There’s Something About Mary

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The late, great E. Nelson Bridwell once estimated that Otto Binder wrote “986 stories … out of 1,743, over half the entire Marvel Family saga” over a 12-year period.

In that time, Binder not only co-created Mary Marvel but also added such characters to the mythos as Uncle Marvel, Mr. Mind, Black Adam, Tawky Tawny and the evil Sivana siblings, Georgia and Thaddeus Jr.

(And that doesn’t even factor in the endless classics Binder wrote for Quality, MLJ, Timely and – eventually – DC Comics and Superman.)

Our last entry in Mary Marvel Week features Uncle Dudley, but I picked this particular story because it highlights how Mary Batson is heroic even without the Shazam powers. After all, it’s easy to be brave when a mystically powered, self-actualized alter ego can handle the heavy lifting.

Due to Uncle Marvel’s lovable incompetence, Mary Batson finds herself unable to access Mary Marvel’s power for 24 hours. Thrown into danger, she copes a lot better than you’d expect from a teen-age girl outnumbered by thugs.

It may be a simple story, as unrealistic as any other Golden Age tale, but Otto and his brother Jack definitely tap into a sentiment that runs through most of my favorite super-hero comics: It’s the person, not the power, that makes a super-hero.

Mary Batson, with or without the Shazam powers, is definitely a super-hero.

“The Big Test” originally appeared in Mary Marvel #8 (Fawcett, November 1946). The story and art are by Otto and Jack Binder, respectively.

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Super Girlfriends

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If there was anything rarer than super-hero team-ups in Golden Age comic-books, it was probably super-heroine team-ups in Golden Age comic-books.

Mary Marvel broke that particular glass ceiling in the eighth issue of her own magazine, though, when she met up with Bulletgirl and fought two of the Flying Detective’s deadliest enemies: Doctor Riddle and The Weeper.

(Or his son, anyway.)

Although Mary and Bulletgirl still got knocked out and tied up a couple of times, it’s still refreshing to see female characters from the 1940s take down super-villains without any male assistance.

Mary Marvel Week continues with “Riddles Of Death.” The story, which originally appeared in Mary Marvel #8 (Fawcett, December 1946), was written by Otto Binder and drawn by Jack Binder.

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Mary Malevolent

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Mary Marvel is such the quintessential good girl that certain writers and artists over the years have been tempted to concoct a heel turn for the character. Although such impulses usually result in less than memorable stories (to be charitable), the concept of a “Good Supergirl Gone Bad” did make for a few interesting twists and turns during Mary’s Golden Age heyday.

(It probably helped that the Mary Marvel of the 1940s was one of Fawcett’s top characters, rather than an “underused property” needing some sort of gimmick to gain the attention of an increasingly jaded modern comic audience.)

The twist in this particular story is that Mary Batson is corrupted and subsequently wages war against her virtuous alter ego, Mary Marvel. And yes, in this particular story the two Marys are depicted as separate individuals. It’s even spelled out on the original comic book cover …

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“The Milk Of Inhuman Kindness” originally ran in Wow Comics #17 (Fawcett, Sept. 1943). No writer’s credit this time, but the artistic honors go to long-time Mary Marvel contributor Jack Binder.

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The Wizard Of Wha?

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Oops! It seems that time got away from yours truly on Thursday!! That’s what I get for wasting an hour on Katie Couric’s softball interview of Manti T’eo.

Well … it just means that Mary Marvel Week will be extended by one day. I’m sure the Shazam Girl wouldn’t want the Time Bulleteers to feel cheated.

Today’s story takes Mary Batson’s decided resemblance to Judy Garland’s Dorothy Gale a step further by introducing our heroine to three analogues of Oz’s most famous residents: a Scarecrow, a Tin Man and … ummm … a giant talking sausage.

(I guess a talking lion was a bit too similar to Captain Marvel’s feline friend, Mr. Tawky Tawny.)

From Wow Comics #48 (Fawcett, October 1946), here’s “The Modern Wizard Of Oz.” The story was written by Otto Binder and drawn by his older brother, Jack.

Sinbad The Swindler

Did you ever hear about the time Mary Marvel met a grizzled sailor/con artist who greatly resembled E.C. Segar’s immortal Poopdeck Pappy? Coincidence, or a rare instance of a Golden Age stealth cross-over??

You, the reader, can decide!

“Mary Marvel Meets Sinbad The Sailor” originally appeared in Wow Comics #47 (Fawcett Publications, Sept. 1946). The story and art are by Bill Woolfolk and Jack Binder respectively.

Moving Pictures

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From the scandalous adventures of the Phantom Lady we turn to perhaps the most wholesome super-heroine in comics: Mary Marvel!

As longtime visitors of this blog have probably deduced, I’m a pretty big fan of the Marvel Family. Mary, however, has always been a personal favorite. I guess the concept of a super-powered Dorothy Gale is just too awesome for words, IMHO.

(Sadly, DC editorial in recent years has thought differently …)

From Mary’s Golden Age heyday, here’s “The Pictures That Came To Life”

The story, which originally appeared in Wow Comics #38 (Fawcett Comics, September-October 1945), was written by Otto Binder and drawn by Jack Binder.

Jack Binder was also responsible for the striking cover image shown above.

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Hmmm … I guess Mary’s use of “commando tactics” against that magic replica of Billy Batson proves that wholesomeness doesn’t necessarily make one a wimp!