One Panel #151-153: Men of Steel

From "Introducing Captain Marvel!" by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck, Whiz Comics #2 (February 1940)

Even at this early stage, I like C.C. Beck's clean, designy illustrations, which contrast well with Shuster's rough-but-dynamic work on Superman. Whiz Comics #2 (technically the first issue) introduces Captain Marvel to the world, the super-strong and invulnerable hero that would go on to outsell Superman and draw Fawcett into a lawsuit from DC before eventually giving the property up to the comics juggernaut. WAS Captain Marvel a rip-off of Superman? From today's perspective, I dare say no. Aside from similar powers and some other slim commonalities, the two are completely different. Their attitudes, origins and eventually, tones, are completely different. It's just that at the time, there were so few costumed heroes, DC was more or less working from the premise that they'd invented a genre and owned that genre. And even if that weren't true, Cap was closer to Superman than any other character. So I can see why the lawyers were salivating.

From  "Superman and the Screen Siren" by Siegel & Shuster and Paul Cassidy, Action Comics #20 (January 1940)

Back in Superman's own book, which technically dropped twice in December of '39 no matter what the cover dates say, the actual Man of Steel was having a rematch with the Ultra-Humanite. The twist: Ultra had transferred his brain into the body of sexy actress Dolores Winters. This "bald Luthor" precursor had apparently met his death in issue 19, but in his new bod, would continue plaguing Superman in the next issue of Action as well. To whit...

From Superman: "The Atomic Disintegrator" by Siegel & Shuster and Dennis Neville, Action Comics #21 (February 1940)

Superman holding a gun? Bet he can't wait to get hear vision, eh?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

When Superman first came out, he was just a man with amped-up abilities; he could do everything ordinary men could do (albeit better), but he he had no abilities that men don't. Thus he was stronger and faster but could not fly; he was tough but still vulnerable to conventional weaponry (even if by "conventional weaponry" I mean a bursting shell rather than bullets, knives, and pointed sticks). And the origin of Superman's powers? Evolution! Kryptonians were the pinnacle of mankind; even on Krypton they were leaping around like fools (even with Krypton's somewhat-stronger gravity) because that's how mighty they all were. Leaping, though, not flying.

Captain Marvel was the first hero to be flying. Captain Marvel was the first one to be invulnerable as we know the term today. In a lot of ways, Superman became a Captain Marvel imitator, as his abilities stopped being "human but enhanced" and more superhuman.

Siskoid said...

Exactly true, though only if you compare the two. Other companies did have flying heroes, most notably a couple guys in Marvel Comics #1, and proto-Archie's Comet. But Superman was probably copying his most successful competitor.

Andrew said...

And then of course Binder would wind up at DC working on Superman. I knew he was responsible for Supergirl, but I just checked and a lot of his other contributions to the Super-mythos seem like spins on what he did on Capatin Marvel. Bizarro for Black Adam, Brainiac for Mister Mind, Elastic Lad and the Signal Watch for Captain Marvel, Junior, the Legion of Superheroes for the Lieutenants Marvel. I'm tempted to line Titano up with Mister Atom on account of the radiation they both wield, and link either the Phantom Zone or Kandor with the Rock of Eternity, but those may be a bit too much.

Anonymous said...

As Chris Sims noted on Comics Alliance, even Jimmy Olsen became a knock-off of Mister Tawny. At the very least they get their clothes at the same place.

Siskoid said...

More importantly, are we ready to credit Binder with the idea of creating a "Family" around a character?

Andrew said...

Jimmy contains multitudes.

Andrew said...

Works for me! As long as we can blame Loeb for ruining the concept by making everyone Bruce Banner knows a Hulk.

 

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