TreasuryCast #13 – Famous First Edition: Whiz Comics #2

TREASURYCAST #13: FAMOUS FIRST EDITION: WHIZ COMICS #2

Shazam! Rob welcomes podcaster Michael Lane (COMICS IN THE GOLDEN AGE PODCAST) to discuss FAMOUS FIRST EDITION #F-4, DC’s treasury-sized reprint of WHIZ COMICS #2, the first appearance of Captain Marvel!

Check out images from this comic by clicking here!

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17 responses to “TreasuryCast #13 – Famous First Edition: Whiz Comics #2

  1. I’ve seen other Captain Marvel treasury books in the wild, but never this one.

    I was assaulted by so many comments about Captain Marvel’s origin after Nathaniel Wayne and I covered it on Secret Origins Podcast episode 3 that I’m frankly gun-shy about discussing it ever again. What I will mention, since you brought it up, is the awkward, unfortunate state of the character’s name in DC Entertainment. Referring to the hero as “Shazam” is dumb unless you change his magic word or give a long drawn-out explanation for why he doesn’t change back and forth every time he says the word, otherwise he’d never be able to introduce himself without becoming Billy Batson again.

    I always think of him as Captain Marvel, but it also makes sense that Marvel Comics would trademark that name. When you hear the word “marvel” in relation to comics, you probably think of Marvel Comics. DC Comics could continue to fight this reality by referring to him as Captain Marvel on everything except the cover and title of the book, like they did for thirty years. But if they don’t want to fight that fight anymore, and I wouldn’t blame them, I think a name change would be acceptable and appropriate. Not Shazam. NEVER Shazam! But I’ve always liked the sound of Captain Thunder. That was almost his name once upon a time anyway; I say embrace it.

    Moving on from the Big Red Cheese, I think Kyle Benning reviewed a Spy Smasher story on his podcast last year. If not Kyle, someone else with a love of Golden Age comics. The story sounded pretty good, and your enjoyment of his story in this treasury makes me think I might have to check it out.

    1. Still amazed a company was able to call their app “Shazam.”

      I’m with you, Ryan. It’s nonsense for D.C. to call the guy Shazam. It’s the damn wizard’s name. Capt Thunder is way better

      1. That one always surprised me, too. Not a big deal for me – it always makes me smile when I open the app, since I immediately start thinking about the Big Red Cheese.

    2. It’s a fight that DC has been fighting since the 70s, and they were never going to win. Hate to say it, but it was time to give it up and just accept it.

      It’s not like it’s unprecedented for a Marvel Family character to be unable to say his own super hero name. Captain Marvel, Jr. was never able to say his own name.

      I think the way they get around it in New 52 is “intent.” If Billy intends to do the transformation, then he is thinking about the transformation along with the name. If he’s just saying his super hero name, without the intent to change, then he doesn’t.

  2. Very informative fellas! I especially liked your discussion of the non=Captain Marvel stories. It offers a nice perspective on the other material kids were reading at the these iconic characters were introduced. I hope you cover the other Famous First Editions in the future.

    As for the Monster Society of Evil slipcase, I bought it in great condition for about $100 on ebay years ago. It’s an fun story but I can see why DC has been reluctant to reprint it: there are some very politically incorrect/offensive Asian and African-American caricatures.

    Mr. Mind is one of those characters who just shouldn’t work, but there is something so weird and fun about the concept of an evil worm in coke bottle glasses that makes me smile. He was used to nice effect in a recent episode of Justice League Action.

  3. Great discussion.

    I remember stories of people being duped into thinking they were really buying Action #1 even though it was Treasury sized. I guess you either say ‘caveat emptor’or ‘there’s a sucker born every minute’.

    We’ve all read versions of the origins and I’ve read this one. There’s a ton of great stuff in this, the fantastic train, the statues, and Shazam being crushed by the rock. It just makes for an intense and frankly cinematic origin.

    And like others, I was intrigued to hear the other heroes. Spy Smasher did stick around. Gail Simone brought a female one into the latter parts of her Birds of Prey run as a foil for Oracle.

    Thanks again!

  4. Hi Rob and Mike,

    I thoroughly enjoyed the latest Treasury Cast. Two favorite hosts talking about a favorite character. A terrific combination.

    I was a kid when the Shazam TV series was originally on and I watched it with my parents every week.

    My father bought this treasury along with a few others for me when it was new and I still have it today along with the Shazam from the 40s to the 70s hardback collection that my father also bought for me.

    I really appreciated Rob’s comments about the similarities to some of Alex Toth’s art. That is high praise indeed as well as the references to Herge’s Tintin which is a favorite character and series that Ruth and I both love.

    Mike’s encyclopedic knowledge of Captain Marvel and golden age comics really shined through. I appreciated getting the publication history as well as the background on the other characters.

    I remember hearing Mike and Chris cover several Spy Smasher stories on Comics in the Golden Age and hearing Rob’s enthusiasm for the art in the story made me want to pull out my copy of the Treasury, so I’m doing that when I get home from work today.

    Thanks as always for a great episode!

    Darrin

  5. Great episode guys! Put me in the Captain Thunder camp. Heck, I’m still sorry Roy Thomas and Don Newton didn’t get to introduce their Earth-One Captain Marvel, to be named Captain Thunder back in the 80s. The captain’s costume looked great on a black hero!

    Spy Smasher makes a brief but great appearance on Justice League Unlimited, so I do think he and all the Fawcett heroes are now owned lock stock and barrel by DC. If memory serves when DC published a few tales with the other, non Marvel Family Fawcett heroes in the 70s (including the JLA/JSA/Shazam crossover storyline), they didn’t REALLY have the rights to use those characters like Bullet Man, Mr. Scarlet, etc.

    As Michael pointed out, they did get those rights at some point, including Minute Man who along with Bullet Man and Girl figures heavily into the Power of Shazam/Starman crossover Cindy and I will eventually get to on Super Mates.

    Oh, and one more change on that outer cover: There’s only one gangster flying out of the car. One of them has been removed from the original!

    Great episode!

    Chris

  6. Add me to the list of people who prefer Captain Thunder to Shazam. As his original intended name, it just feels much more appropriate and just makes more sense than Shazam. One thing I wish I had mentioned in this episode that I forgot was the origin of the name Whiz Comics. As a kid, I assumed they picked it because the word whiz sounded cool or it was part of the phrase “gee whiz” or somesuch. I guess I did not think much about it but it seemed vaguely consistent with the time. But it later I learned that Wilford Fawcett, the founder of Fawcett Publications, had started his publishing empire with a magazine called Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang. He was a soldier of the Spanish-American War and WWI, and he earned the nickname “Captain Billy.” When he returned from WWI, he wanted to create a magazine to entertain the doughboys fighting in the trenches. The title came from the sound of artillery…the “whiz” from the whistling sound and the “bang” from the explosion. He was a reporter when he returned from the war, but he self-published the first few thousand copies of Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang from his own printing press. The magazine became hugely popular, and he built an empire on it. Later, when they moved in to comics, they originally titled the ashcan editions that Cap first appeared in as Flash Comics and Thrill Comics, but when those titles were picked up by other publishers they reached back and used Whiz Comics as the title. And as for the name Billy? I don’t know for sure…but perhaps it was a tribute to Wilford’s nickname. I have never gotten confirmation but it seems an amazing coincidence.

    1. That’s fascinating. In my childhood a ‘whiz bang’ was a free gift that occasionally came with UK comics as a free gift – a piece of paper folded into a triangle that, when you held it and thrust it downwards, made a cracking sound.

      Off to look up ‘doughboy’ – I love US war slang… I shoud’ve paid more attention to my ASS.

  7. Oh, and as for that Roy Thomas and Don Newtown;s version of a black Captain “Thunder” that Chris Franklin mentioned…I wish that had happened. As much as I loved Jerry Ordway’s 90s series, I think that would have been a great way to bring him into the mainstream DCU, and it would have been a boom for DC to have a black superhero among their “big guns.” For one, I love Don Newton’s Captain Marvel. And Cap was in that weird space of being a golden age hero and being know from his 70s show and cartoon so that he had the name recognition, but altering the character may not have created the backlash that we see in our modern internet driven world.

  8. For compeletisits out there: Both Spy Smasher and Ibis made appearances in the “Crisis on Earth S” arc that began in JLA 136 (1976).

    Also, the complete Spy Smasher serial is available on Youtube and don’t forget he even made a cameo on Justice League Unlimited:

  9. I never knew that there were hardcover versions of these tabloids! That’s amazing!
    More Spy Smasher stuff. In the late 1970s, some of the guys from Firesign Theater edited together bits form old serials to make a new movie. It is “J-Men Forever.” Clips include Spy Smasher and Captains Marvel and America! (In the movie they are called “Spy Swatter, The Caped Madman, and Lone Star. If you like MST3K-style humor, and can tolerate late-70s “dope” humor, I recommend it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPR3KrZV3Tk

  10. Terrific show, boys! I’ve never read that treasury, only the Cap origin elsewhere. While I agree that Beck’s art came on by leaps and bounds, I wish they’d kept the chest flap, it’s so distinctive in its elegance.

    I wonder if one reason the old wizard picked Billy is that as an orphan he was expendable – he’d not be missed while away on his adventures, and if he didn’t come back, no one would notice or care.

    I smiled at that ‘all new, all different’ on page two of the issue, I wonder if it’s the first time that famous phrase found its way into a comic.

    It’s always felt a crock, DC’s suing Fawcett with the claim he was a Superman rip-off, but I do notice that like Superman at this point, he wasn’t flying.

    Ibis is so damn dapper, who cares if turbans weren’t exactly ancient Egyptian* headgear. The dullness of his journey is nigh hypnotic – can omnipotent magic ever have seemed so prosaic?

    Spy Smasher features rather a lot of silhouettes, it’s fun to see graphic shortcuts had been discovered so early in the life of the adventure strip.

    If I had to guess an artistic influence on Scoop Smith, I’d say Jimmy Stewart. Mind, at times that cowlick looks like it’s hanging over a balding pate.

    I’d sure like to take off on the high seas with Lance O’Casey and Mr Hogan, even if it did mean fighting Grant Morrison.

    I really like the Dan Dare vibe, and the art is rather sexy.

    Do we know who lost the reader popularity poll? It has to be the turgid Golden Arrow.

    * As a sub-editor, I can EXCLUSIVELY reveal that even the most educated of young reporters apparently believes there were places named Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece.

  11. On the Arrow… Those Centaur characters got a revival at Malibu Comics in the 90s. The Arrow and the Ferret were among the most featured, and all the heroes were assembled as the Protectors. Green Arrow is less a copy of precursor bowmen (except Robin Hood), than he is of Batman.

  12. As always, another great episode. I’m a huge Captain Marvel fan, and a big fan of Fawcett Comics, so this was right up my alley. Enjoyed listening to this.

    I wanted to set the record a little straighter on the legal stuff regarding our good Captain.

    We all know that Fawcett published Captain Marvel’s adventures until 1953, and that National Comics (DC) sued them throughout the 40s and 50s over the likeness to Superman issue. Fawcett shuttered their comics publishing arm in early 1953, both because of the lawsuit and the overall declining sales of super hero books.

    So, the character sat, owned by Fawcett, but unused.

    The issue related to the name “Captain Marvel” appearing on a cover is related to trademarks. Trademarks usually have to be maintained/used every 5 years, and renewed every 10 years. Since Fawcett had stopped publishing Captain Marvel titles, the trademark lapsed, probably sometime around 1963 or so.

    In 1967, Marvel Comics created Mar-Vell, and put “Captain Marvel” on the cover of a comic book, and registered the fallow trademark. And they’ve owned it ever since.

    In the very early 70s, DC decided to revive the Marvel family. At that point in time, they merely licensed the characters from Fawcett. But – ta-da! They couldn’t brand any comic books Captain Marvel because the trademark was now owed by Marvel Comics. So, they went with Shazam! instead.

    DC did put the subtitle “The Original Captain Marvel” on the first volume of Shazam! series (starting in 1973), and was successful in using that subtitle through issue 14 before a cease and desist letter from Marvel had them remove it with issue 15 (and replace it with “The World’s Mightiest Mortal”

    Like Michael, I’ve never been able to find any hard date on when DC purchased the Fawcett characters outright, or why they decided to purchase them (finally) instead of just licensing them. I’ve seen both 1980 and 1991, so I’m not sure exactly when it happened.

    In the Multiplicity Guidebook, we’re only shown the Marvel Family. We don’t see any other Fawcett characters. However, in Infinite Crisis, we do see a panel of Earth-5, which shows the Marvel Family, along with Ibis, Bulletman and Bulletgirl,

    To further complicate matter, from my research, it looks like DC never renewed the copyright on Whiz Comics #2. So all the characters that appear in that book, as is, are public domain. However, DC does own the rights to the last version of the characters that where published by Fawcett. DC owns the rights to Golden Arrow, for instance, but they’ve never published anything with the character (although, I think he has an entry in that DC Encyclopedia from 2008).

  13. I’ve been way behind in listening to my favorite podcasts, but I finally got to this one yesterday – and great episode as usual. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have bothered commenting given how much time has passed since this one was released, but Michael’s choices for his ‘dream’ treasury books really struck me: it’s like he was reading my thoughts. Yes, it’s mind-boggling that a treasury featuring that stellar Adams art on the original X-men never appeared, and as a big fan of Byrne’s work, seeing him do an entirely new story in that expanded format would be indescribably awesome.
    It’s worth noting, though, that the Adams X-men treasury sort of did happen, only not in the US. At around 1980 or so, Marvel UK published one of their hardcover annuals that reprinted X-men #s 56-59, the Sentinels saga by Thomas, Adams and Palmer. I managed to get a hold of this pretty cheaply in around 1981 by mail order from Lonestar Comics (now better known as mycomicshop.com). At the same time, I also acquired the Captain America UK annual which contained reprints of the three Steranko issues. These were really nice books: they were hardcover, as noted, on really high quality paper stock (but, thankfully, not glossy), in a format that was larger than regular comics but not as big as the treasuries. Unfortunately, I no longer have these – I unloaded them along with the rest of my vast original collection just after I graduated from high school in 1986 (one of my biggest regrets in that regard is not holding onto those and a few other, now hard to find books that I had…)

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