Monday, September 26, 2016

Introducing The Lieutenant Marvels

Whiz Comics #21 (published August 8, 1941) introduces us to the Lieutenant Marvels in the story, "Captain Marvel and the Vengeful Four."  The story begins with Billy Batson meeting a special delegation that has come to see him - a delegation of three other boys all named Billy Batson!  These other Batson boys come from the west, south, and east and to tell themselves apart, they give themselves nick-names. There's Tall Billy from the west, Fat Billy from the east (Brooklyn), and Hill Billy from the south, and together with the original Billy Batson they decide to organize a Billy Batson Club.

Billy says the magic word, "Shazam!" and transforms into Captain Marvel before the eyes of the other Billys.  When Fat Billy wants to say the magic word, Cap cautions him, "Better be careful boys.  Great powers should be carefully used."  

A call comes in over the police radio about a robbery that just happened and Captain Marvel takes Tall, Fat and Hill Billy with him.  Captain Marvel finds the speeding getaway car and stops it in its tracks!  He leaves the thieves for the police to take care of and leaves the scene with the Batson boys.  However, no one notices one of the bank robbers, Biggy Brix, getting away after having been thrown clear of the getaway car when Cap stopped it.  Brix encounters Herr Geyer, one of Dr. Sivana's stooges and is soon a member of a plot to capture Billy Batson along with Geyer, Sivana and Captain Death!  Sivana orders his three confederates in crime to find Billy Batson by checking in the local hotels, and once they find him, they are to bring him to Sivana.

Meanwhile, Captain Marvel has transformed back into Billy Batson and he and the other Billys agree not to say the magic word, "Shazam!" unless Billy gives them the signal - a wink.  They all agree and split up for the night, agreeing to meet again the next day.

Herr Geyer, Captain Death and Biggy Brix each manage to capture Billy - but they have actually captured Tall, Fat and Hill Billy!  Sivana is enraged and yells, "You blundering idiots!  You've captured three different boys and none of them is Billy Batson!"  When Sivana learns they are each named Billy Batson, and are friends of the real Billy, he comes up with a new plan!  He sends Biggy Brix to deliver a ransom letter to Billy at station WHIZ.  Billy gets the letter, transforms into Captain Marvel, and makes his way to where the other Billys are being held.

Knowing it's probably a trap, Cap transforms back into Billy and sneaks into the cabin Sivana instructed to meet him at.  Sure enough, Billy is bushwhacked by Sivana's henchmen!  Sivana has all four Billys in a trap - they are strapped to a log heading towards a buzzing saw and their sure death.  Sivana leaves them to their fate.  

Billy manages to get the gag off his mouth and says the magic word, "Shazam!"  But his voice is drowned out by the sound of the huge circular saw!  Billy turns around and gives the signal to the other Billys and all four of them say "Shazam!"  Amazingly the magic lightning strikes all four turning Billy into Captain Marvel and Tall, Fat and Hill Billy into the Lieutenant Marvels!  

This vengeful four, a true squadron of justice, pursues Sivana to put an end to his mob.  They quickly locate Sivana attempting to make a getaway in his private airplane.  They crash through the plane's wings, sending Sivana and his mob crashing to earth.  Captain Marvel and his Lieutenants transform back into the Billys and decide they will keep this adventure as a secret between them. 

That is the amazing origin of the Lieutenant Marvels.  The Lieutenants Marvels would later appear in other adventures with Captain Marvel in his various comics.   I enjoyed this adventure and how three other Billys from different parts of the country can join forces with Captain Marvel and become members of the Marvel Family.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Captain Marvel - Olympic Champion!

While our Summer and Winter Olympics occur every four years, there are other Olympic games held every 1000 years!  Whiz Comics #125 (published July 7, 1950) gives us all the details of these games and how Captain Marvel became an Olympic champion in the story, "Captain Marvel and the Olympic Games of the Gods!"

The story begins with Billy Batson enjoying a beautiful day as he takes a stroll during his lunch break.  Suddenly, a severe storm strikes and Billy must transform to Captain Marvel to save a young lady.  Billy speaks the magic word, "Shazam!" but for once the magic lightning doesn't strike!  Without hesitation, Billy leaps into action and saves the young lady.

With the storm raging and gaining in intensity, Billy is perplexed as he says the magic word again and again but there is no magic lightning.  "Why doesn't Zeus hear me and send down the lightning bolt?" Billy wonders.  Unbeknownst to Billy, Mercury has heard Billy and tells Zeus.  Zeus is too preoccupied with practicing his lightning bolt throwing but finally sends a magic lightning bolt to Billy, transforming him into Captain Marvel.

Captain Marvel quickly decides he needs answers to what's behind the odd events of the day, so on a hunch he flies to Mount Olympus, home of the gods.  At Mount Olympus he meets Mercury and Zeus, and the wizard Shazam arrives as well.  Shazam explains to Cap that the gods are at Mount Olympus competing in the Olympic games of the gods.  Shazam further explains that these games are held every 1000 years and the competition is between the Shazamers and the Netherites.  The Shazamers team roster is Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury.  The Netherite team consists of Vulcan, Centaur, Thor, Mars, Ajax and Neptune.  The winners receive no gold medals.  Shazam explains, "Whichever team wins is then given control over your earth!"  The Shazamers have always won, but in these games they are badly behind.  If the Netherites gods win, not only will they take over the earth but they will also banish Captain Marvel, Shazam and the Shazamers from the earth, sending them into oblivion for 1000 years!  Just then, Mars tells Shazam and Captain Marvel, "When we win and take over earth, we'll start a war down there right away!"  As you can see, these are very important Olympic games.

Shazam tries to rally the Shazamers but they are too discouraged and dejected.  On the verge of having to forfeit the games, Captain Marvel volunteers to finish the rest of the competitions.  Cap defeats Centaur in the 100 mile dash, and despite Neptune's sea-faring shenanigans, Cap wins the boat race around the world.  Cap evens the score by defeating both Thor and Vulcan as well!

The final event is a gladiator match between Mars and Marvel.  Mars has some tricks up his sleeve and says the word, "VCTMAN!" and is struck by a bolt of black lightning!  Mars now possesses the powers of all the Netherite gods.  The next trick Mars has is using one of Zeus' lightning bolts and throwing it at Captain Marvel, transforming him back into powerless Billy Batson.  Billy may be powerless, but he isn't helpless.  Billy distracts Mars just long enough for him to transform back into Captain Marvel who defeats Mars and seals the win for the Shazamers!

Shazam thanks Captain Marvel saying, "Thanks my son!  You single-handedly defeated the Netherite gods!  I and my gods will continue to watch over earth for the next thousand years!"  Captain Marvel humbly replies, "Don't thank me, great sir!  It was only my duty!"

Holy Moley what an adventure!  There's so much to like about this story.  I like how both Captain Marvel and Billy Batson are heroes.  I like how the story showcases Captain Marvel's character, we see him as a hero, respectful to Shazam, and humble in victory.  We learn that it is Zeus who throws the magic lightning that transforms Billy into Captain Marvel.  We learn that there is an Olympic game of the gods that determines who controls the fate of planet earth.  And, we learn that Shazam the wizard is earth's great protector!

Thanks to Captain Marvel we can rest in the fact that Shazam and the Shazamers are watching over our earth and protecting us!  Hopefully the Shazamers will win the next Olympic games of the gods in the year 2950!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Introducing Mary Marvel!

Mary Marvel's origin is given to us in Captain Marvel Adventures #18 (published November 13, 1942).  Within the pages of this comic we not only have her origin, but we also learn that she's Billy Batson's twin sister!

The story begins with station WHIZ hosting the The Mental Marvel Quiz show, with Billy starring as emcee!  The contestants are Percy Pill, Mary Bromfield, and Freddy Freeman.  Billy starts with the quiz questions, and each contestant proves they are up to the mental challenge.  While an announcer takes over with some commercial announcements, Billy is handed a strange hand-written message that says, "Dear Billy Batson, I am dying.  Please come and see me.  This is most urgent."  The letter is signed by Sarah Primm of 14 Elm Street.  Billy has only 5 minutes before The Mental Marvel Quiz begins again, so he transforms to Captain Marvel and within seconds arrives at Sarah Primm's house.  Captain Marvel transforms back into Billy before entering the house.

Inside, Billy meets Sarah Primm who is on her deathbed.  She tells Billy that her hour has come and she must tell Billy about...his twin sister!  Sarah reveals that she was nurse for both Billy and his sister Mary when their parents died.  She took the babies into her own home before taking them to an orphanage.  However, Sarah was also the nurse of a rich family who had also just had a baby girl that had suddenly died.  Sarah came up with a scheme - she switched Billy's sister with the dead baby girl of the rich family.  Billy's sister would be raised by the wealthy family and Billy was taken to an orphanage.  Billy asks, "Who raised my twin sister?  Where is she now?  How will I know her?"  Sarah tells him, "You'll know her by this broken locket.  She wears the other half.  (Sarah gives the locket to Billy) She was raised by a wealthy lady named...."  But death strikes before Sarah Primm can reveal the name of the family that raised Billy's sister.  Billy's 5 minutes are almost up, so he transforms back into Captain Marvel and returns to The Mental Marvel Quiz.

The Mental Marvel Quiz comes to an end and Billy escorts Mary Bromfield to her car and after she leaves he realizes she was wearing a locket just like the one Sarah Primm gave him.  Billy and Freddy Freeman say their magic words and transform into Captain Marvel and Captain Marvel Junior and take off after Mary.  The two heroes arrive just in time to see Mary being kidnapped!  In short order the ruffians are dispatched and Captain Marvel  asks Mary about the locket she's wearing.  Cap gives Mary the locket Billy was given by Sarah Primm, Mary puts the lockets together - a perfect fit!

"What does it mean?" Mary asks, and Cap proclaims, "It means you are Mary Batson -- the twin sister of Billy Batson!"  Mary asks where Billy is and why didn't he come, and then before her eyes Captain Marvel transforms back into Billy Batson!  Billy lets her in on the 'family secret' and then Captain Marvel Junior also transforms back to Freddy Freeman - now Mary knows the secret of both Captains.

While Billy, Mary and Freddy are rejoicing, the ruffians have recovered and capture the two boys and put handkerchiefs over their mouths.  Unable to say their magic words, Billy and Freddy are at the mercy of the hoodlums.  Mary shouts, "Billy!  Freddy!  Speak your magic words!...Oh, they can't they're gagged...Billy can't say Shazam!..."  The comic narrator tells us, "Mary Batson said the word 'Shazam' for the first time...and instantly there is an answering roll of thunder...a blinding flash of lightning...and a new figure appears in the place of Mary Batson!"  Yes, Mary Batson has just transformed into Mary Marvel!!

Mary Marvel withstands the kidnappers assualt of assorted slaps, chairs and bullets before she defeats them single handed.  Billy's astounded at Mary's transformation and decides they need to visit the wizard Shazam to get some answers.  Billy and Freddy transform into their heroic selves and the three Marvels make their way to the secret subway tunnel where Billy first met Shazam.

Shazam meets them and Billy introduces Mary to him.  Shazam assures them all is well, he knew all along about Billy and Mary, but he allowed things to unfold naturally.  Shazam also explains that Mary doesn't derive her powers from the same heroes Billy does, but instead, hers are sourced from a different set of Shazam's heroes.  He explains who gives Mary her powers:

  • Selena - grace
  • Hippolyta - strength
  • Ariadne - skill
  • Zephyrus - fleetness
  • Aurora - beauty
  • Minerva - wisdom

Shazam then tells Mary, "Go now, my child!  Fight evil and wrong in the world as your brother and Freddy do.  My spirit is always with you!"  The three kids exit the subway and transform into the mighty Marvels.  Freddy departs - telling them he needs to get back to his own adventures.  Cap tells Mary to stay with him for a while and then they'll fix her up with her own spot in Wow Comics!

Holy Moley!  What a turn of events that led Billy to not only find his twin sister, Mary, but also to learn that Mary is also a mighty Marvel.  Now the Marvel Family is complete and individually and collectively they do fight evil and wrong in the world.  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Introducing Captain Marvel Junior!

Captain Marvel Junior, the World's Mightiest Boy, had his origin in Whiz Comics #25 (published November 28, 1941).  But to fully understand his origin, we need to take a quick look at Master Comics #21 (published November 5, 1941).  Master Comics #21 tells us the origin of the villain Captain Nazi and how he was sent to the US by Hitler himself to challenge and destroy Bulletman, Captain Marvel and other heroes.  Captain Nazi's plans are thwarted by both Bulletman and Captain Marvel, and at the end of the story he leaves Captain Marvel with a menacing message - Captain Nazi will be going to Whiz Comics to beat Captain Marvel there!

We pick up Captain Nazi's trail of destruction that started in Master Comics #21 in the pages of Whiz Comics #25.  Trying to kill Captain Marvel's friend Whitey and trying to destroy a dam/power plant are among Nazi's dastardly deeds.  Captain Marvel finally catches up to Nazi as he tries to kill a pilot flying an experimental plane.  The world's mightiest mortal sends Captain Nazi flying into the waters of the bay with a tremendous punch.

Freddy Freeman and his grandfather are fishing in the bay when Freddy notices someone (Nazi) has fallen into the water and they take off to rescue him.  After rescuing Captain Nazi, Nazi repays their kindness by killing Freddy's grandfather and mortally wounds Freddy.  Captain Marvel rescues Freddy from the water and flies him to a hospital.  Cap transforms back to Billy Batson and waits for Freddy's diagnosis.  Unfortunately, the news is grim.  Captain Nazi broke Freddy's back and he's not expected to survive the night.

Billy Batson decides to take a desperate chance, so at midnight he takes Freddy down to the subway tunnel where he first met the wizard Shazam just a few years earlier.  Billy lights a torch and the wizard Shazam appears!  (Note - this is Shazam's second appearance in Whiz Comics!)  Billy explains what has happened to Freddy and if there's anything Shazam can do for him.  Sadly, Shazam says he can't, but Captain Marvel can!  If Captain Marvel will pass on a portion of his powers to Freddy, Freddy will survive.

Billy transforms to Captain Marvel, and then Freddy wakes up to see his hero and says, "Why it - it's Captain Marvel!"  As Freddy says his heroes name, magic lightning strikes and he is immediately transformed into Captain Marvel Junior!  Junior has all the powers of Captain Marvel, and Cap tells him he must use them to fight the forces of evil.  He also tells him, "You will have to go through life in your own form, but whenever you need me, speak my name and as Captain Marvel Jr. you will be able to do the things I do..."  Captain Marvel sends Junior to Master Comics to take care of Captain Nazi there.  

Freddy wakes up feeling like it has all been a dream.  While he has been saved from a sure death by Captain Marvel, he is destined to have a crippled leg for the rest of his life.  Freddy vows to carry on and to catch Captain Nazi and put him away so he cannot hurt anyone anymore.  Captain Marvel Junior would next appear in Master Comics #22 (December 5, 1941) and would also get his very own comic.  

Freddy Freeman was rescuing a stranger from death and it cost the life of his grandfather and almost cost Freddy his life.  Thankfully he was saved by Captain Marvel and was given the powers of Captain Marvel to help Cap in his fight on evil.  That is the amazing origin of Captain Marvel Junior, the world's mightiest boy!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Captain Marvel Becomes a Hobo

Whiz comics #93 asks why did Captain Marvel become a hobo?  The answer is found in the pages of this great comic!  This adventure begins with Billy walking down the street during his lunch hour and sees a fire truck responding to a house fire.  A man comes running out of the house saying his wife and child were trapped inside so there's nothing left for him in life now.  The man runs past Billy and Billy says, "Shazam!" transforming himself into Captain Marvel.  Cap wastes no time and goes into the flame-engulfed building to try and find the man's wife and child.  Captain Marvel finds them in the basement and brings them safely out of the fire!  The lady asks where her husband is and Cap let's her know he ran away thinking his family had perished but not to worry, he would return.  The wife lets Cap know he probably won't return and instead will return to his life as a hobo, the life he lived before he settled down and raised a family.  The wife pleads with Cap to find her husband and return him to them.  Despite such a daunting task, Captain Marvel agrees to find Hunky, the husband turned hobo.

Cap immediately starts searching freight cars and a 'hobo jungle' (a place in the woods where hobos can clean up and get something to eat) but gets the silent treatment from all the hobos.  With the wisdom of Solomon, Cap understands that hobos are loyal and won't rat out another hobo, therefore Captain Marvel becomes the world's mightiest hobo!  Donning some old clothes he found on a scarecrow, Cap returns to the hobo jungle and this time gets a warm welcome and information on where to find Hunky.

Cap wastes no time and takes off to catch the noon train and discovers Hunky hitching a ride on it.  Just before he can get to Hunky, some cars disconnect from the train and Captain Marvel must stop the runaway train cars.  In the process, Hunky disappears again as the train has reached the rail yard while Cap was busy rescuing the runaway cars.  Another hobo tells Cap that he saw Hunky heading for Farmland, so Cap makes his way there.

Hunky is found chopping firewood for a lady whose husband is sick, and as Hunky runs away the farmer's wife makes Cap finish chopping the wood!  When his good deed is done, Cap is back on the trail and trying to find the hobo husband.  Hunky is found sleeping behind a highway sign and Captain Marvel breaks the good news to him that his family is safe.  Hunky exclaims, "Thank Heaven!  Then I don't have to be a hobo anymore!"  Captain Marvel flies Hunky back to a happy reunion with his wife and daughter, thus ending his first - and last - adventure as a hobo!

This is one of my all-time favorite Captain Marvel stories.  I love that Cap shows persistence in finding Hunky, and he uses the wisdom of Solomon to figure out he'll need to change his tactics with the hobos if he's going to succeed!  The story lets Captain Marvel's heroic and compassionate character shine through.  With plenty of side-adventures along the way, Captain Marvel ultimately  succeeds in reuniting a family after a tragedy.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Tools and Resources of the Wizard Shazam

We know the wizard Shazam is the protector of earth and the vast cosmos.  But what tools and resources does Shazam use?  We can find them in the pages of Captain Marvel comics!  Here are the tools and resources used by Shazam:

The Historama (Whiz comics #2):  The Historama is a "super-television screen capable of depicting past, present and future events."

The Robe of Immortality (Captain Marvel Adventures #144): Shazam's robe of immortality protects him from harm and makes him immortal.

Shazamium Bracelet (Captain Marvel Adventures #100):  The wizard's Shazamium bracelet allows him to adopt ethereal form, and to travel back and forth between the Rock of Eternity in the wink of an eye.

The Book of All Knowledge (Captain Marvel Adventures #93):  In Captain Marvel comics you can often see Shazam use the phrase, "For as it is written, so it must be!"  And, there are times when Shazam says things have happened because that's how they were written (see Captain Marvel Adventures #80 and #144).  What was Shazam referring to?  I believe he was referring to The Book of All Knowledge.  Shazam himself tells us that The Book of All Knowledge "was written long, long ago...That book contains all the knowledge that will ever be granted to mankind!  All the wisdom of the past, the present and the future is gathered in its pages..."  Shazam uses this book to help him protect the earth and the cosmos!

An example of Shazam saying, "So it was written..."

Magic (Captain Marvel Adventures #18):  Magic is the best known tool Shazam uses.  We are told that, "There is no magic greater than that of the all-powerful Shazam!"  He has also taught Captain Marvel how to use this magic as well!

Shazam uses his powerful magic for good

The wizard Shazam has these awesome tools and resources at his disposal making him a great protector of earth and the vast cosmos!!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Introducing Tawky Tawny!

Mr. Tawky Tawny is a talking tiger and good friend of Captain Marvel.  While Mr. Tawny first appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures #79 (Sept 26, 1947) in the story, "Captain Marvel and the Talking Tiger!", we didn't get Tawny's origin until Captain Marvel Adventures #82 (December 31, 1947)  in "Captain Marvel and the Return of Mr. Tawny!"

Mr. Tawny was just a cub when a hunter killed his mother, making him an orphan (just like Billy Batson!).  Tawny escaped the hunter's grasp, and was taken in by Tom Todd, the son of a missionary.  Tom and the tiger cub were the closest of friends, Tom even had the cub sit on his lap during school!  It was Tom Todd who gave him the name, Mr. Tawny.  

Mr. Tawny grew, but he and Tom were still great friends.  Then, one day a man was found killed in the village - his death came at the hands of a tiger.  All fingers pointed to Mr. Tawny as the killer.  Tom defended Mr. Tawny but the village decided he must die, so Tom and Tawny ran away far into the jungle.  Tom just knew his feline friend was innocent.  He said, "You didn't kill that man, did you?  I'm sure you didn't!  But if you could only talk and say so...If you could only tell them you didn't kill anybody!"  Just then a hermit approaches them and asks Mr. Tawny to drink a serum he had just created and wanted to test on a wild animal.  The serum would energize the animal's brain and enable him to use his vocal cords for speech!  The tiger drinks the serum and then Mr. Tawny tawks - I mean talks!  And not only can he talk, he can now verbalize all the knowledge he absorbed as he went to school with Tom!!

Tom and Tawny leave the jungle and return to the village to search for the real man killing tiger.  Tawny finds the killer and after a ferocious battle he brings the defeated man killer to the village and proves his innocence.  Mr. Tawny is cleared of the crime!  Later, Tom left the jungle when his dad was reassigned and Mr. Tawny lived with the hermit.  That's the story of how Mr. Tawny became a talking tiger, but now we need to know how he came to become friends with Captain Marvel. 

Despite the hermit telling him civilization is no good, Mr. Tawny made up his mind that he wanted to leave the jungle and "mingle with human beings."  He wants to try ice cream, watch movies, and wear clothes!  Tawny makes his way to the coast and becomes a stowaway on a ship bound for the United States.  When the ship makes port the stowaway tiger jumps ship determined to make it to the city.

The second person Mr. Tawny encounters is Billy Batson (the first person he encountered ran away scared to death!).  Upon seeing the tiger and not knowing Tawny is a gentle, talking tiger, Billy says the magic word, "Shazam!" and transforms into Captain Marvel.  Cap knocks Tawny unconscious and ensures he makes it safely to the zoo.  

Mr. Tawny escapes his cage at the zoo, and after a brief adventure he once again encounters Captain Marvel.  But this time Cap realizes Tawny is a civilized tiger and in short order gets Mr. Tawny a job at the local museum.  Despite a rocky start, Mr. Tawny and Captain Marvel become great friends!  

We know that Tom Todd gave Mr. Tawny his name, but how did he get his first name Tawky?  He got the name Tawky thanks to fans who responded to Captain Marvel and Mr. Tawny's appeal for suggestions for his first name.  Thousands of suggestions poured in and in Captain Marvel Adventures #90 Mr. Tawny revealed he chose the name Tawny!  (I wrote about this previously, you can read it here!)

Let me share a brief comment* from Otto Binder, creator of Tawky Tawny.  In an interview Mr. Binder said, "As far as I can recall, Tawny was my own concept, which Wendell Crowley - and C. C. Beck in particular - thought was a good concept...Beck did such a great job personifying the tiger that he caught on with readers immediately.  A flood of letters came in on the first story, so we continued him.  Captain Marvel was really just a minor character in all of his stories, the tiger's sidekick.  We made Tawny as lovable and bumbling as we could...He always had great dreams, with unfortunate results.  I wouldn't say Tawny stories were satires...they were more like parodies of human life, showing our weaknesses."

That's the origin of Mr. Tawky Tawny and how he came to know and be friends with Billy Batson and Captain Marvel.  Mr. Tawny would have many adventures of his own in Captain Marvel's comics and has become one of comics most beloved characters.  

*I found Otto Binder's comments on page 64 of the book The Fawcett Companion: The Best of FCA edited by P. C. Hamerlink (Copyright 2001, TwoMorrows Publishing).