Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The First Time I Saw the Marvel Family

The first time I saw Captain Marvel, and the Marvel Family, I was kneeling on the floor of a second-hand shop in Effingham, IL, fairly desperate to urinate but too engrossed in a comic book to go do it.
I was perusing the penultimate issue of Fawcett’s Marvel Family, No. 88, but I didn’t know that. Circa 1963, Captain Marvel and his friends had been out of print for a decade, literally a lifetime to me.
The secondhand shop offered stacks and stacks of used “funny books” for a nickel each, and avidly combing through them all constituted an arduous endurance test of a 9-year-old’s bladder.
A man, a girl and a boy — all caped and dressed suspiciously like Superman — were walking through a door while deflecting various deadly threats with their invulnerable bodies. So they had Superman’s powers too!
Jokes of Jeopardy was the story’s title. “Geo Pardy?” What kind of a word was that?
The issue earned my nickel, and my speculations even after I’d read it. What had happened to these super people? Where had they gone?
I wouldn’t learn until years later that they’d been sent to their graves in part by a lawsuit on behalf of the very Superman they so resembled, and that they had for one brief shining moment in the 1940s they’d been the most popular superheroes of all. Their very popularity, I suppose, finally did them in, guaranteeing DC Comics’ enmity.
That may not have been the actual first time I’d seen Captain Marvel, although I didn’t realize it. Around then, in school, a classmate had brought in a copy of a magazine I’d never seen, Castle of Frankenstein. There, on the cover, was a black and white photograph of a caped flying man who was clearly not Superman. Utterly fascinated, I never got to look inside the issue to discover who he was. Decades later, when I finally got to see Republic Pictures’ The Adventures of Captain Marvel, I found that it lived up to its wonderful reputation among serial buffs. And yet it was somehow never quite as wonderful as all my pleasantly feverish speculations about this mystery man had been.
From the cover of the second issue of Larry Ivie's Castle of Frankenstein magazine (1962)

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