mad Ape, Terror on Thunder Mountain and the Return of Dr. Uranus. It was also around this time Mr. Incognito began appearing in nightclubs doing a stand-up comedy routine. The act had only one fault. It wasn't very funny.
Meanwhile, back in Judo World, the Mr. Incognito comic strip began to move into a different direction. Originally the strip was simply about the day to day life of a masked wrestler who just happened to be a judo practioner. Now the masked man was performing more like an actual comic book hero. In between wrestling engagements, Mr. Incognito was helping the authorities round up escaped Nazi war criminals and corral mad scientists and their pet gorillas. In addition, the strips would expand from 3 to 6 pages.
Return with us now to a time when comics were still fun. The swinging 60s of Batmania, mini-skits and intelligent apes, when a man in a mask could use the science of judo to wrestle against the principalities and powers of darkness.
April 1st, 2010, 1:13 pm
good looking stuff i didn't know you had a websight
Posted by VANCECAPLEY
April 6th, 2010, 9:25 pm
This is cool. From the comics, the pop culture, the judo comics tv, and the dojo-bijou...nice.
Judo is cool.
April 23rd, 2010, 4:24 am
With Judo Comics on the web I hope more and more people will realize how cool judo can be.
May 1st, 2010, 4:33 am
Wow!You guys added two new sections to the site.Loved watching teen idol Ricky Nelson doing martial arts.I missed Mr. Incognito talking about martial arts history though.The comics were hard to read this month.You must have had some technical difficulty.Hope you work the bugs out .
July 24th, 2010, 1:39 pm
The comics were completly readable. The art was superb. Since this is a modern medium we need to rethink the standard comic page (no matter the age of the original material. Size and format go out the window when you actually utilize this medium.