Fawcett Comics

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Whiz Comics #2 (February 1940), the first appearance of Captain Marvel, the company's most popular character. Cover art by C. C. Beck.
Whiz Comics #2 (February 1940), the first appearance of Captain Marvel, the company's most popular character. Cover art by C. C. Beck.
Hopalong Cassidy #30, April 1949
Hopalong Cassidy #30, April 1949

Fawcett Comics, a subsidiary of Fawcett Publications, was one of several successful comics publishers during the Golden Age of Comic Books in the 1940s. Its most popular character was Captain Marvel (not to be confused with Marvel Comics' character of the same name), the alter ego of boy radio reporter Billy Batson, who transformed into the hero whenever he spoke the magic word "SHAZAM!".

Other characters published by Fawcett include Captain Video, Hopalong Cassidy, Ibis the Invincible, Bulletman and Bulletgirl, Spy Smasher, Captain Midnight, Phantom Eagle, Mister Scarlet and Pinky, Minute-Man, Commando Yank, and Golden Arrow.

Aside from the better known superhero books, Fawcett also published a short-lived line of horror comics during the early 50s, a string of titles which included This Magazine Is Haunted, Beware! Terror Tales, Worlds of Fear, Strange Suspense Stories, and Unknown World. Other genres included Teenaged Humor (Otis and Babs), Funny Animal (Hoppy the Marvel Bunny), Romance (Sweethearts), War (Soldier Comics) and Western (Lash larue, Six Gun Heroes). Fawcett also produced comics based on contemporary movie stars (Tom Mix, Rocky Hale) and matinee serials (Nyoka the Jungle Girl). The entire line was dropped in 1953, when Fawcett closed down their comics publishing wing.

Fawcett Publications began in 1919 with the magazine Captain Billy's Whiz Bang and eventually expanded into a line of periodicals with a combined circulation of ten million a month. The company joined in the explosion of comic book publications in the United States in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Its initial entry, developed by writer Bill Parker and artist C. C. Beck, was Thrill Comics, a single issue of which was published only as an ashcan copy. The content was then reworked (for example, the lead character of Captain Thunder was renamed to Captain Marvel), and published as Whiz Comics #2 (Feb. 1940).

In addition to Beck, the line-up of artists who contributed to Fawcett Comics include Al Allard, Harry Anderson, Ken Bald, Phil Bard, Al Bare, Dan Barry, John Belfi, Dave Berg, Jack Binder, Alex Blum, Bob Boyajian, Bob Butts, Al Carreno, Joe Certa, Pete Costanza, Greg Duncan, Leonard Frank, Bob Fujitani, Till Goodson, Ray Harford, John Jordan, H.C. Kiefer, Jack Kirby, Andre Le Blanc, Charles Nicholas, Carl Pfeuffer, Mac Raboy, Pete Riss, Ed Robbins, John Rosenberger, Kurt Schaffenberger, Joe Simon, Jon Small, Ed Smalle, Jack Sparling, John Spranger, Chic Stone, Charles Sultan, Marc Swayze, Ben Thompson, George Tuska, Bill Ward, Clem Weisbecker, Burt Whitman, Reuben Zubofsky and Nick Zuraw.

The whimsical adventures of Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family (which included Captain Marvel, Jr., Mary Marvel, the Lieutenants Marvel, etc.) eventually outsold those of Superman, and National Comics (as DC Comics was then known) sued Fawcett, claiming that the Captain infringed on the copyright of their original costumed superhero. Facing a declining comics market in the 1950s, Fawcett Comics ceased publication and settled the case (the non-comic book divisions of Fawcett continued to publish). Many of the publisher's characters were sold to Charlton Comics. In 1972 DC licensed, and in 1980 purchased, Captain Marvel and his related characters.

Fawcett returned to publishing comics in the 1960s, but mainly to publish Dennis the Menace and other such titles.


Trivia

  • According to Steranko's History of Comics vol 2, National Periodical's 1941 copyright hearing against Fawcett Publications was dismissed on a technicality; National had failed to secure the copyright to the Superman newspaper strip.
  • National's 1953 legal victory was parodied in an early Mad Comics satire. Illustrated by Wally Wood, "Superduperman!" pitted the eponymous protagonist against rogue superhero "Captain Marbles." After discovering that Marbles is his exact match in every respect, Superduperman tricks him into punching himself in the face, a likely reference to Fawcett's cancelling its own comics division.
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