Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Number 1764: “Feed me, Seymour!”

Does this Mary Marvel story remind anyone else of the two movie versions of Little Shop of Horrors? Were the filmmakers inspired either directly or indirectly by this 1950 tale from The Marvel Family #54? I don’t know, but it was a connection I made when I saw the splash panel.

Mary Batson is the only Marvel who got to use her first name; if the others had followed suit we would have had Billy Marvel and Freddie Marvel.

The Grand Comics Database tells us Otto Binder wrote the story, and Pete Riss penciled the artwork. Mary Marvel, created by Binder, was named after Otto’s daughter.


J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Many years ago, I read some novels, or stories written for sci-fi pulps by "Eando Binder", but for some reason I failed to notice he was actually the same Otto Binder who wrote comics, until today.
You have the ability to find crazy stories, which is fine. To me, the crazier they are, the better it is. My, that Cactus Guy was hilarious!
“His whole plot went to pot!” And I would definitely need some pot, to write or draw such a story.

Ryan Anthony said...

According to Wikipedia, the concept of the original 'The Little Shop of Horrors' "is thought to be based on a 1932 story called "Green Thoughts", by John Collier, about a man-eating plant. However, Dennis McDougal in Jack Nicholson's biography suggests that Charles B. Griffith may have been influenced by Arthur C. Clarke's sci-fi short story, "The Reluctant Orchid"."

What if Binder's daughter had not been named Mary? "Delilah Marvel" would have messed up the alliterative pattern of all the major names in the series. However, I always thought "Mary Marvel" was a stupid name, as bad as "Bob Phantom." However, "Freddie Marvel" would have been better than "Captain Marvel, JUNIOR." That brings up something that's always bugged me about MM in general: she uses her first name as the hero, AND she looks exactly the same in both guises. Making things worse, she often changes to MM right in front of people! Why didn't everybody know her secret ID?? Another Marvel Family Universe trope, I guess. Kind of like the fact that we accept things in the Marvel Family stories (like talking plants) that we'd never buy in other comics.

"Thugs of the Vegetable Kingdom" is a good name for a band. Speaking of them, was one of those plant bandits a stick? And, I'm sorry, but that giant cactus should have queered the game several times. MM should have noticed that it wasn't a natural part of the Armbrewsters' lawn vegetation. And it certainly stood out in the plant shop.

See what I mean about the alliteration? Even the one-off villain, Jack Joddy, gets the treatment!

Pappy said...

Ryan, I wonder if the source of the story could go back even further. It could be that it came to the writer independent of anything but a belief that plants respond to voices and music. (Here is an interesting article from 2014 about new research into plant intelligence.)

A story I heard about Otto Binder is a heartbreaker. Mary died in a car crash when she was young. Otto was inconsolable, and went to mediums trying to contact her. One source told me that he spent all his money on such endeavors, and at some point in the sixties sold all his file copies of Whiz Comics, Captain Marvel, etc., to raise money.

During my one-and-only sitdown with Otto and his wife at their home in Chestertown, New York, in 1970, Mary's death was referred to several times.

Not only Mary looked the same when in costume or her regular clothes, but so did Freedie Freeman when he became Capt Marvel Jr. The only thing missing was the crutch.

Pappy said...

J D, I don't know when brother Earl dropped out of the partnership, but Otto continued writing for a time under that name after Earl left. By then it was a brand.

The byline was still being used on paperback reprints of the early stories after Otto left comic books. His newer books were issued under his real name.

When I was young I wondered what the derivation of a name like "Eando" would be. I also mispronounced the last name Binder as if it had a long "i", as in the word bookbinder. I was corrected by a friend before speaking to Otto, that Binder is pronounced with a short "i", as in the word "bin."

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

I see how much unsuspected pain and dedication can hide behind a "crazy" story and my respect for Binder grows. Thanks for the clarification. By the way, I made just the same mistake with the "i".

Daniel [] said...

The original idea seems to have been that Captain Marvel simply were Billy, grown-up and empowered. But, somewhere along the line, the two became separate persons.

My guess is that Captain Marvel Junior and Mary were designed in part to appeal to readers who wanted to imagine themselves as having more power than the ability to summon a superhero. Having them keep the same general appearances helps to effect that; giving them masks would have provoked questions about the apparent inconsistency across characters.

As some here know, one or more of the Captain Marvel stories basically claimed that Billy's transformation were so shocking to witnesses that they didn't register it. I assume that the same claim could be made for Freddie and for Mary (albeït that the transformation was less dramatic). Of course, at some point Sivana became aware of things, but he seems not to have revealed the truth to the world at large.

Daniel [] said...

After he stopped writing, Earl functioned as Otto's literary agent; so Earl didn't completely abandon the partnership. I don't know whether he were also an agent for other writers, but I don't imagine him surviving simply on commissions from Otto.

Alicia American said...

OMG u can tell thoze plants R bad guys cuz they call peeps, "pal."

Mary Batson reminds me of me wen I was youngerer, B4 I got boobs & stuff or watevar Yay! <3

Pappy said...

Alicia, and I'm sure you were a precocious youngster, also, like Mary.

Incidentally, my two granddaughters are precocious, also, and both are readers...the older one loves fantasy novels, and reads well beyond her grade level. Both also love graphic novels. This skipped a generation, since my son was totally disinterested in comics.

When did you discover comics?

Pappy said...

Daniel, thanks for the information on Earl Binder. According to biographical information Earl stopped writing in 1934, so Otto carried on the collaborative pseudonym alone after then.

I haven't done any deep thinking of the Billy/Captain Marvel transition, except to notice that Billy retained some of his childish qualities while a full-grown adult superhero. I can't seen him getting involved romantically with women, for one thing. But that may have been the idea, too...that he would remain boyish in that regard, and yet able to think his way out of dire situations either using his brain or his physical powers. I always thought it would have appealed to young boys, the fantasy of being able to transform into a powerful adult using a magic word. If bullies Scut Farkas and his little toady were heading into the alley after you to bring the inevitable physical pain, it would be very handy to yell "Shazam!" and turn the tables.