BHOC: FAMOUS 1st EDITION #F-4

The next book I got was another Famous First Edition, this one of WHIZ COMICS #2, the first appearance of Captain Marvel. The cover isn’t a perfect replica, though–DC had to remove the cover copy “Gangway for Captain Marvel” because of Marvel’s trademark on the Captain Marvel name.

The whole issue is a crude but not unappealing piece of work, much simpler and more coloring book-like than even the previous 1st Editions I had seen. There was also an odd tendency here and there to letter the word balloons in such a way that they read out of order. 

The origin of Captain Marvel is something I was already familiar with from previous Captain Marvel stories, but there is something about seeing the unadorned original. I was surprised to find Billy’s Uncle Ebeneezer present, having encountered him in a reprint of his return appearance–I would have thought him an after-the-fact addition to the canon.

Contrary to some popular belief, it would take a few years before the Captain Marvel strip fully assumed the air of whimsy and fun that it would be known for. In its earliest days, it was just as serious-minded as any other super hero strip. It was perhaps the style of the artwork that set it apart in these days.

Even good old Sivana is there, playing the role of any stereotypical mad scientist and threatening to silence the airwaves with his Radio-Silencer if his demands aren’t met. Like the early Superman, Captain Marvel can’t fly just yet, and he makes do by leaping.

Most of the other features in this first issue of WHIZ are unremarkable. (It was numbered as #2 because an ashcan edition had first been produced to secure the trademark to the name–Publishers Fawcett had been beaten out to two other titles for their debut comic magazine previously) Still, a number of them went on to long lives, starting with Ibis the Invincible, a sorcerer who would remain in publication longer than Captain Marvel himself.

Following a colorless story of the western hero Golden Arrow came the debut of Spy Smasher, who was Fawcett’s equivalent of Batman. In this first story, we’re never let in on Spy Smasher’s true identity (and never even see him in full light) despite the fact that there’s really only one viable suspect as to who he might really be.

There was almost a formula to these early anthology comics in the kinds of stories that they offered. So, after a Scoop Smith fighting reporter tale came a nautical adventure of Lance O’Casey. The artwork in this one is incredibly open and often so simple as to barely be on the page.

And the issue finishes up with a Dan Dare private eye story, also unremarkable. The best I can say for the contents of the book was that every story was at least readable, but none of them really made much of an impact on me–even the first Captain Marvel story was kind of dull.

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