Captain Future takes out a Jap. Artist: Jack Alderman.

CAPTAIN FUTURE

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Standard Comics
First Appeared: 1940
Creators: Mort Weisinger (editor), unknown writer and Kin Platt, artist
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Publishers in the early American comic book industry had a strong tendency to have entered the field through pulp magazines. Archie Comics, Fiction House, and even Marvel itself all put out pulps before they did comics. Since superheroes like The Spider (no relation), The Avenger (no relation) etc. were already well-established in pulps, these players found themselves perfectly at home with that genre in the new medium. Often, as in the case of The Shadow (little relation) they were the same superheroes. But when publisher Ned Pines (Princess Pantha, Jetta of the 21st Century), who published comics under …

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… several different company names, commissioned comic book stories about his superhero Captain Future, he ordered a completely different Captain Future, never before seen in any form.

Captain Future was created by Pines editor Mort Weisinger (later the comics writer who co-created DC's The Seven Soldiers of Victory and Johnny Quick), whose contribution seems to have been suggesting a hero who would have adventures under that name — about like publisher John L. Goldwater suggesting stories about a high school boy, then taking credit for Archie. In pulps, Captain Future was a spacefarer along the lines of Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. He first appeared in Captain Future #1 (Winter, 1939-40). written by Edmond Hamilton (who later wrote DC's Chris KL-99 and Space Ranger).

In comic books, he was first seen in Startling Comics #1 (June, 1940). The writer is unknown, but it was drawn by Kin Platt, who later co-created Supermouse, the first ongoing funny animal superhero in comics. If pulp and comics creators ever got together to coodinate their versions of the character, they've left little or no evidence of the fact.

Captain Future was as typical a comics character as he was in the pulps. In pulps, he was raised to be a hero, had science-fictional cohorts, and was set a few decades in the future. In comics, he wore bright-colored spandex, maintained a secret identity, and fought Nazis and Japs.

It's comics that we're concerned with at this site. There, he was scientist Andrew Bryant, who discovered that by bathing himself in a mixture of gamma and infrared radiation would harm him only in the real world — in comic books, such dangerous treatment, it merely induces super powers. He could fly, emit bolts of energy from his hands, and perform prodigious feats of strength. He wasn't invulnerable, however; a blow to the head could render him unconscious. Also, he needed to be recharged from time to time, so he usually kept his radiation machine at least as handy as Green Lantern kept his power battery.

Another asset for superheroing was Andrew's relationship with his girlfriend, Grace Adams. Grace ran The Agatha Detective Agency, which steered Captain Future toward criminal activity that needed evil-bashing attention.

Captain Future started out as the cover-featured star of Startling. But as of the 9th issue (September. 1941), when Fighting Yank debuted, he was demoted to a mere denizen of the back pages. He came back, at least for a couple of issues, a few months later. But then Pyroman came along, and those two heroes dominated the covers for the rest of the war years. Captain Future wasn't seen on the cover after the early part of 1942.

In the back pages, his series managed to continue until the 40th issue (July, 1946). It got a big enough launch to get it into America's Best Comics, where Pines put his most stellar stars, but didn't do much better there. He stayed for a few issues, but never appeared on the cover except as an inset. When he was dropped from Startling, he briefly moved too America's Greatest, but that's where he ended, at least for that century.

Meanwhile, the pulp magazine character bit the dust even before this one did, but had a better afterlife. The 1978 Captain Future manga series is based on the pulp, not the comic book, and is said to be very faithful.

This one wasn't seen until comics writer Alan Moore (Miracleman, Halo Jones), observed that a line of comics he was writing for, America's Greatest Comics, had the same name as a prominent '40s superhero anthology title. In Tom Strong #11 (January, 2001), he incorporated many of that old title's heroes, including Captain Future as well as The Black Terror, Doc Strange, Miss Masque and more, into the modern comics world.

In bringing the characters forward in time, Moore worked out a scenario where that was possible without mucking with their back-stories. Calling it "Terra Obscura", a number of modern superhero writers and artists have explored that scenario.

— DDM

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Text ©2011 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Standard Comics.