Comic Art Friday: Transformers — adolescents in disguise

Captain Marvel and Mightor, pencils by Brendon Fraim, inks by Brian Fraim

It’s generally acknowledged that superheroes are a manifestation of adolescent power fantasy. What teenager doesn’t secretly wish to vanquish with a mighty blow all the people and things that cause one angst?

That being the case, I’ve always thought that Captain Marvel — the original hero by that name, not any of the legion of subsequent characters who have been and are so called — is the ultimate superhero. Not only is the Big Red Cheese powerful, but he allows young Billy Batson to skip the entire teenage trauma and advance directly to adulthood with a single word.

I’ve often wondered why there aren’t more superheroes like that. There have been plenty of adolescent heroes in comics, from Robin to the Legion of Super-Heroes, from the Teen Titans to the original incarnations of Spider-Man and the X-Men. But Captain Marvel’s vaulting from boyhood to manhood every time he suits up remains relatively unique.

Except for the mighty Mightor.

Those of a certain age will recall Mightor as the star of a popular Saturday morning cartoon back in the day. Set in prehistoric times, it’s the saga of an average teenaged caveman named Tor, who when he raises his magic club aloft transforms into Mightor, a brawny adult superman. At the same time, Tor’s pet dinosaur Tog morphs into a winged dragon. Mightor uses his superhuman strength, ability to fly, and energy-blasting club to battle all kinds of bizarre enemies, such as populated adventure cartoons in the 1960s.

Mightor is basically a Cro-Magnon version of another Hanna-Barbera character of the time: Space Ghost, who like Mightor was created by comics legend Alex Toth. (Space Ghost, however, was always Space Ghost, and had no apparent alter ego, adolescent or otherwise.) A persistent urban legend suggests that Mightor was designed as a riff on Marvel Comics’ Thor, which makes sense given the similarity in names (both Thor and Mightor are often adjectivally designated “the Mighty…”), costume (Thor wore a winged helmet and cape; Mightor sported a horned cowl and cape), and weaponry (Thor wielded a mystic hammer; Mightor, a magic club). Whether that connection is valid or not, it’s equally clear that Captain Marvel’s transformational ability also played into Mightor’s creation.

Captain Marvel, of course, also got his shot at Saturday morning television glory. In the 1970s, Filmation produced a live-action series entitled Shazam!, featuring the exploits of the studly guy in the crimson union suit. Actors Jackson Bostwick (season one) and John Davey (seasons two and three) played the good Captain, while the role of young Billy Batson was assayed by tween heartthrob Michael Gray. The show’s success led to the creation, in its second season, of its companion series, The Secrets of Isis — whose central character emerged after Filmation failed to secure the licensing for Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel’s sister, from DC Comics.

Our flash-aging heroes are depicted in today’s artwork by the Brothers Fraim. Brendon handles the penciling chores; Brian does the inking. The brothers’ clean, eye-pleasing style meshes perfectly with these classic characters.

Now if only there was a magic word that could instantaneously shave off a few years, and maybe a pound or several. But that’s more of a way-past-adolescence fantasy.

And that’s also your Comic Art Friday.

Explore posts in the same categories: Comic Art Friday, Hero of the Day, Reminiscing, SwanStuff, Teleholics Anonymous, That's Cool!

2 Comments on “Comic Art Friday: Transformers — adolescents in disguise”

  1. Um, what’s with those flower/butterfly appliques on the Captain’s cape?

  2. Ah, Google first, ask questions later.

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