Apparently one of the prerequisites for a Golden Age comic book publisher was to have an anthology comic featuring their major players under a title which essentially said “Yes, We’re Just That Good”. There was America’s Greatest Comics, America’s Best Comics, World’s Finest Comics, All-Winners and to a somewhat lesser degree, 4 Most, Four Favorites, Jackpot and Big 3. And as the below cover below might suggest, this time I’m going to be writing about America’s Greatest Comics #4 from 1941.
I’ll only be posting one story from it because it’s a fairly lengthy one, but I’ll use this comic as an excuse to dump on Fawcett’s pantheon of second-string superheroes who never caught on the way Captain Marvel and his entourage did. Personal tastes vary but frankly I’m not all that crazy about Spy Smasher, Bulletman, Minute Man, Mr. Scarlet and especially Commando Yank (who may very well be the dowdiest dressed mystery man of the Golden Age). It’s interesting to note that there’s never been a serious attempt at reviving them in the modern age, if you don’t count the reimagined versions of them who appear in the background of Mark Waid and Alex Ross Kingdom Come. And I don’t.
Our feature presentation is a twenty page Captain Marvel story titled “Captain Marvel and the Bumble Brained Bridegroom”. It’s set during the early days of the character when the writers and editors were still figuring out what exactly they wanted to do with him. It’s a little after Billy Batson gave up wearing the shirt with the double B.B. on the chest (like readers couldn’t have picked him out of a line-up even then) and carrying a miniature radio station on his back. You also know it’s a fairly early Captain Marvel entry because it features an appearance by Dr. Sirvana’s beautiful daughter (and that was her one and only defining characteristic) Beautia, and her desperately shallow love for the Big Red Cheese.
It’s also a strange and genuinely funny one featuring guest appearances by the Whiz Comics back-up features Spy Smasher (with his goggles up, revealing his secret identity of Alan Armstrong), Lance O’Casey, Golden Arrow (who apparently arrived via a time machine, as his adventures ordinarily took place during a non-specific period in The Old West) and Ibis the Invincible and Princess Taia (watch that hand, Billy). The story never comes out and exactly says it but it looks as if Billy is acting as the master of ceremonies at a War Relief Benefit showing of episodes of the Spy Smasher serial.
It also features a guest appearance by Professor Edgewise Smith who made reoccurring appearances in Golden Age Captain Marvel comics. In this story he self identifies as a mad scientist but in most of his appearances he was depicted as being your standard garage and/or attic whacky inventor type. When Captain Marvel was revived by DC in the 70’s he became Captain Marvel Jr.’s super scientist in residence.