The Ominous Octopus

Monday, March 25, 2013

Shazam! By Chip Kidd

Chip Kidd's SHAZAM! is a sort of Captain Marvel scrapbook,

with comics, pictures from the Republic serial, and photos of rare memorabilia such as Captain Marvel watches, paper dolls, pins, and paper planes. Related characters such as Captain Marvel Jr., Mary Marvel, and Hoppy the Marvel Bunny are also examined and there are glimpses of some other Fawcett comics characters such as Nyoka, Ibis the Invincible, and Spy Smasher.
And there's a little about the DC comics lawsuit that eventually brought an end to the original series, including a few pages of trial transcripts
 But I've spotted a few errors in this book. And there are a few points upon which this author and I do not see eye to eye.
The caption for a picture of the Captain Marvel costume from the serial tells us that, "Ironically enough, the costume was repurposed a year later for a scene in a Columbia Pictures serial featuring... Superman." 
SUPERMAN, the Columbia serial, was not made until 1948. The Captain Marvel costume was not used in any scene in that serial.
Chip Kidd is correct where he says the costume was worn by one of Jor-El's accusers on the planet Krypton on the first episode of  THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, although that was filmed in 1951, not 1952.
Notice the lightning bolt visible on the chest and the bands on the sleeves visible on the man on the right. 
Text says Superman "would NEVER be depicted with firearms, unless he was crushing them."
Text states that Superman "would NEVER so much as consider using a gun against his enemy."

 This time Superman let Batman handle the gun, but somehow the whole thing still manages to be somewhat awfuller than the Captain Marvel covers.

When it came to using guns, Lois Lane was not left out of the festivities. 

Of course, Lois Lane, being one of the good guys, only uses a gun on the side of right. Same as Superman, Batman, Captain America, and any number of other good guys in comic books*.  The things like Jimmy Olsen and Robin being made to dig their own graves turn out to either be imaginary stories or have some other explanation. At least, that was what they used to do in the comic books that I used to read when I was a kid. I'm not as familiar with what they have any more.

Text comments that Everett M. Arnold testified that he believed that the cover of WHIZ COMICS #1

was a copy of ACTION COMICS#1

because both characters were throwing cars. But, "Which they are, but other than that technical fact, the accusation appears totally baseless."
Both appear to be throwing the same car. Even the color is unchanged. There are enough variations in the two covers that it wouldn't be an exact duplication, but there are also still enough similarities that it seemed reasonable at the time to make a point of it in the plaigerism case.
From what has been said in other accounts, DC comics eventually compiled a long list of similarities between specific Superman and Captain Marvel stories, enough that these similarities seemed to be convincing evidence that Fawcett had copied from DC's character. This book makes it sound as if the problem was only that one artist working on one Captain Marvel story had traced something from a Superman story. That may have happened, but there was more to the story than that.
Superman and Captain Marvel comics were both very popular and I've read both. There's not really much point in worrying about the legal aspect now. But we might as well go by the ruling of the court in this case. It's what we would ordinarily do with anything else.
*There are a couple of covers that show Captain Marvel shooting a machine gun ( or guns ), but I don't know if any of the comic book stories actually showed him using a gun. The Republic serial did have Captain Marvel using a machine gun, and also had him killing people in other ways. Which isn't really what Captain Marvel is supposed to do. He's like a kid character that happens to be a superhero, and the comic books were supposed to be kid stuff.

Captain Marvel costume on first episode of THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN:


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