June 09, 2008

Captain Thunder's Indian powers

"Make Way For Captain Thunder!" appeared in SUPERMAN #274 (June 1974). Richard Meyer gives us the story behind the story:Captain Thunder was really a clever homage to Captain Marvel and Fawcett Comics. In fact, Captain Marvel was originally called Captain Thunder, in the first issue of Whiz Comics (which was called Flash Comics and was never published). Like The Big Red Cheese (as Dr. Sivana would put it), Captain Thunder's alter-ego was a young orphaned boy who changed into the powerful hero by saying a magic word, and who was given these abilities by a mysterious stranger in a cave.

Willie Fawcett transformed into Captain Thunder by uttering the word "Thunder" while he rubbed his magic belt buckle (a sensible change and precaution, considering "thunder" is a tad more common word than "Shazam"). Much like Billy Batson's trip into the subway that lead him to the wizard Shazam, Willie was on at a summer camp for orphans when an owl led him to a cave in which he found Merokee, the last of the great Medicine Men of the Mohegan tribe. He bestowed upon him the magic belt and gave him his magic word.
Comment:  I have SUPERMAN #273 and #275, but I don't remember #274. Maybe I missed it.

Judging by the illustration below, Captain Thunder was an incredibly lame concept. His powers come from three animals, two things, one person, and one abstract entity. Diamonds, rams, and tornadoes have nothing to do with Mohegan Indians. The other six items are part of nature, so it makes no sense to list them separately. It also makes no sense to attribute wisdom to nature, which has no brain or ability to think.

Moreover, the initials come from English rather than Mohegan words. Several of the powers are physical rather than spiritual. Toughness and tenacity are similar qualities. Etc.

Captain Thunder is a classic case of attributing mystical powers to Indians. Like Dr. Strange, a good medicine man or shaman can do anything by casting a spell or waving a talisman. One wonders how the Europeans ever conquered such powerful magicians. Where was Captain Thunder when the Mohegans needed him?

For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

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