Growing up in Astoria, Queens in New York City in the 1970s; I looked up to my father as most all young boys are want to do.
He drew me into some of his favorite lifelong passions, such as New York Yankee baseball, Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney movies. There was also a colorful, and at that time unknown to us, super hero character that while similar to Superman in strength and powers, was a completely different good guy as far as origin and villains.
Captain Marvel was my dad’s favorite superhero.
My twin brother and I were somewhat blindsided when after mom scolded us for spending our daily dollar for the weeks church donation on comic books dad sidled up to us and told us that he had a surprise to show us.
We were no more than ten years old at the time and had been saving our dollar church donation allowance secretly each week to use at the nearby candy/comic book store.
What joy we felt as we would gaze upon the rows of freshly minted comic books in the candy/comic book store’s custom made wooden display. There was even a wonderful smell that the new comic books would give off. That gave you a clue as to how many of them were available for that particular day.
Marvel Comics was just starting to gain popularity with kids my age back then; and was nowheres near the powerhouse global brand that it is today.
Well, I guess my dad seeing our newly founded level of interest in comic books decided that this was the time to show us his collection. Unbeknownst to us he had kept hidden in one of the apartment’s closets.
And boy! what a collection it was.
We were amazed as he pulled out large comic books, much bigger than the ones we were used to buying, of the original Superman, Batman and Hawkman!
He even had an Origins comic book that featured older comic book heroes like the Flash!, and some of whom we had never even heard of, like the Phantom and Spy Smasher.
Last but not least, he showed us his beloved Captain Marvel comic books.
This he proclaimed proudly was his favorite superhero, and instantly my twin brother Mark and I, slotted Captain Marvel alongside Thor as our favorite’s too.
Captain Marvel to our surprise was just as powerful as Superman. One of the strongest super heroes of them all.
Captain Marvel was originally published by Fawcett Comics and later by DC Comics. He was the alter-ego of Billy Batson, a young radio news reporter who was chosen because of his good character by the wizard Shazam.
Whenever Billy says the wizards name, he is struck by a magic lightning bolt that transforms him into an adult superhero empowered with the abilities of six archetypal, historical figures.
The first S is for the wisdom of Solomon which gave young Billy Batson exceptional photographic recall and mental acuity allowing him to read and decipher hieroglyphics, recall everything he has ever learned and solve long mathematical equations.
The H is for the strength of Hercules which grant Captain Marvel immense superhuman strength, easily able to bend steel, punch through walls, and lift massive objects ( including whole continents).
The A is for the stamina of Atlas enabling Captain Marvel to withstand and survive most types of extreme physical assaults and heal from them. He does not need to eat, sleep, or breathe and can survive unaided in space when in Captain Marvel form.
The Z is for the power of Zeus. Zeus’ power, besides fueling the magic thunderbolt that transforms Captain Marvel, also enhances Marvel’s other physical and mental abilities and grants him resistance against all magic spells and attacks. Captain Marvel can use the lightning bolt as a weapon by allowing it to strike an opponent or target. The magic lightning has several uses, such as creating apparatus, restoring damage done to Captain Marvel, and acting as fuel for magic spells. If Billy is poisoned for example, transforming into Captain Marvel will enable him to survive its effects.
The A is for the courage of Achilles giving Captain Marvel bravery and fighting skills. a near invulnerability which also aids Captain Marvel’s mental fortitude against most mental attacks.
The M is for the speed of Mercury. Captain Marvel can move at super human speeds and fly faster than the speed of light.
Repeating the word “Shazam!” transforms Captain Marvel back into Billy Batson.
Captain Marvel was the most popular superhero of the 1940s, as his Captain Marvel Adventures comic book series sold more copies than Superman and the other competing books of the times.
Captain Marvel was also the first comic book superhero to be adapted to film, in a 1941 Republic Pictures serial titled Adventures of Captain Marvel.
Inspirations for Captain Marvel came from several sources.
His visual appearance was modeled after that of Fred McMurray, a popular American actor of that period, though comparisons to Cary Grant and Jack Oakie were made as well.
In addition, Fawcett Comics adapted several of the elements that had made Superman, the first popular comic book superhero, popular ( super strength and speed, science fiction stories, a mild mannered altar-ego) and incorporated them into Captain Marvel.
Fawcett’s circulation director Roscoe Kent Fawcett recalled telling the staff, “give me a Superman, only have his other identity be a 10- or 12- year old boy rather than a man.”
Through his adventures, Captain Marvel soon gained a host of memorable enemies.
His most frequent was Dr. Sivana, a mad scientist who was determined to rule the world, yet was thwarted by Captain Marvel at every turn.
Marvel’s other villains included Adolf Hitler’s champion Captain Nazi, an older Egyptian renegade Marvel called Black Adam, an evil magic-powered brute named Ibac, who gained powers from historic villains, and an artificially intelligent nuclear powered robot called Mister Atom.
The most notorious Captain Marvel villains, however, were the nefarious Mister Mind and his Monster Society of Evil, which recruited several of Marvel’s previous adversaries.
The “Monster Society of Evil” story arc ran as a twenty-five chapter serial in Captain Marvel Adventures #22-46. (March 1943-May 1945) with Mister Mind eventually revealed to be a highly intelligent yet tiny worm from another planet.
The Monster Society was the first criminal group in comics with members from past stories, including Sivana, Ibac, and Captain Nazi, along with new foes, like Herkimer the crocodile man and a multi-headed Hydra.
Even Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo were members, along with other Nazis. The Society tried many plans, firstly trying to use Captain Nazi to steal magic fortune telling pearls, using a film to intimidate the world, and even trying to use a giant cannon to blow holes in countries.
My father has since passed away, but the memories of Captain Marvel’s Adventures, remain indelibly etched in my mind.
There are certain things that cause me to remember Captain Marvel, and his nemesises. One of my favorites storylines to read about was Captain Marvel trying to subdue the telepathically diabolical Mister Mind.
I must say that as I look at the Republican Party today and their Rasputin like control over many evangelicals and other far right wing elements of their party, they bring back memories of Mr. Mind.
The Republican Party, in perfect Mr. Mind fashion, has sent out its greedy Free Market Frankenstein economic vision brain waves, and seen them take hold of many ordinary Americans. Turning them against programs to assist the poor, and the declining middle class, workers and unemployed millions. Influencing these “goodly gullibles” to hold tight to their bosoms with a religious fervor this economic vision that embraces the teachings of its philosopher Ayn Rand. Who did not believe in God and who preached the philosophy of self-interest and the complete disavowal and disinterest of helping or assisting anyone for whatever reasons.
The same Ayn Rand who stated that she looked up to a serial killer, a sociopath named William Edward Hickman, who murdered an innocent girl during a kidnapping and cut her body into pieces.
What exactly did Ayn Rand find so admirable in this despicable man?
Her reasoning for admiring Hickman is telling and is at the root of Free Market Frankenstein economic theory. This portends exactly what we see going on today which is unfettered greed and non-concern for struggling Americans. The economic policies spawned by Mrs. Mind (Ayn Rand) are admired by many of the well to do and corporations. They believe wholeheartedly in this cruel and profit loving ideology.
“Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should,” said Ayn Rand talking about her praise of the serial killer Hickman.
Ayn Rand gushed that Hickman. “had no regards whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own.”
“He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman.”
“He can never realize and feel other people.”
Wow! Unbelievable that anyone can admire such callous attributes; but even more amazing when you realize that this is the woman who Paul Ryan and countless other Republicans and Tea Party members positively brag about as the architect of their Free Market Frankenstein capitalism on steroids economic vision.
Dr. Sivana or Mister Mind could not have diabolically said it better.
With Republicans exhalting economic policies straight from the mind of the villainous Ayn Rand and implementing them with abject callousness in deference to the plight of millions of suffering Americans, and a wanton disregard of “others” so highly praised as an attribute by Rand, it is not at all surprising that one longs for the presence of a Captain Marvel.
If only all of us so negatively affected by the cold-hearted, profit driven machinations of the Free Market Frankenstein Monster economy could each summon his own Captain Marvel to overturn these dastardly policies and return our economy back to one that helps its people thrive, and not just survive, and put America on a more equitable path to prosperity.
I am sure we would.
Indeed, you would find lightning bolts exploding throughout all the lands of the countryside, cities and towns, with the unity of millions of unemployed American workers, the poor, disabled and mentally ill, crying out in one voice of hope and unity to reverse these selfish economic policies and restore the possibilities of the American Dream to hard working American families throughout the nation.
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