As we talked about last time, Captain Marvel was just about the biggest and most popular super-heroic character during the Golden Age of Comics. So it was perhaps almost inevitable that, with a new super hero boom striking the industry in the mid-1960s, the creators behind the Captain’s good works would try to strike gold a second time. Prohibited by the results of the DC lawsuit which prevented Captain Marvel from ever appearing again (at least until DC themselves licensed the character in 1972), creators Otto Binder and C. C. Beck came up with an all-new hero they hoped would capture some of the Captain’s charms.
The result was Fatman, a flop which only lasted for three oversized releases (it’s a very consistent pattern that new publishers entering the super hero comic book arena in the 1960s adopted an oversized-for-a quarter format for their releases rather than the typical 12 cent package–and all of them paid the price for their higher cost.) It’s an interesting failure, and at least partially didn’t work because neither Binder nor Beck updated their approach for the times at all.
Fatman is Van Crawford, a spoiled child of wealthy parents who wish that he would eat less and accomplish more. He’s pretty good-natured despite having grown up with a silver spoon, but isn’t particularly motivated to do anything but while away the hours eating and engaging in his many hobbies.
But it turns out that, having witnesses a flying saucer crashing to Earth while he was bird-watching, Crawford was transformed by his encounter with the alien craft, becoming something superhuman.
It turns out the falling UFO was in no danger, and transforming back into an alien, it gives the helpful Van Crawford the similar ability to change himself into a Flying Saucer.
Van decides to use this new gift for the good of mankind by becoming a super hero. He dons a costume that is literally Captain Marvel’s discarded uniform but colored green (and with a saucer emblem rather than a thunderbolt) and christens himself Fatman.
Looking at FATMAN in the context of the Marvel revolution that was going on, the whole thing really does seem like a throwback to another era. Neither Binder nor Beck have lost any of their prowess, but they’re perhaps aiming what they’re doing at the wrong audience this time.
Additionally, they can’t seem to stop themselves from taking cheap shots at their own hero’s weight. They do it as just a running bit of business, but given the, um, typical stature of the average comic book fan, and maybe these barbs hit a little bit too close to home.
Lightning Comics, the short-lived outfit that published FATMAN also released SUPER GREEN BERET, an absolutely painful cross between Captain Marvel and a contemporary war comic. I may have to cover this one in a future installment.