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.