The most disturbing old-timey Captain Marvel flying paper toy you’ll ever see (a.k.a. THE BATSON WITH TWO BACKS)
There were a number of Captain Marvel toys back in his halcyon Golden Age days, as indeed there were for a variety of popular characters. Mr. Shazam’s publishing popularity made put him near the top of the volume pyramid, though. Some of the “toys” marketed to youngsters were paper products, more involved variants of the standard two-dimensional figure you could lay different outfits on (a mainstay of any young girl’s entertainment arsenal). These were cheap items in the financial sense – hard to get less expensive than pieces of paper — but reasonably well made, in spite of unavoidable flimsiness. There’s a charm to the ingenuity involved that outstrips mass-produced plastic of today.
Yet very few toys, paper or otherwise, reach the bizarre heights of Flying Captain Marvel.
There’s nothing the matter with the envelope front that you see above. What child in 1944 could resist plopping his dime on the counter for the promise of Captain Marvel soaring around his house? (It’s always heartwarming to know that a society could still think about such things when World War II was still raging.) Who cares that it cost the same as a whole damn comic — this was CAPTAIN MARVEL HIMSELF. And there’s nothing all that wrong with the end product, the Captain Marvel facsimile that would be the result of the origami folding and coupling of the some-assembly-required materials within.
No, the overwhelming weirdness comes when you slip the sheet of paper out of the above envelope and see the flattened out Marvel and OH GOD KILL IT KILL IT KILL IT:
So basically Marvel is making the beast with two backs. With himself. The strained look on his face isn’t helping matters, nor is the unifying element of his genital bulge, pointed out quite clearly by the lightning bolt — the Big Dipper to its North Star. I could have quite happily gone through life never having seen Billy Batson’s O-face in profile, but there we go. Remember in Watchmen, during a Rorschach flashback, when young Walter Kovacs saw his prostitute mother having sex with one of her johns? And the resultant inkblot on his mask? Yeah, that’s basically what we have up there. MERCY.
Here’s the rest of the parts — the arms and cape:
And here’s the instructions from the back of the envelope, which give you some idea of what the assembled Captain would look like. They’re also offered in case you want to assemble your very own Marvel — or maybe you’re just a complete weirdo and want to print up a life-size image of the self-loving World’s Mightiest Mortal. Whatever:
Not only was there a Captain Marvel solo version, you could also get a three-fer with the entire Marvel Family. I think there might even have been one for Hoppy, the Marvel Bunny — could be mistaken there. Whatever the case, you could have your own little paper Flying Walendas. Yet, though they all have the same mirror effect on the flat paper, none quite live up to the big man’s unsettling design.
Incidentally, I could have sworn that Alex Ross, in his unabashed love for all things Shazam, once did a painting of this item, yet for the life of me I wasn’t able to track it down on the internet. Maybe I dreamed it up (or nightmared it up, as it were), but if anyone out there has seen it or can find a scan of it, I’d be grateful. Just for the sake of my tottering, Marvel-onanism-shaken sanity.
Thanks for all this, Fawcett. I’m glad DC sued you into oblivion.