Making Magic

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DC Comics has taken to depicting Billy Batson as a delinquent Harry Potter, but as today’s tale proves the Golden Age Captain Marvel’s familiarity with magic began and ended with Zeus’ lightning bolt. After that, as writer Nate Cosby once stated, his arsenal generally consisted of punching bad guys real hard.

(And if that didn’t work, he could always punch them even harder …)

Other than that, the Captain generally approached supernatural menaces with the same determined, good-hearted attitude that made him one of the most popular characters of the 1940s and early ’50s. If a little strategy was required, well … let’s just say Billy Batson generally relied on his intelligence a bit more than the guy who supposedly possessed the wisdom of Solomon.

The 13 Days Of Halloween continue with “The Witch Of Haven Street.” It originally appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures #136 (Fawcett, September 1952). The writer was Otto Binder and the artist was C.C. Beck, two of the all-time greats among comic-book creators.

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Billy, Mr. Morris and friends in drag might have been the scariest part of the story. Good thing Tawky Tawny wasn’t asked to dress up…

Coming tomorrow: Face-Off: The Prequel!

The Marvel Age

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To celebrate Free Comic Book Day, here’s the complete Captain Marvel Adventures #78 (Fawcett, November 1947), advertisements and all.

This particular issue features two of my favorite Captain Marvel stories: the hero’s epic battle against Mr. Atom and an excellent human interest tale entitled “The Street Of Forgotten Men.”

According to the Grand Comics Database,  the issue was produced by the following creators: “Captain Marvel Meets Mr. Atom” was written by Bill Woolfolk and drawn by C.C. Beck and Pete Costanza; “Lucky Boy” was written and drawn by George Marko; “Climbs To New Heights” was drawn by Al Liederman; Captain Marvel Saves Sivana was written by Woolfolk and drawn by Beck and Costanza; “Stone Head” was written and drawn by Marko; “The World Stealers,” a Jon Jarl text adventure, was written by Otto Binder under the pseudonym Eando Binder and “The Street Of Forgotten Men” was written by Binder and Costanza.

Anything else that wasn’t ad-related was written and/or drawn by the ubiquitous “Anonymous.”

The issue was scanned, of course, by the good people at the Digital Comic Museum.

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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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.

Georgia On My Mind

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A hero or heroine is only as good as his or her villains, so Otto Binder gave Mary her very own Sivana in the first issue of the Shazam Girl’s own title.

Without further ado, Mary Marvel Week continues with the self-explanatory “Mary Marvel Meets Sivana’s Daughter – Georgia” from Mary Marvel #1 (Fawcett Publications, December 1945).

(*Whew. That’s a lot of “Mary Marvel” in one sentence.)

The story, as usual, is by Otto Binder. The art is uncredited, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was provided by the studio run by Otto’s older brother, Jack.

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New Girl

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“And a Happy New Year to you … in jail!”

Mary Marvel’s debut as Wow Comics’ headlining feature was certainly stacked in the Shazam Girl’s favor as Otto Binder’s story not only featured The Big Red Cheese, but also featured appearances from Mr. Scarlet and Pinky and doubled as a heartwarming Christmas story.

Under such circumstances, Mary could hardly fail. She remained Wow Comics lead character for the next five years and enjoyed a three-year run in her own magazine. Although her star fell a bit further than the other Marvels during the post-war super-hero slump, Mary continued appear in Fawcett’s successful Marvel Family comic until the publisher closed down its comic-book operation in 1953.

Mary Marvel Week continues with “The Night Before Xmas.” The story originally appeared in Wow Comics #9 (Fawcett Publications, January 1943) and was written by Binder and drawn by Marc Swayze.

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Mary Mary

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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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Lock And Key

On the last day of 2012, I thought it would be appropriate to take a glimpse into the world of tomorrow with the man who practically defines the word: Tommy Tomorrow!

The “Time Vault World” originally appeared in Action Comics #195 (DC Comics, August 1954). The story and art are by two of my favorite creators, Otto Binder and Jim Mooney respectively.

Happy New Year!

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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