A study of the history of Captain Marvel (all of them)

by Zorikh Lequidre

Chapter 5: The Powers and Personality of Captain Marvel

In time, the powers, personality, and general tone of Captain Marvel stories would become established, but the early days showed a remarkable mix of continuity and contradiction, possibly as a result of the frenzied pace of comic production. At first, he could only leap great distances, not actually fly. This limitation actually made for some action and humor when the World's Mightiest Man runs after Sivana's motorcycle and crashes straight through a freight train car packed with live chickens (Whiz Comics #4). The very next issue, however, he is seen flying through the air, even waving at an airplane he passes in flight, singing "Yah, yah, you can't catch me!"

His great wisdom (inherited from Solomon, of course) was brought forth rather infrequently, but did allow for interesting and unique "bits," such as Captain Marvel fixing an airplane engine while in flight, figuring out how Dr. Sivana managed to walk through walls (calculating the orbits and timing of each electron and each atom in a solid wall, he could time his own atoms to pass between those of the wall like smoke through a screen, Whiz Comics #14, a trick he used again in a later story), and having knowledge of all languages, ancient and modern.

One trick, used occasionally in his early days but not seen much after, was hypnosis. He could use this power to convince people to do everything from curing someone of brainwashing to making dancers perform an "ancient Javanese temple dance" perfectly. For some reason, however, this power was not used much after the first two years.

Captain Marvel's strengths and weaknesses were somewhat inconsistent in his first couple of years. On some occasions he was susceptible to gas, on others, he was able to recover from poison gas that would have felled a normal man. Sometimes he would run into a robot or particularly strong human who could almost match him for strength, but later he would be able to lift heavy objects like they were feathers and tear unbreakable metals like they were melted butter. By the end of 1941, however, his powers and abilities were pretty much settled.

Some of the inconsistencies in Captain Marvel's powers and appearances can probably be attributed to the different artists that wound up drawing him. As we already have seen, Jack Kirby was the first new artist to draw the Captain after C.C. Beck. Pete Costanza, who had drawn some of the backup stories in Whiz Comics #2 (he was the only artist besides Beck to work on that issue), became Beck's assistant and stayed on drawing or assisting the art of Captain Marvel stories until Fawcet ceased publication in 1953.

When 64 Pages of New Captain Marvel Adventures #2 came out in the summer of 1941, and #3 in the fall of that year, they were filled with the art of George Tuska. The art was very inconsistent in these issues. Sometimes Tuska does his noble best to imitate Beck's visually simple style. Sometimes he lets himself go in detailed physical distortions that seem inspired by that period's Jack Kirby.. In one story the Captain is drawn with such an impossibly buff musculature, he looks like he should be in a bodybuilding competition. Tuska would go on to draw the infamous crime comic Crime Does Not Pay, newspaper strips such as Scorchy Smith and Buck Rogers, and various DC comics in the 1960's.

64 Pages of New Captain Marvel Adventures #2 also introduced the first new writer of Captain Marvel stories known to history after Joe Simon (there are several stories pre-dating this issue of which the writer is unknown). Rod Reed was a journalist who submitted freelance stories to Fawcett, some of which appeared in this issue. He became the editor of Fawcett's comics line in 1941 until 1943. He is said to have been one of the more humorous writers in the Fawcett stable. One unique footnote of that issue is a story (which may or may not have been written by Reed) about an invasion of Earth by "Spider Men." In this story is the first time you would ever hear a character say "All right, Mr. Spider Man, you're now dealing with Captain Marvel!" Thirty years later, those exact words could have been spoken by completely different characters.

Next: Going Hollywood

Go to the outline of Captain Marvel history
Chapter 1: The Captain and the Major
Chapter 2: The Big Blue Guy
Chapter 3: The Big Red Guy
Chapter 4: Early Captain Marvel
Chapter 5: Powers and Personality
Chapter 6: Going Hollywood
Chapter 7: Friends and foes: The Lietenant Marvels
Chapter 8: Friends and Foes: Captain Marvel Junior
Chapter 9: Friends and Foes: Mary Marvel
Chapter 10: Friends and Foes: Mr. Tawny
Chapter 11: Friends and Foes: Dr. Sivana
Chapter 12: Mr Mind
Chapter 13: Friends and Foes: Other Foes
Chapter 14: Enter the Binder
Chapter 15: Superman V. Captan Marvel
Chapter 16


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Go to the homepage of Captain Marvel Culture
Go to Zorikh's Creating Comics tutorial
Go to a list of Comic Book movies
Watch This Space Enterprises home page
Go to Zorikh's homepage