Real Name: Joe Cooke

Identity/Class: Human magic user (temporarily)

Occupation: Stage magician

Group Membership: None

Affiliations: None

Enemies: A seedy little hobo (actually Merlin in disguise)

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: Great Nero (original stage-name); Merlin the Mystic (later stage-name)

Base of Operations: An unnamed American city

First Appearance: Tales of Suspense I#27/4 (March, 1962)

Powers/Abilities: A total flop as a stage magician, but with the aid of Merlin, Joe Cooke was able to accomplish many incredible magical feats and illusions, including levitation, turning himself into a giant, and walking through a solid wall. In his final trick, he completely vanished to parts unknown.

History: (Tales of Suspense I#27/4) - As "Nero the Great," Joe Cooke was a lousy stage magician. His performances were often met with catcalls and boos from the audience. But along with being a failure as an entertainer, Joe Cooke was a failure as a man -- crooked and shady, he'd often skip out of town without paying his assistants, and he resorted to copying other magicians' tricks (which he always fouled up).

Figuring he needed to update his act, Cooke changed his stage-name to "Merlin the Mystic" and started billing himself as a "Descendant of the Great Merlin!", but it didn't improve his act any.

One night, after his usual unsuccessful performance, Cooke was in the alley behind the theatre when he met a hobo. The hobo told Cooke that he was once a magician when he was young, and that he'd teach Cooke some good magic tricks -- if Cooke liked them, he could pay the hobo what they were worth. Having nothing to lose, Cooke agreed.

Before long, Cooke (as "Merlin") was performing feats and illusions that became the talk of show business, and he was said to be the biggest thing since Houdini.

When the hobo finally wanted to get paid, Cooke said he wanted to learn just one more trick, something to use for a final exit. The hobo agreed and said he would teach Cooke how to completely vanish. After teaching Cooke the trick, the hobo again asked to be paid, but Cooke told him to "scram" because he didn't need him anymore. As Cooke said his final goodbye to his mentor ("So long, sucker!"), the hobo warned him he'd be sorry.

The next day at the end of his performance, "Merlin the Mystic" stood upon an elevated platform and vanished. The audience cheered, but after the cheers died down, the people began to wonder when he was going to reappear. After long restless minutes waiting for "Merlin's" return (which never happened), the audience filed out of the theatre...all save one -- the hobo remained sitting in the middle of the theatre, brooding. Thinking Cooke a fool for defying him, the hobo dropped his illusion and transformed into his true self -- the real Merlin!

As he returned to the dim past, Merlin thought of how he never did like imposters...

Comments: Created by an unknown writer and Steve Ditko.

The final fate of Joe Cooke is unknown, but at the story's end, it was said, "Joe Cooke was never seen again -- by anyone ALIVE, that is!" -- I'll leave it up to you, the reader, to draw your own conclusions on that one...

Maybe as Merlin was traveling back into the past, he made a quick stop to help out Chris Garson, another lousy magician who deserved his help more than Cooke did.

And a big THANK YOU to Dennis Giansante for scanning this story for me!

Profile by John Kaminski

Joe Cooke has no known connections to:

images: (without ads)
Tales of Suspense I#27, p19 (main image)

p22, pan5 (head shot)
p22, pan6 (Merlin as hobo)

Last updated: 10/01/06

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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