As we’ve mentioned in previous postings on this subject, while Fawcett Comics never pulled together a regular equivalent of the Justice Society of America for its assorted costumed champions (apart from the Marvel Family, who headlined their own group title), the outfit had no hesitation for having them meet and team up with one another occasionally in ad hoc groups. AMERICA’S GREATEST COMICS #8, published in 1943, contained one of these under-the-radar team-ups.
Captain Midnight was a long-running radio hero who had gotten his start in 1938, created by broadcast writers Wilfred G. Moore and Robert M. Burtt. As his radio adventures achieved national popularity, the character was translated into live action in a movie serial, and also licensed to Fawcett Comics as a continuing character. Fawcett overhauled the concept of the character a little bit, maintaining his background as a skilled aviator, but casting him in a more super heroic role than either the radio show or serial would. Fawcett’s Captain Midnight debuted in his own series, and also took up a spot in AMERICA’S GREATEST COMICS, Fawcett’s answer to DC’s WORLD’S FINEST COMICS, a quarterly 96 page release with cardstock covers featuring several of their most popular characters.
In fact, Fawcett’s version of Captain Midnight resembled nothing so much as their own home-grown her Spy Smasher (who had also starred in a movie serial by this point.) So it was perhaps irresistible to pair the two heroes up in a common story. This happened within the Captain Midnight feature–at a key moment, the Captain sent a message for aid to S.S.–his Secret Squadron. But Spy Smasher mistook it as a call for help meant for him. (I suppose Captain Midnight should have been happy that it wasn’t answered by Hitler’s elite S.S. troops as well…)
Unfortunately for the Fawcett home team, the story tended to go out of its way to favor Captain Midnight over his guest star. Again and again, anything that Spy Smasher can do, Captain Midnight can do better (though there’s no animosity between the two heroes.) I don’t know whether this was simply a sop to the licensee, who may have insisted that their character come off looking better, or whatever. But given that Spy Smasher had spent several issues years previously fighting Captain Marvel to a standstill, this represented something of a come-down for him.
Produced during wartime, the story is also jam-packed with unfortunate and offensive stereotypes of the Japanese, then considered the enemy.
2 thoughts on “Forgotten Masterpiece: AMERICA’S GREATEST COMICS #8”
Thanks for printing the full story! I needed that tonight!
I think you are probably correct in stating that the owners of Captain Midnight might have intervened to make their hero look good. Almost every crossover of comics-original properties seems to bend over backward to make all the crossed-over characters look good– even if “looking good” means “being bad,” as in the opposition of The Claw against Daredevil.