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The Christmas Mystery of Captain Marvel/Donna Reed Revealed!

In "The World Outside," I examine comic books showing up in outside media, like TV shows, sports, novels and films.

Wow, you folks do not take too long to answer a mystery!

Yesterday, I wrote about the 1958 Christmas episode of The Donna Reed Show.

In the episode, Donna Reed's character (Donna Stone) visits a children's ward at the hospital and while she is there, we see a little kid reading an issue of Captain Marvel's comic book...

The problem is that that comic book did not match any issue of Captain Marvel's comic book series from Fawcett Comics. Not to mention the fact that it had been five years since Fawcett stopped MAKING Captain Marvel comics!

So what gives?

Well, P.C. Hamerlinck, the editor for the Fawcett Collectors of America at Alter Ego Magazine (there was just recently an FCA issue of Alter Ego...

)

wrote in to explain the fascinating details.

In 1950, the Columbia Pictures film The Good Humor Man came out, starring Jack Carson as a Good Humor ice cream salesman who accidentally witnesses a murder...

A big part of the plot is that Carson's character, Biff Jones, is a member of a Captain Marvel fan club operated by the younger brother of his love interest in the film (you would think that he would use the opportunity to also sell the kids ice cream, but he pretty much lets them take it for free)...

His involvement in the club is a major plot point in the film (SPOILERS! The kids end up saving his and his girlfriend's life at the end of the film when he cries out for help using their emergency password, which is Captain Marvel spelled backwards - Niatpac Levram)

As part of the cross promotion, Fawcett put out a special tie-in comic book (written by longtime Captain Marvel writer Otto Binder)...

And C.C. Beck himself was ordered by Fawcett's art director Al Allard to create a special prop comic book for the film...

Beck himself had to pay to see the film and he was not a fan. He walked out midway through the film.

Apparently, eight years later, the prop was still laying around Hollywood and so it was picked up and re-used for the Donna Reed episode.

P.C. also added an interesting note, "Not that anyone noticed or cared, but the prop's usage on The Donna Reed Show probably violated a court order. When a settlement had finally been reached with the prolonged National v. Fawcett copyright infringement litigation on August 14, 1953, the agreement stated that Fawcett discontinue not only the publication of all “Captain Marvel” and related magazines but also cease all commercial activity associated therewith, effectively wiping out Captain Marvel out of existence ... except on The Donna Reed Show!"

That's amazing. Thanks so much, P.C.! There's a reason why you're the FCA editor for Alter Ego!

Everyone, please go support Alter Ego. It's a great magazine (I have a subscription myself).

Okay, folks, now that this mystery is solved, feel free to write in at brianc@cbr.com of any other interesting examples of comic books appearing in other forms of media!

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