The Comic Book Battle of the CENTURY: Captain Marvel vs. Mr. Mind!

Jack Goblin By Jack Goblin, 22nd Jan 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Humour>Off Beat

A look back at a time when the most powerful superhero on Earth spent years fighting... a worm.

Fighting to keep the world safe...

Comic books are full of epic, titanic, sometimes literally Earth shaking battles. Some of these are so big, they have to take place over the course of several issues. The original Human Torch against the Sub-Mariner in an ongoing fire/water conflict. The many months long cat and mouse, utterly desperate fight between Dr. Strange and a Dormammu powered Baron Mordo. And, more recently, frequent, long lasting crossovers and wars in numerous comics published by Marvel and DC have become common. One of the best of these extended storylines was one of the first. It was also one of the most unlikely and indeed even unbelievable: A two year long war between the world's Mightiest Mortal, an unstoppable being of power and magic... and a worm.

The mortal was Fawcett Comic's Captain Marvel. Whose story is part of America culture: Chosen by the wise wizard SHAZAM, young teen Billy Batson turns into a red clad, immensely powerful superhero when he speaks the wizard's name. Captain Marvel had the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. With such heroic, Biblical, and godlike powers, he was pretty much unbeatable. Although villains like the evil genius Sivana, and IBAC (a muscular bruiser and Cap's opposite number who drew on the power of evil), and the nuclear powered rogue robot Mr. Atom, and a host of others tried; over and over and over again.

Cap's adventures were more than a bit tongue in cheek, with considerable humor and whimsy in them; mainly centered around how invulnerable he was (run a truck at high speed into him from behind, he'd only realize it when he saw the wreckage flying past) and how outrageous and disrespectful his enemies were. The public, in and out of the comic books, loved Captain Marvel; the bad guys, not so much. Sivana called him "the Big Red Cheese" and the nickname stuck among both other villains and fans.

Most of Captain Marvel's enemies knew who he was and that by keeping Billy Batson from speaking his word they'd prevent Cap from bothering them; but usually they relied on gags or incapacitation to keep Billy silent, especially in conjunction with death traps, instead of just shooting him. And in the end, Billy always managed to get the gag loose or wake up just in time. Even though sometimes it was VERY close...

All of this applied in the Mr. Mind saga. It started in Captain Marvel Adventures # 22, March 1943. Billy, an on-air reporter for radio station WHIZ, was covering the arrival in the U.S. of a princess from India, come to bring a magic pearl that would help the war effort. Suddenly Captain Nazi - one of Fawcett Comic's most hissable villains, a cruel and violent technologically created superman who served the Third Reich - attacked and managed to kidnap the princess, seize the pearl, and fly off. Despite the efforts of Captain Marvel, who showed up the moment Billy had the chance to get a word in, so to speak.

Eventually Cap caught up with Captain Nazi and the princess in an abandoned farm house C.N. was using as a headquarters. To his surprise, he found that C.N. was taking orders from a mysterious voice speaking through a strange looking, two-way radio. The voice gratingly and smugly introduced itself as Mr. Mind, the greatest villain in history, who was going to take over the Earth and the universe. When Cap demanded this 'Mr. Mind' show himself the voice sneeringly told him no chance, he could take over the world perfectly well through his agents. And as to those agents...

The voice announced the formation of the Monster Society of Evil, a group that would bring the world AND Captain Marvel to their knees. And ordered Captain Nazi to open the door to the other room and let the members introduce themselves. Captain Marvel was stunned as a small army of his worst enemies, including Sivana and IBAC, and several Japanese, German, and Italian soldiers, as well as a man shaped monster with a crocodile head, rushed into the room, joining Captain Nazi in attacking him. What followed was a donnybrook as Cap, recovering from his surprise, waded into the group, laying them out right and left. Only to be confounded as they kept bouncing back, buoyed by Mr. Mind's mental energy.

Realizing this was getting nowhere, Captain Marvel grabbed the princess (before she could be used as a hostage) and the magic pearl, and took off. At Mr. Mind's orders IBAC and Captain Nazi flew after him in pursuit. It turned out to be a long pursuit: The princess told Cap there were two pearls, but the other one was still in India. So he flew there in a matter of seconds, and got it. As the princess explained, holding both pearls close to each other and requesting to see where someone or something was would show their location, without regard to distance. This would be a TREMENDOUS boon to Allied intelligence.

Or to the Society of Evil: Captain Nazi and IBAC bushwacked Captain Marvel and got the pearls. Marvel was able to defeat C.N. easily. IBAC, for all his great powers, normally wouldn't have been much of a problem either, since he was much stronger than he was smart. Directed by Mr. Mind via belt radio, though, he was able to outwit Captain Marvel and get away. The Monster Society of Evil and Mr. Mind had won the first round.

Captain Marvel spent the next few months trying to fight the various actions of the Monster Society, and find out where Mr. Mind was. He was successful on the first part, but Mind remained hidden. Until Cap was able to recover the two magic pearls. Realizing these were exactly what he needed, he requested them to show him where Mr. Mind was; and discovered he wasn't on the Earth at all, he was on an asteroid in orbit around the Earth. Naturally, after handing the pearls over to the U.S. government, Cap flew to the asteroid immediately to confront the supervillain.

Mr. Mind had built a castle on the asteroid of what he thought were impenetrable materials, something that oaf Marvel would never be able to get through even if he somehow managed to find his headquarters. When Cap, arriving at the asteroid, announced himself by simply smashed through the door, Mr. Mind had to revise his opinion of that, and of what sort of foe he was facing.

As did Captain Marvel, who kept encountering and being attacked by inhuman monsters within the castle, each more terrible than the last, all of them speaking in Mr. Mind's voice. As Cap defeated each one, though, Mr. Mind's voice would switch to coming out of loudspeakers and gloat that Marvel had just beaten a mentally controlled puppet and was no closer to actually finding him than before. Frustrated and to try to lure the real Mr. Mind out, Captain Marvel took a gamble and turned back into Billy Batson, hoping that such vulnerability would cause the villain to come attack him in person as he continued to search the castle.

For a time, though, the only action came when some minor debris fell on Billy, including a small, green, caterpillar like worm. Billy brushed it all off in disgust. Not noticing that the worm was wearing glasses, had a small radio device around its 'neck', and not only had a face, but also a gloating, malignant expression on that face.

Shortly after this Billy was grabbed by a huge, muscular man who kept a hand over Billy's mouth as he drug him to an operating table. The powerhouse explained in Mr. Mind's voice that he knew who Billy was, and he was going to alter Billy's brain to turn him into a slave, meaning Mr. Mind would then control Captain Marvel himself! He clapped a mask on Billy's face and began giving him gas that would knock him out in seconds; but Billy managed to gasp out "Sha...zam" just in time.

The next moment Captain Marvel tore into the powerful being that appeared to be the true form of Mr. Mind. Who immediately began fighting back, with strength and invulnerability ALMOST as great as Cap's!

The wide ranging, all out battle lasted 12 hours - unbelievable by Captain Marvel standards - and completely pulverized the castle, indestructible or not, before Cap managed to lay the arch fiend out. Marvel was just catching his breath when suddenly Mr. Mind's voice came out of nowhere, taunting him AGAIN that he had only defeated a puppet. Captain Marvel was dumbfounded; especially that, where ever Mr. Mind was, he had survived when the castle was reduced to rubble and anything larger than a postage stamp would have been crushed.

Mind then said he was heading off to Earth in his spaceship and when he got there he'd cause LOTS more trouble. And there was nothing Captain Marvel could do to stop him. Marvel scanned the skies, looking for a spaceship... and failed to notice the toy sized rocket that zipped up into the air and out of sight behind him.

Stymied, Cap could only return to Earth and, as Billy, inform the world of this new, terrible menace and how everyone needed to be on guard. All too soon Mr. Mind made good on his threat, with insects and animals suddenly going on a destructive spree. Captain Marvel manged to stop that, but in the process came face to face with the real Mr. Mind: And was gobsmacked to learn, he was the WORM! The greatest threat to the world was a small, green, sarcastic, egocentric, myopic, cartoonish worm! It was a stunning moment.

After which, of course, Marvel tried to grab or swat Mr. Mind.

The little guy could move fast, though, for being only a few inches long, and was able to get away; but only just. This was the beginnings of a sort of reverse 'Perils of Pauline' motif. Normally the hero would be the one put in constant danger; in the Mr. Mind story, it was the bad guy who survived only by luck or desperate action when his plans blew up in his face. Sometimes literally.

The stage was now set for a clash of opposites. Captain Marvel's brawn versus Mr. Mind's brains. An indestructible superhero against a tiny creature that could have been wiped out by a shoe stomp or dropped book. One man, Captain Marvel, against the whole of the power of the Monster Society of Evil. And such a lot of power it was. In time Mr. Mind revealed that he was a super-intelligent alien creature; that he had been preparing for the conquest of the Earth for nearly 100 years; he had dozens of secret laboratories, resources, and plans in place; he had the support of not only the Axis powers - Hitler was one of his flunkies - and most of the world's supervillains, but also lots of real monsters including the race of crocodile headed men; he was the greatest genius in the universe; his will was supreme: He WAS going to take over the world, and no Big Red Cheese was going to stop him. As far as he was concerned, this would be a war to the death. And he was going to win.

Needless to say, things got pretty active.

In terms of humor, the mightiest mortal being constantly challenged by a minuscule worm was a knee slapper. And the drama of not knowing what the highly imaginative Mr. Mind might come up with, and how the story would develop, kept readers coming back for more. More practically, though, from a editorial / story telling point of view the Mr. Mind saga solved the problem of real world events intruding on the comics.

Obviously for comics taking place 1942-1945, WWII couldn't be ignored or written off as a minor matter. But acknowledging the war raised the question of why, in the comic book world, superheroes weren't joining in the fighting. DC was never able to explain satisfactorily why heavy hitters like Superman, Green Lantern, and the Spectre didn't just fly to Japan or Germany and attack Hitler or the Japanese military heads, beyond the feeble excuse they needed to stay in America as a 'home guard'.

Timely - the precursor to Marvel comics - dealt with things differently. THEIR heroes like Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, and the Human Torch attacked and slaughtered Axis troops by the thousands, smashed superweapons, and in general did enormous damage worldwide. But the Axis simply kept coming back with more. It was like fighting a hydra, without the ability to stop new heads from forming.

By introducing Mr. Mind, Fawcett explained perfectly why Captain Marvel at least wasn't going toe to toe with the Nazi / Japanese / Italian menace. Mind was a BIGGER threat, and the Big Red Cheese couldn't be part of Allied battle plans when, at any minute, he might have to fly off to stop the worm from unleashing monsters or blowing the world up or taking over Hollywood. When he could Cap would help the war effort, destroy enemy forces, and fight the good fight; but until Mr. Mind was finished, he couldn't devote his full attention to the War. And Mr. Mind proved to be a very difficult foe to finish.

But finally, in Captain Marvel Adventures # 46, May 1945, things reached their end. For two years Captain Marvel and Mr. Mind had slugged it out tirelessly. Each month, each new issue, Mind would come up with some new, horrible scheme; Cap would stop him; the little worm would get away, often barely. And some of the schemes Mind concocted and carried out, like stopping the Earth's rotation, or shifting the North Pole to the middle of the U.S., or using an orbital cannon to fire shells capable of blowing a 1,000 mile wide crater into any nation, were pretty amazing.

Captain Marvel kept foiling them, though, amazing or not. He also spent a lot of time destroying Mr. Mind's numerous secret laboratories, wiping out Society members, and quite frankly, wearing Mr. Mind down. No matter what the little guy tried, he couldn't stop, kill, or imprison Captain Marvel, OR work around him, and at one point he complained that he was running out of ideas. He was also running out of allies. By 1945 the Axis was in its death throes, the other supervillains had stopped following him, and even the monsters were losing faith.

Finally, abandoned by everyone but refusing to quit, Mind tried a solo sneak attack on his enemy. He crept into the WHIZ building and dumped ether on an unprepared and unwary Billy Batson, knocking him unconscious. There was not going to be any fooling around this time, no gags, no keeping Billy alive to gloat over him: Mr. Mind went for a kill. Only to realize, belatedly, he was a worm; he COULDN'T kill anyone. But he surely was going to try. He struggled mightily to drag an electrical cable across the floor towards the unconscious boy to give him a fatal shock, and had almost made it, when Billy woke up in the nick of time. Eluding Billy's grab, Mr. Mind dove into the building's heating vents and disappeared.

This time, however, there was no escape. There were no wormholes, no burrows leading out of the WHIZ building for Mr. Mind to use to crawl away, no way to reach the roof to flee via a bird, no worm sized flying machine; all escape routes Mr. Mind had used before. He was trapped, even though he could hide in the building so well he couldn't be found. Captain Marvel had a cordon of police stand shoulder to shoulder around the building to keep the place sealed, then called in his trump card: A pest exterminator. The exterminator began spraying every nook and cranny in the building with pesticide. Mr. Mind, coughing and choking, finally had to come out onto the open... and was grabbed immediately by Captain Marvel's mighty hand.

The arch fiend had been captured before; but now there was no minion to intervene and set him free, no trick he could use to distract Marvel, no way out. The fight was over. Mr. Mind defiantly told the Big Red Cheese to go ahead and squish him. Captain Marvel refused, saying this was America and that was not the way things were done here. Instead, Mr. Mind was going on trial.

And what a trial it was: Truly the trial of the century, attended by standing room only crowds and reported on constantly by radio and newspapers. Mr. Mind's crimes were recounted by Captain Marvel, who was both chief witness and prosecutor. From the witness stand - sitting on a box so he was high enough to see - the diminutive super villain tried to insist he wasn't as bad as the evidence said, that Captain Marvel was just picking on him. That was such a failure that even his defense attorney joining in hoping he'd get the chair, to Mr. Mind's dismayed befuddlement.

Which is what happened. The jury came back with a resounding 'Guilty!' verdict and the judge imposed the death penalty. A few days later Mr. Mind was strapped into a specially adapted electric chair, lights all over the city dimmed, and that was it for the World's Wickedest Worm. In a final, macabre twist his little body was stuffed and put on display in the city museum, for everyone to gape at in fear and wonder. And that was the end of the Monster Society of Evil.

They don't make comics like that anymore.

Link to Wikipedia's article on Mr. Mind and the Monster Society of Evil

Media Source: Wikimedia Commons (according to the notes on the picture, the copyrights for Whiz #1 and 2 were not renewed at the proper time and the books are now public domain, although the trademark on Captain Marvel himself is currently held by DC Comics.)


Battle, Captain Marvel, Cc Beck, Comic Book, Fawcett Comics, Monster Society Of Evil, Mr Mind, Superhero, Worm, Wwii

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author avatar Jack Goblin
Was born. Haven't died yet. Don't intend to anytime soon.

Thank you much for reading my articles. I hope they brought you pleasure and enlightenment. :)

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
23rd Jan 2014 (#)

thats a classic!

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
23rd Jan 2014 (#)

Shazam! I think the illustrator who did the image you used may have done the cover art for my Buck Rogers Little Golden Book. And now I feel really, really old!! Fine job.

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