Tagged: Captain Marvel

Mindy Newell: Fly Girls

Kelly Sue DeConnick rocks!

Women had made their mark as pilots well before World War II. Amelia Earhart, Jacqueline Cochran, Nancy Harkness Love, Bessie Coleman, and Harriet Quimby were some of the women holding records in aviation.

When war broke out in Europe, Cochran, Harkness and other women went to England to volunteer to fly in the Air Transport Auxiliary, which had been using female pilots as ferriers since 1940. These women were the first American women to fly military aircraft – Spitfires, Typhoons, Hudsons, Mitchells, Bienhams, Oxfords, Walruses, and Sea Otters under combat conditions.

In 1942, now in the war, the United States was in desperate straits for combat pilots. After much political maneuvering and bickering, it was decided to train women as ferry pilots, with Jackie Cochran enlisted to direct the program. 25,000 women applied; only 1,830 were accepted; of these, 1,074 passed the training and became Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPS. The WASPS flew over 60 million miles, piloting everything from trainers to fighters like the P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-51 Mustangs and the heavy bombers: B-17s, B-26s, and B-29s. They ferried new planes long distances from factories to military bases and departure points across the country. They tested newly overhauled planes. And they towed targets to give ground and air gunners training shooting  – with live ammunition.

In 1959, an independent researcher named William Randolph Lovelace, who was part of the team developing the tests for NASA’s first male astronauts (who became known as the Mercury 7 – see or read The Right Stuff) became interested in finding how women would stand up to the same conditions; in 1960, he invited accomplished pilot Geraldlyn “Jerrie” Cobb to submit herself to this challenge.

The tests ranged from general physicals and X-rays to weird things like swallowing a rubber tube to test stomach acids, undergoing electrical shocks to test the ulnar nerve (found in the forearm), having ice water shot into their ears to test vertigo and reaction time, and dozens of other weird oddities. (See or read The Right Stuff to get an idea of the regimen.)

She became the first American woman to undergo and pass all three phases of the testing.

19 more women were invited into Lovelace’s program, which was funded by WASP director Jacqueline Cochran.

13 passed.

They became known as the Mercury 13.

I bring this up because writer Kelly Sue DeConnick is doing something remarkable in the new Captain Marvel series. Without publicity or blowing of trumpets, DeConnick is rewriting the possibilities – no, the actualities – of “women in comics.”  Using the proud history of women in aviation, including the WASPs and the Mercury 13, DeConnick and her team, which includes artist Dexter Soy and editor Stephen Wacker, are presenting women who are just as smart, just as stupid, just as capable, just as frightened, just as full of bravado, just as confused, just as sure-minded, and just as fucked-up as any of their male counterparts.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air….

High Flight

John Gillepsie Magee, Jr.

By the way, Captain Marvel rocks!

Fly, girl, fly!!

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten, Neil Gaiman and Michael Chabon

TUESDAY EVENING: Michael Davis In France


“Captain Marvel” and the real history of women’s aviation

One of the ways writer Kelly Sue DeConnick is developing the new Captain Marvel is by giving her firm links to the history and culture of women’s aviation.  This approach combines the real world and Marvel Universe in a way that comics fans haven’t seen in several years.

In Captain Marvel #1, DeConnick introduces Carol Danvers’ flying mentor, Helen Cobb. Cobb is described as a record-holding pilot and a member of the “Mercury 13 program,” without giving a lot of details. Captain Marvel #3 is now out, and, while the plot of the first story line is still taking shape, it’s possible to talk about some of DeConnick’s sources.

Helen Cobb is almost certainly inspired by Geraldyn “Jerrie” Cobb,  a prominent woman pilot who became involved in an abortive effort to add women astronauts to the Project Mercury program in the early 1960s. Here’s what happened, according to two excellent books on the subject: Promised the Moon by Stephanie Nolen (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2002) and [[[The Mercury 13]]] by Martha Ackmann (Random House, 2003).

NASA commissioned a non-government organization called the Lovelace Clinic to do medical tests on the newly-chosen Mercury 7 astronauts. The director of the clinic decided that they were going to test women as well. There was more than scientific curiosity behind this decision. There was a commonly held belief that the USSR was training woman for space (which proved to be true) and scientists were establishing the basic principles for manned space flight.  Maybe it would be smarter to use women as astronauts, because they were smaller and used less oxygen.

During 1960 and ’61, Jerrie Cobb and 12 other women went through a series of tests and examinations. They did well, equal to or better than the men in many cases.  However, NASA refused to let the tests continue. Two of the reasons the agency gave were also presented in CM #3. The women were not trained to be jet test pilots and losing a woman in space would be a public relations disaster.

Cobb, and some of the other women, continued to fight the decision, even managing to organize a short congressional hearing on the topic.  Over time, NASA’s policies changed; Sally Ride, who died earlier this year, became the first American woman in space in 1983.  However, neither Cobb nor her associates ever made it.

Referring to the group as the Mercury 13 didn’t start until relatively recently. Cobb sometimes called them the Fellow Lady Astronaut Trainees (F.L.A.T.s), but that wasn’t even accepted by everyone in the group.

In the comics, Helen Cobb eventually became a bar owner. Jerrie Cobb went in a very different direction. She was always extremely shy—in part due to a speech impediment—and she was further traumatized by her brush with notoriety in the early 1960s.  She eventually became a pilot for a missionary organization in  Latin and South America.

It should be noted, though, that the story in Captain Marvel #2 about Helen Cobb having to escape from a Peruvian general does have a basis in reality. After World War II, Jerrie Cobb did deliver surplus U.S military planes to various buyers in South America.

In addition, Helen Cobb refers to the Ninety-Nines in issue one. That’s a real-life organization of women aviators, co-founded by Amelia Earhart. The name refers to the number of prospective members who attended the first meeting, and not to be confused with the superhero comic based on Islamic culture.

To me, the Mercury 13 storyline is reminiscent of Truth:Red, White and Black the 2003 Captain America story where it is revealed that the super-soldier serum was secretly tested on African-Americans. It takes a little-known piece of actual history and shows its impact on someone in the Marvel Universe. And making the women’s aviation sub-culture part of Carol Danvers’ background makes her a stronger, more interesting character.

Captain Marvel Flies In Captain Marvel Jr’s Wake

On the left, the cover to Marvel Comics’ Captain Marvel #3, drawn by the gifted Ed McGuinness, out on sale in several weeks. If the first issue is any indication, it’s worth reading.

On the right, the cover to Fawcett Comics’ Master Comics #105, cover-dated July 1949 featuring Captain Marvel Jr., drawn by the legendary Kurt Schaffenberger .  

You might think I’m going to jump up and down screaming “Rip-off! Rip-off!” Well, what do you think this is, The Comics Journal? No, McGuinness is an honorable man (well, to the best of my understanding; I haven’t checked to see if he has an arrest record or anything) and, clearly, it’s the modern Captain Marvel nodding to the classic Captain Marvel – in each case, one of the many – and we have ever right to infer this is a tribute. A common, and noble, practice in comics. This ain’t Roy Lichtenstein trading off of other people’s work.

But it does deserve kudos (not the granola bar; get a dictionary). Ed reached back 63 years to what, in my mind, is a classic cover of the late golden age. This is no small feat, as Kurt (who I knew and worked with in the 1980s) followed in the wake of the artist most associated with Captain Marvel Jr., the astonishingly talented Mac Raboy .

So I wanted to bring this to your attention. Usually, when artists want to reflect back on previously published work, they go for the cover to Fantastic Four #1 or Amazing Fantasy #15. In fact, there’s a slew of such covers and, from time to time, I’ll be reflecting awkwardly upon them. Until then, let’s hear it for Ed McGuinness who reminds us of two legendary characters: Captain Marvel Jr., and Kurt Schaffenberger.

Mike Gold: Marvel Now and Again

When I first heard that Marvel was launching a new title each week for five months, I thought “What do you mean five months? They’ve been doing that for years!”

My second thought was… “define new.

As I’ve stated before, Marvel doesn’t reboot as much as it evolves: they’ll launch the 74th Captain Marvel while still using the first. Sure, they ignore stuff. Nothing wrong with that. It’s a lot easier than explaining why, in a logical continuity, Aunt May didn’t die long before most of the readers were born. So any comparisons between Marvel Now and DC’s New 52 are strained to say the least. Apples and oranges, as they say in the produce trade.

In looking over the lists of new Marvel Now launches, I see a bunch that seem interesting from a casting standpoint – both in terms of matching creative talent to characters and matching characters to teams. But Marvel’s been up to that for decades. What’s new about it now?

Marvel, and DC and everybody else, has been killing titles and relaunching them with new creative teams and big number ones on the cover ever since the direct sales racket started, so, again, what’s new about it now?

New costumes? This must be Wednesday! Spider-Man hasn’t had a new costume since every fourth page of any recent issue of The Avengers. The Red Skull is back? Damn! It is Wednesday! So, new? (That’s an awesome pun if you know Yiddish.)

No, really. I’m asking. What’s new about Marvel Now, now? What am I missing here? It’s just another huge marketing stunt, but – thankfully – one that doesn’t necessarily involve buying a million different tie-ins, crossovers and sidebar mini-series in order to get a complete road map. I’m sure Marvel’s likely to increase its sales lead over DC a bit. Big deal. Marvel is part of Disney, and increasing its lead over DC in the teensy tiny direct sales market wouldn’t provide sufficient motivation for Disney Chairman Bob Iger to lift his head out of his morning cereal bowl.

Look. I’m fine with all of this. It’s just nothing new. In fact, it’s a big part of why I’ve found the Marvel Universe fun ever since Fantastic Four #26.

No, what bothers me is Newtonian physics. Specifically, the bit about “with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Except that in the 21st Century, I’d rewrite this to read “with every action there is a massive and opposite over-reaction.”

Yes, friends. Beware the New 104!

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil Talks Up San Diego and Sequels


REVIEW: Shazzan The Complete Series

shazzan-300x300-6417446Growing up in the 1960s, I first heard “Shazam” from the lips of Gomer Pyle, USMC and only later learned it had something to do with a defunct character, Captain Marvel. When I then saw ads in the comics for a Saturday morning series called Shazzan, I was confused, thinking it was somehow connected. Nope, the CBS series created by the great Alex Toth and produced by Hanna-Barbera and had the following narration:

“Inside a cave off the coast of Maine, Chuck (Jerry Dexter) and Nancy (Janet Waldo) find a mysterious chest containing the halves of a strange ring. When joined, the ring forms the word “Shazzan!” and with this magical command, they are transported back to the fabled land of the Arabian Nights. Here they meet their Genie, Shazzan (Barney Phillips). Shazzan presents them with Kaboobie (Don Messick), a magical flying camel. Shazzan will serve them whenever they call, but he cannot return them home until they deliver the ring to its rightful owner. And thus begins their incredible journey.”

Adding an extra “ho” to the Jolly Green Giant’s “ho ho ho”, the 60-foot tall Shazzan was a jovial genie, calling the kids “little masters” and never tired at saving them with regularity. The series ran from September 9, 1967 and ended on Saturday, September 6, 1969 and featured two escapades per thirty minutes and achieved just enough popularity to be repeated as part of countless series in the 1970s and 1980s before finding a home on cable. The complete 36 episode series has been collected for the first time thanks to the tireless folk at Warner Archive.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYMeVDMi_tk[/youtube] (more…)


I’ve seen the light.

I’ve seen the future of comics.

I had a meeting yesterday with a company that is going to change the game on the net and can change for comics and creators. I’ve haven’t been this excited since I was 17 and my very first real girlfriend Yvonne Stallworth said, “My parents won’t be home until the morning.”

At 17you know what that means, right fellas?

Poon tang…yeah.

Or in my case spending the night saying; “Please…please…please.”  Before you think I was begging for poon tang; “Please, Please, Please” is the title of a James Brown song I was singing… as I was begging for poon tang.

I can’t talk about the company or what they are doing…no that’s not true, I can talk about it but I’m hedging my bets just in case I’m wrong…which, by the way, I’m not.

That way if they crash and burn I’m protected and if they succeed I’m golden!

All the above said, I’m at a lost as to what was the last game changing moment in comics.

I guess it was the New 52 from DC.

I guess.

I’m not sure because to say something is a game changer is a big deal. Because it’s such a big deal I started thinking, what does it take to be a real game changer?

This is what I came up with. Areal game changer is a person or event that creates a new way of looking at things and years later that way has become the way.

So, with my personal criteria noted what follows are what I consider the most important game change decisions or people who have done so since I’ve been reading comics. You may disagree and if so feel free to amend, add or challenge some or all of my choices.

This list is in NO particular order.

  • Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man
  • Image Comics
  • Jack Kirby
  • Stan Lee
  • Dwayne McDuffie
  • First Comics
  • Mike Gold
  • Milestone Media
  • Death of Captain Marvel
  • Death of Superman
  • The New 52
  • The iPad
  • The Killing Joke
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths
  • Secret Wars
  • Death of Barry Allen
  • Neil Gaiman’s Sandman
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Kirby’s fourth world
  • Death of Gwen Stacy
  • Dave McKean
  • Bill Sienkiewicz
  • San Diego Comic Con International
  • Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles
  • Alan Speiegal
  • Arkham Asylum
  • Paul Levitz
  • Jenette Kahn
  • Axel Alonzo
  • Howard Chaykin
  • Dark Horse
  • Mike Richardson
  • Len Wein
  • Marv Wolfman
  • The A.P.E convention
  • John Jennings

Like I said the above list is in no particular order. Don’t send me comments about McFarlane being before Stan Lee, the list is in no particular order.


Now. Have at it!



DENNIS O’NEIL: Patron Superheroes?

Got a concept for you. Ready?

Patron superheroes.

You’re lovin’ it already, aren’t you?

For those of you who have never been Catholic, here’s a quick definition of patron saint, via the invaluable Wikipedia: “A patron saint is a saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person…(They) are believed to be able to intercede for the needs of heir special charges.”

I mean, when you think about it superheroes and patron saints have a lot in common. Both are dedicated to helping the good guys (though the definition of “good guys” is liable to change) and both have powers that help the aforementioned good guys. You’re Lois Lane falling from a window, you yell and here comes Superman to prevent you from splatting. You’re a Giants fan, you want your team too win the Super Bowl, you pray to the appropriate saint and – yay Giants.

Okay, maybe your saint didn’t affect the game directly – though who knows? – but he or she obviously had some influence on the final score. I mean, saints obviously have a lot of clout. And these things are, by their very nature, mysterious.

Now, I don’t know if there is actually a patron saint of football, or a patron saint of the Giants, or of the New England Patriots, but if not, these surely are blanks easily filed in. If we can put a man on the moon, we can give he Patriots a patron! And by the way, there is a patron saint of athletes: St. Sebastian. So what if a Giants fan and a Patriots fan both prayed to Sebastian? Gee, another darn mystery…Maybe whoever prayed loudest?

We’re going to ignore “pagan” deities, who had a lot in common with both saints and superheroes because…well, this is a Christian country! (I believe I heard a guy wearing a suit on television say that, so I know it has to be straight.)

And that brings us to patron superheroes, though there really isn’t much to say about them, once you acknowledge the similarities between saints and superdoers. It’s just a matter of dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s, and you can manage that on your own.

But to help you get started, here’s a brief, off-the-top-of-my-head list of heroes and what they might be patron of.

Superman – immigrants.

Plastic Man – politicians.

Spider-Man – entomologists.

Green Arrow – acupuncturists.

The Human Torch – arsonists.

Invisible Scarlett O’Neil – wallflowers. (No relation, in case you’re wondering.)

The Flash – athletic shoe manufacturers

Captain Marvel – electricians.

Captain Marvel Junior – electricians’ assistants.

Hoppy the Marvel Bunny – fertility.

The Shadow – sundials.

And to make it an even dozen –

Blue Beetle – unhappy rock stars.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

The Godfather’s Alex Rocco returns to his mobster roots in Batman: Year One

byo-55-300x168-5896443Alex Rocco, best known for his role as gangster Moe Greene in The Godfather, returns to his mobster roots as Carmine Falcone in Batman: Year One, the next entry in the popular, ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original Movies.

The appearance in a Dark Knight-related project brings Rocco’s 44-year career full circle. The Massachusetts-born actor, who was once an adjunct member of Boston’s Winter Hill Gang, got his first on-screen role in the 1960s Batman television series.

Rocco appeared as the thug Block in the back-to-back episodes “A Piece of the Action” and “Batman’s Satisfaction,” which premiered on March 1 and 2, 1967.  The episodes also featured the first true crossover appearance of Green Hornet and Kato on the Batman series (aside from a cameo popping out a window in the first season).

Since then, Rocco has been seen on primetime in everything from Get Smart, The F.B.I. and Kojak to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Rockford Files and Baretta. He has had recurring roles on The Facts of Life, The Famous Teddy Z, Sibs, The George Carlin Show and The Division. His voice is easily recognized as Roger Myers Jr., the head of Itchy & Scratchy Studios on The Simpsons.

In feature films, Rocco’s most notable roles include Moe Greene (and his gruesome demise) in The Godfather, the comically curious police chief in The Stunt Man, and as over-the-top Sol Siler, the head of Playtone Records in That Thing You Do!

Produced by Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation, the all-new, PG-13 rated Batman: Year One arrived this week from Warner Home Video as a Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD, On Demand and for Download. Batman: Year One is also available in a special download-for-purchase early window (starting October 11) through iTunes, Xbox Live, Zune, VUDU HD Movies and Video Unlimited on the PlayStation Network & Sony Entertainment Network.

Rocco, an agreeable and funny man in person, spent a few extra minutes after his initial recording session to chat about mob bosses, Burt Ward’s whining, Julie Newmar’s sex appeal, and how to get ahead in Hollywood when your bartending partner takes a bathroom break. Take note … Moe Greene, er, Alex Rocco is speaking. (more…)

Dear DC, Please Keep Captain Marvel Black!

Dear DC,

You’re rebooting your universe, and I approve. Comic books should be rebooted every decade to keep them vital. Having a younger Superman who was never married makes sense. I only have one plea: please, keep Captain Marvel black.

I’m old enough to remember the early ‘70s when DC had the best female superheroes, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Batgirl, and Marvel had the best black superheroes, the Black Panther, the Falcon, and Luke Cage.

But everything changed in 1973 when DC expanded its universe with characters that had been published by other companies. Justice League #107 introduced the Quality Comics superheroes. Here’s that groundbreaking cover:


With one stroke, DC accomplished two things. One was obvious: it leapt ahead of Marvel on diversity, creating four African-American heroes, a Mexican-American Black Condor and a Japanese-American Human Bomb (which seems simplistic now, but was a daring commentary on nuclear weapons then).


ComicMix Six: Ends of the World

Good news, everyone: If you’re reading this, it’s just passed midnight in American Samoa, so it’s no longer May 21st anywhere on the planet– which means that the Rapture didn’t happen (yet), society hasn’t crumbled (yet), and there’s still a readership for comic books (for now).

That said, as far as ends of the world go, the Rapture lacks a certain panache. Comic book readers have been used to the idea of worlds ending in cataclysm for a long time. Over a near-infinite number of crises, comic books have always made sure it ends with all bang, no whimper – even if, sometimes, that bang is more figurative than literal. Here’s a look at six of the best ends-of-the-world that comics has yet come up with.


The birth of superhero comics started with the death of a planet. We’re willing to wager it’s the best-known origin story in all of comics: desperate scientist Jor-El and wife Lara shoot their only son Kal-El away from the doomed planet Krypton towards Earth, where he’s adopted by the kindly Kent family. And in most versions of the Superman story, what took out Krypton? A nuclear chain reaction triggered by a loss of stability Krypton’s radioactive core, which also creates the only element that can kill the most powerful man on Earth.

Krypton: 1, Rapture: 0.