Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Captain Nemo's Helicopter

No matter what medium he appears in, Captain Nemo always manages to be awesome. He was awesome in the original novel (as was his submarine). He was still awesome when Jules Verne brought him back in Mysterious Island.  In 1954, James Mason gave him a new fresh level of awesomeness in the Disney version of 20,000 Leagues. Heck, Captain Nemo was awesome when Jose Ferrer played him in the 1978 TV movie/failed pilot titled The Amazing Captain Nemo, in which he is brought out of suspended animation and given a new crew for the Nautilus by the U.S. government so that he could track down an undersea super-villain played by Burgess Meredith.

So it's no surprise that the good captain continued to be awesome in a half-dozen stories about him that appeared in various Walt Disney comic books during the 1960s.

These stories are set before Professor Aronnax and his friends ended up as reluctant passengers, leaving aside Nemo's morally shaky tendencies so that he could be the good guy--fighting against slave traders and an unnamed tyrannical nation.

Walt Disney's World of Adventure #3 (October 1963) informs us that Captain Nemo is an aircraft designer as well as a nautical engineer. He's invented a small one-man helicopter, but on the test flight he runs into bad weather. He's forced to land on an island  and is captured by the crew of an "enemy warship."

Despite a flogging, Nemo refuses to give up the secret of how to build more flying machines. But the bad guys might be able to reverse engineer it from the prototype. They decide to take Nemo with them for good measure.

Fortunately, Nemo manages to send a message to the Nautilus--destroy the warship before they can deliver the flying machine to their own scientists.

But that means Nemo needs to figure a way to escape very quickly if he doesn't want to go down with the ship.

With strong artwork by Dan Spiegle, this ten-page tale is yet another example of the concise and wonderful storytelling that typified the Silver Age of Comics. It sets up the story in the first panel, then moves the plot along swiftly and logically. I can't find a credit for the writer, but whomever it was knew how to properly construct an adventure story.

Of course, the writer had a great character with whom to work. Whether he was appearing in prose, in film or in comic books, Captain Nemo just can't help but be awesome.


  1. These Captain Nemo stories were powerfully written. Though essentially a villain in "20,000 Leagues", Captain Nemo is wonderfully re-purposed as an action hero. The Captain Nemo stories were re-printed in the "Walt Disney Comics Digest" which is where I first encountered them--prior to having viewed the "20,000 Leagues" film. I think my coming to the character first in his "hero" mode made me appreciate his good side more when I saw the film.

    He is similar to Batman's Ra's Al Ghul in that both have noble ideals but a disregard for human life...although in Nemo's case, his hatred is reserved for those he considers enemies to mankind, rather than all of humanity.

    I have often wished that these comic book adventures of Captain Nemo could have been made into hour-long episodes for the Disney TV show. Maybe James Mason might have reprised his role. It would certainly balance the scales a little more in Captain Nemo's favor. A great character with great story potential. Too bad he got finished off at the end of the movie. This after-the-fact "resurrection" in the comics gave him a new lease on life, in a sense.

  2. Gee whiz, a series of hour-long "prequel" episodes with James Mason would have been wonderful! Yet another reason I need to get back to working on my time machine!

    Thanks as always for an intelligent and cogent comment.


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