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.

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