Friday, November 29, 2013

Monsters vs Heroes Captain Triumph

When I was young there was a television commercial for peanut butter cups that bragged “two great tastes that taste great together!”. Well my new blog series is designed along that line of thinking. As a boy the two things that got me really excited were superheroes and monsters. From digging through the comics of the Golden Age, I’ve discovered that this was apparently true for the kids of the 1940’s as well. I make this judgment from the large number of stories where costumed crusaders fought against creatures of the night. Postings with this header will be a platform to explore these tales.

Quality Comics had a rich cadre of beloved and well remembered characters, such as Plasticman, the Ray, the Black Condor, Blackhawk and the Spirit. Perhaps less recalled is Captain Triumph, but this hero had an admirable longevity running in 35 consecutive issues of CRACK COMICS between 1943 and 1949.

Cap came on to the scene rather late, when you consider that the popularity of super characters had already peaked by 43. But the hero had a kind of unique spin on the genre that helped keep him popular when the others were dropping. First was the occult nature of his powers. Lance and Michael Gallant were identical twin brothers that shared one of the tightest fraternal bonds depicted in comics. These guys were of matching attitude when it came to physical perfection, their good citizenship and sense of right and wrong. When Lance witnesses Michael’s murder from sabotage, he makes a vow. “Michael was my brother! I swear there’s no risk I wouldn’t take – nothing I’d hesitate to do! I’d sacrifice anyone’s life – my own included – to wipe from the face of the earth the evil that brought about this disaster!” Suddenly the ghost of Michael appears before Lance, with praise for his brother’s commitment. If Lance agrees to take on a crusade for justice then the spirit of Michael will use it’s supernatural abilities to aid in the fight.

Captain Triumph’s costume was hardly that, if you compare it to other mystery men. He wears no mask, simply a red tee-shirt, jodhpur style riding pants and leather calf-high boots. This less than flamboyant fashion aided in making the character more pliable with regard to story types. A writer could dream up any sort of story idea, making him a mystery detective, circus roundabout, crime noir investigator, international provocateur or straight adventure hero and none would not seem out of place for the Gallant brothers. This flexibility probably helped in his longevity.

The original artist on the Captain was Alfred Andriola, of Kerry Drake fame, but for myself, the guy I most identify with the strip, is Reed Crandall. So for the inaugural post, let us look at his gorgeous job from CRACK COMICS number 51 where the good Captain battles a werewolf!


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