Monday, February 28, 2011

Captain Marvel in Whiz Comics #2 (February, 1940)


Proudly Presents

On a rainy night in the city, a boy in a red shirt was selling newspapers outside a subway station. An ominous man in a green trenchcoat and tall hat approached, his face completely obscured. "Why aren't you in bed, son?" The boy answered, "I have no home, sir. I sleep in the subway station. It's warm there." The man, with only the whites of his eyes showing, ordered, "Follow me!"

The pair walked down stairs to a subway platform. "Suddenly a strange subway car, with headlights gleaming like a dragon's eyes, roars into the station and stops. No one is driving it!" The man guided the boy onto the empty train. "Have no fear. Everything has been arranged." Once aboard, the train carries the pair at tremendous speed to the end of the line. In the darkness ahead of the train, jade impressions resembling creatures from nightmare appeared to lurk. "The boy and his phantom companion step out onto a platform resembling the mouth of a weird, subterranean cavern. Mustering his courage the boy enters an ancient hall, carved out of solid rock, grotesquely lighted by flaring torches." Behind each flame was a statue representing one of the "Seven Deadly Enemies of Man," Pride, Envy, Greed, Hatred, Selfishness, Laziness, and Injustice. "An old man, sitting on a marble throne at the far end of the cavern, speaks as they approach."

The old man welcomed Billy Batson, and when the boy asked how he knew his name, "I know everything. I am --- SHAZAM!" With that, lightning struck out from a huge black cloud hanging over Shazam's head. "Simultaneously a curious inscription, explaining Shazam's name, appears magically on the wall."


"For 3,000 years I have used the wisdom, strength, stamina, power, courage and speed the gods have given me to battle the forces of evil which every day threaten to extinguish man from the face of the earth... During that time I have seen everything-- known everything- that happened throughout the world, from the highest to the lowest. The Historama!"

Shazam clapped, and like a movie projecting, "a super-television screen capable of depicting past, present and future events" showed Billy scenes from his life from the moment he was born. "On this screen I saw your wicked uncle drive you from his house to make your own way in the world after your parents died, leaving you in his care. I know that he got rid of you in order to get possession of the money and bonds your father willed to you."

Shazam pointed up above his head, where a multi-ton granite block was hanging by a frayed string. "All my life I have fought injustice and cruelty. But I am old now- my time is almost up. You shall be my successor. Merely by speaking my name you can become the strongest and mightiest man in the world-- CAPTAIN MARVEL! Speak my name!"

Billy shouted "SHAZAM!" Lightning cracked, and the magic word revealed a super-hero in the boy's place. "Captain Marvel, I salute you. Henceforth, it shall be your sacred duty to defend the poor and helpless, right wrongs and crush evil everywhere."
"Yes, sire."
"To become Billy Batson again, also speak my name. And now I must go, Captain Marvel. Speak my name!"
"Shazam" was called out, a blinding flash of lightning brought down, and the granite block crushed Shazam.

"A moment later Billy finds himself standing at his old post. Shazam, Captain Marvel and the weird underground cavern have vanished." Billy thought "it all seems like a dream." The next morning, Billy's attention turned toward the latest headline, "Maniac Scientist Threatens U.S. Radio System; Demands $50,000,000." A couple of well-dressed but thuggish men bought a paper from Billy, with one commenting that the other wanted to "read about the boss, eh?" Billy wondered if these men referred to the "phantom scientist" police had been searching in vain for. Billy trailed the pair to a the swanky Skytower Apartments, where a doorman ran Batson off.

Billy rushed to the offices of the president of the Amalgamated Broadcasting Company, Sterling Morris, to deliver the information he had gathered. A snobby suit blew the kid off. "You can't see him. Get out or I'll throw you out!" Billy rushed past the male receptionist, trailing papers in his wake, and made it into Morris' office. The suit, Hammond, collared the boy, but Morris decided to hear him out. Billy spilled on the Phantom Scientist, but Morris was incredulous. "The Skytower Apartments? Nonsense, boy. Why don't you tell me he lives at city hall? Or in the capitol at Washington? This is a serious matter, boy. I'm in no mood for joking about it. You'd better go before I lose my temper." Billy agreed to leave, but also got Morris to promise him a radio announcer job should he actually find the Phantom's library.

Billy took an elevator up to the observation tower of an office building adjacent to the Skytower Apartments, then decided, "This is a job for Captain Marvel! SHAZAM!" Having spoken the magic word, Billy miraculously became Captain Marvel, and leapt the "yawning chasm" between buildings. Peering through the penthouse window, Captain Marvel was pleased his luck led to the Phantom's laboratory. One of the men Billy had followed contacted "Master Sivana" through a television screen. "The fools! They wouldn't pay what I demanded! At midnight we will drive every radio station from the air- FOREVER!" Activation of the "fiendish radio-silencer" which would blackout every radio signal from the airlanes, was just seconds away!

Captain Marvel burst through the window, then tossed a thug into Sivana's "diabolical machine," smashing it to smithereens. The other goon made a break for the elevator, but Captain Marvel ripped of its door, pulled the elevator car up by its cables, and hauled the lackey back up to the penthouse for a punch to the back of the head. The hero tied up the pair, and when asked who he was, "-I am Captain Marvel, 'gentlemen'!" The hero then turned to the two-way television to tell Sivana the threat of his device had been ended. "But not the end of me! We will meet again- Captain Marvel!" The hero smashed the TV screen. "Yes, Sivana, we will meet again. And when we do you will be behind prison walls--- OR DEAD!"

Figuring he'd done all he could about Sivana for that night, Captain Marvel spoke a magic word, and "Resuming his normal shape Billy telephones the radio company president. A half hour later," Morris had arrived, and been told Billy had smashed the radio-silencer by himself. Billy made Morris promise to keep that part a secret, which was kind of a lie anyway, since all mention of Captain Marvel was omitted. "I've still got to capture Sivana and it will be easier if nobody knows who I am. Morris agreed, kept his word about giving Batson a radio reporter job, and called in the police. Billy was ecstatic about his and... somebody else's good fortune. "-Er- nobody sir. Just me and the microphone. That's all, sir- just me and 'Mike'!"

The untitled first story in Whiz Comics #2, sometimes referred to as "Introducing Captain Marvel," was actually the broadly circulated "reprint" of material from Fawcett's "Flash Comics" and "Thrill Comics" ashcans starring Captain Thunder. Since those titles ended up being taken, the series took its final name from another of their publications, Captain Billy's Whiz-Bang, a WWII-era precursor to the "lad mag." Among others, Ibis the Invincible, Golden Arrow, and Spy Smasher all debuted in the same issue, which either speaks to their quality or the dedication of Fawcett to using consistent characters. So many heroes were coming and going by 1940, picking four winners in one shot was impressive. This script was by Bill Parker, and art by C.C. Beck with Pete Costanza.

Is it just me, or did Hammond look an awful lot like Clark Kent. When did things begin to look like a job for Superman, exactly? The reporter would also do a lot of leaping and generally Man of Steelish stuff for the next few months, in these times before flight and the humor of Otto Binder.

Also Recommended:

Introducing Wonder Woman (December-January, 1941)

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