Captain Marvel Adventures #18
Young Billy Batson hosts a quiz show but during a commercial break, he receives an urgent letter from a dying woman. The woman reveals that Billy has a twin sister and as luck would have it, she turns out to be one of the contestants in the quiz show! When Mary is kidnapped, Billy and Freddie come to the rescue but when Mary utters the magic word SHAZAM and turns into Mary Marvel, she's the one who ends up saving the day!
The year is 2020 and we are still having “lively” debates about representation in comics. Adult comics fans in the community complain about a loss of femininity and cut down female characters at every opportunity. I have seen these things happen with my own eyes. “What has happened to comics?” they ask. No, really… again, I’ve seen it. So I thought, well hell, why not look back, deep into the archives? What has happened to comics? Well, the answer, it turns out, is surprisingly little.
Captain Marvel Adventures #18 features the first appearance of Mary Marvel, the first female member of the Marvel Family (which incidentally is first called The Marvel Family in this issue as well). Her introduction was not a flawless example of feminism, which comes as little surprise for a comic book published in 1942, but the empowerment given to the character still feels rather like modern era characters. First, Mary is introduced on a quiz show where she competes to a stalemate against two male peers. Mary is intelligent without the wisdom of Solomon/Athena to assist her. During the rescue sequence, she wonders whether she could say the magic word and transform and Billy scoffs that the Wizard wouldn’t give his powers to a girl. But it takes no time to disprove the Wizard’s sexism as Mary transforms and proves every bit as formidable as Billy. She does take a moment to address her “lovely costume”, skirt and all, but as an overall performance, Mary is shown to be of equal power and standing as Billy and Freddie.
Also of note, the very end of this tale makes a point of mentioning that rather than use Mary simply as a supporting character or even a partner in Captain Marvel’s book, she will have her own solo adventures where she is the headliner in Wow Comics. It seems rather minor but when you consider how difficult having female-led superhero films in the heydey of the Superhero in Hollywood, the notion that a newly introduced female hero in 1942 could sustain her own book is actually rather remarkable.
Captain Marvel Adventures #18 is a shining example of compressed storytelling, fully actualizing a new character in less than 16 pages and sending them off into the four-color world. The art, for the era, is actually surprisingly complex compared to many of its contemporaries, making it no wonder that Captain Marvel was actually out-selling Superman more often than not, leading to all of the court drama between DC and Fawcett. But that’s a story for another Sunday. Until then, keep reading!
Hop into the wayback machine as we journey all the way back to 1942 and Captain Marvel Adventures #18 to meet Mary Marvel for the first time all over again!
SUNDAY CLASSICS: Captain Marvel Adventures #18: GIRL POWER!
- Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Art - 7.5/107.5/10
- Color - 7/107/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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