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Earth's Mightiest Mortal:
Captain Marvel

August 30, 2009

When the second issue of Whiz Comics came out in February, 1940, Billy Batson was just a poor orphan boy trying to make his way in the world, working as a news reporter for Whiz Radio. Little did he know that the mighty wizard Shazam had chosen him to be a champion of justice. Billy soon learned that all he had to do was say the name of the wizard and he was magically transformed into the “World’s Mightiest Mortal,” Captain Marvel.

Stories of Captain Marvel fighting evil and preserving justice were so popular that they spawned a whole Marvel Family, including Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., Uncle Marvel, several Lieutenant Marvels and even Hoppy, the Marvel bunny. The Captain Marvel Club was announced Halloween of 1941 and kids from across the country eagerly joined up with their favorite superhero.

In his heyday, Captain Marvel’s popularity rivaled that of even Superman and carried over from comic books to toys, novelties, premiums and even the silver screen. Republic Pictures released a 12-episode serial, The Adventures of Captain Marvel in 1941. A television series came later and, Captain Marvel has once again appeared in graphic novels and comic books published (ironically) by DC Comics, the publishers of Superman.

Captain Marvel merchandise is popular today as it was during Captain Marvel’s heyday in the 1940s. Hake’s Americana & Collectibles has been helping collectors find that one marvelous piece for their Captain Marvel collection for decades.

A highlight of Hake’s September auction, which closes September 10, 2009, is a special booklet prepared by the Market Research Department of Fawcett Publications, Inc. in January, 1944. Entitled "Who Reads The Magazine Comics?," the cover shows a large, diverse group of children and adults reading a giant issue of Captain Marvel Adventures comic book. The booklet has specialty strip art showing Captain Marvel visiting Fawcett's Advertising Director, holding issues of Captain Marvel Adventures and Whiz Comics comic books, mentioning Captain Marvel Clubs and asking just who reads comic books?

The booklet goes on to publish survey showing 72% of homes at the time boasted comic book readers. The survey is then further broken down according to age groups, sex and by readers in the Armed Forces. This obviously heavily researched publication also states averages of comic books read per month, the economic status of readers, their education, employment, etc.

Images of Captain Marvel appears on every other page, with statistics are shown in chart/graph format. Some great scenes show Captain Marvel filling out surveys, talking with rich man and working man and watching youths trade comic books. There is also some mentioning of various types of Captain Marvel merchandise. This amazingly detailed information is presented in a most marvelous manner. This publication had extremely limited distribution as it was produced for in-house purposes.

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