Brand Echh: Captain Nice #1

The overwhelming success of the 1966 BATMAN television program didn’t just set off an explosive wave of popularity for comic book super heroes, it also had an impact on the television field. Because when any show is successful, rival networks often moved to create something similar, so as to draft off of the national interest. So it was that CBS created their own short-lived super hero spoof, MR. TERRIFIC. It wasn’t wonderful. Meanwhile, over on NBC, and debuting the same night at the same time was that channel’s super-heroic entry CAPTAIN NICE, which was marginally better. CAPTAIN NICE starred a young William Daniels (well before his ST. ELSEWHERE days) as Carter Nash, a police chemist who lucked into a formula that granted him super-powers, which he’d use to protect the city in the costumed identity of Captain Nice.

CAPTAIN NICE was the creation of Buck Henry, who had earlier come up with a similar (and more successful) spy spoof, GET SMART. But CAPTAIN NICE was no GET SMART. Like pretty much everybody who tried to cash in on the success of BATMAN, the production team didn’t understand where the humor came from. On BATMAN, the shows were stocked with absurdity, but the thing that made it all work was that stars Adam West and Burt Ward played things super-straight and took each situation very seriously. All of the knock-off programs, including CAPTAIN NICE, were a lot more broad and obvious with their humor. Batman, for all that the series was meant to be comedic, was still a genuinely heroic figure. So was Maxwell Smart for that matter. But watching CAPTAIN NICE, one gets the sense that the writers were sneering at the title character. Regardless, the show only lasted for one brief season of 15 episodes in the early portion of 1967.

But that didn’t stop the character from entering the four color world his program was inspired by. Western Publishing, who were releasing their titles under the Gold Key imprint, had a long history of producing adaptations of then-current television programs and movies. So the prospect of being able to do the same with a super hero show must have seemed tailor made for the company. Sadly, much like the show that spawned it, CAPTAIN NICE was quickly discontinued in teh wake of the television program’s cancellation, lasting only a single issue.

The authorship of the single issue is uncertain, but the artwork for it was provided by Joe Certa, who earlier had co-created the Martian Manhunter for DC. His efforts on CAPTAIN NICE were relatively crude and unappealing, with stiff figures and mechanical backgrounds. I’m sure the source material wasn’t all that inspiring for him.

The first issue of CAPTAIN NICE, like all of Gold Key’s output at the time, was published without advertisements, and so filled the entirety of the comic. It contained four short Captain Nice adventures and a number of single page comedy strips. The inside and back covers were dedicated to photographs from the television program.

CAPTAIN NICE was promoted both in print and on the air with an image drawn by Jack Kirby, for which he was paid better than anything he wound up doing for Marvel.

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