Several special issues in the 155-issue, 13-year run
of Whiz Comics make Fawcett's flagship title one of
the most collectible of the classic Golden Age anthology
Fortunately for collectors, the Captain Marvel appearances
in the first 24 issues of Whiz from 1940-41 are available
in the first three Shazam Archives from DC Comics, including
the Spy Smasher stories in #16-18. In those three issues,
the two Whiz headliners both appeared in the other's
strip in a novel-length "battle" tale, covering
57 pages in all.
The early issues of Whiz are prohibitively expensive,
even in lower grades, because of their historical importance.
Fortunately for collectors, however, they are far from
the best issues of Whiz. In addition, now that the leading
stories from the first 24 issues are available in reprint
form, it might behoove the opportunistic collector to
consider later issues. This is especially true considering
the quality of the covers of the 68-page World War II
issues, which ran through #50 (January 1944).
The first four issues were numbered 2 through 5 (February
1940 through May 1940), apparently because of the "ash-can"
issue #1, and the corrected numbering began with the
"second" #5 (June 1940). All of the four long-running
backup features Spy Smasher, Golden Arrow, Ibis
the Invincible and Lance O'Casey began in
the first issue along with the debut of Captain Marvel.
Other than the first issue, which DC has reprinted several
times, the Holy Grail of Whiz collectors is #25 (dated
Dec. 26, 1941), featuring the origin of Captain Marvel
Junior. It's part of a historic trilogy involving
Captain Marvel Junior and the classic villain Captain
Nazi, sandwiched between Master #21 and #22. This milestone
issue of Whiz lists for more than $500 in "good"
in the Overstreet Price Guide more than any other
issue of Whiz except the first issue.
It should be noted that Whiz featured specific "daily
dates" on issues #15-43.
However, the single best issue of Whiz is #33 (Aug.
7, 1942), which features a 24-page team-up epic of Captain
Marvel and Spy Smasher, along with perhaps the best
of all Whiz covers. The cover is a classic of World
War II propaganda, hitting the stands in the dismal
days about six months after the Japanese attack on Pearl
Harbor. If you can afford only one issue of Whiz, this
is the one to shoot for and at only $61 in "good,"
it's one of the best bargains among all Golden
Fawcett modestly plugged the epic Captain Marvel/Spy
Smasher team-up story in #33 as "The Greatest Story
Ever to Appear in a Comic Magazine" (they were
seldom referred to as "comic books" in those
days, but usually "comic magazines"). The
cover showed Captain Marvel slugging bayonet-wielding
Japanese soldiers through the air into the arms of Spy
Smasher, as Captain Marvel yelled "Next!"
and Spy Smasher replied with the outrageous pun "Keep
'em flying, Cap!"
Other World War II issues of Whiz to shoot for are the
four tongue-in-cheek issues guest starring the three
Lieutenant Marvels - #21 (Sept. 5, 1941), #29 (April
17, 1942), #34 (Sept. 4, 1942) and #40 (Feb. 19, 1943).
These three largely long-forgotten members of the Marvel
Family Tall Billy, Hill Billy and Fat Billy
are also featured on all four covers.
Another Whiz gem is #43 (June 9, 1943), featuring the
appearances of Spy Smasher, Ibis and Golden Arrow in
an entertainingly light-hearted Captain Marvel story.
In this tongue-in-cheek tale, Captain Marvel and the
other heroes of Whiz battle "Sabotage at the (Whiz
Comics) Printing Plant" in order to show how the
comic magazine itself can help defend America.
Finally, Mary Marvel completists need to find a copy
of #48, featuring a guest appearance of Billy Batson's
sister in the Captain Marvel story.
Whiz dropped to 52 pages with #52 (March 1944), and
soon fell to 36 pages for many issues, although 52-page
issues frequently appeared as late as #134 (June 1951).
The last 21 issues were all 36 pages, and several of
them are surprisingly difficult to find.
Fawcett's editors also made an odd decision beginning
with Whiz #136 (August 1951). Fawcett dropped the Captain
Marvel stories to only 7 pages all the way through the
last issue, but continued to run Ibis, Golden Arrow
and Lance O'Casey in 6 or 7 page stories as well,
rather than dropping one of them entirely, until Golden
Arrow made way in the last issue for a war story. Captain
Marvel always appeared on the covers, but all three
of the others were also frequently cover-featured as
The Overstreet Price Guide lists Whiz #153-155 as scarce,
and it would be hard to argue with that contention.
Those three 1953 issues are dated January, April and
June, indicating that sales were flagging after Whiz's
gloriously long monthly run through #152 (December 1952).
Whiz #154 and #155 are also curiosities, in that Dr.
Death supernatural stories ran in the same comic featuring
Captain Marvel an odd synergy of the Golden Age
and Atomic Age. Those last two issues are thus well
worth picking up as comic book oddities, especially
for those who just enjoy collecting inexpensive rarities.
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Richard Corben: A Look Back
I remember when I first started collecting comic books
and think of those times I skipped the new release rack
and headed straight for the 50 cents boxes. I would
finger through each book and only pick out the ones
that caught my eye: mostly obscure independent titles,
but occasionally some Marvel and DC superhero.
But yet, no matter how many times I went there, nothing
caught my eye more than one book. It was called Mutant
World and was put out by Fantagor Press. On the cover
was this ferocious drooling monster violently charging
through a pile of debris while a buxom blonde stood
aside in horror. The style of art was something I had
never before seen. It was crisp and detailed, like it
had come directly from my imagination or straight from
the lens of a camera. I only dreamt of what was inside.
Then, one day, I picked it up when the store owner wasn't
looking. You see, it was for "mature readers only" and
I was only 10 years old at the time. Nevertheless, I
insisted on skimming through the pages. And there it
was, for the first time in my hands, my introduction
to the world of Richard Corben.
Now, for those Golden and Silver Age collectors out
there, I know what you're thinking. There are a lot
of people that could put him to the test. True, but
for me, this was it. I was born in the Modern era, and
this was the first moment in my early life that I was
introduced to true artistic talent. At the time, I had
no knowledge of artists like Frank Frazetta or Bill
Everett. Richard Corben was compelling. His art came
alive and would reach out to its readers. Titles such
as Slow Death, Death Rattle, and Twisted Tales had me
begging for more. His pencils and inks seemed to breathe
with bubbling stipple-like action and gore. I felt so
sneaky in the buying process too, as I would secretly
hand money to my best friend's mom so she could purchase
them for me. Soon the 50 cents boxes were completely
stripped of anything by Corben. Some of my favorite
Corben, and maybe a few of his best works, are his adaptations
of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" and "Fall of the House
of Usher." They kept me up at night, with chilling illustrative
renditions of classic Poe literature.
I felt I had finally completed my collection of Richard
Corben comics, but then I was introduced to Warren magazines,
in which he worked on both Creepy and Eerie titles beginning
with Creepy issue 36 from 1970. And for Corben, who
is sometimes credited for horror in underground comics,
it was a great place to show off his skills with illustrative
horror. He also was a regular with Heavy Metal magazine,
where he began his barbarian fantasy story titled "Den,"
which eventually became its own title under the Fantagor
label. He also worked on "Arabian Nights" in Heavy Metal,
which was an adventurous voyage of Sinbad taking place
in several issues. Most stories saw many reprintings
in collections and trade paperbacks.
Although Corben has produced mostly less-mainstream
work, he is currently working with Marvel Comics on
a new title called Cage, as part of their adult line
Max. It's an off-the-wall, violent story of Luke Cage,
which you may remember from the Hero for Hire title
published by Marvel starting in the 1970s. And Richard
Corben pulls out all the stops for this one. His art
hasn't changed a bit over the past three decades. It's
still the photo-like line work, the texture of realism,
and of course, the true buxom, full-figured women.
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