Great Aussie Comic book Creations In review

Yaroslav Horak The creator of The Mask


His more well known title creations included Jet Fury and The Mask, the man of many faces (1954).The Mask was created after a flash of excited inspiration at 1 o'clock in the morning, he was a character with a skull-like face shadowed by a hat ( Yaroslav told me the hat was very important ) who could eerily and magically change his skull face to any character at will in his obsessive fight for justice. When he showed it to an editor of Melbourne based Atlas comics the editor exclaimed 'That's great!' It was a huge seller for Atlas and Yaroslav thought he had hit the big time until one of Australia's states, Queensland, put a ban on the comic. The reason that they considered a full mask as evil, for example Spider-man would have been banned if he was published back then. Yaroslav had to abandon the comic book in disgust, he returned to Sydney to do freelance illustrating for K.G.Murray and Woman's Day. Following Captain Fortune he, to quote John Ryan's book on Australian Comics 'Panel by Panel'. 'Began drawing Mike Steele Desert Rider, it was this comic that revealed the mature Horak style of busy brush strokes.' Yaroslav learnt from Chinese artists in Habin the method of burning off the tip of brushes to get the chisel end to strokes. For several years Yaroslav drew the James Bond, the last of the Fleming stories to new stories written by American Jim Lawrence for The Daily Express newspaper strip out of London and Spain. In London while working on various comic publications he had a studio behind Peter Donnelly's (Modesty Blaise, Garth) office in Fleet Street above El Vino's bottle shop over looking a court that was surrounded by Ian Fleming's old rooms, even before he began to draw Bond, from his studio he could see Fleming entertaining visitors not realising the author's creation would take up most of his time in London. Horak in 1980 shared a full page with Brigette by Gerald Carr in the Sydney Sunday Sun Herald with a strip based on Crawford Productions TV series Cop Shop.

Source: an interview with Yaroslav and John Ryan's History of Australian Comics 'Panel by Panel'

The Mask

The Panther

Captain Atom

and Vixen are original creations of the Australian Comic book industry,

they pre-date similar characters that appeared in the US at a later date.

Further information



Yaroslav Horak was born in Habin, Manchuria, of a Czech father and Russian mother. How the Horaks came to be in Manchuria would make good background to a Bond novel, his mother when seventeen set off one day from her parent's home in Omsk, Russia to visit a friend down the road, she didn't return, she was abruptly swept up in the Russian revolution. The Bolsheviks ( the mass ) suddenly arrived. In a bid to escape Horak's mother and her friend jumped a train and eventually found herself on a train in Czechoslovakia. On the train she met Yaroslav Horak's father an engineer. The young Horak purchased the train and steamed it all the way to Siberia where he sold it for a profit, enabling the Horaks to escape the troubles of Europe to journey to Harbin Manchuria where the enterprising Horak set up an engineering company. Soon Yaroslav was born in 1927, he learnt English and Russian at the local U.S. run YMCA. Yaroslav loved the American comics and Sunday funnies that were available freely. However the Horaks didn't escape the world's troubles completely as the Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1931. Foreigners were given their marching orders, the Horaks were given a choice of going to America or Australia, they chose Australia. The family arrived in Sydney before war broke out and Yaroslav spent those years completing his education. He began to write and draw comics for his own amusement, In 1948 he approached John Edwards who offered him work, the results were Rick Davis and The Skyman. John Edwards couldn't get his tongue around 'Yaroslav' so he did a straw pole around the staff who came up with Larry. He signed his work Larry until he went to London to work in 1963.