Armagideon Time

By the time the Golden Age of Funnybooks entered its terminal phase, the public mania for superheroes was at a low ebb. A dwindling number of past-peak or licensing-sustained properties were left to fight defensive actions against a booming market for graphically lurid “true” crime and horror offerings.

Where titles as Black Cat Mysteries and Captain America’s Weird Tales were willing to flip to horror anthology formats with nominal ties to their brands, Fawcett took another approach with Captain Marvel Adventures. Instead of relegating the publisher’s flagship character to the back burner, Fawcett opted to incorporate the spooky content into the series’ “Captain Marvel and/versus a High Concept” narrative formula.

The forced grafting between moralistic whimsy and supernatural terror didn’t take so well, however, and resulted in tonally misshapen fruits like “Captain Marvel and the Vampire Burglar” in Captain Marvel Adventures #147 (August 1953).

The story began at the studios of WHIZ-TV, where Boy Reporter Billy Batson was setting the precedent for modern mainstream journalism…

Though Billy and his listeners thought they were enjoying a good chuckle at the expense of the mentally ill, the very real (and quite dapper) vampire in question quietly insinuated himself into the bustling world of post-war America.

His first fictim was an overfed tyke spotted on the street corner, whom he overpowered with his vampiric strength before ripping

…the “Goody Goody” candy bar out of the kid’s hand and making off with it in bat form.

The incident drew the attention of the Big Red Cheese, who confronted the vampire inside one of the confectioner’s warehouses and reasoned with him in a manner befitting a red-blooded American.

Though the vampire was able to evade capture, the up-close encounter with the good Captain’s fist convinced him that he would need to resort to Old World guile in order to satisfy his hunger for Goody Goody Bars. His patience was rewarded one slow news day later, when the headline of the local paper announced that a truckload of the coveted candy was being prepped for transport to the company’s new corporate headquarters.

Though the ravenous ghoul succeeded on intercepting the truck in transit, his unnatural hunger overcame his better judgement in a sequence which brimmed with a level of sheer unnatural horror that went beyond even EC’s worst moments of excess…

So what was the deal with the dapper undead’s obsession with Goody Goody Bars? The answer with shock — and almost certainly nauseate –
you…

After being clued in on the full story, the Big Red Cheese took pity on the contrite corpse-sucker and wisked him away for a face-to-fanged-face meeting with the Goody Goody’s CEO. Though the jowly titan of the teeth-rotting industry was initially skeptical of the vampire’s claims, one doesn’t climb their way to the top of Goody Goody’s ruthless corporate hierarchy without understanding the value of a captive export market.

The rest, as they say, was simply neoliberal capitalism at work.

(Note to self: Never eat any candy manufactured in Fawcett City.)

Recommended listening: Bis – Secret Vampires (from The Secret Vampire Soundtrack EP, 1996)

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The Sweet Shop Avengerz have risen from their grave.

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  3. Halloween Countdown: October 19 – Working on some knight moves

8 Responses to “Halloween Countdown: October 6 – Blood and emulsifiers”

  1. Dean

    Don’t ask about the wonky catwalk over the nougat-mixing vat at the Goody Goody factory, or why the company is always hiring…

  2. Abberation, The

    The Golden Age Captain Marvel (and Marvel Family) adventures seem to be persistently weird and crazy, if sometimes inconsistent. I remember two ’70s reprints in which Cap confronted witches. One disguised herself as a beautiful woman who attempted to marry herself to The Big Red Cheese, intending to render him helpless and henpecked; after being foiled, her ultimate fate was undisclosed. Yet another disguised herself as a beautiful woman to pursue a singing career in Fawcett City while her hag sisters came to reclaim her; not only was the singer (who had, after all, done nothing wrong except possibly lie on her job application) let off the hook, the murderous hags were allowed to become her backup singers on their own recognizance.

    But damn, the very last Golden Age story of the Marvel Family (illustrated by Kurt Schaffenberger and reprinted in the ugly-titled Super-Team Family #6, IIRC) got DARK for a few seconds; in a story in which all of Billy’s acquaintances are gradually being replaced by androids, Billy finds himself tied up (yet again) and threatened by his “sister” Mary, standing over him with a huge knife. Later, Billy finds himself tied up (yet AGAIN) and threatened by “himself,” coming at him with a huge AXE. The perpetual “tied-and-gagged” nonsense aside, it was both goofball fun and friggin’ traumatic. “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” didn’t have s*** on that story.

  3. Snark Shark

    and nowadays the bloodsuckers all work in BANKS!

  4. Tim O'Neil

    That’s basically the pilot for TRUE BLOOD, right?

  5. damanoid

    I suspect that you are giving the Captain Marvel team way too much credit for business savvy with these last couple entries. Yes, superhero comics had lost ground to horror comics, and it seems superficially logical that Fawcett would therefore try to capitalize on that by incorporating horror elements into their books. But a second look at this stuff seems to reveal that they were not doing any such thing– not on purpose, anyway. Is it really plausible that Fawcett would intentionally offer a monocle-wearing, candy bar-eating vampire as competition to EC grue? Granted, the mumbling zombies from a couple days ago were surprisingly EC-like… but they weren’t even featured on the issue’s cover, so how would the kids even know to buy it?

    What was on the cover of CMA 141? A crying Captain Marvel, sitting on a meteor, in space. With a sign around his neck. (?!?) No hint of zombies.

    http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20100420022835/marvel_dc/images/0/0a/Captain_Marvel_Adventures_Vol_1_141.jpg

    The cover of the issue above, featuring Count Chocula’s origin story? Captain Marvel fights a steampunk hobbyist!

    http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20100420022946/marvel_dc/images/2/2c/Captain_Marvel_Adventures_Vol_1_147.jpg

    So I think the horror elements creeping in are more attributable to free-floating pop culture imagery, rather than any conscious attempt to steal the horror comics’ thunder.

    Ironically, the vampire in this issue more closely resembles Stoker’s description of Count Dracula than practically any other comic vampire before or since.

  6. Caffeinated Joe

    Weird, to make a major understatement.

  7. G. Bob

    Malakiza would eventually be found to have side effects. Vampires subsisting on a diet of Malakiza would start developing symptoms such as becoming sparkly, and would exhibit mood alterations that would make them act like sullen emo tweens.

  8. Tristan

    The secret origin of Count Chocula

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