The Canadian Captain Marvel Comics #10

Here’s another interesting novelty sent my way by Mark Waid. It’s got a bit of an interesting history to it, which is why I’m featuring it. We’re going to look at a 1940s Captain Marvel story the way it saw print in Canada back in 1942. As you’ll see, this wasn’t a straight reprint of Fawcett’s Captain Marvel material (as published in CAPTAIN MARVEL ADVENTURES #24. Rather, the entire issue was completely redrawn by local Canadian artists for the Canadian marketplace.

Why was this done? Well, I’ll tell you. When comic books were first starting out, most distributors included Canada in their networks, so the earliest American comic magazines saw distribution in the Great White North. But then World War II flared up, and wartime restrictions were placed on goods entering Canada. American publishers could no longer get their books distributed north of the border, cutting off a substantial market. At the same time, Canadian readers were bereft of the adventures of their favorite characters.

In Canada, a local publisher who would operate under the name Anglo-American Publications saw an opportunity. They couldn’t import Fawcett’s books directly. But they were able to cut a deal with Fawcett to allow them access to Fawcett’s scripts with permission to have them drawn locally by Canadian talent. This was in the advent of the “Canadian Whites”, the early Canadian comic books that came to prominence when the American material was cut off. These books were so named because they were printed in black and white with only two-color covers, on even coarser paper than the American books of the era.

The first issues of CAPTAIN MARVEL COMICS and WHIZ COMICS from Anglo-American saw print in January of 1942, and ran through 1945. At that point, the wartime restrictions were lifted and there was no need to circumvent the situation in order to bring the Big Red Cheese to the North. In addition to the Captain, Anglo-American featured Captain Marvel Jr. stories in GRAND SLAM COMICS, Spy Smasher tales in SPY SMASHER, and Bulletman and Bulletgirl as headliners in THREE ACES COMICS. All working from American strips, all drawn by Canadian artists.

This particular issue of CAPTAIN MARVEL COMICS, #10, contains the Captain Marvel story contents of the Fawcett CAPTAIN MARVEL ADVENTURES #24, all of it redrawn from the original scripts. Comparing the two versions of this story, it’s pretty readily apparent that, while Anglo-American had reference as to what Captain Marvel, Billy Batson and all of their supporting players looked like, the artist involved had no access to the original drawn pages–in this story likely produced by Pete Costanza. so it’s an opportunity to compare and contrast the two storytelling styles.

The script itself, like more than 50% of the Marvel Family adventures penned during the Golden Age of Comics, had been written by Otto Binder. It’s unlikely that Binder saw any financial remuneration from having his work repurposed across national lines, though it’s not absolutely impossible that Fawcett slipped him a few dollars as part of the deal.

The name of the artist on the Canadian adaptation of this story has been lost to time. But his work is just a little bit cruder than Costanza’s, and he doesn’t entirely capture the Fawcett house look for Captain Marvel and his world. The work isn’t bad by any means, but it feels more like the sort of fare turned out by any dozens of other publishing houses, and not so much in keeping with the elegant simplicity that was part of what made Captain marvel so appealing.

This page in particular takes a very different approach in terms of what the artwork emphasizes and highlights. The storytelling on the Canadian version is a bit awkward as well, with the stacked panels on the left side confusing the reading order of the panels just a bit. The artist chooses to focus much more on Captain Marvel himself rather than the enemy dirigible in the final panel, whereas Costanza takes the opposite approach.

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