Part 3: I GOTTA SPLIT! MAN...
Marvel Comics, with its new, modern attitude, became popular among college students and other young, hip, types in the early 1960's. It started positioning itself as "pop art," and just as in the 1930's and '40's, new superheros from other companies, both new and extant, started popping up again.
Myron Fass was a schlockmeister publisher who had worked in comics in the 1940's. He decided to take advantage of this trend by putting out his own new superhero comic book. He (or someone) decided this new hero would be named "Captain Marvel."
Myron Fass and the second Captain Marvel
How could they get away with this? Let us count the ways:
The trademark was available. If Fawcett Publications (the publishers of the original Captain Marvel) ever trademarked "Captain Marvel," it would by now have expired since their Captain Marvel comics cancelled in 1953 as part of the lawsuit settlement with National Comics Publications (DC). And what would be the point to keeping up payments on a trademark for a property on which you could no longer make money?
This new character was not the same as Fawcett's character. This Captain Marvel, "based on a character created by Carl Burgos," was an android from another planet, sent to earth to escape an apocalyptic war and prevent it from happening to us. He took on the alter ego of a college professor named Roger Winkle.
This is not to say that everything about this comic (except the name) was completely original. This alien android had the power of separating parts of his body by shouting "SPLIT!" and bringing them back together by shouting "XAM!" Get it? "SPLIT-XAM!" (He also had jet boots and laser beam eyes.)
Furthermore, his best friend was a boy named Billy Baxton, and his adversaries included characters named Plastic Man (later Elasticman) The Bat (later The Ray), Professor Doom, Dr. Fate, Tinyman, and Atom-Jaw. As I said, not a lot of originality here.
Someone has told me that Carl Burgos (the creator of Marvel Comics' original Human Torch) was Myron Fass' graphic designer during this period, which would explain how Burgos could have been involved, but I have yet to be able to confirm that. Several sources state that Burgos was an editor of Fass' Eerie Publications from 1970 - 75, though.
The though it is not stated directly that Carl Burgos created Captain Marvel himself, it is intriguing to wonder how much of the character was "based" on a Carl Burgos creation. Burgos' most famous creation, of course, is the original Human Torch. The Torch was an android. This Captain Marvel was an android. The torch had a red suit. This Captain Marvel's suit was colored red or purple, depending on the issue. The Torch was blonde. This Captain Marvel had blonde or orange hair, depending on the issue. Were these simple coincidences? Did Burgos lack imagination, or was this a rip-off of his Human Torch? These are more questions into which I must delve deeper.
Carl Burgos and his Human Torch
In any event, sales of this character were not stellar. It may have been the uninspired art or the bizarre, poorly-written stories. Maybe fans thought the character was too off-beat. Or maybe, as Michael Uslan told me, the 25 cent price for each "GIANT ACTION ISSUE" was too steep.
Whatever the reason, MF Enterprises' Captain Marvel lasted 4 issues (April, June, Sept, Nov, 1966) intersected by two issues of Captain Marvel Presents the Terrible 5, (Aug 1966, Sept 1967).
Just then, over at Marvel Comics...
NEXT: What Marvel Did!