For Your Consideration: DC’s Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil

Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

Thank goodness, we have two Captain Marvel movies coming out next year, allowing Marvel and DC to put out nifty collections of the material that will best show off their heroes. For readers, that means we’re finally getting one of the most celebrated stories from the entire Golden Age, an ambitious serial that had never been matched.

Once upon a time, Captain Marvel — the first one, the Big Red Cheese, the kid who says “Shazam” to turn into the World’s Mightiest Mortal – was the biggest selling superhero in comics. Fawcett Publications plastered him everywhere, certainly in more titles than DC used Superman in. Perhaps the best selling of the bunch was Captain Marvel Adventures, which came out every third Friday, eighteen times a year.

Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil

Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil


In issue #22, cover dated March 26, 1943; unsuspecting readers began following a story that wouldn’t conclude until issue #46 nearly two years later. DC once allowed another publisher to reprint the serial from the original comics in an oversized collection but finally, DC is restoring the pages for Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil, a 272-page hardcover out in February, just two months prior to the release of the Shazam movie.

The book will have an essay exploring the importance of the storyline by Fawcett Comics expert P.C. Hamerlinck while producer Michael Uslan offers up more of a fan perspective on the event.

While Gardner Fox banded villains as the Injustice Society to oppose the corresponding members of the Justice Society of America, writer Otto Binder gathered a far larger collection of bad guys to oppose the good Captain, who was seriously outnumbered.

The story is only hinted at on the cover of Captain Marvel Adventures #22

The story is only hinted at on the cover of Captain Marvel Adventures #22


Things kick off in “The Pearl of Peril” as readers finally meet Mr. Mind, the two-inch sentient worm with delusions of world conquest. His mental prowess was such that he summoned Captain Nazi to America to steal Indian princess Dareena Rajabuti’s jewels, which were being donated to the war effort. By the end of the first installment, Nazi has the jewels, which apparently have magical properties, and has collaborated with IBAC (in reality Stinky Printwhistle); ready to crush the good Captain.

Mr. Mind thought three-dimensionally, sending his army of evildoers across the globe to cause mayhem, from a second bombing of Pearl Harbor to relocating the Great Wall of China to sending the Earth’s axis off-kilter and even stopping its rotation, and even gaining control of Captain Marvel, using him as a destructive pawn. There’s a lot more as each installment presented a brand new threat to not just the hero, but often all life on Earth.

Poor Billy Batson suffers as much as his heroic alter ego but never does the plucky youth give up, just redoubles his efforts to prevail. Everything builds to a climax within the WHIZ radio station, making it a personal mission for Batson.

Captain Marvel Adventures #39

Captain Marvel Adventures #39


The membership was led by Mr. Mind with his lieutenants Jorrk, Dr. Smashi, and Herr Phoul. Other members included Adolf Hitler, Archibald, Goatman, Benito Mussolini, Bonzo, Captain Nazi, Crocodile-Men, Herkimer, Sylvester, Dr. Hashi, Dr. Peeyu, Doctor Sivana (the “world’s wickedest scientist”), Evil Eye, Hideki Tojo, IBAC, Marmaduke, Mr. Banjo, and Nippo. Then add in monsters, artificial lifeforms, and common thugs, and you have a formidable army to threaten freedom.

While “freak of the chapter” can grow formulaic, the imaginativeness of the threats and creatures keeps things interesting. Today, we know Mr. Mind as one of the Captain’s greatest threats but being introduced here, he’s fresh and devious and, well, a wicked worm. As drawn by C.C. Beck and Pete Costanza (the team that produced the entire serial), he doesn’t appear like much of a threat but we see otherwise.

It’s interesting to see that in the final chapter, readers were asked if they liked Mr. Mind, were they sorry to see him defeated, and if they wanted to see similar serials. While the results were never published, it should be noted no other serial this ambitious was tried again nor was Mr. Mind back until the 1970s revival of the series.

Captain Marvel Adventures #43

Captain Marvel Adventures #43


The story made an impression on at least one reader, with famed author Harlan Ellison telling Alter Ego, “To me that was an astonishing revelation because comics in those days were pretty much stand-alone, and they didn’t have continued stories and cliffhangers the way movie serials did. And for them to do that so cleverly, and then to have so cunningly drifted from chapter to chapter to chapter…if I was blessed, my new issue of Captain Marvel Adventures or Whiz or Wow or whatever it was that I was salivating for, would be unharmed and it was mint. And I still have all those issues— perfect, mint condition, from the day I bought them for 10 cents.

“I would go back over it and study each panel again and again to see if I had missed anything in a corner. And, by the time I pedaled home, back all the way up Main Street [where it] turned into Mentor Avenue and Mentor Avenue ran all the way through to Cleveland where it became Euclid Avenue, I had every chapter of ‘The Monster Society’ embedded in my brain for all eternity.”

Far too few of the Golden Age Captain Marvel material is available so this collection is a most welcome addition to the library.

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  1. mike ray ashley Says:

    Thanks for the insightful article! 🙂
    I have to respond to the last sentence though. Caps entire Golden Age material is available! Gwandanaland Comics has them all including Mary, Captain Marvel JR, and Marvel Family! I’m working on collecting them all now. They are all tpbs. But man do they look great. I’m waiting on Marvel Family now. I just discovered them earlier this year. They sell on Amazon and direct through Facebook at a cheaper price. I highly recommend any Cap aficionados to check them out!

  2. Denny Dukes Says:

    I’ve wanted this for decades, and look forward to having it. Thanks for the very interesting article!