Finally I get to show off the last of those two items I teased back in December. I gave a further peek at it here. It’s another cover done for FCA, which appears in the back of Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego magazine. This one was obviously done up to look like one of those issues of Secret Origins that DC Comics published in the early ‘70s. I loved those as a kid, because back then they were one of the rare venues where you had an opportunity to see any of that golden age comic material.
I’ve talked in previous posts about how much I liked the golden age Superman and Batman. But without a doubt, my favorite golden age character would have to be Captain Marvel. When DC brought him back from publishing limbo in the early ‘70s, I was already primed for it. I’d read about the “Big Red Cheese” in our local library’s copy of All in Color for a Dime, as well as in The Steranko History of Comics. Something about the visual and the idea of the character hooked me, even without ever having seen a single Captain Marvel story yet.
Not to dismiss the stories, but a huge part of the appeal of those golden age Captain Marvel comics for me is the art. As the character’s designer and main artist, C.C. Beck set the tone there. Most golden age comic book artists doing superheroes looked to the newspaper adventure strips for their inspiration. They mostly tended to fall into one of two schools: it was either the illustrative realism of Foster and Raymond, or the more impressionistic approach of Sickles and Caniff. Instead, Beck looked to the “funny” portion of the funny pages for his inspiration (like Jack Cole did with Plastic Man). The result was a strip that had a look and feel like no other. And of course, the writing played a role in making that possible too.
While the higher-ups at Fawcett may have wanted Bill Parker and C.C. Beck to just give them a knockoff of Superman, that was not what they got. They got something better. Many readers back then must have thought so too; at the peak of the character’s popularity, they were publishing Captain Marvel Adventures bi-weekly and selling 1.3 million copies of each issue!
I know sometimes modern fans have trouble with Mr. Tawky Tawny and some of the more whimsical aspects of the strip, but for me, the classic Captain Marvel material is inspirational stuff. I wish I could tell you of a relatively cheap and easy way to lay hands on that work if you haven’t seen it, but it seems harder to come by these days.