The first blind superhero to enter the fray! Who is Doctor Mid-Nite and the people behind the mask? If you’ve got a medical emergency and a supervillain on the scene, this may be the hero you want the most. A doctor and a superhero ready to jump into action, this doctor makes house calls and can bring down the house if necessary. I think I went too far with that last one.
The first person to become Doctor Mid-Nite. Charles McNider was a surgeon who was trying to save the life of someone who was going to testify against the mob. To stop any testifying, the mobsters grenade McNider as he’s performing surgery, killing the patient and blinding McNider. While recuperating and realizing his days of surgery are over, an owl breaks into his home (I think this owl was friends with a certain bat), and in the commotion McNider takes his bandages off absentmindedly to realize that he can see in total darkness. His vision has reversed, where the average person sees in light and is blinded in darkness; this gives him the resolve to create special lenses to let him see in the light and he decides to fight crime. That’s what I’m doing if I learn that I’m only kind of sort of blind, gonna punch people in the name of justice.
He’d go on to create Blackout bombs that would make a smoke cloud of darkness that only he could see in, and thus allow him to beat down criminals (now I see where he’s going with this) while accompanied by the owl who flew in whom he named Hooty (kind of losing me on that one, but that’s cool). He’d eventually join the Justice Society and the All-Star Squadron (this was the thing to do back in those days, I guess), and even become a Captain in the U.S. Medical Corps.
Years later he’d take over as Starman for a short period of time to help out his friend. He’d also lose the woman he loved, Myra Mason, when the villain the Shadower found out his identity. Years later, McNider would fight less and less crime as he aged. He would help deliver a baby named Pieter Cross, which will be important later. His last adventure was fighting the villain Extant during the Zero Hour crisis where he died alongside other heroes.
Beth Chapel was a doctor whose life changed the day the superhero Jade of Infinity Inc. was brought in, in need of medical assistance. Chapel was caught in an explosion that blinded her, but with the aide of Jade’s fellow teammate, Hourman II, Chapel was given some of his Miraclo which gave her powers like that of Charles McNider. She began fighting crime while the mostly retired McNider was out of action, taking up the name Doctor Midnight, a slightly different spelling so as to not step on McNider’s toes if he did jump back into the game. She and Rick Tyler, the second Hourman, would begin a relationship and fight as teammates in Infinity Inc. until the team’s collapse. Sadly, Chapel would die while fighting the villain Eclipso, leaving behind her family and Rick to go on without her.
Remember when I said Charles McNider delivered a baby named Pieter Cross? This is him, a mighty coincidence. In the state of Washington, Cross was running a free clinic that was being plagued by a new drug that was a derivative of Venom (Bane’s poison of choice). When Cross uncovers that a company is dispersing the drug and tries to confront them on it, they drug him and get him in a car crash (that old chestnut). Cross survives and learns, I think you know what he learns he can do (but he also can see in other levels of the electromagnetic spectrum).
Cross joins the Justice Society of America and starts dating Black Canary. He’s the resident doctor of the team and uses his goggles to allow him to see in the other waves of the spectrum, such as X-Ray (that’s way cooler than just the inverse of how I see). Cross would carry his crime fighting gear in his utility belt, but he also had utility gauntlets (like Nightwing) where he kept his medical tools. This was always my favorite part of the character, he would be front line not to fight but to save lives, he’s a super-medic.
His ability to aide the community beyond crime fighting allowed him to create a group of allies who could be his eyes and ears. Speaking of eyes, his owl buddy, Charlie (named after McNider), had a camera on his leg so Cross could see from Charlie’s vantage point. Not only is his community one to seek his help, but so are his fellow superheroes, because he is one of the top medical advisers in the world. He performs autopsies and does many of the medical tests for other superheroes.
Batman would run tests on Cross and realize that Cross’ eyesight is more powerful than anyone else realizes, though Batman never divulged this information with Cross. When the god-like entity Gog appeared on Earth, he granted Cross his sight back, which actually took away his amazing other sights and made it harder for him to help, and cost someone their life since he didn’t have his full medical skills available. To give you an idea of how Cross’s sight worked, imagine Batman’s Detective Mode from the Arkham games and give it even more useful information popping up like medical maladies of a target. When Gog is defeated, he takes away his blessings, granting Cross his other sights back (which includes the ability to see ghosts, by the way).
By the time of DC’s New 52, it looks like Beth Chapel is the good Doctor of Earth-2; let’s hope Earth-1 also gets a Doctor Mid-Nite.
All-American Comics #25
Infinity Inc. #19
Justice Society of America