Monday, June 19, 2017

Captain Marvel's Character: Grit

Grit is another aspect and trait of Captain Marvel's character that draws me to him as a hero.  In this article I want to illustrate the grit of Captain Marvel.

What is grit?  Here are some brief thoughts and definitions that will help frame grit for this article:

  • Firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger (Merriam-Webster)
  • Firmness of character; indomitable spirit; pluck
  • "Grit is passion or perseverance for very long-term goals.  Grit is having stamina."  Angela Lee Duckworth
  • "Individuals high in grit are able to maintain their determination and motivation over long periods of time despite experiences with failure and adversity.  Their passion and commitment towards the long-term objective is the overriding factor that provides the stamina required to 'stay the course' amid the challenges and set-backs." (Unknown)

Just reading those definitions and quotes make me think that Captain Marvel is truly grit personified!  An example of Captain Marvel's grit is displayed on the pages of Captain Marvel Adventures #78.  Captain Marvel comes up against Mr. Atom who turns out to be one of his toughest foes to fight and defeat.  Captain Marvel not only has to stop the rampaging robot, he also needs to come up with a clever way to incarcerate this atomic ne'er do well!  Cap suffers a short-term set back in his first encounter with Mr. Atom, but his grit allows him to put that aside and come up with a plan to defeat Mr. Atom.  And, by the end of the story, Captain Marvel prevails thanks to his indomitable grit.

Captain Marvel's grit is clearly seen through his actions in defeating Mr. Atom.  While there are many other examples throughout the pages of Cap's comics, this one stands out to me as the best example.  Captain Marvel is a hero who exemplifies grit, and that's just one more reason he's been my hero and a hero to countless others!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Did You Know...

Did you know that the villains IBAC and Mr. Banjo made their first appearance in the same comic?

In Captain Marvel Adventures #8 (published February 6, 1942*) we are introduced to IBAC in the story "Captain Marvel and the Curse of IBAC!"  In this story we learn how a criminal named Stinky Printwhistle becomes the super-villain IBAC and is ultimately defeated by Captain Marvel.

The very next story in the comic is "Captain Marvel and the Amazing Case of the Code in Music!"  This adventure introduces us to Mr. Banjo, a "master criminal, an ingenious plotter of crimes" who uses his banjo as a weapon of sabotage against the war efforts of the United States.  Captain Marvel beats Banjo, thus defeating this malevolent maestro!

Both IBAC and Mr. Banjo made their first appearance in Captain Marvel Adventures #8 in different stories.  They both appeared throughout Cap's golden-age comics and have even shown up in some present day ones as well!

*According to Mike's Amazing World of Comics

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Comic of the Week - Whiz Comics #100

The Captain Marvel comic of the week is Whiz Comics #100.  This comic celebrated the 100th issue of Whiz Comics and contained the following stories:

"Captain Marvel and the Hundred Horrors!"

What I like about this story is the number 100 is woven throughout the complete adventure!!

Golden Arrow in "Jailed"

Ibis the Invincible in "The Forbidden Pool"

This story has a pretty cool villain!!

This comic was published on June 4, 1948* with a cover date of August 1948.  

*Based on Mike's Amazing World of Comics

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Billy Batson's Faux Family

From the very first Captain Marvel comic, we learned that Billy Batson was an orphan.  As time went on, we learned he did have a twin sister - Mary.  Mary is the only blood relative that Billy has.  However, as Billy's fame as a radio announcer grew, there were occasions where people sought out Billy thinking that they were true blood relatives.

Here are the examples I've found so far:

1.  Captain Marvel and His Country Cousin.  This story was published in Captain Marvel Adventures #26 (published June 30, 1943).  Willard Batson from Arkansas tracks down Billy Batson and introduces himself as Billy's cousin!  However, Billy finds out that there is no relationship at all.

2.  Captain Marvel and the Last of the Batsons!  This adventure comes to us from Captain Marvel Adventures #51 (published November 28, 1945).  Billy meets 'Wild Bill' Batson who claims to be the last of the Batsons from out West and Billy is his long-lost grandson!  But by the end of the story, Captain Marvel discovers Wild Bill's true long-lost grandson.  Once again, Billy meets a Batson that is not a blood relative!

These are the only examples I've found so far.  As I discover more, I'll update this article!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Comic of the Week - Captain Marvel Adventures #104

The Captain Marvel comic of the week is Captain Marvel Adventures #104.  This comic featured an awesome cover of Captain Marvel and Tawky Tawny - with Tawky in a Captain Marvel uniform!  This comic was a 'big 52 pages' and contained the following stories:

"Captain Marvel and the Space Dragon!"

"Captain Marvel Fights the Hypnotic Trap"

"Captain Marvel and the Missing Atom"

"Captain Marvel and Mr. Tawny's Masquerade"

This comic was published on November 2,1949* with a cover date of January.  

*Based on Mike's Amazing World of Comics

Friday, May 26, 2017

Captain Marvel Gets Struck by Lightning!

We know from Whiz Comics #125 that it is magic lightning thrown by Zeus that transforms Billy Batson into Captain Marvel and transforms Cap back to Billy.  So what would happen if Captain Marvel was struck by non-magical lightning?  We get the answer in Captain Marvel Adventures #142*! 

In the story "Captain Marvel Battles the Red Lightning Blitz" we find Cap has flown to investigate a strange phenomenon happening in the midst of the Korean war.  During his investigation, Cap is zapped by lightning from a lightning gun created by the villain the Red Crusher!   What happens?!?  Nothing!  The lightning doesn't transform Captain Marvel back into Billy Batson!

Based on this story and also based on the information in Whiz Comics #125, it appears that non-magical lightning has no effect on Captain Marvel and does not trigger any transformation!  I would also have to assume that if Billy was struck by non-magical lightning the results would be the same for any human struck by lightning!

I must note that I have seen two examples from golden-age Captain Marvel comics where Cap was transformed back to Billy by the electricity of a giant electric eel.  There's also an example of Billy being transformed into Captain Marvel from a regular bolt of lightning.  I have only seen screenshots of these so I don't know the entire story or context.  (I'm trying to find what comic they came from so I can read the full story.)  Additionally, in the 1970's Shazam! comics, there are two incidents where Billy and Cap both transformed after being struck by a form of magical lightning(Shazam! #15 and #31).  Therefore, based on the burden of evidence, I have to conclude that the electric eel and regular lightning incident are errors or gaps in Cap's continuity.  Who knows, maybe Zeus saw Billy was about to be struck by regular lightning and threw a magic lightning bolt at him to save him!!

Throughout Cap's comics, there are many times where it clearly states that it is the magic lightning that transforms Billy into Captain Marvel and back again.  And, based on Captain Marvel Adventures #125 and #142, I can safely say that the only type of lightning that has any impact on Captain Marvel is the magic lightning thrown by Zeus!  

*Based on Mike's Amazing World, this comic published on January 2, 1953.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Comic of the Week - Captain Marvel and the Good Humor Man

The Captain Marvel comic of the week is Captain Marvel and the Good Humor Man.  This comic was a one-shot, 32 page comic featuring Captain Marvel and promoted the movie, 'The Good Humor Man.'  The cover featured Cap, actor Jack Carson, and boys from the Captain Marvel Club.

The premise of the story is Captain Marvel is invited to the set of The Good Humor Man movie to act as a technical advisor for the Captain Marvel Club sequences filmed for the movie.  And, as you can imagine, there are all sorts of hijinx and adventures throughout the story.  There are also several ads for the movie as well!

This comic was published on June 2, 1950.*    

*Based on Mike's Amazing World of Comics

Monday, April 24, 2017

Captain Marvel and the Space Dragon

In Captain Marvel Adventures #104 (published November 2, 1949), we have what Billy Batson describes as Captain Marvel's greatest adventure!  It is the story of Captain Marvel and the Space Dragon!

The adventure begins with Captain Marvel sending a criminal, Bozo Smith, to jail.  Bozo repents and reforms after realizing crime doesn't pay.  Bozo uses his time wisely and begins a serious study in astronomy.  Bozo's studies catch Captain Marvel's attention, so Cap sends him a gift to help him in his studies.  (This really shows Cap's character - he shows no ill will towards criminals and will help them get a new start in life!)  

While it seems like Bozo has truly changed his ways, Billy suddenly gets an urgent appeal from the jail for Captain Marvel to visit Bozo as soon as possible as he's been sent to the violent ward of the prison.  Has Bozo been clowning around about his reformation?  Billy transforms to Captain Marvel who quickly makes his way to visit Bozo in prison.  Cap says, "Bozo has been trying hard to make a new start!  The least I can do is to help him!"

Captain Marvel meets with Bozo who informs him that the earth is in imminent danger - it will be eaten alive if action isn't taken soon!  "Holy Moley!  Poor Bozo is as nutty as a squirrel's nest!" is Captain Marvels reaction to the news!  But upon reviewing Bozo's research, Cap confirms that the convicts theory is correct.  Bozo has determined that a planet sized egg containing a monster has entered our solar system!  Once the egg hatches, the monster that emerges may destroy the world.  

To get definitive proof of Bozo's theory, Cap flies into space and to his horror he soon learns Bozo was 100% accurate.  The planet-sized egg hatches a space dragon!  Cap notices the space dragon eat a passing meteor, and then the dragon attempts to eat him!  As the space dragon makes his way towards earth, Captain Marvel swiftly gathers a batch of meteors and feeds them to the dragon to fill his stomach while Cap can take action to defeat him.

The greatest scientific minds gather to discuss the menace of the space dragon, Bozo Smith is among them.  Bozo opines it will take atomic rockets to destroy the space dragon, so Cap goes to work gathering the rockets and setting up a plan to defeat the dragon.  Captain Marvel gives the launch command and the stockpile of rockets make a direct hit on the space dragon.  Though the bombs burst in air, we see the dragon's red glare as he was unharmed by the barrage.  The dragon has even caught one of the atomic rockets and slings it towards earth!  It's the last atomic rocket and now it's hurtling towards earth!  Captain Marvel grabs the rocket, and "disregarding his own safety, Captain Marvel dives headlong into the jaws of the titanic monster!"  Cap sets off the atomic rocket inside the dragon, finally destroying it.  Cap then hurls the dragon into the Sun for cremation.

At the end of the story we find Bozo Smith, former convict, has now been appointed as a professor of Interspatial Physics at the University.  Professor Smith informs us that we are no longer in any danger of any more space dragons!

I enjoyed this story and it's one of my favorites.  Not only is it an entertaining adventure, it also shows us a new depth of Captain Marvel's character.  He befriends the very man he put in jail, encourages his reformation, and takes action to help him when no one else would.  

Another aspect of this story that I noticed is that it's very similar to an episode of British sci-fi show Doctor Who.  In the episode titled "Kill the Moon" (episode 7 of season 8 and first aired on October 4, 2014),  Doctor Who determines the earth's moon is actually an egg that is about to hatch, and if it does, the effects on earth will be cataclysmic!  I won't go into all that happens, but I wonder if the writers at Doctor Who had read Captain Marvel Adventures #104 and came up with their story?!?!  The Doctor Who/Captain Marvel connection also makes me enjoy this story even more! 

Captain Marvel and the Space Dragon truly is a great adventure and a great story of redemption and self-less heroism.  No wonder it's one of my favorite Captain Marvel adventures!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Comic of the Week - Whiz Comics #22

The Captain Marvel comic of the week is Whiz Comics #22.  This comic featured an awesome cover of Captain Marvel and Billy Batson and contained the following stories:

"Captain Marvel and the Temple of Itzalotahui"

Golden Arrow 

Spy Smasher

Lance O'Casey

Dan Dare

Doctor Voodoo

Ibis the Invincible

Please note that only the Captain Marvel story had a title.  This comic was published on September 5, 1941* with a cover date of October 3.  

*Based on Mike's Amazing World of Comics

Monday, April 10, 2017

Captain Marvel's Ability to Walk Through Solid Objects

Whiz Comics #14 (published January 24, 1941) gives us a look at one of Captain Marvel's abilities - his ability to walk through solid objects!  No, I don't mean he can crash through a wall using his tremendous strength and power, although he can do that.  What I mean is he can walk through the solid object as if he were a ghost - or like smoke through a screen!

In the Whiz #14, Billy Batson has been captured by Sivana and placed in a rock-walled room with no doors or windows.  Billy transforms into Captain Marvel to bust his way out and then Sivana appears - passing straight through the walls like a ghost!  Marvel lunges for Sivana only to have him disappear again.  Captain Marvel calls upon his great wisdom to figure out what Sivana is doing.

In a matter of moments Captain Marvel has solved the knotty problem and comes walking through a solid rock wall much to the horror of Sivana!  Captain Marvel begins chasing Sivana with both of them running through the walls of the underground lair.

How did Sivana and Captain Marvel do this amazing feat?  At the end of the story Billy lets us in on how Captain Marvel figured it out!  You see, by calculating the orbits and timing of each electron and each atom in a solid wall, he could time his own atoms to pass between those of the wall like smoke through a screen!"  (Ok, folks, don't try that at home!)  What took Sivana much time and calculations to figure out, took Captain Marvel only moments to think through!  

Captain Marvel has great powers, but he also has some great abilities as well.  Just all the more reason why he is the World's Mightiest Mortal!!!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Introducing Uncle Marvel

We are introduced to Uncle Marvel in Wow Comics #18 (September 15, 1943) in the story, "Mary Marvel Meets Her Uncle Marvel!"  Uncle Marvel is Uncle Dudley, who claims to be Mary Batson's 'unknown uncle from California.'  We also learn from Wow Comics #35 that Uncle Dudley is the actual uncle of Freckles Marvel (Mary Dudley).  Is Uncle Dudley really Mary and Billy Batson's uncle?  Does he really have Shazam powers like Billy and Mary?  We'll find out as we go through the story!

Our story begins with Mary Batson feeling very sad and lonely, wishing she had someone she could pal around with.  She is also lamenting that she has lost her good deeds ledger which she uses to record her exploits as Mary Marvel.  To her surprise, in walks her 'old Uncle Dudley from California'!  Mary exclaims she doesn't remember having an uncle from California and is assured that everyone has an unknown uncle from California!  Though she is overjoyed to have a new relative, her doubts remain that Dudley may be an impostor so she puts him to the test by saying the magic word, "Shazam!"  To her surprise, Uncle Dudley has indeed changed into Uncle Marvel!

Mary Marvel and Uncle Marvel take to flight and soon happen upon a man being robbed at gunpoint.  The Marvel's quickly dispatch the ruffians, and the man offers Uncle Marvel a reward.  Uncle Marvel is happy to accept the reward but is stopped by Mary.  Mary tells Uncle Marvel that the Marvel's never accept rewards for their heroic fight against evil.  Uncle Marvel opines that the Marvel family has been wrong for not accepting rewards and tells Mary to meet him the next day at his office in the Greeley Building.

Mary goes to the 13th floor of the Greeley Building and is surprised to find a door advertising "Shazam, Inc." Inside, Uncle Dudley explains that Shazam, Incorporated will earn money to contribute to the war drive (remember, World War II was going on when this comic was published!).  Then the phone rings with Shazam, Incorporated's first customer requesting Marvel Family assistance.  Mr. Charles Beckwith pleads for all the Marvel's to come protect him from an act of terrible revenge promised by Beckwith's former butler!

Mary and Uncle Dudley say, "Shazam!" and transform into their Marvel selves.  Uncle Marvel tells Mary to fly on ahead and he will meet her at Beckwith's as his 'shazambago' is acting up!  (While other people suffer from lumbago, Uncle Marvel suffers from shazambago which is caused by "flying around on cold, damp nights!")

Mary and Uncle Marvel foil the butler's sinister plot.  Although the butler escaped, they receive a $5,000 reward for Shazam, Inc.  Mary soon discovers Uncle Marvel is a fraud when he says the word Shazam, Inc. but does not transform - no magic lightning strikes!  Just as she's about to confront him, Uncle Marvel bolts in front of an on-coming truck to save a little boy.  Knowing he's not a Marvel, Mary dashes into action and flies Uncle and the boy out of harm's way.  Mary thinks to herself, "He tried to rescue that child -- at the risk of his own life!  He may not be my uncle -- but he's a good man!  I'll pretend he's still my uncle!"

As they arrive back at the offices of Shazam, Incorporated and transform back into their non-Marvel selves, they are unaware that the escaped butler is waiting for them!  The butler ties up Mary and Uncle and gags them and lets them know he's going to kill them for ruining his plot against Beckwith.  Uncle Dudley swallows the handkerchief placed in his mouth and pulls the handkerchief out of Mary's mouth, allowing her to transform into Mary Marvel and finally put an end to the bad butler!

At the end of the story, Mary sums it all up in her good deeds ledger by writing, "That explains everything!  Uncle Dudley found the book (her good deeds ledger) -- learned my Shazam secret - and decided to become a member of the Marvel family - the naughty old fraud!  But I won't expose him -- the loveable old dear!  He's doing good deeds to, in his own way!  Maybe I'll see more of him!"  And that's how Uncle Dudley became Uncle Marvel and a member of the Marvel Family!

We learned that Uncle Dudley has no Shazam powers.  When he says "Shazam!" he simply does a quick change to become Uncle Marvel!  And as far as flying is concerned, Mary was just pulling him along as she flew - he has no flying powers!  (Uncle Marvel was once given Shazam powers for 24 hours - you can read about it here!)  

Flying with Uncle Marvel is such a drag!

Oh! My aching Shazambago!!!

Uncle Marvel didn't meet Billy Batson and Captain Marvel until Captain Marvel Adventures #43 (December 29, 1944).  The next member of the family that Uncle Marvel met was Captain Marvel, Jr in Master Comics #61 (April 25, 1945).

Uncle Dudley/Marvel would be a big part in many of the Marvel Family stories and adventures throughout the rest of the golden age.  As a matter of fact, it was Uncle Marvel who tricked Black Adam and brought about his defeat!!  Although he's not a super hero, Uncle Marvel is a heroic and fantastic addition to the Marvel Family!!