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College student Mark Merlin spent his vacations working for his uncle, "The Mighty Merlin", a great stage magician who was assisted on stage by a young woman named Elsa Magusson. Although Mark's uncle was not a disbeliever in true magic, he often exposed impostors who pretended to deal in such things.
When Merlin died, he left a message that he had been killed by supernatural forces. Investigating, Mark discovered that his uncle had been killed by the "Council of Three" for exposing fake magicians. The council were themselves mysteriously destroyed by Elsa, suggesting they were killed by real supernatural beings. Merlin was intrigued by the idea, and decided to spend his life solving occult mysteries. He both exposed impostors as his uncle had done, and battled those who used actual occult means to do evil. Meanwhile, he became engaged to Elsa.
Eventually, Merlin was transported to the other-dimensional world of Ra, where Karnak, a scientist of ancient Egypt and his daughter Rimah lived as immortals. There, Merlin gained the mind over matter powers that allowed him to return to Earth - only in the body of another man. He was reincarnated in his own time with the body and mind of Ra-Man, a prince of ancient Egypt. Ra-Man retained Merlin's powers and memory but he was a different person: the true Merlin was now dead. Ra-Man fought various mystical perils on Earth but it was some time before he revealed to Elsa what happened to Mark Merlin.
Ra-Man was killed during the Crisis on Infinite Earths when he was slain by the Anti-Monitor's shadow demons.