Bizarro Back Issues: Captain Marvel and the Peace Ray (1946)
By Chris Sims
So yeah. That happened.
Oh, relax. Despite the unfortunate modern-day subtext of that panel, the crook here only means it in the sense of generally harming. Point is, I’ve been reading through a lot of Golden Age Captain Marvel Adventures comics lately, and if I’ve learned nothing, it’s that Billy Batson and his super-heroic alter ego face even stranger situations than the average Golden Age hero, and that’s saying something. Being stranded in a future of super-evolved ladybugs, having Zeus throw sub-standard lightning bolts at them from Mount Olympus, late-night visits from bondage-minded crooks — things get pretty weird for those guys. And while the panel above (from CMA #50) might be the best to take out of context, the real kookiness hit eight issues later with a story of Dr. Sivana’s Peace Ray.
Released on April 12, 1946, the daring three-part story of “Captain Marvel and the Peace Ra”y came out at a time when the character was at the absolute peak of his popularity. Not only did Captain Marvel Adventures boast the highest circulation of any comic book, it was such a hit that Fawcett was putting out a 48-page issue every other week to meet the demand.
And with good reason. Even at the frantic pace that they were churning out stories, Otto Binder and C.C. Beck were putting out some of the greatest comics of the Golden Age, and arguably some of the best all-ages stories ever printed. Judging just by Binder’s contributions to the Superman family in the Silver Age and the team’s return to (sadly short-lived) greatness with the legitimately awesome Fatman: The Human Flying Saucer, their Captain Marvel work was easily 20 years ahead of its time. Heck, Fawcett had even headed off the parental concerns that would lead to the rise of the Comics Code in the ’50s by having each issue carry an approval from an “Editorial Advisory Board,” including “Famous Aviator” Major Al Williams and an educator of gifted children with the decidedly villain-sounding name of “Professor H. W. Zorbaugh.”
And in CMA #58, Major Williams and the Probably Diabolical Professor Z approved a story all about the insidious dangers of peace.
Specifically, the artificially induced feelings of peace, brotherhood and charity engineered by Dr. Sivana through his latest invention, the “Glad Hand.” Not only is the name of the device a pretty great pun, but the very idea of a joy buzzer that spreads actual joy is a pretty solid high concept for a super-hero story. Unfortunately, despite the hopes of the lovely Beautia — which is right up there with “Patience” for names that are pretty tough for a young girl to live up to — he intends to use peace… for eeeeevil!
Read much more at ComicsAlliance.
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