I’ve Got Some More Issues No. 6 –
Marvel Graphic Novel#1
The Death of Captain Marvel
Hello, all of you comic book crazies! Halloween is over and the Day of the Dead just ended. In honor of these creepy celebrations, I was going to have us take a look at a classic horror funny book, but I wanted to do something a little different and a lot more poignant. Instead of looking at a moldy old terror tome full of O. Henry stories, we’re going to face off with the ultimate death dealer, cancer! Grab a box of tissues, friends, because we’re about to swing open the cover of Marvel Graphic Novel #1: The Death of Captain Marvel.
Complete Arc: “The Death of Captain Marvel”
Year Released: 1982
Creative Team: Jim Starlin (Writer/Artist)
Heroes: Captain Marvel
*Special appearances by almost every Marvel hero and Captain Marvel Villain up to that time.
Notable Quotable: Captain Marvel: “It’s hard to accept that the world is going to go on without me.”
Marvel’s first self-titled graphic novel opens with a summary of the sultan of the spaceway’s life, easing us into the (1982) present. Captain Marvel, Starfox, and Mentor bust up a group of Thanos fanatics who are trying to steal the recently deceased mad titan’s petrified body. After making quick work of the crazed cultists, Marvel is suddenly wracked with a concerning coughing spasm. Once the trio returns home, Mentor runs a medical scan on the good Captain, revealing what Marvel already knew to be true; he has cancer. Captain Marvel slowly wastes away while we observe the emotional devastation his prognosis thrusts upon his friends and loved ones. We are treated to scenes of mixed reactions as news of his condition spreads out across the galaxy. The heroes of Earth valiantly yet futilely search for a cure, and we can only watch, helpless and heartbroken. The end nears, and we see what Captain Marvel sees. Thanos appears to him, granting him one last epic skirmish with himself and the cosmic crusader’s other foes before introducing him to his mistress, Death. The three of them walk together into the great bright beyond while Mentor softly lowers a bedsheet over Marvel’s still form, pronouncing simply, “He’s gone.”
Jim Starlin (Captain Marvel, The Weird, Warlock) is Marvel’s supreme space opera scribe. Having introduced Thanos and Drax in Iron Man, he was tapped to draw then write the floundering Captain Marvel series. He developed a massive (for the 70’s) and incredible storyline with Thanos as the villain that crossed over into several Marvel comics and redefined Marvel’s cosmic storylines forever. In 1982, he was asked to pen and draw The Death of Captain Marvel for Marvel’s 1stGraphic Novel, and he didn’t miss a single beat. His scripting on this book is phenomenal. Drawing upon anguish over his own father’s battle with the disease, he captures the quintessence of emotional angst that cancer causes to both its victims that the people around them. The scenes with Rick Jones were especially touching as the young man goes through the stages of grief right before our eyes. The biggest highlight of the book was when an emissary of the Skrull Empire shows up at Marvel’s bedside to present him with the Royal Skrull Medal of Valor and offers a salute and wishes of a swift passing to a despised yet honored foe. Powerful! Powerful! Powerful! Starlin’s pencils in the book are, as usual, spot on. His solid and dynamic lines are always eye-catching, and his panel layouts and pacing are perfect! Yes, I am a fan (I’ve meet the fellow several times, and he’s super cool).
When I read this book waaaay back in 1982 it hit me like a hammer. In those days, heroes just didn’t die (not that they stay dead now), and for a hero to die of something as pedestrian as cancer!? It was unheard of!!! It truly showed the mortality of our four-color friends in a way that no other story had done before or has done since. Having read it again before doing this review, I found that it has lost none of its punch. Is this a must read for all comics fans? YES!!! FIND IT, READ IT, WIPE AWAY YOUR TEARS, AND READ IT AGAIN!!!
*Important side note: Cancer is the most devastating disease that we face. If you can afford to do so, please donate to cancer research groups such as the American Cancer Society. Together, we can beat it forever.
That’s all for this month, folks! Time to put in some physical therapy! So, while I’m hobbling up and down some stairs, go out and buy a copy of The Death of Captain Marvel (and one of my Tripping Over Reality novels while you’re at it). Can you dig it!?!?!?!
Chris Swartzlander is the author of the Tripping Over Reality Sci-Fi series.