For years the Black Orchid was DC's most enigmatic character. She first appeared briefly in Adventure Comics then became the backup feature in The Phantom Stranger. Lots of superheroines had secret identities but while they fooled other characters the readers knew who was who. But nobody knew the Black Orchid's real name. Everything about her was mysterious including her name; she wasn't black, wore a purple costume and was on the side of the angels so why "Black Orchid"? At least the Orchid part made a little sense as she occasionally left them as calling cards. True confession time, that wasn't the real Black Orchid in the thumbnail. That was a Black Orchid Wannabe from the story you are about to see. The Black Orchid wasn't one to fall into the clutches of criminals and wind up in some deathtrap. In fact she was more of a binder than a bindee. That was the other mysterious thing about her. The Black Orchid was obviously a real powerhouse, she could fly, had superstrength and was bulletproof. If those powers were innate or derived from the costume nobody knew but either way normally superheroines with powers like that spent all their time out in the open looking for a supervillain to punch into the side of a building. Instead she operated more like Batman, in fact she outdid him when it came to disguising herself and infiltrating criminal gangs. She preferred to operate in the shadows using a variety of identities, often removing and replacing people long enough to learn the missing details, and just emerge in costume long enough to wrap up the case. For example in Phantom Stranger #32 (Aug-Sept 1974), "The Crime of the Black Orchid", this guy thinks he's been gloating over a successful caper with his girlfriend until she leaves the cabin to freshen up. He's absolutely unaware that the plane's radio has been broadcasting everything they've said to the police. As his girlfriend had impersonated the Black Orchif to frame her it was a clear case of turnabout is fair play, but I digress. To my knowledge there's only one scene of Black Orchid in a deathtrap but I'll return to that on the next page. In the meantime here's the Black Orchid from the two part story which ran in The Phantom Stranger issues 40-41 (Dec 1975/Jan 1976-Feb-Mar 1976), which were also the final two issues of this comic. In on of Michael Fleisher's better stories a gang of female criminals comes up with a unique idea. Since nobody knows that much about the Black Orchid it wouldn't be a hard sell to convince a heroine wannabe that she's actual a group of women using the same costume to fight crime, the Legion of Black Orchids! Which is crucial as Ronnie Kuhn is the key to the biggest bank robbery in history.
The Black Orchid
Eager to become a heroine Ronnie buys the Black Orchid Legion's story that Red agents (it's the seventies) plan to break into the world bank and make off with the bullion reserves causing economic chaos (a la "Goldfinger") to be followed and compounded by military and diplomatic strikes. To avoid a political incident the Legion will quietly capture the thieves once they've made it to the vault area and no one outside the State Department and the KGB will ever know anything happened. But for the Legion to be there waiting for the Reds without warning them anything's wrong they need to be able to avoid the bank's security systems themselves. Ronnie is eager to help.
Doesn't look good for Ronnie, does it? Like the caption says
To Be Continued!
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