Friday, August 16, 2013

365 Days of DC House Ads, Day 228: I don't know, but I do know why he has stripes. (Answer in the hover-text.)

House ad for Shazam! (1973 series) #7 (November 1973); printed in Secrets of Sinister House #15 (November 1973)
Comic cover art: pencils and inks by C. C. Beck
Ad designed and lettered by Gaspar Saladino

This comic book is asking why Mr. Tawky Tawny has entered into a vow of silence? Surely that's not a matter of life or death!

Panel from "The Troubles of the Talking Tiger" in Shazam! (1973 series) #7 (November 1973); script by Denny O'Neil; pencils, inks, and letters by C. C. Beck

Oh. I stand corrected.

Yes, it's not many comic books that begin with one of the supporting cast observing a passer-by wearing the skin of a relative*.

I'm puzzled by the teaser for this story, because not only do we see Mr. Tawky Tawny speaking English in this story, we see him speaking Tigerese. Or, as he likes to be called, Tiger-American. Man, check out that visage of grim determination in the second panel! His desire to discover the truth is grrrrrrrrrrreat!

So of course, Tawky Tawny does as all heroes do when faced with dangerous and hazardous missions: he strips buck naked. Hey, DC! This here's a family comics!

Which doesn't explain why he has lost the ability to speak on the cover of the comic book! Hmmm, maybe, like Mister Mind, he has a tiny voicebox around his neck and when he took off his clothes he lost it and...oh, wait, or maybe this.

You know all those modern-day oh-so-serious comics where Captain Marvel uses the power of the Shazam lighting to bring down a Earth-S of hurt on his opponents? (Because, say, just punching them with the power of Hercules won't do anything.) But here is quite possibly the finest example of saying "Shazam!" just in time ever recorded in the history of all comic books and I'm not exaggerating one tiny bit!

So, mystery solved. Mr. Tawky Tawny lost his voice because he was lynched by rabid anti-tiger insurrectionists. And then he attempted to bite off Captain Marvel's head. Huh! What's the reason for that? Well, I can make an educated guess. It's because Mr. Tawky Tawny just can't resist the delicious, savory taste of...Big Red Cheese.

*Aside from some issues of Richie Rich.


Smurfswacker said...

This is kinda sad. DC's attempts to bring the Fawcett Captain Marvel back showed how radically the comic audience and American popular culture in general had changed since the 1940s.

I'm sure O'Neill made an honest effort to respect C. C. Beck's homey Golden Age take on the character while trying to write stories that appealed to modern readers. But the result was weird concoctions like this. Tawny compelled to eat Billy? Tawny noting a woman "wearing Uncle George"? Eeww!

Beck was convinced to the end that "his" kind of CM story had a place in today's comics. Unfortunately the Golden Age Captain Marvel was tied inseparably to its era, like Frank Merriwell and Tom Swift. Those who grew up with him adored him but to late 20th-century readers (and writers!) he just didn't make sense. No wonder the buffer, angrier, darker CM is the one that survived.

BillyWitchDoctor said...

To be fair, the Golden Age Marvel Family stories could be absolutely nightmarish in their own right; there was a story in which Sivana (I think) was randomly blasting citizens with his airship's "dust ray," reducing a grocer to a pile of dust before Billy's horrified eyes. In another case, Sivana had Billy, Mary, and Freddy tied and gagged; as Sivana approached them with a wicked-looking blade, cackling, Billy thought, "Holy Moley! He's going to slit our throats!" Me: "Eeeeeeee!"

Then there was the final Golden Age Marvel Family tale, in which "Mary" (actually a robot double) attempts to murder Billy and Freddy, and after subduing her Billy breaks down in sobbing tears at the thought of condemning his sister to an insane she looks on, snarling. (Good LORD. The disposal of the various robots in the end is likewise disturbing, even if they are only 'bots.)

Anyway, to clear up the mystery, the villain in the Tawny story above has drenched Billy in some irresistible-to-tigers scent for the express purpose of "framing" Tawny for Billy's death--I forget what exactly, but you can see the "stink" lines around Billy's head.

As for O'Neil...well, I don't know if "respect" is the word I'd use. Denny wrote superheroes as fools--throughout the '70s, Batman would constantly get clobbered or blinded or otherwise bamboozled by any punk who crossed his path, GL was an ignorant bully, and Cap was regularly punching first and thinking second. O'Neil just kept his contempt for spandex "cryptofascists" on a level that would slip by the casual or underage reader. (I think he resented being stuck writing in--then supervising--a single, limited genre as comics withered down to an almost-exclusively-superheroes medium for a long time.)

Bully said...

Yes. Also, it has a talking tiger!

Blam said...

"Who's there?"
"Mr. Tawny's uvula."
"Mr. Tawny's uvula who?"
"[chuckle]i don't know, Mr. Tawny. But I do know this: While he definitely 'cartooned up' his style for the occasion, Gaspar did indeed letter that house ad."

Bully said...

Thanks, Blam, for reminding us: it'll behoove ya to care for your uvula.

Ahmar Wolf said...

Thanks for posting this I really never knew that Capt Marvel series had a talking Tiger