Monday, August 10, 2015

Number 1772: Captain Marvel and the bag of heads

Here is another of the horror-styled stories featured in Fawcett’s Captain Marvel Adventures, in the waning days of the title. It was the era of horror comics, including Fawcett’s own contributions to the genre, and, while comics featuring the Marvel Family of characters remained fairly light in tone, those elements from the horror comics darkened the mood. In this case, a civilian, Roger Joad, is headhunting in the midst of the battles being fought in Korea. There was another story in the issue that featured supernatural horror (see the link below), but this is a murder story, including — egad! — a bag of decapitated heads thrown at Captain Marvel.

Written by Otto Binder, art attributed to C. C. Beck and Pete Costanza. From Captain Marvel Adventures #141 (1953):

The aforementioned other horror story from CMA #141:


J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

"Why, you're EVEN LOWER than a red!"

Kid reader: "Gee Mom! Can a sadistic headhunter really be WORSE than a commie?"

Mom: "Naah, Tiger!... Remember, it's only a comic!" :)

Ryan Anthony said...

Well, that was grim, not only because of the headhunting but also because of the inclusion of the war itself. I'm of the opinion that the Captain Marvel adventures should have been explicitly set on an Earth not quite like our own--sort of like DC did when they revived the characters much later and put Marvel and his cohorts on "Earth-S." Most of the early adventures were so wacky and fun, the mention of the Korean War seems totally out of place. Some time ago, I wrote a script for a 3-issue comic called Muscle Boy Family, set on a 50s-style Earth that was (except for Muscle Boy's opponents) fairly violence-free. The premise was: what if some aliens introduced into this bright, fun world the concept of mortal violence, and what if the main hero accidentally killed one of his villains? The result was a slow descent into darkness for humanity and eventually total chaos that destroyed the Earth. I still have hopes of getting it illustrated and published one of these days (I'm thinking of starting a Kickstarter campaign for it). If you ever wanna read the script, Pappy, just let me know. I'd love your feedback.

On the subject of the earlier story you linked to: Robert E. Howard had created a character called King Kull for his pulp stories, but Howard's works had faded into obscurity in the two decades since their writing, so I guess Fawcett wasn't worried about the use of the name. But do you think a comic publisher could get away with it today without paying the REH estate?

HA HO HA HO HAA! That's an impossible laugh.

Tmdess said...

I love the way Cap's hair stands straight up when he sees the bag of heads -- classic slapstick -- I bet Superman's hair never did that!
Based just on the drawing of Roger Joad, this is clearly a Costanza looks just his Jimmy Olsen work from the mid-60s (which I've always thought was kind of crummy!) Thanks for doing this wonderful blog, Pappy! I look forward to reading it!

Alicia American said...

OMG Pappy I only got 3 words 4 this story yo:

Alicia American said...

That remindz me, we R intervuing tha cast of tha new remake of "BLOOD FEAST" omg mayB Capt. Marvel can help us write questions yo I didnt no he was a Screem Queen & stuff or watevar!

Daniel [] said...

The narration from 1:5 through 2:1 refers to Captain Marvel as Billy's “other form”, but in the latter Captain Marvel speaks of Billy in the third person.

This story is, of course, one of many inspired by “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell.

There are few places where important thing are just glossed-over. For example, in 4:4, the Commies just know who Joad is, and decide to cut a deal with him.

I s'pose that it would have been too awful to give the heads a bluish tinge.

Pappy said...

Tmdess, thank you for your comment.

You might enjoy one of the craziest Jimmy Olsen stories (in my opinion), drawn by Pete Costanza, in this posting from Pappy's #421. Pete C. stayed active in comics, even when his former "boss," C.C. Beck, left comics, so he gravitated to DC, also to ACG. I think many of the stories he did for DC were also written by the former Captain Marvel scripter, Otto Binder.

Pappy said...

Alicia, since you like the horror Captain Marvel, how about a story from the last issue of Whiz Comics, where he faces the kraken?

It was in Pappy's #1235.

Speaking of horrors, upon reaching back into my archives I realize I ran this story, then re-did it in 2012 without remembering I had shown it before. Ah, the corners of my mind, as Barbra Streisand sang. Corners full of cobwebs, I say back to Babs.

Pappy said...

Ryan, yes, good luck on getting that story published. It reminds me of how I hear UFO skeptics ask, "Why haven't those gray aliens landed on the White House lawn and announced they are here?" Well, I am also a UFO skeptic, but I think those complaining skeptics have passed over the fact that as a species we are a bunch of violence-prone murderers. If I were observing Earth as part of an interplanetary expedition I wouldn't want anything to do with such hostile inhabitants.

Is there an REH estate? It is my understanding that people like L. Sprague de Camp and some others took over the literary rights to Howard's works, and even introduced many new books into the series. de Camp is now deceased, and I'm not sure who is running the Conan show now.

As a science fiction/pulp writer I'm sure Otto Binder was aware that King Kull was the name of a Howard character, but might have thought, "The guy is dead, so what's the harm?"

In my opinion the worst usurping of a character name came when Roy Thomas came up with that Captain Marvel in the sixties, right after the short run of that other Captain Marvel who yelled "Split!" and went to pieces, from Myron Fass's comics. Ugh to both of them.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

From Wikipedia:
"Following Robert E. Howard's death, the courts granted his estate to his father, who continued to work with Howard's literary agent Otis Adelbert Kline. Dr. Isaac Howard passed the rights on to his friend Dr. Pere Kuykendall, who passed them to his wife, Alla Ray Kuykendall, and daughter, Alla Ray Morris. Morris left the rights to the widow of her cousin, Zora Mae Bryant, who gave control to her children, Jack Baum and Terry Baum Rogers. The Baums eventually sold their rights to the Swedish company Paradox Entertainment, Inc."
So, if someone dies and leaves ownership of some literary work to you, just keep it... even if everyone tell you it's useless.
Recently, a company called Stan Lee Media started a legal battle against Paradox for Conan, but lost it:

Anyway, in 1958 a mexican publisher, Ediciones Joma, issued an unauthorized comic version of "Queen of the Black Coast" ("La Reina de la Costa Negra"):

Not so bad, aside from the blond Conan. As for the Cap Marvel story, I really wish they didn't call that character King Kull. Looks more like a priest from Opar.
Dell Comics published versions of Frankenstein and Dracula (names in public domain), turned into campy superheroes and drawn by Tony Tallarico. Those were almost as bad as Captain Amputee Marvel by Fass. Dracula's female sideckick was called B. B. Beebe while Frankenstein's girlfriend's name was Miss Ann Thrope (guess she's the heat of the party).
Thanks and say Ciao to your kids for me, Pappy.

Pappy said...

J D, fascinating. A Swedish company? Is that why the first Conan book I read (back in 1962) was The Return of Conan by Björn Nyberg?

I remember the Dracula and Frankenstein comics from Dell. Appalled is the word I would use to describe how I felt about them then, and now.

Pappy said...

Daniel, in re-reading the story it makes me think of the recent news story about the American dentist who killed the iconic lion and just took his head. As trophy hunters and despots have known since time immemorial, you don't need the body as long as you have the head.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

No, I seem to recall Nyberg was a swedish soldier and a Conan's fan.

From "Blood and Thunder : The life and art of Robert Erwin Howard":
"The last Conan novel, The Return of Conan, was a whole-cloth pastiche written by Swedish fan Bjorn Nyberg, and rewritten by De Camp. The best thing anyone can say about this book was that it had a spectacular cover by comic book artist Wally Wood".

That dentist you mention is a douchebag. I would tie him to a dentist's chair, then call in Dr. Christian "der Weisse Angel" Szell, from film Marathon Man.:-(

BillyWitchDoctor said...

The Dell "horror" superhero failures (Dracula, Frankenstein, and the oft-forgotten Werewolf, who was just a super-spy in a featureless jet-black full-body stocking for the laziest artwork imaginable, and a pet wolf) are great fun to me, just on the basis of their earnest incompetence combined with creativity bordering on madness.

The "Split!" Captain Marvel offends me slightly more because the use of the name (as well as the names 'Dr. Fate,' 'The Bat,' 'The Ray,' 'Plasticman' and 'Atom Jaw' for his nemeses) was just lazy thievery from men who once did much better. But still, his adventures are some of the best worst comics in existence.

Wow, this story. I guess the wisdom of Solomon allows Cap to determine the difference between the severed head of a Communist Korean from a 'non-Red' Korean. It's a good thing he didn't decide to stay and "kill 'em all and let Zeus sort them out;" he might have lost his moral standing.

rnigma said...

Mr. Kitty takes a look at those Dull, er, Dell "monster superhero" books:
Drawn by Tony Tallarico, who spent his later years doing "how-to" books on cartooning, as well as cheap ripoffs of Where's Waldo/Wally books.