Fatman undergoes his startling transformation on the cover of #2. Artist: C.C. Beck.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Lightning Comics
Creators: Otto Binder (writer) and C.C. Beck (artist)
First Appeared: 1967
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Otto Binder and C.C. Beck, the two men most responsible for the success of Captain Marvel, collaborated on only one other …

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… comic book character. Their whimsical point of view, which had been such an important element in Captain Marvel's success, took over almost completely in this one — Fatman, the Human Flying Saucer, was very heavy on the whimsy.

The first issue of Fatman's comic book was dated April, 1967, and published by a start-up company named Lightning Comics. It told the story of the corpulent Van Crawford, a wealthy hobbyist — you name the hobby, and he's interested in it; but he's not too strong on useful pursuits. Still, he's amiable, intelligent and kind-hearted — as shown by his daring rescue of a troubled flying saucer. The grateful saucer, after transforming itself into an alien, gave Van the power to turn into a flying saucer himself. Van then followed in the footsteps of superheroes everywhere. He made himself a gaudy costume and devoted his new power to the never-ending battle against crime and/or evil.

Fatman quickly developed a coterie of allies and adversaries, including Tinman (a skinny teenager who magically gets encased in metal and becomes Fatman's sidekick), Grollo (an underground gnome who can shoot fire from his hands), Anti-Man (an underwater monster devoted to the destruction of humanity), and others.

And it's a good thing he did do that quickly, because his comic only lasted three bimonthly issues and he was never seen again, in any medium. Maybe he came along too late, with the '60s superhero trend having already crested. Maybe consumers rebelled at paying a whole quarter, when other comics cost 12 cents, even though Fatman's were twice as thick. Maybe he just wasn't given a chance to find his audience.

Maybe, even, he went a little bit overboard on the whimsy — the stories and characterizations were well crafted and well rendered, but were aimed at a younger audience than most superheroes.

Lightning Comics published only one other title — Tod Holton, Super Green Beret, whose run was one issue briefer than Fatman's. However, they advertised a third title — Captain Shazam, billed (in 1960s fashion) as "A turned-on super swinger". "Shazam" had been the original Captain Marvel's magic word; and six years later, DC Comics would use it as the title of their own Captain Marvel revival. No picture of Captain Shazam appeared in the ad. If the character had actually been published, it's anybody's guess how close he'd have come to duplicating Binder's and Beck's early success.


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