Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Monster Society of Evil--The Epic Conclusion!

Last time, I wrote that chapters 15-20 of the Monster Society of Evil serial lost a little story-telling momentum. That was actually not an uncommon problem with the movie serials of the day (on which the structure of the comic book serial was based). But, like the best movie serials, this story picks up again as it nears its conclusion. The last five chapters are among the best.

At the end of Captain Marvel Adventures #41, Mr. Mind was about to be crushed to death in a printing press. But as issue #42 begins, we discover that Captain Marvel had inadvertently saved him by destroying the press. So now the little worm is plotting evil again. This time, he plans to create a super-smart monster. This doesn't quite work out, but he ends up with something just as good:

 He employs the Hydra monster to steal plans for a new secret weapon. This almost works, because it doesn't occur to either Captain Marvel or any of several policemen to try and stop the monster by any  other method than knocking/shooting one of its heads off--which, of course, only causes it to grow more heads. Soon, its got four heads. But Marvel soon tricks it into destroying itself by getting it to fight over food.

That leaves Mr. Mind a prisoner of the hero, but when the worm bumps his head, he gets amnesia, forgets he's evil and becomes a good guy.

Nowadays, an amnesia plot is pretty cliched. Heck, it was cliched in 1944. But it works here simply because it's hilarious. Billy Batson and Mr. Mind immediately become best buddies and roommates. Mr. Mind's multiple acts of murder are apparently forgiven. Billy saves him from an assassination attempt by Mind's former henchmen and the worm is able to help stop a plot to ram a huge asteroid into the Earth. But this latter incident results in Mr. Mind suffering another bump on the head, which cures his amnesia and turns him evil again. And, yes, that's another cliche. But it's funny, so I don't care.

This takes us to Captain Marvel Adventures #44. The story is zipping along at warp speed and its has never been more exciting or funnier. This momentum continues when Mr. Mind decides he needs a refresher course at his own School of Evil to get his groove back. As a graduation exercise, he and a monstrous henchman kidnap Billy Batson. One would think this would be on the list of "Things never to do" during your Freshman class at the School of Evil, because Billy escapes, says Shazam! and wrecks the school.

Mr. Mind takes refuge underwater, where he uses telepathic control of sea life to attack the U.S. Navy. This gives us the image of Mr. Mind wearing a tiny diving helmet and riding a sea horse, which might just be the single greatest thing ever.

When Marvel foils that scheme, the various henchmen finally get disgusted and quit. Alone and desperate, Mr. Mind sneaks into Billy's apartment and gasses him unconscious. Then, in yet another great gag, the tiny alien worm realizes that without his henchman, he has no idea how to actually kill Billy. He always had a few thugs or crocodile-men around to do anything that requires opposable thumbs!

While he's slowly dragging an electrical wire towards his intended victim, Billy wakes up, transforms into Captain Marvel and eventually captures his arch-enemy. (Though he has to get the help of an exterminator to smoke Mr. Mind out of the woodwork.) There's a trial, in which Captain Marvel serves as prosecutor and does such a good job, even Mind's own lawyer turns against him.

So the epic comes to an end as Mr. Mind is executed in the electric chair, then suffers the ultimate indignity of being stuffed and put on display in a museum.

He's not really dead, of course. It will eventually turn out that he put himself in suspended animation during his "execution," then hypnotized the taxidermist creating a duplicate for the museum display. But that's another story for another time.

The Monster Society of Evil is stuffed with so much Comic Book Logic-inspired joy that trying to pick a favorite moment would make one's brain implode. Mr. Mind is a brilliant design for a villain the the story as a whole balances humor and excitement in nearly perfect proportions. It is the ultimate epic from the Golden Age that gives us bizarre monsters, evil plots galore and Captain Marvel riding an unfrozen mammoth while fighting Nazis. You simply can't ask for more than that.

Don't forget that you can read the story online HERE.

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