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Doctor Mid-Nite

Doctor Mid-Nite is a fictional character, a DC Comics superhero. Created by writer Charles Reizenstein and artist Stanley Josephs Aschmeier, the original Doctor Mid-Nite first appeared in All-American Comics #25 (April 1941).

In the history of the DC Universe, three different characters have assumed the role of Doctor Mid-Nite. All of them have been close to blind in daylight but able to see clearly in darkness, and have utilized special visors and smoky “blackout” bombs to give them the upper hand against enemies. All three have also been actual medical doctors. Two have also had sidekick owls.

Like many Golden Age heroes, Doctor Mid-Nite was a core member of the Justice Society of America. His two successors were also members of the group or joined an offshoot.

Fictional character history

Charles McNider

The first Doctor, surgeon Charles McNider, was the earliest blind superhero, predating Marvel Comics' Daredevil by more than two decades. One night, he was called to remove a bullet from a witness who was to testify against the mob. However, a mobster threw a grenade into the room, killing the witness and blinding McNider. McNider thought his days as a surgeon were over until one day, as he was recovering, an owl crashed through his window (reminiscent of the incident that inspired Batman to dress as a bat). Taking off the bandages that were covering his eyes, he found that he could see, but only in perfect darkness. Using his newfound ability, he developed a special visor that let him see in light and "blackout bombs" that block out all light, and used these to fight crime. He adopted the owl, named him Hooty, and appointed him as his "sidekick". He later joined the Justice Society of America and the All-Star Squadron. In 1951, McNider briefly took over the role of Starman after the JSA had disbanded and Ted Knight, the original Starman, had suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of his participation in the development of the atomic bomb.

McNider was one of the casualties of Zero Hour, dying alongside the Atom at the hands of Extant.

Charles McNider's legacy apparently does not include any blood heirs. McNider's later marital status is unknown, but he suffered an agonising event when his girlfriend Myra Mason was murdered in 1953 by his foe, The Shadower, who had discovered Mid-Nite's secret identity. Cross has noted that "McNider loved [Myra]... more than he was ever willing to admit to her." McNider apparently never revealed his identity to Myra, presumably (and ironically) to keep her "safe". One other "old friend", Miss Alice King, appeared in All-American Comics #90 (October 1947).

At one point however, in Sogndal, Norway, McNider rescued a pregnant woman from attack and delivered her baby. This child, Pieter Cross, eventually became one of his successors.

Beth Chapel

At the time of his death during Zero Hour McNider had no known living relatives, although he was close to his student and protégé, Dr. Beth Chapel, an African-American. Chapel first appeared when Jade of Infinity, Inc. was rushed to the hospital for treatment against Mister Bones' cyanide touch. Shortly thereafter, her super-hero career kicked into fast and full gear. During the onset of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Beth was blinded by an oxygen explosion in her hospital. She was rescued by Hourman's son Rick Tyler, who took his father's Miraclo drug. Like McNider, Beth discovered that she too could see in the dark. She and Rick assumed the mantles of their predecessors as Doctor Midnight (note the different spelling) and Hourman. Along with a new Wildcat, they applied for membership in Infinity, Inc., but were not immediately accepted. Eventually they were admitted, but their careers were short-lived.

Infinity soon disbanded and Doctor Midnight and Wildcat were recruited by the U.S. government for a mission to defeat the supervillain Eclipso. Both women died on that mission along with the Creeper, Commander Steel, Peacemaker and Major Victory. Before her death, Beth had begun a romantic relationship with Rick Tyler, but she has no known relatives.

Pieter Cross

The third Doctor Mid-Nite (the second to use the original spelling), and the second male to hold the title, is Pieter Anton Cross, who made his first appearance in the 3-issue prestige format limited series Doctor Mid-Nite (1999). Cross is Norwegian-born son of a noted scientist, the late Theodoric Cross. In fact, Pieter was delivered from his mother's womb by the original Doctor Mid-Nite, who had just saved his mother from vagrants. Years later, Pieter was unable to save his mother from Chagas disease, which she caught in Brazil while visiting her son.

Pieter's crime-fighting career began as a doctor who ran a free clinic in Portsmouth, Washington, which led him to investigate a new street drug called A39, an accidental derivative of the steroid-like Venom, produced by an evil corporation called Praeda Industries, run by former Batman villains Terrible Trio. In retaliation, the corporation drugged him and he was involved in a car accident which took the life of a young woman named Katherine Blythe. Like the previous bearers of the name, he found that he could only see in pitch darkness, via infrared vision (his powers can also switch to ultrasonic vision). He, too, donned a costume to fight crime.

The new Doctor Mid-Nite carries high-tech medical equipment in addition to his crimefighting apparatus (including blackout bombs). Some of those whom Cross has helped now aid him in his work as a crime-fighter and community surgeon. These allies include reformed street kids "Nite Lite" and "Ice Sickle", and writer Camilla Marlowe. (Recently, Ice Sickle was killed by the vengeful Spirit King [JSA #60])

He later joined the newest incarnation of the Justice Society of America, where he had a brief romance with his teammate, Black Canary.

Doctor Mid-Nite is one of the most prominent physicians in the DCU. Along with his JSA colleague Mr. Terrific, the pair often serve as the metahuman community's "go-to" scientists. Among Cross' notable achievements as a metahuman physician are the discovery that Alan Scott was composed of the green flame of the Starheart; giving Power Girl her annual checkups as well as testing her powers; emergency surgery on Hourman; removal of the Brainiac virus from Oracle; the autopsy of Sue Dibny during the Identity Crisis storyline; and removing the sniper bullet that wounded Lois Lane in Umec during the Battery story arc in Adventures of Superman.

He is also called upon by other medical agencies, such as S.T.A.R. Labs, during unusual cases. Recently, he was called by S.T.A.R. to investigate the reappearance of Delores Winters, who was the first host for the Ultra-Humanite. Apparently Winters had not died; instead her friend, Marten had transferred her brain elsewhere. Winters became addicted to the process and eventually began stealing the body parts of metahumans, calling herself Endless Winter. Doctor Mid-Nite put an end to Winter's organ thievery and helped restore the health of those metas she'd attacked. (JSA: Classified #19-20, 2007)

Cross is usually portrayed as being a physician first and a superhero second. In his mini-series, the scanners in his cowl-lenses identified health risks as well as threats. According to JSA, Cross is a vegetarian and practices yoga. According to Batman, who has done covert research, Cross has not yet realized the full extent of his vision abilities (JSA 31). Batman has apparently not revealed this information to Cross and its validity has not yet been established.

He has no other known relatives.

When the Justice Society encounter Gog, last survivor of the Third World, the benevolent being restores Pieter's vision. Although initially a blessing, this later works to Pieter's disadvantage in the field, as he is no longer able to see through his own dark bombs, and the loss of his infrared vision prevents him from saving a mortally-wounded Lance.

Owls

Both Dr. McNider and Dr. Cross had trained owls as sidekicks. McNider trained the same owl which crashed through his window and led to the discovery of his powers; named "Hooty" (sometimes rendered as "Hootie"), he and McNider shared many adventures during the Golden Age. Hooty even took some Miraclo in one adventure, leading to him gaining super-strength and super-speed, albeit temporarily. Cross employs an owl named "Charlie", named after the original Mid-Nite. Charlie has a mini-camera around his neck which can feed directly to a display in Dr Mid-Nite's goggles.

Other versions

In 1965, DC Comics had no plans to revive Doctor Mid-Nite, and so DC editor Julius Schwartz gave M.I.T. student and comic book letterhack Rick Norwood permission to publish a Dr. Midnight story in his fanzine, "Five". The story, written by Norwood and illustrated by Steve Sabo, featured a doctor, Tom Benson, blinded in battle, who discovers that his other senses are super-sensitive and dons the Doctor Midnight costume to fight crime. In Kingdom Come, Alex Ross portrayed Doctor Mid-Nite (known here as Midnight) as a disembodied cowl and the thick black smoke reminiscent of his "blackout bombs". He was said to be the spirit of Dr. Charles McNider.

Another version of the character was shown in Dan Jolley and Tony Harris' JSA: The Liberty File as a World War II United States intelligence agent code-named the Owl. He was primarily unchanged, but shown to be a good-natured womanizer.

In the Tangent: Superman's Reign series, a version of Doctor Mid-Nite, his body completely covered by a black cloak, is briefly seen.

In the new Earth-2 created in the wake of Infinite Crisis and 52, a version of Beth Chapel is shown to be a member of the Justice Society Infinity.

Powers, equipment and abilities

McNider possessed the metahuman ability to see perfectly in the dark. Utilizing special infrared lenses, McNider could see in light; later in his life, his lenses became more ineffective as his eyesight continued to deteriorate even further, inhibiting his daylight vision. McNider also employed "blackout bombs", which released pitch-black gas that blinded villains and allowed McNider to see. For a time he used a weapon called a "cryotuber" which could either control the nervous system of an opponent, or fire bursts of heat or cold. As Starman, McNider used various star-themed gadgets, including an airship designed by the Red Torpedo. McNider was also a superb athlete and fighter, as well as a gifted physician and author.

Collected editions

The original Dr. Mid-Nite (Charles McNider) is one of seven JSA-related heroes whose solo appearances are collected in an anthology entry in the DC Archive Editions series:

Title Material collected
'JSA All-Stars Archives Vol. 1 HC (2007) All-American Comics (1939 series) #25-29

The introductory mini-series of the modern Dr. Mid-Nite (Pieter Cross) has been collected in a trade paperback.

Title Material collected Writers/Pencillers ISBN
Doctor Mid-Nite TBP (2000) Doctor Mid-Nite #1-3 Matt Wagner, John K. Snyder III ISBN 1-56389-607-9

Other media

References

External links

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