Sunday, 29 April 2018

Captain Marvel makes his debut - Marvel Super-Heroes #12.

STOP PRESS! Due to raging controversy, a poll has now been added to the sidebar, so that you the Reader can decide which of Mar-Vell's costumes was best. Don't forget to vote. Remember, Terran lives may depend on it. I now return you to the post.

With The new Avengers movie currently thrilling super-hero fans everywhere, it can only mean one thing.

That it's time for me to take a look at Captain Marvel's first appearance, in the pages of Marvel Super-Heroes #12, way back in 1967.

Admittedly, I can't see any link at all between those two things either but that won't stop me pretending there is one, in order to give me an excuse to do this post.

What happens is this. Upset that the FF have flattened the Sentry and Ronan the Accuser, the Kree upper echelons have decided to send Captain Mar-Vell to Earth, so he might succeed where his two predecessors failed, and teach the Earthmen not to mess with the Kree.

The only problem is that, the moment he lands, radiation from his suit causes a desert rocket launch to blow up, alerting the authorities to his presence.

Fortunately, our villain escapes by shooting the pursuing guards, with a black light beam fired from, "The galaxy's most common all-purpose weapon," before hitching a lift into town and checking into an hotel, under the name, "Marvel." It's explained that he can't sign in under his real name because that'd tip the hotelier off that he's an alien. To be honest, if I were an hotelier and someone called, "Mar-Vell," checked in, I'd just assume he had an unusual name. Clearly, other hoteliers are made of more paranoid stuff.

Sadly, we don't learn what fake first name he uses. I assume he doesn't check in as, "Captain Marvel," because that really would raise suspicions.

But, now, alone in his hotel room, Mar-Vell watches the skies and contemplates the mission ahead of him.

The first thing that strikes you about this tale is that it screams, "Stan Lee," at you. Right from the start, Lee gives us a love triangle of the kind he often seemed obsessed with. On the very first page, we learn that the beauteous but lachrymose Medic Una is in love with Mar-Vell but their commanding officer, the treacherous Colonel Yon-Rogg, wants her for himself and is thus out to make sure that Mar-Vell doesn't return alive from his mission.

Another Lee staple that quickly rears its head is that of the fatal weakness. We rapidly learn that, for all his aptitude, Mar-Vell has an Achilles heel - or, in his case, Achilles lung - because  he can't breathe the Earth's atmosphere and live. Because of this, he must drink a steaming potion that will allow him to breathe without his helmet for just one hour. Why do I get the feeling that future issues are going to involve him getting separated from his helmet on a regular basis?

Other than Stan the Man's typical foibles, the main thought that enters my head is that everything about the tale seems remarkably vague. At the beginning, it seems that Mar-Vell is being assigned to Earth by Yon-Rogg because Yon-Rogg wants to get rid of him but, then, later in the tale, we're told he's here under the orders of the Supreme Intelligence. We're told he's been sent here to punish us but it's not clear in what way he's supposed to punish us or when or how.

When he gets to Earth, he seems to have been dropped off at a random spot, with no plan and, from that point on, is clearly winging it. I don't get the feeling the Kree put a lot of thought into this mission.

You also wonder why, after a Sentry and Ronan have failed, a humble captain is now being sent to sort out the humans. You would have thought the loss of two such powerful figures would have convinced the Kree that they should be upping the ante and not downing it.

Anyway, it's difficult to draw too many conclusions about the good captain's potential from this tale, as it's only just over a dozen pages long and seems more interested in setting up the love triangle than anything else. Gene Colan's art is fine but I've never been convinced that sci-fi was his strong point. His hi-tech always looked a bit retro, even in the 1960s. Lee's script, meanwhile, is far too soapy and filled with what feels like teen-angst.

All in all, on the strength of it, you'd fail to be hooked but, with its promise of interplanetary espionage, you do at least feel there may be some good reason to get the next issue.

A final thought that does strike me, though. In the desert, the radiation from Mar-Vell's suit is enough to make a rocket blow up, from several hundred feet away. Just how much radiation is he giving off and how is he still alive?


Killdumpster said...

I think the reason Captain Marvel's debut leaves a lot of unanswered questions is he was kind of dashed out. Marvel Comics wanted to secure the copyright that DC let lapse after they picked up Fawcett Comic's Capt. Marvel (Shazam).

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Yowza. All I'll say is that the green Cpt Mar-vell rocks the house and I'd give my eye teeth to see him back in action.

I mean, did we really need another red-blue outfit? And, this is before he leaves his wrist bands in a cave for Rick I'm-every-hero's-favorite Jones to find in a cave.

And the Colan art for those first 4 (?) issues of CM are Colan's best in my mind. I mean the action just flies out of the panels. Superlative work! (Marvel must have had a weird fetish. I mean they followed up Colan on DD and CM with Don Heck. W.t.h... that's like DC following Kaluta with Robbins.)

I read on another blog how the Green vs. Red-blue Mar-vell is one of the most opinionated subjects in Marveldom. Any thoughts?

Steve W. said...

This is true, Killdumpster. It's just a shame that it didn't seem to occur to them that, as he bore the company name, he could, if done right, have become their flagship character.

Charlie, I must confess I've always preferred Red and Blue Marv to Green and White Marv.

Killdumpster said...

I was a big Mar-Vell fan in the 70's and also liked the red & blues, but like Charlie H47 and I agreed, the green Mar-Vell design on the mail order t-shirts was cool.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

That's for sure KD. I lusted after that shirt in my heart throughout my adolescent years!

Anonymous said...

The green and white Captain Marvel is a bit before my time; I'm not quite as terrifyingly old and close to utter oblivion as some commentators on this site apparently are.
But the bony hand of time is on my shoulder as well, and my hands shake as I write that I well recall the red and blue Mar-vell, who, armed with Kung-Fu Cosmic Consciousness defended the universe from threats large and small.
This is the Captain Marvel of my youth, and the one I salute. The whole run of that comic was pretty much a mess until a kid named Starlin took it over and made it an interesting mess.


Anonymous said...

My intro to Captain Marvel was the brilliant #29, so I'm going to have to agree with M.P., although I'd say that Judo Jimbo's cosmically aware space captain sort of made earlier iterations of the character interesting in a way they weren't in themselves.

So reading MSH #12 for the first time with a framing sequence as a dreaded deadline doom reprint in Captain Marvel #36, the old fashioned quality made a bit more sense. The retro feel of Gene Colan's approach to science-fiction is great; Stan Lee's script - which seems dated even by the standard of '67 - not so much.
For all the comparisons between Mar-Vell and DC's big red cheese, the green version actually seems much more like a riff on Adam Strange.


B Smith said...

The problem with Captain Marvel in his early days is that having created him, Stan (or Roy) didn't seem to know what to do with him. Read subsequent issues and you'll see that all that happens is that the Kree ship keeps orbiting around, with Una tearily fearing for her beloved, Yon-Rogg plotting to do away with him, and Mar-Vell trying to avert Carol Danvers' suspicions. In monthly episodes it might not have seemed so obvious, but reading a swag of issues in one hit is not an experience I'd recommend (then again I'd say the say the same for Captain America's time in Tales of Suspense, or Iron Man's adventures in Tales of Suspense).

Steve W. said...

Killdumpster, Charlie, B, Sean and MP, thanks for all your comments. Given the raging controversy about Cap's costume, I feel I should launch a poll to get the definitive answer about whether his green and white costume or his blue and red costume was best.

Steve W. said...

The poll has now been added to the top of the right-hand sidebar. Feel free to make use of it.

Killdumpster said...

I saw some leaked pictures of the upcoming Capt. Marvel movie were the red & blue design was changed to green & white. It didn't look TOO bad. My biggest beefs about the green/white suit was the helmet fin, the clunky life-persurver belt, and the Saturn-esque chest logo. It looked like it was from some late 50's kiddie show.

Anonymous said...

Sean, no one likes to agree with M.P., I understand that, but sooner or later everyone must, if my plans for world domination ever come to fruition.
It will be a better world, my friend.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

KD... you are cruisin for a bruisin... LOL.

And if I may have my shot at satire: "Wow.. another red and blue uniform. How forking original is that? Oh wait... He does have wrist bands and a star burst on his chest. And occasionally he likes to leave the wrist bands in caves hoping teen age boys find them and clank them together..."

Anyhow I know that the red/blue Marvell will win the poll. It's a well established fact that most of the folks who love the green-white are a tad older on the bronze age spectrum and really don't do internet blog polls and seldom twitter. Thus, this will be a mere exercise in "confirmation bias" for you dudes who like the red/blue.

Sean - I must agree with you that Colan's art is great. Are there any issues of Cpt Marvell that beat out Gene the Dean's work on the next four issues of Marvell? I'm just musing aloud... I grew up picking up Colan's DD off the spinners and I thought his Marvell was better than his DD though his DD was clearly superlative and magisterial by any measure.

Killdumpster said...

Hey, Charlie H47, C'mon...

I was a Mar-Vell fan from his invention, and have a nostaltgic fondness for the first suit. That said, you got to admit it could have been more streamlined.I've always been an unfan of unnecessary head fins. Like Adam Strange's. What were they for, Bluetooth? Lol!

I do prefer the design of the red/blues. While the green/whites had Colan (who I love and did a great Daredevil, who has a sleek costume I might add), the red/blues had Kane & Starlin. Two of my favourites.

Gee, you almost make Mar-Vell sound like a pedophile, hoping to lure in poor Rick Jones. Lol! I don't think Jimmy Olson gets beat-up as much as Rick does. I could have done without the panels & pages involving his singing career, tho

Killdumpster said...

I'm inclined to believe, even in Marvel time, Jones was approaching or into his twenties when he got hooked up with Mar-Vell.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Hey KD,


As long as Rick Jones was "age of consent" and he didn't get Cosby'd who are we to quibble, lol!

Costumes are personal things I guess. I think my attachment was because I was like 8 years old when i first saw it and it just grabbed me.

I loved the green/ white, saturn emblem, fin head... I don't think Marvel had any green costumes (unless you count the Hulk and DC had GA and GL but they were boring).

And the only fin head was Subby's enemy (Tiger Shark?) and DC had Adam Strange so that was an unusual concept to a kid at the time?

Also, the "white" was whiter than the page itself. Perhaps it suggested some type of purity? When I look at those early CMs the "whiteness" still grabs me for some reason. (I'm being a little philosophical here which is strange since I've never taken a course in the subject.)

And, I dug the big belt b/c as I recall that was where his rockets were for flying? That is something mechanical that is easily imagined by a kid, easier I think than imagining Iron Man's boots?

Perhaps to a little kid, when Armstrong was first setting foot on the moon and we were still watching it on B&W television, it was "what the doctor ordered?" I mean, we had no other sci-fi to compare to, really, besides those B&W things from the 50s. Green Mar-vell looked like the real deal to me, like he could be from outer space. The red/blue one just looked like another super hero...

And I don't know what else I can say about that subject, LOL, other than it was a really, short and glorious (though perhaps not profitable) run by Colan. Just 5 issues I think? But hell, Kaluta only did 2 of the Shadow for DC as i recall yet we still sing the praises of that so...

Anyhow, I don't dare look at Steve's poll b/c I am sure that red/blue is much preferred, LOL, so I'm definitely odd man out on this subject!


Killdumpster said...

Wow, Charlie. You weren't kidding when you said the suit was a hot debate.


Fins on heads. Tiger Shark had a fin on his head down his back. Sharks have fins that serve a purpose, maybe his did also. Not just to embellish his name (plus he's my favorite Naylor Villian. Triton of the Inhumans had the fishy thing going on and it made sense

Green mostly seemed like it was Marvel's favourite color for villains during the 60s & early 70s. Please tell me, am I wrong?

I think deep down, our love of the underappreciated, mishandled Captain of the Kree imparts on us a form of "cosmic awareness" where most of us can agree:

HE RULED!!! And we miss him.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Yo KD!

I would agree 100%!

The Cpt did have his role as Captain of the Kree, which could have been a monthly comic for years and years and years...

He could have fought Skrulls, Galacti, Egos... Crossed path with the Surfer, Watcher, etc.

I mean there is this whole other part of the Marvel universe, not always touching earth, in which he could have been our hero.

Yep, I miss him.

Anonymous said...

The Green Mar-Vell could have done a lot of things Charlie, but he didn't. Gene the dean was great, but he did much better work elsewhere.
Don't worry though - I didn't vote for the red and blue costume either.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Thanks Sean! Nothing more important is happening in this world today than this poll, LOL!

Out of curiosity, where do you think Gene was at this best?

Anonymous said...

Gene at his best? Too much to mention Charlie. Brother Voodoo!
And everyone likes his 70s work on Tomb of Dracula and Howard the Duck don't they?

His 80's stuff for DC and Eclipse, because they printed his work straight from the pencils. And he did the best ever Black Panther.


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