Mark shares his concerns about a smuggling ring with the chief of harbor police. Artist: George Papp.

CAPTAIN COMPASS

Medium: Comic Books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1948
Creators: unknown writer and Jimmy Thompson (artist)
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The 1940s comic book hero population is replete with captains — Captain Marvel, Captain Freedom, Captain Flag … but Captain Compass stands out from the crowd. He was that rara avis among comics captains — an …

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…actual sea captain. Captain Mark Compass, who was introduced in DC's Star Spangled Comics #83 (August, 1948), commanded a succession of ships for Penny Steamship Lines, which employed him as a roving troubleshooter, at least as much for his background in private detection as for his seafaring skills.

Captain Compass's appearance in Star Spangled #83 came at the expense of Robotman, whose series was transferred to Detective Comics (where it replaced Air Wave) Neither of them ever came within shouting distance of the comic's cover, which was occupied by Batman's partner, Robin, at the time of Mark's debut. The writer behind Captain Compass's creation isn't known, but the artist was Jimmy Thompson, who had worked on several prominent characters during the previous few years, including Captain America and The Human Torch.

Mark continued to solve crimes on the high seas until Star Spangled #121 (October, 1951), after which he was replaced by a new character, part of the up-and-coming mystery/horror genre (epitomized by EC's Tales from the Crypt), Dr. Thirteen, Ghost Buster. But he didn't disappear permanently — a couple of years later he turned up in Detective Comics, where, as of the 203rd issue (January, 1954), he again replaced Robotman.

There, he resumed solving crimes on the high seas until #224 (October, 1955). The following issue, he was replaced by DC's first new superhero since Captain Comet (1951) (unless you count the short-lived and marginal Mysto, Magician Detective). J'onn J'onzz, Manhunter from Mars, started in #225, and Captain Compass's comic book career was over.

At least, it was to the extent any comics hero's career is ever truly over. He did return in Detective Comics #500 (March, 1981), but only as part of a crowd scene. He, The Human Target, Slam Bradley, Roy Raymond and several other alumni of the Detective Comics back pages, all got together to solve one last mystery.

At least, it's the last one so far. We may never know whether or not any of their careers are really and truly over.

— DDM

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Text ©2007 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.