Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Showcase of Captain Marvel's Powers!

Captain Marvel Adventures #144 (published March 4, 1953) does something very unique and spectacular for Captain Marvel fans.  In the story, "Captain Marvel and the Stolen Shazam Powers!" all of Captain Marvel's powers are purposely put on display!  While you can typically see Cap using his Shazam powers throughout all of his adventures, in this story the comic writers intentionally show Cap using each power, one by one, to defeat Sivana.  It also gives us fans a little bit more insight into these powers.  This article will take a look at each of the powers put on display for us in CMA #144.  

Solomon's wisdom is the first power displayed.  Billy received a letter with a tip that Sivana was going to attack but the letter was only signed by "A Friend."  Billy transforms into Captain Marvel and uses the wisdom of Solomon to properly determine that the letter was a ruse by Sivana to keep Cap busy in the city while he attacks a dam in the country!

Hercules' strength is the next power Cap must use as Sivana's bomb has struck the dam!  But using the strength of Hercules, Captain Marvel shoves the crack in the dam together and prevents the water from bursting out!

Atlas' stamina now is called upon as Captain Marvel must bear the weight of millions of tons of concrete on his shoulders for an hour as workmen repair and shore up the damaged dam.

Zeus' power is displayed by Cap when he catches up with Sivana and gets blasted by a nuclear rocket!  But the power of Zeus makes Captain Marvel indestructible and impervious to all harm!

Achilles' indomitable courage is needed next as Captain Marvel catches up with Sivana at one of Sivana's secret hideouts.  Sivana releases a huge monstrous gorilla to smash the world's mightiest mortal.  Empowered by the courage of Achilles, as well as being endowed with Achille's fighting skills, Captain Marvel makes a monkey of Sivana's attack ape.

Mercury's speed is the final power showcased, as Cap feels the need for speed to catch Sivana in the stratosphere as he tries to make his escape!  We also learn that Captain Marvel gains his ability to fly through Mercury as well!

The six Shazam powers given to Captain Marvel have just been used one by one to defeat another wicked plot by Dr. Sivana!  This was such an entertaining way to showcase Cap's powers, I'm really glad they did this.  I also learned some new things from this comic.  For instance, it explains how Captain Marvel is able to fly - he gets that from Mercury.  I also learned that Cap's fighting skills come from Achilles and that it is the power of Zeus that makes him indestructible!  

Captain Marvel's powers are what make him the world's mightiest mortal and it was entertaining and informative to have all his powers on display in one story!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Captain Marvel Fights the Tiger Terror!

Captain Marvel Adventures #142 (published January 2, 1953) gives us a scary possibility - has Tawky Tawny become a monster?  Could it be that the friendly talking tiger has turned into a blood thirsty beast?  That's what we find out in the story, "Captain Marvel Fights the Tiger Terror!"

Our adventure begins with Billy Batson paying a visit to Mr. Tawny to keep the tiger from being lonely.  Billy finds out that Mr. Tawny has rented a spare room to Mr. John Jones, and Tawny and Jones have become great friends.  Mr. Jones is a student of scary things - vampires, werewolves, and ghouls.  Billy's head is clearly filled with such things as he leaves Tawny's house with the tiger teasing him, "Now don't run into any ghouls or vampires on your way home, Billy!  Pleasant dreams!"

While walking home in the dark, Billy is soon confronted by a snarling talking tiger!  Billy thinks it's just Mr. Tawny playing a prank but soon discovers it's no joke!  Saying the magic word, "Shazam!" Billy transforms into Captain Marvel and gives a tremendous punch to the blood thirsty brute, and the tiger turns tail and runs.  Cap tries to track down the mysterious talking tiger and surprisingly runs into Mr. John Jones, Tawky Tawny's new roommate!  Mr. Jones explains that he was out taking a walk but perhaps Mr. Tawny has turned into a 'were-tiger'!  He further explains that, based on his studies, there are not only were-wolves, but all sorts of were-creatures that turn into blood thirsty creatures by the light of the full moon.  Captain Marvel can't believe for a minute that Mr. Tawny is a were-tiger and he runs off to check on Tawny at his home.  Cap and Mr. Jones discover Mr. Tawny at home, soundly sleeping.  There's no way he could be a were-tiger he pleads!  But Captain Marvel is baffled and believes the best about his friend.  But, he decides to patrol the city by night to solve this mysterious tiger terror.

The following night the were-tiger strikes, slashing the throat of an innocent victim.  Captain Marvel fights off the beast, but must rush the victim to the hospital for immediate care and with the hopes that he can pick up the tigers trail.  Leaving the hospital, Cap returns to the scene of the attack and finds bloody paw prints at the scene of the crime.  Cap follows the prints to...Mr. Tawny's house!!  Sick of heart and full of dread, Captain Marvel knows he must bring Mr. Tawny in to the authorities.  But as he enters the house, he finds Mr. Jones who tells him that Tawky has fled, not wanting to be captured by the world's mightiest mortal!  Cap transforms back into Billy and decides to lure the were-tiger back to Tawny's house.  Billy and Mr. Jones sit in full view of the large window, offering a tempting meal to the were-tiger.

Billy soon notices something in the mirror.  He notices that Mr. Jones' reflection isn't shown in the mirror!  And since only vampires and were-creatures cast no images in mirrors, Mr. Jones is the were-tiger!  But before he can finish saying, "Shazam!" Billy is knocked unconscious.  Billy wakes up and Mr. Jones confesses he is the were-tiger and then transforms into the creature before Billy's very eyes.  Only a swift move by Billy saves his life and uses the were-tiger's teeth to shred the handkerchief covering his mouth.  But in the process Billy's throat is punctured and with blood in his throat he can't say the magic word!  Billy runs and evades the tiger but is quickly losing blood and strength.

Suddenly another tiger is on the scene, none other than Tawky Tawny!  Tawky takes on the were-tiger in a tremendous battle.  Billy is able to clear his throat and transform into Captain Marvel.  Cap enters the fray and strikes the ferocious feline a resounding blow.  The were-tiger is unconscious, and Mr. Tawny knows that the only way to truly ends a vampire or were-creature is by putting a wooden stake through their heart.  This Tawny does to the were-tiger, and the were-tigers reign of terror is ended.

At the end of the story Billy apologizes on behalf of himself and Captain Marvel for even thinking Mr. Tawny could be the were-tiger.  Mr. Tawny graciously accepts the apology, asking that Billy just continue to play checkers with him so he won't be lonely.  Thus ends the mysterious adventure of Captain Marvel and the tiger terror!

I really enjoyed this story but also noticed it was slightly less whimsical than most of Cap's adventures.  There are themes consistent in this story that are seen throughout all of Captain Marvel's comics.  We see Captain Marvel being a loyal friend despite evidence to the contrary.  We also see both Billy and Mr. Tawny playing big roles in the resolution of the story.  And we see Captain Marvel's determination to solve the mystery of the were-tiger.  The comic did take on a darker than normal aspect with Billy's throat punctured and filling with blood and Mr. Tawny driving a stake into the heart of the were-tiger.  However, I take these as due to the shift that was happening in comics at this time with less emphasis on the super heroes and more emphasis on science fiction and horror.  Despite the slightly darker tone, this is still a great and thrilling adventure of Captain Marvel and was very entertaining to read.  Sadly, in just eight more issues after this comic, Captain Marvel Adventures would come to an end.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Shazam, Incorporated

Shazam, Inc. is a non-profit organization started by Uncle Marvel/Dudley in Wow Comics #18 (published September 15, 1943).  Uncle Marvel/Dudley set up the office of Shazam, Inc. on the 13th floor of the Greeley Building, in suite 1313.  (Note:  In New York there is a Greeley Square Building that has 25 floors and was constructed in 1927.)  Uncle Marvel/Dudley is the President of the organization.

When Uncle Marvel/Dudley first started Shazam, Inc., it was a bit questionable what his motives were.  He took reward money for helping a man from being robbed.  Mary Marvel told him, "I'm surprised at you Uncle Marvel...we Marvels never accept pay for our fight against evil!"  Uncle Marvel/Dudley assured Mary Marvel that all the money Shazam, Inc. makes will go to help the American War Drive (America was in the midst of fighting in WW II at the time)!!

In Captain Marvel Adventures #43 (published December 29, 1944) we learn from Mary that all the money Uncle Marvel/Dudley earns from Shazam, Inc. goes towards charities and war bonds to help fund the American efforts in the second world war.

We do have a continuity issue come up when Freddy Freeman, Captain Marvel, Jr visits the offices of Shazam, Inc. in Master Comics #61 (published April 25, 1945).  In this comic, the office of Shazam, Inc. is located on the 18th floor of a particular building (no name of the building given).  One way to resolve this issue is perhaps Shazam, Inc. had to move to the 18th floor of the Greeley Building because it outgrew the offices on the 13th floor!

In each of the stories with Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel and Captain Marvel, Jr., Shazam, Inc. was called on to help someone in trouble.  In Wow Comics #18, it was protecting a man from revenge, in Captain Marvel Adventures #43 Shazam, Inc. had to fill in as carnival workers to help the owner from losing his business, and in Master Comics #61 they helped a man who had his life threatened!  In each case, the money earned by Shazam, Inc. went towards the American war effort or to help a charity.

Uncle Marvel/Dudley started Shazam, Inc. as a non-profit organization and throughout the pages of the Marvel's comics, it was seen as a great organization that did good for those in need!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Shazam's Villains

Captain Marvel's adventures provide us with some great villains from Dr. Sivana to Mr. Atom!  However, did you know that there are at least two villains Captain Marvel faced that were originally villains defeated by the wizard Shazam?  I want to look briefly at these two villains that Shazam defeated but came back and had to be defeated by Captain Marvel.

The first villain Shazam defeated was Black Adam.  Black Adam sought to use his powers for his own gain and so Shazam banished him to the farthest star in the universe.  

Black Adam returns 5,000 years later and seeks to get his revenge on Shazam.  The Marvel Family defeats Black Adam in the pages of Marvel Family comics #1 (published November 21, 1945)!

The second villain defeated by Shazam was the Mad Mummy!  The Mad Mummy appears in Marvel Family comics #79 (published November 21, 1952).   In the pages of this comic we discover that the Mad Mummy had once been the ruler of the netherworld and had sought to take over the world of the living.  The Mad Mummy was defeated by Shazam's white magic.  

Shazam had buried the Mad Mummy and his evil pyramid under the sea, but it was discovered and opened by archeologists and the Mad Mummy was on the loose again.  It took the combined efforts of the Marvel Family to defeat him and once again send him to the bottom of the ocean!

So there you have it!  Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family had to face two villains that were previously defeated by the wizard Shazam!  I really enjoyed finding these characters and will be sure to update this article if I run across any more villains like them!

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.