Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Captain Marvel Annotated - Whiz Comics #3 - pt. 2

That Billy waits so long before calling on Captain Marvel could be a writer’s trick for ratcheting up suspense, but it could also speak of young Billy’s possibly naïve faith in adults to solve their own problems without Captain Marvel’s intervention.

Page 5: Sivana’s heavy tanks, being toppled here, are probably not the same as the lighter tanks that could be dropped from transport planes. The lighter, “streamlined” tanks probably only held the roads clear for the heavy tanks coming by land.

The U.S. was far behind other countries in developing tanks until at least mid-1940. Indeed, the U.S. Army had no new heavy tanks as of this battle and only 28 medium and light tanks supplemented by antique, and obsolete, heavy tanks. At this time, most tanks did not wield the heavy main guns common on WWII-era tanks and most turrets only held .50 caliber machine guns. In light of this, Sivana’s turrets do not seem to lack firepower compared to U.S. tanks. Sivana’s tanks seem to be firing light cannons instead of machine guns, as most U.S. tanks of the time favored, as Captain Marvel is not being sprayed with bullets, but by somewhat larger shells.

Since Sivana’s tanks do not closely resemble any nonfictional tanks, it is difficult to say how heavy they are. However, given their size compared to Captain Marvel standing next to them, it is possible that the heavy tanks weigh as much as 100 tons. Since Captain Marvel seems to be lifting them with difficulty – using both hands, crouching as he lifts, and preferring to tip them over to tossing them around – this could be the earliest indication of the limits of Captain Marvel’s strength.

Note the pink, puffy-shaped airships with four stabilizing fins. These must be some sort of blimps. Apart from their exotic design, it is impossible to say what role they serve in the battle other than making pretty targets. They clearly belong to Sivana’s air force.

Page 6: Note the dramatic silhouette of Captain Marvel lifting two machine gunners over his head. In addition to working artistically, perhaps the reader is being asked to shy away from picturing Captain Marvel getting too much into the gritty realities of fighting and warfare.

Again, it is impossible to specify where exactly the fighting is taking place. The lack of buildings suggests they are out in the country some distance from Washington, D.C., but this does not match how Billy described the situation two pages ago. We might be looking at a public park inside the city. There is no indication in the text that Sivana’s forces made it as far as the National Mall.

Page 7: Captain Marvel could have pursued the fleeing army and forced their surrender, but instead chooses the very un-military solution of capturing their leader. Even when given the chance of capturing Sivana’s general, Billy chooses to pursue Sivana instead – akin to enemy soldiers going after our President to stop a war.

Sivana’s two-way TV reappears here from the previous issue.

Sivana’s general is a decorated soldier, as evidenced by the two medals on his chest – but decorated by whom? Surely Sivana is not the type to hand out medals. Given the general’s blonde hair, the man was most likely a distinguished mercenary soldier in Europe or a colony of Europe – though he could also be a traitorous American!

Page 8: Billy shows no hesitation in changing into Captain Marvel in front of bad guys. Of course, when you deliver a right cross with up to 100 tons of force, your bad guy is unlikely to survive to tell anyone.

A lazier writer might have had Captain Marvel leap or fly onto the fleeing plane, but Bill Parker (and hence, Captain Marvel) wisely takes the stealthier approach of climbing up from the landing wheel, so as to not be heard or otherwise noticed en route. Bill Parker also correctly identifies the fuselage as the part of the plane Captain Marvel is standing on.

Page 9: Sivana’s underground hangar is not only underground, but “far beneath the earth’s surface.” To the modern Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast, that might suggest a huge, multi-level dungeon beneath Sivana’s fortress, though there were few literary precedents for these dungeons and fewer still dating back as far as circa 1938-40 (though one would be “Face in the Abyss”, written by A. Merritt and published in 1923, which also inspired at least one Superman/Luthor story for Jerry Siegel). But how deep could it be? The deepest hole dug by man by 1938 was almost three miles deep. The deepest mine still on record is the Western Deep Levels Mine of South Africa at 2.3 miles deep, but I cannot find when that mine reached that deep. So, it is feasible that Sivana’s underground hangar is at least 2 miles deep, though why it would need to be that deep defies further speculation.

The general must be pretty smart, or at least wily. He must know he’s being followed, but does not let on that he knows he is being followed until he rounds a corner and finds a guard or two more (it’s unclear if one of these was the pilot). Only then does he double back on Captain Marvel, once the odds seem more in his favor. Not that it helps.

Although Captain Marvel clearly does not need a swinging kick to overpower the general and his two guards, he still chooses to attack them with the dramatic flourish of swinging his feet while hanging from a rafter. Billy’s influence, or Captain Marvel’s character?

Page 10: Although the presence of the staircase suggests Captain Marvel is heading up, it is just as likely that he takes the tunnel under the stairs – particularly since, in his haste, he seems to have forgotten to question the general as to where Sivana is.

In a weak moment artistically, the silhouette of a bat is hovering over the stairwell for no apparent reason. Is it lost too?

Like many Golden Age superheroes, gas seems to be an early Achilles heel for the otherwise unbeatable Captain Marvel (though the “deadly” gas only knocks him out). That Golden Age comic book artists saw gas as a more fearsome threat than more conventional weapons, like bullets, is likely a holdover in the mindset of the times from the use of mustard gas as a horrifically effective weapon in WWI.

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