17 May 2010

Gee WHIZ! The Uncanny Coincidences of CAPTAIN NAZI

We're in a Germanic state of mind (then again, aren't we always?) thanks to the World War I Flying Ace, so quite naturally Captain Marvel's fascist foe Captain Nazi immediately stands to our attention. Granted, he's never been a household name, but we figure Nazi , a German 'super soldier,' was pretty big back in his day.  Nazi's first appearance in Master Comics #21 (Fawcett sure nailed it with that apropos title) coincided with Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and the crippling of America's Pacific Fleet. Coincidence? Absolutely. Absolutely ironic, that is.

Pearl Harbor certainly gave the United States the BIG FIGHT they may have been looking for, and the very vintage ad we have above literally promised that Captain Nazi will deliver the same to our hero Shazam.  The battle that began in the pages of Master would be continued later that month in Whiz Comics #25 -- an epic conflict between superhero and super villain, and a sequel deserving an in-house advertisement on that point alone. 

Sequels have successfully driven sales, interest, and been at the heart of  many a marketing machine for as long as stories have been around. But the masterful imaginations that created the Master Comics ad did so for other secret and super-heroic reasons. Whiz Comics #25 wouldn't just introduce the story sequel to Master #21; the issue would introduce Captain Marvel / Shazam's myriad fans to his "sequel," too.

It's Whiz Comics history now: in the issue, Nazi attacks two innocent bystanders who happened to be fishing in a boat near the scene of the battle. One of them, an old man named Jacob Freeman, is killed, but his teenage grandson, Freddy Freeman, is saved by Captain Marvel, who, to save the boy's life, bequeaths him some of his magic. In a lightning flash, Fawcett  had given their superman his own sidekick in the guise of Captain Marvel, Jr, who in true sequel-form fittingly derived his power from Captain Marvel himself, not the wizard Shazam that empowered the rest of the forthcoming Marvel Family. 

For dabblers less familiar with the then-Fawcett pantheon, we'll note that while he's made hale and hearty by uttering his own magic words, Freddy Freeman himself was permanently crippled when Nazi attacked him in his fishing boat. Nazi was obviously the  actual German threat personified in comic book color, and by extension Marvel, our hero, reflected us, the USA.  Though completely unintentional, considering time frame of comics creation, the events and characters of Whiz Comics #25 continued to eerily and metaphorically echo the real-world war that coincided with its time of publication.

Captain Nazi, in hindsight, was quite the significant villain. He was created by William Woolfolk and Mac Raboy, who in turn drew their inspiration from Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's uber-popular Captain America, who came to America's defense for the first time just ten months earlier. 

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