On Strips: Captain Marvel

By | Friday, July 25, 2014 2 comments
Brendan Spillane pointed out to me that Captain Marvel appeared in yesterday's Mutts comic strip and his previous comic strip appearance was at Nancy's 80th birthday celebration last November...
It's a little curious since Captain Marvel never had his own newspaper strip, unlike Superman and other well-known superheroes, but it turns out that he almost did.

Back in 1943, at pretty much the height of the character's popularity, Captain Marvel creator C.C. Beck teamed up with writer Rod Reed to pitch a newspaper strip of the character. They put together a week's worth of samples, but none of the syndicates picked them up. Although they were never expressly told why, Reed assumed that it had to do with the lawsuit DC had filed against Fawcett. Here are the first three sample strips they worked up (originally printed in The Fawcett Companion)...
Years later, after the lawsuit was settled, Beck tried syndication again, this time with Otto Binder. Instead of Captain Marvel, however, they tried selling a Mr. Tawny strip. This also went nowhere, with syndicates claiming that it was too cartoony and they were interested in more true-to-life stories. That may be partially true, but I suspect that legal issues may have been involved here too.

Mr. Tawny was created in 1947 and first appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures #79. He would have been under a Fawcett copyright, and would have remained so even after they ceased publication of superhero comics in 1953 as part of their settlement with DC. This is reinforced by the fact that DC had to license (and later purchase outright) the character to use in their comics in the 1970s. So Beck and Binder, while creators of the character, would not have had the rights to use him in a comic strip. The syndicates would almost certainly have been aware of the prior lawsuit -- it was a pretty big deal, and lasted for about a decade with the various appeals -- and even if they didn't fully investigate who owned which characters, they could well have shied away from even attempting to get near a character with a legally grey history.

All of which means that the handful of appearances Captain Marvel has made in comic strips were NOT by his original creator, despite his style being perfectly suited to that medium. Nor were any of his appearances in his own comic!
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Matt K said...

Interesting. In the 1997 two-part Elseworld's Finest story by JF Moore, the Daily Planet publishes a Captain Marvel serial by "Raymond Beck…"

I'm not super-familiar with the "Shazam" version of CM, and a brief poke at the internet doesn't immediately reveal where they came up with Raymond…

"Raymond"? No idea where that came from. Closest I can come up with is that Mac Raboy did Captain Marvel Jr. and his style was frequently compared to Alex Raymond. But that seems a bit of stretch.