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Captain Future - Comic Strip Hero

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In 1939, Better Publications Inc of New York City, was looking to create a new science fiction magazine to publish as a sister magazine to its Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories series. They drew their inspiration in part from Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, which were both very successful comic strips, and from magazines such as Doc Savage, in which a regular cast of characters appeared in each issue. They hired the well-known science fiction author Edmond Hamilton to write them, and the result, Captain Future magazine, made its debut in the winter of 1940.

Captain Future is Curtis Newton, a brilliant, athletic young man who was raised on the Moon by a company of strange characters after his parents were killed by criminals. Now a grown man, Curt flies with his odd family in his spaceship, the Comet, fighting injustice throughout the solar system, and sometimes beyond.

Captain Future's companions - known as the Futuremen - include:

  • Simon Wright - a distinguished scientist whose brain is kept alive in a box after the death of his body

  • Grag - a simple-minded but very strong metal robot

  • Otho - a 'synthetic android' who is human in appearance but incredibly lithe and a master of disguise

For 17 quarterly issues Captain Future and the Futuremen battled crime, whether from the mysterious Space Emperor, the half-breed Martian magician Ul Quorn, or threats from other dimensions. The formula for the stories required plenty of action, disguises and otherworldly trappings. These were the romantic days of science fiction; in the Captain Future universe, every planet was habitable and inhabited. The natives, though distinctive enough, were all basically human.

Edmond Hamilton started writing the novels under his own name, but later, when other writers alternated with him, he adopted the pseudonym Brett Sterling to give the series some continuity. Apart from SJ Perelman's mocking review of the first issue in The New Yorker magazine, Captain Future drew little attention outside the science fiction world, and only a modicum within the genre's own sphere. In 1944, wartime paper rationing caused the demise of the magazine. There were a few occasional novels and short stories that appeared later, but Captain Future had hung up his proton pistol for good.

Or had he? The Japanese produced a few animated cartoons featuring the Man of Tomorrow (as the Cap'n was sometimes called) which still have fans today. The cartoons were produced in the late 1970s (the American version dates from 1978) and were most popular in Germany, from which most of the fan websites originate. The novels have been reprinted several times in book form, and several dedicated Captain Future websites have sprung up.

The human imagination never dies, and so the Comet still flies with each new generation. Just light the magnesium flare at the North Pole, and Captain Future will fly to the rescue!

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