CCI: Comic Character Investigation #241 août 2012
[ENGLISH] This month: Captain Midnight. Since the inception of The Golden Age of comics in 1938, many heroes, and many villains, have splashed their battles across artistic pages, have endured their struggles in those same pages and have intrigued a readership which has loved their adventures for 72 years. This column celebrates such characters by taking a look each month at one of them. Some you will know and some are more obscure, but all hold a significant place in comics, for the world of stories in any medium is about the characters who populate it. The spectacular citizens of the universe who inhabit the comic book nation might be brave or sinister, bold or fearful, but all are characters who we can never forget. So, The Golden Age becomes the Silver Age, The Silver becomes The Bronze and so on, until today and until tomorrow. . . in The Endless Age of comics, and the beings who live inside them.
Special Message For My Readers
Well, here we are again, celebrating another anniversary issue and at the two-year mark no less! When I first took this gig I had no idea how long it would go, how many characters I would get to write about or how much fun I would have. It has gone fast and while deadlines loomed, characters challenged me and readers came to take a peek at what I was doing with them, one year suddenly became two and the third year now awaits with promise and possibility.
I have tried to focus on characters that don’t often get the spotlight. That was how I intended the column, to showcase both heroes and villains that sometimes get lost in the mix. I did not ignore all the big names. Galactus, Daredevil and even Catwoman make appearances for example, but even these somewhat significant presences are not flagship characters at their respective companies. I believe I have succeeded in hitting upon these elements beneath the high-flyers and heavily-famous figures of the comic world, but any true success is always because of the readership and I thank you all for being here to enjoy the ride with me.
When such anniversaries roll around it is only right to do something special and for me that means amplifying what I am doing year-round, giving you the straight skinny on a character who might have a lot going on with him or her but one we may rarely think about. Or at least those heroes who may not get as many parades in their honor and those villains who may only rate a certain level of notoriety. Still, for all characters, there exists pockets of fans and a definite nostalgia for them, immortal in its nature.
So without further fanfare (if you’ll pardon the pun), I give you our second anniversary issue. My deepest thanks for another year of your readership and most of all for your love of comics!
Anniversary Special: Captain Midnight!
It has been a running theme in this column to write about characters from a simpler time largely due to the fact that a combination of simplicity and imaginative form is what creates endless figures. But they are not necessarily endless in their serial forms. Some are no longer being published. They are simply endless because they were formed in a world of pages that welcomed them and in which they could shine and leave behind a legacy for us to read.
Take one Captain Midnight. It is one of those names which immediately conjures the image of a comic hero yet he did not begin his career on the comic page. He was borne from that other instrument of perfect adventurous serial entertainment, the radio.
Radio of today is somewhat different and probably the closest thing we have to what it once was is in the form of audiobooks. But in the 1940’s when Captain Midnight made his first appearance, radio was an audible complement to the entertainment comics provided. Because of this it simply made sense that he would make his way into comic books too.
On the radio kids listened as he battled the series’ villain Ivan Shark. With that built-in audience, the hero-pilot was sure to be book-bound. Additionally he made it into newspapers, and serial movies, even TV. The stories were written by Otto Binder and the majority of the issues which came out through Fawcett Publications were drawn by Leonard Frank although the work of Dan Barry and Jack Binder were also sometimes used. Cover art was executed by two other artists,
Carl Pfeufer and Mac Raboy. This was the team that provided the definitive serial adventures in the comic book form, altering the sound experience radio provided into a world kids could see. Captain Midnight had appeared on the radio in 1940 and the comic issues started coming out in 1942. He had his own series which ran an impressive 67 issues until 1948. He also appeared in a spring special, All Hero Comics #3 and a summer special, America’s Greatest #8, both coming out in 1943.
As the leader of the “Secret Squadron” he was also a great inventor so it was not surprising that the brilliant Captain “Red” Albright (his alter ego) would be supplying Captain Midnight with some amazing tech for the time. These included things such as his glider-chute and the blackout bomb, not to mention the Comet, his eventual rocketship, among others.
He had the usual host of helpful companions like Icabod Mudd–the 40’s joke being that his nickname would make him Icky Mudd—like I said, a simpler time. Icky also had a sidekick handle and was also called Sgt. Twilight. The necessary female presence was provided by Joyce Ramsay and the three of them had a number of adventures together. The series eventually even had them go into space and have adventures on other planets. For an audience that wanted high-flying stories they were bound to eat up tales that took place beyond the Moon.
Through radio shows and comics, the hero soared through a cinematic, war-filled decade. He had a true appeal at the time considering a lot of the real-life heroes were flying planes and fighting in the war. “Red” Albright had received his Captain Midnight handle because he completed an extremely difficult mission just as midnight arrived. Such a feat made him relatable to the real pilots of the time who were continually going on dangerous missions.
In the 1940s being a pilot was a pretty cool thing and readers thought of it that way. This was a time well before the Space Age and the Moon landing, a time when even flying a propeller plane raised one’s status in the reader’s mind. So being able to follow Captain Midnight on his aerial adventures did the trick for star-eyed readers who sought adventure in the skies over their own relatively-quiet worlds. Worlds which got a little more exciting when experiencing the sounds and sights of Captain Midnight.
So when the hour that bears his name approaches, look to the sky and remember a time when it was a wonder that flyers soared through the sky, a time now withdrawn behind the modern era. Remember a hero flies there, locked in his time yet also part of a proud brigade of all the heroes who have come to greet us in decades past. When that first hour of the day approaches, just look to the skies for perhaps somewhere within them steadily flies one Captain Midnight.
James Parducci (www.jparducci.blogspot.com) is the creator of the comic series Nighthunter. He has been published in multiple periodicals and runs his own freelance writing business in San Diego.