Thursday, November 27, 2014


Which is it, "hold still" or "split?" Make up your mind, man ...
Why, it’s Captain Marvel – and we all love Captain Marvel, don’t we? Sure we do – WHIZ radio! SHAZAM! Tawky Tawny! The Big Red Cheese! Loads of abject racism!

Of course, not even the original Captain Marvel is Captain Marvel any more, and this particular Captain Marvel – despite his red suit and magic word – is a character cut from whole different cloth. In fact, he’s cut from a whole bunch of different cloths, he’s the android Captain Marvel, and he makes like a banana!

Created by Carl Burgos (creator of the original Human Torch) and published by M.F.Enterprises for a trio of issues and a guest shot in a pair of all-villains book all put out in 1966, this Cap only lightly resembles the hero from who he’s borrowed his superheroic sobriquet. Rather than an orphaned street urchin whose magic fairy godfather bestows on him the powers of the gods, Cap-Two was an amnesiac Furby with cheap joints.

"Why did I say any of this? Who am I talking to?"
Cap debuts in a darkened house, suffering complete memory loss and setting quite a tone for his debut. As he paces the structure, bits and pieces of his memory return – an alien world! Brilliant scientists! A war against evil! His teeth falling out! Taking a test he didn’t prepare for and also he’s in his underwear! Some of those might just be anxiety dreams, actually.

As an aside, this may be Cap’s first blackout, but it’s not his last. The character has a particular predilection for losing consciousness; he might actually experience more blackouts than your average adult male Kennedy. You have to wonder how often  these happen off-panel, and how long it’ll be before it winds up in a Memento situation.

Blackouts aside, Cap’s mental meanderings take us to the alien world of his origin, where it’s revealed that he is – despite appearances – not a human but actually a “Human Robot.” This is, I think, the same thing basically as a “Meatless Burger” or non-alcoholic beer.

Built “for the good of man,” Cap proves his undeniable worth by immediately falling to bits.  Instructed by one of his creators to repeat after him, Marvel unquestionably obeys, uttering the word “SPLIT.” For his willingness to participate, he’s rewarded by having his arms and legs fall off.

Obediently uttering the followup incantation, “XAM,” Marvel finds himself spontaneously reattached to his disparate parts. "Hello again, toes!"

As a superhero, Marvel possesses a phenomenal intellect and possibly some telepathic powers, not to mention the ability of flight, super-strength, eyeballs that shoot both laser beams AND electric rays,  and general overall toughness, but this spontaneous on-command self-quartering is his top-of-the-list,  go-to ability.

"What's this? I tried to grab this guy's
dick, but he split into pieces!"
Primarily, according to his scientist overlords, the reason he can split is to "make repairs to your body..." (The hell?) and to - and this is a favorite of mine - "to prevent an attack from more than one person." That seems overly optimistic to me. "Blast, there's more than one person, but luckily fewer than four people, attacking me right now. Haha, the joke will be on them. HERE COME MY LIMBS!" Why not just use your laser-beam eyeballs?

"HERE COME MY LIMBS" would've been my first choice for Captain Marvel's battle cry, by the way.

Actually, Cap could dissect himself into a startling array, basically at every joint and then some. Every finger could split independently at the joint, the arm at the elbow, wrist and shoulder, his pelvis could detach, his legs split at the hip, knee and ankle .... heck, I suppose his toes could probably separate independently, too. Oh, and his head could fly around independently too, just like Sir William Gull at the end of From Hell. XAM!

Cap's got that "magic word" weakness of having a common term as his mantra. If I knew the guy, I would've abused it.

"Well, time for dessert Captain. Which would you prefer, salted liver with anchovy gravy or a banana split?"
"Um, the one that isn't the liver."
"You want the liver? No problem! Eat it all up!"
"No, I want the other one. The thing with the bananas"
"Say it Cap."
"Alright. I want ... the ... banana SPLIT (THUD)."

Shortly after building the Fallapart Boy Robot, the scientists of Cap's native world blow up, alongside everyone else. Non-chalantly rocketing to Earth (Says he, witnessing his planet's destruction "Now I'll have to find a new home." No kidding) Marvel falls into one of those aforementioned blackouts and is taken under the wing of an Earth boy.

"...and now I'm clearly in Hell."
M.F.Enterprises were surely aware of Cap's shared namesake, evidenced if only by the presence of Marvel's young ward. Introduced in the first story only as "Billy...from the USA,” he's later given the full name of Billy Baxton, a short hop-skip-and-jump from the original Marvel's identity of Billy Batson.

Marvel’s powers stem from a magic element he keeps in a disco medallion, an element known only as “X.” To be clear, it is not ChemicalX, Element X, Alloy X or even Cherry-flavored X-Pops, it is merely “X”.  You can clearly identify it because the medallion has a large, sans-serif “M” on it.

If this Captain Marvel is famous for anything more than juggling his body parts, then he’s famous for name theft – besides swiping his own nom de spandex from Fawcett’s famous flagship character, his foes include The Ray (aka The Bat), Plastic Man, Dr.Fate and a guy who resembles Crimebuster baddie Iron-Jaw. And then there’s a shrinking character named TinyMan and I just cannot believe MF didn’t swipe Doll Man’s then-unused alias.

On a final note, the first issue cover is one of the most catastrophic cover scenes in the history of the medium. Not only is young Billy tied to a dangerous machine, but that machine is clearly reading that it is ready to blow even as an electrical monster of some sort is rising from it and reaching towards Billy with scary lightning mitts, all the while he's surrounded by menacing alien robots with terrible facial hair while Captain Marvel bursts into the ship only seconds away from a raging wall of water under the baleful gaze of ANOTHER type of alien, armed, watching the events below unfold through the UFO's canopy while even MORE UFO's fly in the skies in the background. What, didn’t they have time to light Billy on FIRE, too?


Tom said...

I love the bemused expression on the face of Mustache Alien. The dude behind him seems pretty pissed off, what with the tidal wave and the superhero and the electricity beast, but Mustache Alien just looks like he's thinking "Well, ain't that some crazy shit."

BillyWitchDoctor said...

Over the course of a single issue, shrink-a-dink Tinyman went from Cap's most ineffectual nemesis to Cap's most ineffectual sidekick, inspired by Cap's heroism into giving up the supervillain routine and becoming an assistant district attorney, because you can do that.

He was promptly assaulted and held hostage by former goofy-looking accomplice The Ray nee The Bat, and spent a lot of time worrying about how he could prove that he was both innocent and not-ineffectual.

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