ABC wasn’t the only network to bring a campy, action-adventure-comedy superhero series to the airwaves in the mid-1960s – although they obviously brought the most high-profile example to air with BATMAN. NBC and CBS also tried their hands with competing series. The latter network brought the almost criminally unfunny Mister Terrific to airwaves, a plodding mess which made a waste of Dick Gautier and all it had going for it - almost exclusively- was the voice of Paul Frees in the rhyming introduction.
By contrast, NBC had Captain Nice, a half-hour sitcom format show borrowing heavily from Get Smart – which made sense because it shared a similar pedigree, with Buck Henry at the helm. The show starred William Daniels as a bright police chemist and unremitting mama’s boy named Carter Nash who invented a super-serum which gave him tremendous super-powers. Decked out in a costume sewn up by his mother, he takes to the skies of crime-ridden Big Town as the surprisingly competent hero of the show.
|Dripping with promise, the industry ad for
the show was a Jack Kirby illustration which ...
well, it doesn't really capture the show, I guess.
Of course, the show starred William Daniels, whom you’ll know as (depending on what decade you were born in) Dr.Craig on St.Elsewhere, the voice of KITT, or Mister Feeny. Or, I guess, Captain Nice. Or John Adams. I dunno folks, he’s been around.
You can find the episodes on YouTube if you’re willing to try, and you should because they’re pretty solid with a lot of potential (keep an eye out for Bob Newhart playing a philosophical Hugh Hefner-type in one episode), and some genuinely good gags abounding. Less than that, however, can be said of the sole issue of Captain Nice in comics.
Who exactly is responsible for the single issue from Gold Key (numbered, in that exciting way that all the Gold Key licensed comics was, “issue #10211-711” or, to put it more simply, “No.1”) is up in the air. The art is very likely the product of Joe Certa, the artist who co-crated the Martian Manhunter with Joe Samachson and who frequently provided art duties on assorted Gold Key titles. The writer – he’s a mystery. Let’s say it was possibly Neil Gaiman, just for the sake of having someone to blame.
|"Luring people into this alley!"
But hey, it’s a mid-60s licensed Gold Key comic, I’m lucky I found the right interior behind the cover. Coulda be The Little Stooges if I hadn’t played my cards right.
Unlike the TV show which rarely featured super-villains and tended to stick to thugs and crooks -- like the old Adventures of Superman show and, really, most superhero TV shows before Smallville or thereabouts – the comics gives Captain Nice a couple of super-crooks (unpowered, though they may be).The first is The Rooster, a brazen red-headed crook who’s suffering the compulsion to crow about his crimes as the sun rises. The second is a fur-thieving femme – who manages to escape the Captain’s clutches – named Slymme Fatale. In between the two, the main enemy is water, so thrills abound.
I feel like I’m admitting a genuine personal failing in that there isn’t even enough material in this book for me to really mock – I mean, I’m struggling to make a dick joke, and I’m inclined to blame the source material but what kind of craftsman blames his tools, right? A craftsman who’s got a licensed Gold Key comic to work with, is who.
Listen, I feel bad, lemme link you to that Bob Newhart appearance so you got something to laugh at. It’s got Joanne Worley in it, it’s a real Sixties bonanza.
|He looks stunned because that explosion was his ratings hitting rock bottom.