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Origins

Matthew Masters (Earth-616) 001

Matthew Masters as the "Cactus Kid"

The Black Rider was a man with a troubled past. When he was only five years old, his parents were killed by a looter named Luke Davis. Matthew Masters never forgot that name and learned to shoot when he was thirteen. He made a reputation for himself as a gunslinger while he hunted Davis, and finally caught up with him in Jezebel, the same town where his folks had died. The Cactus Kid shot Davis dead.

Later, a brutal gang of thugs was holding Jefferson County, Texas, hostage until the notorious Cactus Kid rode into town and entered the Last Chance Saloon. The Kid had a price on his head in dozens of counties and was widely feared. Something happened in the Last Chance Saloon, something that resulted in the gang of thugs being wiped out and the Cactus Kid being captured. The Governor of Texas requested a meeting with the Cactus Kid and, moved by the Kid's remorse, granted him a pardon for his past misdeeds and a scholarship to medical school.

Matthew Masters (Earth-616) 002

Matthew Masters as an adult.

Matthew Masters, still only a young man, became a doctor and healer. But years later, in the town of Leadville, a thug named Blast Burrows, who was working on driving settlers off their lands, killed one of Masters' patients in front of Masters as well as rancher Jim Lathrop and his daughter Marie. Masters, reluctant to return to his previous vicious ways, did nothing and was branded a coward by Marie. Masters, stung by that label and unwilling to let that sort of evil continue, fashioned himself a mask and costume and avenged his patient's death. After that Masters continued to fight crime as the Black Rider (sometimes known as the Black Mask). He even taught his horse Ichabod to double as the Black Rider's horse Satan whenever evil threatened. The Black Rider then came to the Lathrop's aid when Blast Barrows returned to their ranch to drive off Jim and force Marie to marry him. The Black Rider rode in, gunning down Barrow's gang and rescuing Marie. In a draw, the Black Rider easily out-gunned Barrow, shooting him dead. Marie was instantly smitten by the Black Rider, who told her not to be so harsh on his alter-ego as he was a good doctor. Later, when Masters returned in his civilian guise to treat the wounded ranch hands on the Lathrop property, Matthew attempted to court Marie but she rebuffed him, telling him that she'd only tolerate him since he was a good doctor. Masters took this on stride and continued to romance Marie as the Black Rider[1][2].

Defender of Leadville

Soon after, Leadville was terrorized by Killer Kane and his men while Masters was out on call. When he returned to town, he quickly changed into the Black Rider and fought the outlaws after they accidentally shot Marie's nephew Bobby[3]. Masters soon took into his care a government agent who was carrying silent bids on a government irrigation contract. When the bids were stolen by Ben Jonas and his men, who sought to win the contract the Black Rider rode again and recovered the stolen bids[4]. Soon after, Snake Bostwick came to town and began trying to force ranchers from their property. While changing into the Black Rider, Masters was caught by Marie's kid brother Bobby Lathrop who was sworn to secrecy regarding the Black Rider's double identity. When Bostwick's gang got the drop on the Black Rider, Bobby arrived in the nick a time, holding Bostwick's gang at gun point long enough for the Rider to take down the gang[5]. Soon after, Grant Dumont and Sash Gale attempted to incite a range war between Leadville's ranchers and a nearby colony of nesters, hiring outlaw Red John to do so. Masters once more became the Black Rider to stop this, but things became complicated when Red John began disguising himself as the Black Rider, turning the people of Leadville against the hero. The Black Rider caught up to his impostor who was mortally wounded in a gun fight. Before dying John gave a full confession and the Black Rider rallied the locals to stop Dumont and Gale[6]. Soon after, Leadville was running an election to choose a new sheriff. When a local named Waller attempted to use crooked means to try and force people to vote for him, the Black Rider began investigating. The hero uncovered that Waller intended to use his powers as sheriff to impose a tax on cattle that would make local ranchers cash strapped. Having bought up all the mortgages, he then plotted to force the ranchers from their land. The Black Rider prevented Waller from rigging the election through fear and intimidation and then gunned Waller down after he lost and tried to kill the hero[7].

After eliminating the Burroughs Gang, Matthew Masters believed lawlessness in Leadville was over and considered retiring his identity of the Black Rider, and no longer act meek as Masters in order to win the heart of Marie Lathrop. By this time, Buck Barstow had bought up all the mortgages and was forcing ranchers to pay up or be evicted. Masters confronted Barstow, and briefly gained Marie's attention for acting brave. However, overhearing that a stage coach was robbed and that the Black Rider was still needed, Masters quickly reverted to his meek personality and was trounced by Barstow crushing his chance with Marie. The coach carried money that local store owner Josh Mundy had hopes to give to local ranchers to help them out. Suddenly another costumed figure calling himself the Phantom appeared in Leadville and began helping the ranchers. It was not until Barstow began pressuring Marie to marry him in order to save her father's ranch did Matthews renew his identity of the Black Rider. Learning that Barstow was responsible for the coach robbery, he and the Phantom worked together to break up Barstow's gang. When the Phantom took a bullet, the Black Rider took him to the doctors office and learned that he was really Josh Mundy. Fulfilling Mundy's dying wish the Black Rider revealed his secret identity. He was caught in unmasking by Barstow, who tried to kill Masters, but Matthew was a quicker draw. The gunshots attracting the locals, Matthew doffed his costume and led everyone believe the Mundy was responsible for stopping Barstow. After the incident, Masters was committed to maintaining his double identity and protect the people of Leadville[8].

Riding home from a out-of-town house call, Masters spotted Brush Bennett and his men trying to steal the Lathrop's horses. Trying to stop them, Matthews was wounded and carried out of danger by his horse. As the Masked Rider, Matthews prevented another horse rustling but he and Marie were captured by Bennett. They were saved thanks to Satan, who trampled their captor to death[9]. Later, Matthew was forced to give medical treatment to outlaw Tod Sultan. After being treated, Sultan knocked out Masters and found his Black Rider costume. Sultan then confronted the Leadville sheriff and gunned him down, once more turning the townspeople against the Black Rider. Freed by Bobby Lathrop, Masters learned that Sultan had kidnapped Marie as a hostage. Tracking them down, Masters managed to rope up his impostor without revealing his identity to Marie. Sultan broke free and tried to escape on Satan, only to be bucked off the horse over the edge of a cliff where he fell to his death. Marie's rescue by the real Black Rider helped clear the heroes name[10]. Marie once more needed saving by the Black Rider when she disappeared near Mystery Mountain. Climbing the mountain to find her, the Black Rider encountered a tribe of cavemen who lived on the mountain. The Black Rider was captured and the pair were then put to the stake to be burned alive. The Black Rider burned through his bonds, and freed Marie. The Black Rider gunned down all the creatures and helped Marie down to the mountain. Later, Masters almost blew his cover when Marie noticed his hands were burned in the same place the Masked Rider was. However, a lame excuse about burning himself on his stove was enough to convince Marie that meek Matthew Masters could not be the Black Rider[11]. Leadville was soon swindled by the Hypnotist who was determined to use his powers to take over the United States. He robbed the Leadville bank, and then hypnotized Marie and the Black Rider and fled town. He later tried to force the Rider to commit suicide, but the hero was able to resist the Hypnotist's will and he was later killed by his partner whom he double crossed earlier[12].

In one of his more bizarre adventures, the Black Rider soon clashed with mad scientist Professor Chalis who moved to a mansion outside of Leadville from Boston to conduct growth experiments. Exposed to his own growth ray, Chalis went mad and attempted to use his device on both the Black Rider and Marie Lathrop. They were rescued from sudden death by Satan, while an explosion killed Chalis and destroyed his lab[13]. When railroad politico Mr. Cantrell showed up in Leadville, the Black Rider exposed his plot to manipulate a local Native American tribe to go on the warpath in order to have them wiped out, and prevented an unnecessary war between the two people. During this conflict, Matthew Masters had managed to win over Marie Lathrop by saving Bobby's life when the boy was wounded by an arrow. However, relations with Marie soured shortly after when she became jealous of Belle Raven a woman who sought Masters' medical assistance. Masters could not redeem himself in Marie's eyes even after he -- as the Black Rider -- exposed Raven as the outlaw known as the Fox. Shortly thereafter, Matthew's double identity strained relations with Marie further when the Black Rider agreed to participate in the Leadville rodeo. Masters found himself in a bind when Marie asked him to be her date. Masters however was able to slip away and put on his show as the Black Rider, while also maintaining his double identity. Next, the Black Rider shut down a human trafficking operation that smuggled Mexican immigrants into the United States in barrels of molasses, exposing the ring leader as Senior Morales, an outlaw posing as a Mexican border official[14]. Another outlaw calling himself the Fox then attempted to make a name for himself by taking over Leadville and trying to eliminate the Black Rider. Even after setting up a trap outside of town and taking Marie Lathrop hostage, the Fox failed in his plot and was felled by the Black Rider's guns for his troubles[15].

Soon after, the Black Rider assisted Jim and Bobby Lathrop in defending the Lathrop ranch from outlaws, after which the Rider confided in Bobby the origin of his double identity. The Black Rider once more had to save Marie Lathrop from danger when the woman foolishly went after a puma that was stalking the cattle on her ranch, saving her in the nick of time. Matthew Masters was later asked by Miss Larrimore -- the local school marm -- to help with a student named Kit Pardee who was refusing to learn his lessons due to dreams of being a gunfighter like the Black Rider. As the Black Rider, Masters taught Kit that all the skills he learned to fight outlaws was thanks to studying, the hero convinced the boy to return to his studies. Not long after gambler Flush Dawson opened a casino in Leadville and Matthew Masters uncovered the fact that it was a crooked operation set up to bilk the citizens of their money. As the Black Rider, Masters shut down the operation and gunned down Dawson[2]. Masters soon found himself in a predicament when both he and Marie Lathrop were captured by Smoke and his Border Raiders who sought to lure the Black Rider into a trap. The pair were rescued by Bobby, who briefly wore the Black Rider costume until he could free Matthew who then wiped out Smoke and his gang[16].

The Black Rider soon learned of rising tensions between a local Apache tribe and the US Army outfitted at Fort McVey. The Black Rider ultimately uncovered that Major Tyrell was instigating tensions in order to have a "victorious battle" against the Apaches. Convincing both sides that they were being manipulate, the Black Rider prevented a bloody war and Tyrell died under a hail of arrows. Back in Leadville, the Black Rider attended a dance with Marie Lathrop. Panic set it when Masters believed his secret identity was compromised by a local drunk who threatened to reveal his "secret". Much to Masters relief, it turned out the drunk was blind and the "big secret" he wanted to reveal to the town was how Masters was not a drinker. When Marie's cousin Oscar Tippitt came to Leadville to work at the bank, the Black Rider exposed him as being the mastermind behind a robbery and as Matthew Masters stopped him from fleeing town with the stolen money. Shortly there after, Masters uncovered a plot between outlaw Flick Willis and the Leadville sheriff to rustle local cattle. When caught spying on the gang, Masters was forced to fake his own death. This gave him the opportunity to operate as the Black Rider, however the sheriff framed the hero for the murder of Matthew Masters. Turning himself in and forcing a fair trial, the Black Rider cleared his name and implicated Willis and the sheriff when convincing the judge to allow him to leave court and bring about Matthew Masters. Despite the fact the the Black Rider disappeared and Masters appeared shortly thereafter, nobody in town seemed to put together that the two men were one in the same. The Black Rider soon found himself caught in the middle of rising tensions between the Utabi and Shawmis tribes when Utabi warrior Crooked Knife tried to prevent the marriage between the Utabi's Pale Mist and the Shawmis' warrior Bright Eagle. When the Black Rider rescued Pale Mist, Crooked Knife united the two bands under the belief that the Black Rider had kidnapped her. However, the Black Rider exposed Crooked Knife's machinations and the renegade died under Bright Eagles knife[17]. Tensions with another tribe of Natives and the people of Leadville were later instigated by a renegade warrior named Wolf Claw who attempted to start a war between his tribe and the US Army. The Black Rider foiled this attempt, once more saving the lives of Jim and Marie Lathrop who were Wolf Claw's prisoners[18].

Frontier Doctor and Defender

Later on in his career, Matthew Masters became a frontier doctor, taking his medical practice and his adventures as the Black Rider outside of Leadville and across the untamed west.

While in New Mexico, the Black Rider was after the outlaw Juan de Lupo. The chase took him to the town of La Muerto where in 1554, de Lupo's ancestors hid gold before being wiped out by the local Native Americans. While hunting down de Lupo, the Black Rider encountered ghosts from that foregone day reliving the historic battle. Later an earthquake destroyed the town, leaving the Black Ride the lone survivor and leaving him to wonder if he really encountered ghosts. After doctors convention in St. Louis, Doc Masters returned to Leadville where he protected Miss Van Ryan from the men trying to kill her in order to claim her father's gold mine. While hunting down the Deslile gang, the Black Rider came to the aid of a travelling band of Mormons looking for a new place to settle, helping them gain acceptance in the town of Edgeville. While visiting his old friend Pitchfork Martin who had settled down into marriage, Black Rider and Martin relived their old days of adventure by capturing Laredo Larson. Back in Leadville, Doc Masters was framed for the murder of Sam Bragg, but as the Black Rider, he helped clear his own name[19]. Travelling to the Nagali village of Needle Pass, the Black Rider helped the Native American tribe liberate themselves from Ton Ransome and his gang. He later helped John Litch and his daughter reclaim the mine that was stolen from them by Branch Vegger. When outlaw Weed Meaghan murdered the sheriff of Brimstone City, the Black Rider chased him into nearby Brimstone desert and catches the crook when he succumbs to the intense heat of the desert. In Kleinville, the Black Rider helps clear the name of French immigrant Jean de Grieux who was framed for various murders in town[20].

While investigating disappearing travelers, the Black Rider investigated the Krug family who used their inn to murder and loot their visitors, bringing them to justice[21]. In Aspen Creek, the Black Rider helped the Marshall of Aspen Creek wipe out Lip Borger and his gang[22]. During his travels, the Black Rider discovered a colony built by French exile the Marquis de Lassus who ruled over his people with an iron fist, and helped liberate them. Without followers the Marquis blew up his castle killing himself. He later stopped Rolf Helker's illegal logging near the Pukavi tribe, threatening to wipe the tribe out. Later, in the town of Yellow Bluff, the Black Rider stopped the robberies of the Great Forbish, a master of disguise. Travelling to Hot Strike, Nevada the Black Rider uncovered an illegal mining operation organized by Al Hitkos and Native American chief Tall Toad, who forced Tall Toad's people into slavery to mine silver. With a strange illness being attributed to the mine, the Black Rider liberated the people and trapped Tall Toad and Hitkos inside. They perished by the illness, which unknown to those at the time was radiation poisoning from the Uranium deposits in the mine as Uranium and it's radioactive properties had not been discovered at that time[23].

While riding the rails, Doc Masters and the crew of the train were captured by Alamo Lou and her gang. Escaping and changing into the Black Rider, Masters was once more captured. Lou demanded that the Black Rider marry her, but he refused her advances. When one of Lou's gang members shot her in a fit of jealousy over her choosing the Black Rider over her, Lou's dying action was freeing the Rider and he gunned down the rest of her gang[24]. The Black Rider stopped the Commanche warrior Sly Wolf from taking over his father Running Deer's tribe by plying the other warriors loyalty with alcohol bought from outlaws. Later the Black Rider went after Buckskin Baldy Morgan for murdering a deaf man for his gambling winnings. Baldy met his end drowning in quicksand fleeing the Black Rider. Returning to Leadville after a long absence, the Black Rider exposed an outlaw named Spur and his gang who manipulated young Tim Varmus -- the son of a wealthy rancher whom they kidnapped years earlier -- into murdering his family so they could steal the family's wealth[25]. Travelling once more, the Black Rider came to the aid of ranchers being swindled by rustler Bronc Laswell[26][27]. Riding into Colorado, the Black Rider stopped crooked US Marshall Nick Kelway from forcing the ranchers of Crippled Bend to pay tribute to him[28].

Next the Black Rider stopped the machinations of Sioux warrior Green Lizard, who kidnapped Elle Janeway and was attempting to force a war between the Sioux and Blackfoot tribes for his own ends. The Black Rider then stopped a range war started up by Carl Brasser. In the town of Tombstone, the Black Rider stopped the Patton gang from recovering stolen loot hidden on their late leader's body. After assisting a Native American tribe stop a white buffalo plaguing them[29], he stopped gold counterfeiter Tom Grayson who was disguising lead as gold[30].

In the state of Montana, the Black Rider intervened in a war between the local Blackfoot tribe and the soldiers at Fort Noble that was instigated by John Thunderhead, a half-white half-Blackfoot scout who was discriminated against by both people. In September of 1857, the Black Rider rode to Locus Glen where he uncovered a counterfeit money scheme that was being proliferated by travelling actor Horace Hanslow. In Flat City, Wyoming, the Black Rider helped protect Amanda Beck who was being hunted down by her estranged husband Harland, who sought to kill her so he could claim her family inheritance[31]. Later in his travels, the Black Rider crossed paths with the Doomsday Gang, who were trying to force the coach companies in Hope City out of business[32]. When the Black Rider, in his alter-ego of Matthew Masters, was forced to work for outlaw Ed Bates, he uncovered a plot by arms dealer Wreck Lasker to arm both his gang and a local tribe of Apaches so they would go to war against each other. This was all a plan to take control of vein of silver that was opened by a recent earthquake. Masters attempted to stop the outlaws as the Black Rider, but his job was completed by mother nature herself when another earthquake swallowed up all the combatants[33].

Return to Leadville

Eventually, Matthew Master's days as a travelling medicine man came to an end and he resumed his regular practice in the town of Leadville, Texas, reuniting with the Lathrop family. No sooner was he back did trouble begin to return to the small town. Starting with outlaw Hatchet Haines who briefly posed as the Black Rider to try and intimidate ranchers into selling their land to him cheaply. The real Black Rider slew Haines, and rescued his prisoner, Marie Lathrop and cleared his name. After treating a Comanche boy for rabies, the Black Rider soon stopped female stagecoach robber Lola Montace, rescuing Marie from danger once again[34]. The Black Rider also attended the murder trial of outlaw Salias Slade. When Slade was found guilty his gang sprung him from the court house. The Black Rider followed them to Devil's Peak where he shot them all dead[35]. The Black Rider once again had his reputation tarnished when he was tricked into leading US Army soldiers into an ambush by Bush Kellem, landing the hero in jail. However, thanks to the help of Bobby Lathrop, the Black Rider managed to free himself and expose Kellem's plot. Travelling to Mexico, the Black Rider later liberated the town of Santo Del Oro from the crooked outlaw El Toro, then returned home where helped a tribe of Comanches put a stop the bison poaching that was leading them to starvation[36].

After stopping an outlaw named Carney[37], the Black Rider next clashed with Whip Wade who terrorized the town of Leadville, particularly Marie Lathrop[38]. While investigating ghost sightings in the ghost town known as Doom's Road, the Black Rider uncovered that the "ghost" was really the Mad Messiah a former resident who burned down the town, horribly burning himself in the process, and put the lunatic out of his misery[39]. After, the Black Rider stopped a bank robbery in San Juan[40]. Returning to Leadville, the Black Rider rescued Bobby from Trigger Tracy and his gang after the boy witnessed a murder they committed. Next the masked hero went on the manhunt for outlaws Luke Gann and Hunk Dawson, but the pair were slain by a mountain lion while trying to flee justice. Later when outlaws Shag Enoch and Jess Cantrell broke out of the Leadville jail, the Black Rider mobilized the locals to defend their town when the outlaws gang stormed the city[41]. Always looking out for Bobby Lathrop, the Black Rider avenged the boy when a fired ranch hand shot his horse, the Black Rider slew the man and then tamed a brand new horse for Bobby, gifting it to the boy the next day[42]. Shortly thereafter, Deuce Dixon opened up a crooked gambling operation in town which the Black Rider exposed and shut down when Dixon made a failed attempt to frame the Rider for robbery[43]. In one of his more daring adventures, the Black Rider rode into the town of Bedlam during a tornado in order to clean out the outlaws that took over the place[44].

Matthew Masters (Earth-616) Alternate costume

Alternate costume.

The Black Rider did not always shoot first and ask questions later, he often helped those who fell off the beaten path, such as when he convinced Dan Royal that thieving in order to provide for his wife to be was not the way to go and convinced Royal to help take down his former gang before they could rob the Leadville bank. When Bobby let slip that he knew the Black Rider's identity he became the prisoner of Trip Tomlin. When Bobby was roughed up too much, Tomlin captured Matthew Masters and Marie Lathrop to give the boy medical attention. Treated for his wounds, Bobby refused to reveal the Black Rider's identity with Masters in the room. When Tomlin let Masters leave it ended up being his undoing as Masters changed into the Black Rider and killed the entire gang, preventing his secret from getting out. Later, the Black Rider helped Sheriff Vale of Salt Lick regain his reputation by helping him slay Tonto Kane and his gang[45]. When young Ted Kirk was framed for the murder of banker Lloyd Green, the Black Rider helped clear the boys name by exposing the real killer, Brand Buley[46]. Later, the Black Rider came across a Comanche tribe on the brink of being wiped out by a plague, however their medicine man and chief Kun-Tan-Ho refused to allow him to help. The Black Rider was eventually forced to kill Kun-Tan-Ho, and as Matthew Masters cured the Comanches of their sickness[47]. Shortly thereafter the Black Rider helped liberate another tribe of Native Americans who were enslaved and forced to work a mine by a gang of outlaws, rescuing Marie in the process[48].

Once more being the humanitarian, the Black Rider later convinced an outlaw named Ormond to go straight and return home to his son in Leadville. He also helped the repentant Lanny Kimball take down Bulldog Barnes, after Barnes betrayed him. In a slightly supernatural case, the Black Rider with the help of Jim Lathrop, investigated the mysterious Black Gauntlet who the Rider reveals is really supposedly executed Maynard Murrel. Having survived his execution, Murrel returned to murder those who sentenced him to death. The Black Rider succeeded in killing Murrel for good and planting him in the grave he avoided for 10 years[49]. Later while the trail of outlaw Trigger Yates, the Black Rider discovered the lost city of El Dorado, however during his clash with Yates the city was lost in an avalanche which took the life of Yates himself[50]. The Black Rider next assisted the soldiers of Fort Slocom defend their base by a band of Native Americans led by disgraced soldier Jack Marcy[51].

During much of this time Matthew Masters continued to win over the heart of Marie Lathrop. He was making progress after treating Jim Lathrop when he fell sick, but the progress soon nosedived when outlaw Blackie Thorp came to the Lathrop ranch to steal fresh horses. Matthew Masters was bound by his oath not to harm others while performing as a doctor and watched helplessly as Bobby was shot by Thorp who then fled. Although Bobby's wounds were superficial, Marie was furious at Masters for not doing anything about the situation. Masters changed into the Black Rider once again and got revenge against Blackie Thorp and his gang[52]. Later while trying to stop the Caitlin gang, the Black Rider learned that sheriff Kirby's son was a member of the gang and helped the boy see the errors of his way and assisted the reunited family in stopping the gang. When the Black Rider failed to follow the gang known as the Legion of Death into the swamp where their hideout was, ironically enough it was his alter ego Matthew Masters who helped show the way. When the gang's leader was wounded, they kidnapped Masters and brought him to their cabin in the swamps blindfolded to treat their leader. Succeeding in his job, Masters was allowed to go free. Since his horse Ichabod memorized the way in and out of the swamp, Masters returned as the Black Rider and wiped out the entire gang. Matthew continued to lose the interest of Marie Lathrop when rival Dr. Stevens appeared in town and proved to be brave and daring unlike the meek Masters. However, when Bobby was wounded by cattle rustlers, Stevens did a hatchet job trying to fix the boy ending Marie's interest in him and sending her seeking Masters' aid. After Matthew treated Bobby's wound, he went after Stevens as the Black Rider and learned that he was a fraud and also backing the rustlers and brought him to justice[53].

The Black Rider later came to the aid of a Paiute tribe that was faced with starvation thanks to wasteful hunters[54], then put a stop of Jeremy Brass' protection racket in Leadville[55]. The Black Rider once again came to the aid of Bobby after the boy found some fools gold and he was captured by outlaws who thought he found the genuine article[56], later he helped rescue rancher Jim Kane who was kidnapped by outlaws who hoped to hold him for ransom[57]. When Leadville was terrorized by the so called Specter of Doom, the Black Rider investigated and exposed the supposed "ghost" as outlaw Mad Dog Murdock, an outlaw the Black Rider seemingly killed a year earlier[58]. Not long after the Black Rider helped cash strapped Judd Torrance by treating his ill son as Dr. Matthew Masters and recovering Torrance's stolen gold from the Mexican bandit known as El Tigre (Bandar Topez), liberating the Mexican town of Sonora in the process. Returning to Leadville, Matthew Masters ordered a shipment of a powerful poison to experiment with, however the poison fell into the hands of outlaw Shark Adams who threatened to poison Leadville's water supply, as the Black Rider, Masters stopped him and recovered the poison. Not long after the conflicting morals of Matthew Master's double life came to the fore when he hunted down the Bragg gang. Seriously wounding Bull Bragg as the Black Rider, Masters was forced to treat him in his civilian identity. Masters struggled with the idea of killing a man -- even an outlaw -- he just saved as a doctor until Bull robbed the bank in Los Pintos, prompting the Black Rider to put Bull Braggs down the like dog he was[59].

Returning to Leadville one more, the Black Rider helped rescue ranch owner Kim Benson and his son from outlaw Gus Seeley[60], captured cattle rustler Poison Polk before he could permanently blind Jim Lathrop and Sheriff Yarby before they could testify against him in court[61]. Once again, Masters began to question the conflicting morals created by his double identity when he came to the aid of miner Bill Desmond from Tulsa Tighe, in which the Black Rider wounded Tighe's minions. Tulsa in turn forced Matthew Masters to give his men medical treatment. Hearing that Tulsa intended to murder Bill Desmond (unaware that Tulsa set this as a trap for the Black Rider) went to prevent it as the Black Rider. When the Black Rider slew a decoy who was position outside of Desmond's home, Tusla shot Desmond leaving the Black Rider to believe that his bullet ricocheted off his target and struck the would be victim. Rushing Desmond back to his doctors office, Masters treated Desmond and found himself disenfranchised when the people of Leadville were highly critical of the Black Rider. That night, Tulsa broke into Masters' office and poisoned Desmond with arsenic. Finding Desmond dead, Masters blamed himself and he was disgraced and discredited by the people of Leadville and willingly left town. However, he eventually suspected that something didn't add up and as the Black Rider investigated the two crime scenes and deduced the truth, bringing Tulsa to justice and redeeming the image of both the Black Rider and Matthew Masters[62]. Later when the reformed criminal Brad Conway ran for mayor of Leadville, he was blackmailed by Lash Bellows who threatened to expose his criminal past until the Black Rider silenced him[63]. After the Black Rider rand Squid Sawyer and his minions out of town, they got revenge by unleashing a rabid dog in Leadville infecting many animals and locals with rabies. This greatly taxed Matthew Masters medical abilities as he was out of the rabies vaccine. When a new shipment was stolen and held for ransom by Squid and his gang, the Black Rider slew the outlaw group and returned the vaccine to Leadville so his alter-ego could cure those infected[64].

Next the Black Rider helped clear the name of Red Fang, a Native American warrior who was framed for the murder of miner Ed Burrows. In Leadville, he cleared out a crooked gambler named Travers. When his friend Jim Lathrop was set to testify against Curly Adams and his gang, the Black Rider stopped the gang from terrorizing the Lathrop family and rescued Marie in the process[65]. Later, in the town of Quarry Gulch, the Black Rider came to the aid of US Marshall Ben Blade whose sudden onset of cataracts was hindering his ability to capture Drag Hamill and his gang[66]. Returning home again, the Black Rider came to the aid of banker Preston Wells and helped steer his son away from the life of an outlaw while capturing a gang of bank robbers[67]. Learning that outlaw Jack Grimes intended to blow up the rail bridge owned by the Golden Express Railroad, the Black Rider stopped the plot saving the lives of the passengers aboard the train, which included both Marie and Bobby Lathrop[68]. When outlaw Stinger Ray became smitten by Marie Lathrop, he kidnapped both Marie and Bobby in an attempt to force Jim to marry Marie off to him. However, like many who kidnapped Marie before him, the Black Rider foiled Stinger's plot and rescued his captured friends[69].

The Black Rider joined the manhunt against an outlaw who called himself the Spider, helping Mexican authorities capture him. The Spider was seemingly executed, but unknown to all, had one of his men among the firing squad to insure that all the bullets in the guns were blank. Spider and his gang went on a pillaging spree, eventually heading toward Leadville. There the Black Rider had rallied all the townspeople to face off against Spider and his gang. Trapping the outlaws in town by starting a ring a fire around it, the Black Rider took down the gang, and the Spider seemingly perished after falling into the flames[70]. However unknown to the Black Rider, the Spider had survived[71]. The town of Leadville was next targeted by the Lobo gang who unleashed trained wolves on the town. The Black Rider killed the wolves save one, having it lead him back to Lobo's hideout and shut down his operation. Later the Black Rider once again helped steer a young person away from a life a crime, this time the sheriff's son who was being influenced by an outlaw named Hutch[70].

Not long after this, Leadville elected a new sheriff named Ben Yarby. When Yarby's son fell ill he was treated by Matthew Masters. When outlaw Ace Dacy stole the medicine needed to cure his son, Yarby was forced to allow him to opening a gambling house in Leadville. Masters, as the Black Rider, helped Yarby clear Dacy and his gang out of town after his son was treated. The Spider, having recovered from his last encounter with the Black Rider, resumed his reign of terror on Leadville. However his return was short lived, as the Spider fell to his death fighting the Black Rider on Old Ghost's Cliff. While trying to stop the Skinner gang from killing a herd of buffalo, their leader makes a connection between the Black Rider and Matthew Masters, when one of his men watched the Black Rider enter a barn and Masters exit. Skinner then captured Masters and Bobby Lathrop. Matthew convinced Skinner to let him go and bring the Black Rider to him, giving Masters the opportunity to change into his alter-ego and surprise Skinner and his men before they could set up a trap for him, saving Bobby's life[71]. Not long after this, the Black Rider steered yet another youngster -- this time Rad Malerk -- from a life of crime[72].

Soon after, the Black Rider worked with Sheriff Yarby, the Black Rider helped expose the owner of the Conde Coachlines Company as the leader being the gang robbing his own stage coaches. The Black Rider later investigated a recent rash of outlaws confessing to crimes that they did not commit. Using his medical skills as Dr. Matthew Masters and consulting a Native American medicine man, the Black Rider uncovered the fact that outlaw Trigger Tate was using a drug called Makuda to force other outlaws to confess to crimes he committed. The Black Rider brought Tate to justice with the help of Sheriff Yarby. Leadville was later targeted by dynamite wielding outlaw Blast Baxter and his gang, however the Black Rider and Sheriff Yarby lured him into a trap, leading to Baxter's capture[73]. When the Black Rider discovered a tribe of Comanche's that were infected with Cholera, it was his alter-ego of Matthew Masters who saved the day after applying his medical skills to help cure the epidemic[74]. Later in the town of Chisholm, the Black Rider helped the local sheriff clean up his town with the aid of his daughter. Back in Leadville, the Black Rider exposes Nate Oland, who legally purchased land in order to illegally hunt entire buffalo herds. The masked hero later came to the aid of rancher Brad Ralston, preventing Crusher Cabel and his gang from rustling his cattle[75]. The Black Rider once more came to the aid of the Lathrop family, when Jim's cattle were secretly being killed by Luke Halsey, a crooked gambler, who then attempted to swindle Jim out of all his money and force him to sell his ranch. The Black Rider arrived just as Jim lost it all, and revealed that Halsey had cheated and took him into custody[76].

Later, the Black Rider's secret identity was once again compromised when Slasher Slade was broken out of prison. While on the manhunt, Slasher's men saw the Black Rider go into a forest and Matthew Master's emerge in order to see to Bobby Lathrop who had come down with a fever. Matthew and Marie were captured, and just as in the last instance, Masters convinced Slade to let him go and get the Black Rider, quickly changing into his alter-ego and catching the outlaws off guard before they could set a trap for him. Soon after, Matthew lost his medical license after the sudden death of Burt Wyatt, the star witness of the trial against outlaw Spur Cameron. Cameron was subsequently released and tried to rustle the Lathrop ranch. Wounded in the attack, Cameron holed up in the Lathrop home and held the family hostage. Instead of facing Cameron as the Black Rider, Masters confronted him as himself, only promising to patch up Spur if he confessed to murdering Burt Wyatt. Spur confessed, revealing that he had poisoned Wyatt's drinking water, and was easily captured in his wounded condition and Master's medical license was reinstated. When the Leadville Bank was robbed, the Black Rider helped Sheriff Yarby investigate and they discovered that arrested bank robber Paso Jack had organized the gang from his own jail cell, having dug a secret tunnel to facilitate his crime and eventual escape[77].

Later Adventures

At some point, the Black Rider visited New York, following a lead on a case he was working on dealing with enforced prostitution of Asian girls. The trail led him to Chinatown where he saw several of the girls arriving. A man known only as Yao was also trying to stop the prostitution ring and the pair soon worked together. Masters soon discovered that it was his Aunt Helen who was behind the prostitution ring, having inherited the business from her father, the Black Rider's grandfather. He discovered that this was why his father had moved westward in the first place, to track down his Chinese girlfriend whom his father had sent west to prostitute. When he catches his aunt, she claims that she will never face any consequences because she is rich. Masters then informed her that he thinks he has been crazy since the day he watched his father die in his arms for her sins and that he deals in justice, before shooting her to death.[citation needed]

Powers

None

Abilities

The Black Rider was a skilled hand-to-hand combatant and one of the best gunfighters of the old west. In addition he was also a fine horseman.

Weaknesses

The Black Rider may or may not suffer from some sort of mental illness as he described himself as being crazy since the day he watched his father die.



Transportation

The Black Rider rode a horse named Ichabod

Weapons

Pistols, rifle.

  • In Western Gunfighters, the 1970s reprint book, the Black Rider's adventures were re-edited and he was renamed the "Black Mask."

Discover and Discuss

Footnotes

  1. All Winners #2
  2. 2.0 2.1 Black Rider #10
  3. Wild Western #5
  4. All Western Winners #3
  5. All Western Winners #4
  6. Best Western #58
  7. Western Winners #5
  8. Wild Western #8
  9. Best Western #59
  10. Two-Gun Kid #9
  11. Western Winners #6
  12. Wild Western #9
  13. Black Rider #8
  14. Black Rider #9
  15. Wild Western #11
  16. Wild Western #12
  17. Black Rider #11
  18. Wild Western #13
  19. Black Rider #12
  20. Black Rider #13
  21. Wild Western #14
  22. Wild Western #15
  23. Black Rider #14
  24. Wild Western #16
  25. Black Rider #15
  26. Wild Western #17
  27. Appearance in Black Rider #16 goes here
  28. Wild Western #18
  29. Black Rider #17
  30. Wild Western #19
  31. Black Rider #18
  32. Two-Gun Western #13
  33. Two-Gun Western #14
  34. Black Rider #19
  35. Two-Gun Kid #11
  36. Black Rider #20
  37. Kid Colt Outlaw #33
  38. Kid Colt Outlaw #34
  39. Two-Gun Kid #12
  40. Wild Western #32
  41. Black Rider #21
  42. Kid Colt Outlaw #35
  43. Kid Colt Outlaw #36
  44. Wild Western #33
  45. Black Rider #22
  46. Kid Colt Outlaw #37
  47. Kid Colt Outlaw #38
  48. Wild Western #34
  49. Black Rider #23
  50. Kid Colt Outlaw #39
  51. Kid Colt Outlaw #40
  52. Wild Western #35
  53. Black Rider #24
  54. Outlaw Kid #1
  55. Wild Western #36
  56. Kid Colt Outlaw #41
  57. Ringo Kid Western #2
  58. Wild Western #37
  59. Black Rider #25
  60. Kid Colt Outlaw #42
  61. Outlaw Kid #2
  62. Wild Western #38
  63. Kid Colt Outlaw #43
  64. Wild Western #39
  65. Black Rider #26
  66. Kid Colt Outlaw #44
  67. Wild Western #40
  68. Kid Colt Outlaw #45
  69. Wild Western #41
  70. 70.0 70.1 Black Rider #27
  71. 71.0 71.1 Western Tales of Black Rider #28
  72. Wild Western #43
  73. Western Tales of Black Rider #29
  74. Wild Western #44
  75. Western Tales of Black Rider #30
  76. Wild Western #45
  77. Western Tales of Black Rider #31



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