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Showing posts with label Captain Marvel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Captain Marvel. Show all posts

Mary Marvel Fanart

I don’t generally talk too much about fictional characters, but I do have a soft spot for Mary Marvel (as well as the whole Marvel Family). She’s also been on my mind a bit lately. Why? Well, part of it is that she’s starring in a brand new mini-series from DC Comics (THE NEW CHAMPION OF SHAZAM!). That’s worth a quick word because I think that this is Mary’s first starring role in a series since she starred in WOW COMICS and later MARY MARVEL COMICS in the 1940s. And while this version of the character is pretty far away from her original appearances in various Fawcett titles decades ago, it’s still fun to see — and far funner than her “dark” Mary appearances from fifteen years ago (the less said about that, the better1).

The other part is that this has been an extremely difficult year, some of which I’ve written about previously and some of which I’ve chosen to keep private. Given that, I’ve felt that I needed some “escape time” and drawing Mary is just what the doctor ordered. The new version of DC’s Mary is college-aged and while that’s fine, I decided to illustrate her younger, as she was when she initially appeared in Fawcett’s titles back in the day.

We’re actually coming up to her 80th anniversary in December. Mary first appeared in CAPTAIN MARVEL ADVENTURES #18 that had an on-sale date of November 13, 1942 (cover dated December 11, 1942). And, of course, she was a very early female superhero, predating Supergirl’s first appearance (in 1959) by 17 years. Interestingly, both characters were co-created by writer Otto Binder; Mary Marvel was co-created by artist Marc Swayze while Supergirl was co-created by artist Al Plastino. Binder’s Mary was strong, courageous, joyful, optimistic, and compassionate, traits that I wish more contemporary characters had. I sure as hell don’t mind “grimdark” stories here and there, but it often feels that too many characters have fallen down into the grim ‘n gritty tone that often makes them (well, for me, anyway) a chore to read.

You also don’t have to take my word for this; many of Mary’s stories in WOW COMICS are in the public domain and you can give them a try yourself. Have they dated a bit? Sure. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. It’s important to point out that many of these stories were written during World War II and there is a far amount of racism and jingoism in their pages. Given that period of time, it’s hard to avoid, especially in comics. If one judges these stories using the mores of our time, the reader will undoubtedly encounter problems and disappointments. Fine. So don’t! Or rather, keep these issues in mind, but come to your own conclusions.

That said, one advantage of reading Mary’s stories in WOW is that many draw on magical realism (seriously, WOW #21’s “The Revolt of the Plants” is a great example. It features a Smoke Demon (yes!), trees that come to life, and so on!). My suggestion is that if you try these public domain stories, keep an open mind. Ignore or discard what you don’t like and see what gems you can find. For me, Mary Marvel versus the Smoke Demon is a blast!

Oh, and of course I should add, these illustrations are fanart. No copyright violation is intended. Oh! And for those who are keen, here's an older piece of fanart that I did, too.

Mary Marvel at approximately 13 years of age by illustrator Von Allan

Mary Marvel in four different action poses by illustrator Von Allan

Mary Marvel in two different action shots by illustrator Von Allan

Mary Marvel defeats two tough thugs by illustrator Von Allan

Oh, and as a special bonus, I also drew a younger Mary Marvel, closer to how she initially appeared in CAPTAIN MARVEL ADVENTURES #19 by Marc Swayze.

A younger version of Mary Marvel by illustrator Von Allan

1 Well, fine, I can’t resist so I’ll just add that Jim Kingman wrote a great piece about this sorry situation that’s worth a read. It’s at https://web.archive.org/web/20090803144408/http://www.comicsbulletin.com/effect/122175589926211.htm

The Mary Marvel Fan Club!

The Mary Marvel Shazam Fan Club by Von Allan

I have a soft spot for Mary Marvel and the rest of the entire Marvel Family. Plus that wonderful ol’ wizard Shazam! This illustration features two kids inspired by Mary Marvel and was loosely inspired by a story in the old 1970’s SHAZAM! series, specifically “The Haunted Clubhouse” in issue 13 by E. Nelson Bridwell and Bob Oksner.

For a bit more of my art featuring Mary, please visit https://www.vonallan.com/2022/09/mary-marvel-fanart.html.

That 1970’s series is an odd-duck. DC Comics had successfully purchased the old Fawcett Comics intellectual properties and attempted to relaunch Captain Marvel for a new era. It didn’t quite work and I’m not sure why. Legendary Captain Marvel artist C.C. Beck had been brought back to draw Cap’s new adventures, but left after ten issues over (as Wikipedia notes), “due to ‘creative differences’ regarding plotlines.” Writer Otto Binder would later remark in an issue of the FAWCETT COLLECTORS OF AMERICA fanzine (later republished in the FAWCETT COMPANION: THE BEST OF FCA) that he understood Beck’s point of view, noting “My opinion would be that the new stories are a little too whimsical, and downright silly at times. In the old days we treated Captain Marvel lightly with humor and satirical plots; but nevertheless we were quite serious about putting across Captain Marvel’s character, with Billy Batson as the actual main character. We took a great deal of care to keep them both in character, but that took endless discussions, while being immersed with the atmosphere of the times, all of which the new writers are missing I’m afraid. Hence, their attitude toward the Captain Marvel character is well out of character!”

Having read a number of these issues and compared them to the public domain Fawcett issues that “out there” on the internet, I think I can see what both Beck and Binder were alluding to. That said, I’m not sure what the two would have thought of Mary’s adventures. She wasn’t in that many issues of the 1970’s revival series and only featured a handful of times, but I did like the stories that she was in. They could have used more magic realism, though, something that I’d argue was a hallmark of Binder’s stories with Mary, at least in the pages of WOW COMICS.

All that said, I still really love Mary Marvel. She was (and is) a wonderful character, full of compassion, strength, joy, love, and courage. What more could anyone ask for in a hero?

Wolf's Head by Von Allan

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