As a dedicated Timely/Marvel comics fan, I was curious about what Marvel Entertainment Inc.’s acquisition of Mick Anglo‘s original 1954 run on Marvelman would produce. Anxious fans of Neil Gaiman‘s 1988 treatment seem no closer to reading any new stories, only reprints (and even those seem to have stopped). But, Mick Anglo fans must be ecstatic that reprints of his black and white comics are back on the stands.
A friend of mine gave me volumes one and two of Marvelman Classic. We both read and thoroughly enjoyed both Alan Moore‘s revamp of Marvelman from 1982, and Neil Gaiman’s subsequent take on the character. I knew a bit about what to expect, having read a couple reprints of original Marvelman comics in the past. So, I dived into these comics knowing that they’d be pretty hokey. Rather than for their literary quality, though, these comics are noteworthy as both historical publishing oddities and the original source material for something that Alan Moore used to redefine comics.
Still, in an effort to judge things on their own merits, on its 63rd anniversary of its publication I’m going to review the first story from Marvelman Classic Volume One, “Marvelman and the Atomic Bomber” from Marvelman #25 (February 3rd, 1954).
Marvelman Classic Vol. One: “Marvelman and the Atomic Bomber” – Some Background
For those who are unfamiliar with Marvelman, imagine an obvious knockoff of DC’s Captain Marvel who dresses differently. In fact, Marvelman, whose publication rights have been the subject of more than one legal disagreement, owes his existence as a published character to a legal battle between Fawcett Comics, the original corporate overlord of Billy Batson/Captain Marvel, and National/DC, the original corporate overlord of Superman.
In a legal decision that stopped the American publication of comics featuring Captain Marvel or any of his entourage, readers in the UK became some of the only ones who got to read Captain Marvel comics, although what they got were reprints. L. Miller & Son Ltd. was responsible for these British reprints, but eventually this practice ended. Instead, Mick Anglo was contracted by L. Miller & Son to come up with a character that would fill the commercial void that a loss of monthly Captain Marvel-related comics represented. Enter Micky Moran/Marvelman.
Marvelman Classic Vol. One: “Marvelman and the Atomic Bomber” – “Shazmota!”
When I refer to Marvelman as a knockoff of Captain Marvel, I’m not referring only to his contentious name.
Like Billy Batson, Micky Moran is a good kid. After being treated in “special machine” by a reclusive scientist, Micky gains the ability to transform himself into Marvelman, the mightiest man in the universe, whenever Micky says Kimota. Marvelman, in turn, turns back into Micky if he says the word. Sound familiar?
Other similarities include the array of supporting characters, including Young Marvelman and the oxymoronically named Kid Marvelman.
Marvelman Classic Vol. One: “Marvelman and the Atomic Bomber” – Boromania!
On his way home from working overtime as a copy boy at the coincidentally named Daily Bugle, Micky Moran witnesses a mugging. Changing into the mighty Marvelman by yelling “Kimota,” he scraps with the muggers. But, they manage to make off with their victim’s briefcase.
After dispatching the muggers, Marvelman turns back into Micky. The mugging victim informs him that the briefcase contains plans to an experimental atomic bomber. The mugging victim believes his attackers to have been Boromanian agents out to use the plans for their own nefarious purposes.
Marvelman Classic Vol. One: “Marvelman and the Atomic Bomber” – Balco
In the shadows, Balco, the Boromanian chief has watched the whole scene. Now knowing that the invincible Marvelman turns into the relatively helpless Micky Moran and vice versa by saying “Kimota,” Balco incapacitates and gags Micky.
Balco reveals that he stole the plans to the bomber so he could hijack it and drop an atomic bomb in the centre of “Washington!” I presume that Balco meant Washington DC and not the state of Washington, but we’ll never know.
Micky, who has been secured to the side of the atomic bomb, is able to yell “Kimota!” when the bomb’s parachute deploys and removes his gag. Marvelman grabs the bomb and hurls it into an ocean. He also apprehends the fleeing Boromanians by snatching their plane out of the air. A statesman declares Marvelman an international hero. But he’s not in it for the praise, he’s just doing his “duty as a good world citizen.”
Marvelman Classic Vol. One: “Marvelman and the Atomic Bomber” – The Art
Mick Anglo manages a kind of Adventures of Tintin look that works pretty well in his restrictive black and white medium. The art’s cartoonish, but because of the light-hearted and sometimes goofy nature of the story it fits.
Marvelman Classic Vol. One: “Marvelman and the Atomic Bomber” – The Story
It’s a pretty exciting story but boy is it derivative! Having read a number of Golden Age comics, I’m pretty familiar with the way these fifth columnist/spy/saboteur plot stories go. This one didn’t offer much in the way of novelty, but, hey, it’s Marvelman’s first time out. Go easy on him.