“What They Shoulda Done,…”

FCA Captain Marvel Adventures #23 Cover Re-creationThis is a re-creation/re-interpretation of the cover of Captain Marvel Adventures #23, done in collaboration with my friend and animation biz mentor, Larry Houston. You’ll note there are some significant changes, if you compare this cover to the original.

This re-creation came about because of an upcoming issue of FCA (the Fawcett Collectors of America), with an article discussing minority representation in Golden Age comics. Since the article’s appearing in FCA, the primary focus was to be on Steamboat, an African-American character who appeared for a while in the early Captain Marvel strips.

Now, featuring Steamboat presented a problem. He was always depicted in that stereotypical and racist way that most African-American characters were portrayed in comics at the time. So what were we to do about a cover for this issue?

Neither FCA Editor P.C. Hamerlinck nor myself thought it was a good idea to use images of Steamboat from the original comics on the cover, and for the same reasons, I didn’t feel right in asking an artist to generate new art depicting him as he appeared back then.

Another thought was to do a new drawing depicting Steamboat in a non-racist way. But then that raised the question of how people would even be able to recognize who he was supposed to be, since it would be so far afield from his original appearance.

P.C. came up with the idea of doing a re-creation of Captain Marvel Adventures #23, only done in a sort of “what if there weren’t the racial stereotypes in old comics?” kind of way. Looking over the original cover and its elements, I realized this was the way to go. We could make this idea work. Even though Steamboat would look different from how he’d been portrayed in the Golden Age, readers would still be able to identify him because there was a context for it.

I’d also been thinking of trying to get some new and different voices involved in some of these FCA covers. Though Larry Houston is probably best known for his animation work, he’s always had a deep love for comics too. And I knew that positive portrayals of African-American characters in cartoons and comics has always been a subject Larry cared a great deal about. So I thought maybe this cover could be a great opportunity for me to team up with Larry. I asked him if he’d be interested, and he agreed to do it.

Larry provided me with a good, tight layout, which I took the rest of the way, even adding dot patterns and aging.

You get to see it here as the comic cover alone, sans the FCA copy. This issue of FCA (#203) will be appearing in the pages of Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego #144, out in December from Twomorrows.

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One Response to “What They Shoulda Done,…”

  1. John G. Pierce says:

    Well stated, Mark, and well done on the visual. As Dick Lupoff noted in his “the Big Red Cheese” article years ago, these portrayals were seldom intended to be vicious. It was as if there was some sort of stereotypical minority character, and most members of that group were reflections of that stereotype to one degree or another. Still sad, of course, but rarely malicious in intent.

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