Sacha Baron Cohen’s post-Borat career has been a series of shrugs and downs. Between the mild success of Bruno and The Dictator, and verifiable flops like The Brothers Grimsby, Cohen hasn’t had a major, career-revitalizing success in years. But nothing says “American movie success” like a comic-based superhero—even if said superhero is a poorly remembered stage magician, one who used to pal around with C-list heroes like Flash Gordon and The Phantom.
Cohen has signed on to star in and produce a movie based on Mandrake The Magician, an old comic-strip character owned by King Features, the company that also manages pulpy newspaper heroes like Flash Gordon and The Ghost Who Walks. Created by Lee Falk in 1934, Mandrake is the world’s greatest magician, one who uses hypnosis to foil crimes and stop mystical interlopers. (And if that sounds a little bit like Marvel’s Doctor Strange, well, it’s worth remembering that Mandrake was here first, by nearly three decades.)
In the old comic strips, Mandrake is a pretty straightforward character, working with his friends—African strongman Lothar, and cunning chef-turned-spy Hojo. It’s not clear how Cohen will go about filling the magician’s world with his requisite levels of vulgarity, subtlety-free social satire, and elephant semen, although audiences should probably prepare themselves for some absolutely vile sleight of hand.