Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Monster Society of Evil--Parts 6 - 10
Mr. Mind might very well hold the record for the Most Evil Plans Instigated in a Short Period of Time. I'll have to check the Guinness Book of World Records, but it must be true. The little worm is an endless fount
It's been a month since I reviewed Parts 1 through 5, so let's recap. Writer Otto Binder and artist C.C. Beck are creating their masterpiece--a 25-part epic structured as a movie serial, running in Captain Marvel Adventures during the 1940s, starting in issue #22 and ending with #46. The main villain is Mr. Mind, a tiny worm who also happens to be an evil genius. He forms the Monster Society of Evil, consisting of many members of Captain Marvel's rogue's gallery, any number of artificially-created monsters and robots, an occasional alien, the Nazis and the Japanese. Captain Marvel spent the first five parts foiling various evil schemes on Earth before finding and trashing Mr. Mind's base on another planet.
But the occasional set-back does not discourage the villain. Issue #27 (Part 6 of the story) as Mr. Mind returns to Earth and--despite Captain Marvel finally discovering his true form--sets off one plan after another to take over the world. He gains telepathic control over termites and set them to destroying
skyscrapers. When Captain Marvel stops this, Mr. Mind flees to Germany, befriending Hitler and Goering.
Here, he comes up with what might be my favorite Evil Plan of all time--a plan so unashamed of its pure silliness that it inspires deep admiration for Binder
and Beck in that they dared to put it down on paper.
Mr. Mind gets Hitler to point all the guns on the Maginot Line east and fire them off simultaneously. The recoil causes the Earth to stop spinning, giving Nazi Germany eternal daylight while plunging America into perpetual darkness.
This might be the Ur example of why the Golden Age Captain Marvel stories were so wonderfully entertaining. Binder and Beck created a world in which the silliness was an integral part of how that world operated--but balanced so perfectly with good storytelling that it never completely tips over into pure comedy. It's still an exciting superhero story that can be accepted and enjoyed on its own unique level.
The only thing that might spoil it for a modern reader is the extreme racial stereotyping involving Billy Batson's black friend Steamboat and the various Japanese characters--in fact, one reason suggested for why DC Comics cancelled a recent planned reprint of this story as a graphic novel is the racism. I think its possible to accept this as something that was a part of popular culture of the time and still appreciate the actual story. Someone else might feel differently, though, and find the story has been spoiled for them--and this would be an equally legitimate opinion. This is not a matter of being politically correct or incorrect. It's simply a matter of allowing individuals to make up their own minds about balancing the faults and virtues of stories from the Golden Age.
Well, Captain Marvel eventually gets the world spinning again. Mr. Mind ends up in China, helping the Japanese. He does this by magnetically lifting the entire Great Wall of China and essentially using it as a battering ram against the Chinese army.That, by the way, is my SECOND favorite Evil Plan of all time.
Again, his plans are foiled. The story moves to Australia, where Mr. Mind teams up with a Japanese scientist, a German spy and a crocodile-headed alien from the planet Punkus to help the Japanese take over the continent. Once again, Captain Marvel steps in to stop them, but along the way Mr. Mind manages to trick him into turning back into Billy Batson, capturing him.
Actually, that's at least the fourth time Billy gets captured over the course of parts 6 through 10. The dumb kid has a bad habit of saying "Shazam!" at awkward moments. But this time its really serious. With Billy properly gagged, he's tossed in a rocket and brought to the planet Punkus. Here, Mr. Mind has ordered the crocodile-headed aliens to build a gigantic cannon--one that will destroy America with a single shell!
Can Billy escape, turn into Captain Marvel and save the day? Stay on the edge of your seat--we'll return to the story in a month or so and you can find out.
Or you can just read it for yourself online. It's still available to read at comicbookplus.com.