For The Birds

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Mac Raboy’s tenure on Captain Marvel Jr. produced some of the most beautifully illustrated stories of the Golden Age. His style, which was much more realistic than C.C. Beck’s take on Captain Marvel, were matched up with tales that were a shade or two darker than the Big Red Cheese’s kid-friendlier adventures.

While Dr. Vultur, for instance, was a garden variety evil Nazi genius, Junior’s methods of foiling the villain’s nefarious plans were as cold-blooded as any modern vigilante – even if they were masked with a smile.

From Captain Marvel Jr. #18 (Fawcett, April 1944), here’s “The Birds Of Doom.” The art is by Raboy.

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Mary Mary

Captain Marvel Adventures #18 - Page 1

For the next seven days, I’ve decided to highlight the Golden Age adventures of one of my favorite comic-book heroines: Mary Marvel!

Created by Otto Binder and Marc Swayze, Mary’s adventures were generally fantasy-oriented affairs geared toward young girls – an audience that is apparently invisible to Marvel and DC these days.

The good-hearted Mary Batson, whose appearance was obviously modeled after Judy Garland, fulfilled just about every function of a fictional role model for children and – unlike her Silver-Age descendants – was unafraid to throw a hay-maker or two in the pursuit of justice.

She was as clever and self-reliant as any Golden Age character, even if Miss Batson did have an unfortunate tendency to find herself bound and gagged.

(To be fair, though, Billy Batson and Freddy Freeman often found themselves in similar situations. It’s one of the hazards of being a Marvel, I suppose.)

Like her Marvel Family compatriots, Mary disappeared from the newsstands for several decades after Fawcett finally acceded to DC’s demands in the infamous “Superman vs. Captain Marvel” lawsuit.

The “Marvel” spirit lived on, however, in the form of Supergirl – a move Superman Tyrant-In-Chief Mort Weisinger commissioned to expand the Man Of Steel’s market to the young girls once enamored of Mary Marvel. In a bit of irony, the writer assigned to bring Kara Zor-El to life was none other than Otto Binder.

Of course, DC would later bring the Marvel Family back into print but we all know what eventually came from that attempt.

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From Captain Marvel Adventures #18 (Fawcett, December 1942), here’s “Captain Marvel Introduces Mary Marvel.” The story is by Binder and art by Swayze, with Captain Marvel Jr. figures illustrated by Mac Raboy.

The original cover, shown at the top of this post, was painted by C.C. Beck.

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Insects, Nazis and Sivana! Oh My!!

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John Byrne once produced a comic where Batman and Captain America teamed up to fight some insane scheme or other concocted by The Joker and Red Skull. At one point, it looked bad for the heroes until the Clown Prince of Crime discovered the Skull’s true motivations …

See, Nazis are such scumbags that even a homicidal maniac like The Joker can’t stand the rotters.

Thaddeus Bodog Sivana has a similar epiphany in the following Captain Marvel Jr. adventure, but in keeping with the mad scientist’s evil nature his main gripe with the Germans is that they’re interfering with his own plans to conquer America.

Throw in an army of monstrous insects and you have another Otto Binder classic!

“Captain Marvel Jr. Battles The Insect Giants” originally appeared in Captain Marvel Junior #12 (Fawcett, October 1943). Although Binder is credited with the story, I couldn’t find any information about the artist.

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Mummy Dearest

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Captain Marvel, Junior and Mary face their greatest challenge – well, next to DC’s legal team – as The Time Bullet continues its pulse-pounding countdown to Oct. 31!

From The Marvel Family #79 (Fawcett Publications, January 1953), it’s “The Dynasty Of Horror!” The story was written by Otto Binder and drawn by C.C. Beck (pencils) and Pete Costanza (inks).

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Enemy Mine

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Fawcett’s Captain Nazi was as bloodthirsty a villain as could be found in the Golden Age.

Sent by Hitler himself in Master Comics #21 (story by Bill Woolfolk, art by Mac Raboy) to “humble America,” the not-so-good Captain sought to undermine democracy by the most direct method possible: killing as many people as he possibly could with his bare hands.

From Master Comics #11 Art by Raboy

Unsurprisingly, Nazi’s rampage attracted the attention of such heroes as Captain Marvel and Bulletman. After a particularly brutal battle against The World’s Mightiest Mortal in Whiz Comics #25 (story by France Herron, art by C.C. Beck & Raboy), the villain found himself helpless in the middle of the ocean.

An elderly man and his grandson tried to lend a hand, but …

From Whiz Comics #25, Art by Raboy & Beck

Captain Marvel saved the boy’s life but was shocked to learn the young victim’s back had been broken. Billy Batson, the Big Red Cheese’s alter ego (but you already knew that, right?), subsequently decided to take matters into his own hands and brought the crippled boy to the wizard Shazam.

The result? A new champion of justice is born: Captain Marvel Jr.

From Whiz #25 Art by Beck & RaboyFrom Whiz #25 Art by Beck & Raboy

From Whiz #25 Art by Beck & RaboyFrom Whiz #25, Art by Beck & Raboy

Junior’s subsequent confrontations with Captain Nazi were understandably a tad more intense than a stereotypical Marvel Family adventure. Those Golden Age tales weren’t all talking tigers and evil worms, you know …

The following story concerns Captain Nazi’s attempt to fatally poison American soldiers, a macabre plan that Freddy Freeman vows to stop. “Captain Marvel Jr. Saves The Doomed Army” originally appeared in Master Comics #30, Fawcett (September, 1942).

The writer is not credited but the story’s striking artwork is rendered by the great Mac Raboy.

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Giant Steps

The comics blogosphere is rife with tributes – some ironic, some genuine – to the Silver Age of comics and its creators. Yet for all the talk of Bob Haney and the Composite Superman, I rarely see all that much screen space dedicated to Kurt Schaffenberger.

He’s primarily remembered today for his work on Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane and other “Super-Family” titles, but Schaffenberger’s work literally spanned decades. Before embarking upon a 30-year (!) stint at DC in 1957, he spent the ’40s and most of the ’50s working for such publishers as Prize, Street & Smith, Better/Nedor/Pines, American Comics Group, Marvel and EC.

Schaffenberger’s most notable effort before Superman, however, was illustrating the adventures of the Man Of Steel’s greatest competitor: Fawcett’s Captain Marvel. His work, which effortlessly blurred the boundaries between “cartoony” and “realistic” art, proved to be a perfect fit for the Marvel Family’s exploits.

Schaffenberger produced great quantities of work at a high level of quality throughout his tenures at Fawcett, ACG, DC  et. al. until his retirement around 1980. (Fittingly, his exit coincided with DC’s abandonment of it’s Silver Age continuity and the introduction of John Byrne’s Superman.)

From Master Comics #93 (Fawcett, 1948), here’s a Schaffenberger tale featuring the World’s Mightiest Boy facing off against “The Growing Giant.”