CAPTAIN ACTION WEEK: 13th Dimension columnist PAUL KUPPERBERG takes us deeper into the cult-fave series…

Welcome to CAPTAIN ACTION WEEK! This week, IDW is releasing the hardcover Captain Action Classic Collection, which comprises DC’s short-lived, cult fave 1960s comic-book series based on the beloved Ideal toy line. Given this august occasion, we’ve gathered an all-star crew of CA experts and fans to bring you an issue-by-issue breakdown of the series, sort of an unofficial commentary track to the book. Not just that, we’ll have other Captain Action material, both new and from the vaults. Click here for our complete INDEX of features. You will most certainly be glad you did. Right on. — Dan


I still have the proposal I wrote in 2007 for the revival of Captain Action, the 1960s superhero action figure and short-lived comic book series from DC Comics for entrepreneurs Ed Catto and Joe Ahearn. Although it was close to 40 years since CA had appeared in toy stores and comic book stories, this Ideal Toy Company answer to Hasbro’s mega-hit G.I. Joe held a place in the hearts and imaginations of countless fans of a certain age, and younger.

A confession first: I never had a Captain Action figure. I was the proud owner of a pair of G.I. Joes (and accessories), but my lack of funds to buy the new figure was somewhat ameliorated by the discovery that the CA superhero costumes (Superman, Batman, Captain America, Spider-Man, et al) also fit Joe. Sort of. Joe was larger than Cap by probably no more than a few millimeters here and there, just enough to have to stretch the costumes a little to get the snaps to close at the back, and to need to exert just a little more pressure on the masks to get them over Joe’s big head. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked for me.

By the time Captain Action #1 appeared on the newsstands in the summer of 1968, both Joe and his CA costumes had been relegated to a box at the back of my bedroom closet as 13-year-old me began putting away childish things… well, that particular childish thing anyway; I’ve kept hold of plenty of others in subsequent years, including, of course, comic books. And when I saw that spectacular Irv Novick cover for the first issue on the newsstand (in Harry and Flo’s Candy Store on Remsen Avenue and Avenue B in Brooklyn) I went nuts. Nuts turned to insanity when I opened to the first page and saw that the interior art was by Gil Kane and Wally Wood.

I was, in those days, a burgeoning fan, just learning to identify artists by their styles. The first artist I could spot without referring to the credits was Carmine Infantino. The second was Gil Kane. And I knew Wally Wood from Mad Magazine and those early issues of Daredevil he drew for Marvel.

Captain Action lasted a scant five issues, each one better than the last. Because of copyright issues with the non-DC characters in the set, the comic had to come up with a different raison d’être for the good Captain and his beret wearing sidekick. Seventeen-year-old writer Jim Shooter and editor Mort Weisinger developed an exciting and action-packed direction that didn’t include other people’s intellectual properties or subjugate the Captain himself under other identities.

(By the way, there was also a Captain Action & Action Boy giveaway comic produced by Ideal in 1967 with art by Chic Stone, an interesting artifact of the time, which you can check out in the new IDW hardcover.

Flash forward to 2007 and the open call for pitches to revive Captain Action under the Moonstone Comics banner. I didn’t usually participate in cattle calls for proposals; the odds of seeing a payday under those circumstances were slim to none, so if you want to hear my ideas, hire me.


I mean, it was Captain Action, right?

So, I pitched (“He is the hero he needs to be at the moment of crisis. He is Captain Action…a hero of infinite possibilities!”). It was a solid pitch, I thought, full of the James Bondian action and intrigue that they were looking for and, more importantly, it focused on the original idea of Action’s malleability, his ability to become whoever he needed in the course of his mission. They liked it a lot, they said.

But the gig went to someone else. I was disappointed, but as a freelancer, you learn that rejection is part of the job, so you file the disappointment away with the proposal and move on to whatever’s next.

Which, it turned out, was writing Captain Action after all. Just not the lead feature. Ed and Joe liked my pitch enough that I was invited to write some back-up stories featuring what we came to call “Classic Cap,” i.e., Captain Action in a 1960s espionage setting, some of them based on historic events, like the assassinations of JFK and RFK in 1963 and 1968 and the Cold War. It is, I happily admit, an old fanboy itch that I’m glad I was able to scratch, adding my own two cents to the mythos.


1. The Cover. Gil Kane, one of the kings of comic book cover illustrations, pulls off the difficult task of a static image that conveys all the energy and velocity of a high-speed vehicle as it tears across the page in evasive action against the ghostly image of their foe, Krellik.

2. The Credits. After the tour de force solo effort by Wally Wood in the first issue, cover artist Kane joined the art team as penciller and took the Actions to an even higher level with his fluid, graceful layouts, and masterful storytelling. I’ve always found the Kane/Wood team to be a case of the whole being greater than its individual parts, with Wood’s solid, slick inks grounding Kane’s pencils with a weight and solidity they didn’t always achieve on their own.

3. That’s How You Recap What’s Come Before. One page, one great big image that makes the reader gasp, “What the hell—?!” and just the facts because, darn it, you’ve just got to turn that page and find out what happens next!

4. Margaret Hamilton Redux. A little study in comparative mythology filled Cap’s first adventure as both hero and villain accompanied their use of the various ancient coins of power with a brief recap of the gods they represented in different cultures.

5. Foreshadowing. It may not be as obvious to modern readers, but even at the time, I recognized that Captain Action was a step or two above in sophistication from the average DC Comics title, on par with the Haney/Premiani Doom Patrol and the Bridwell/Springer Secret Six. Shooter had already shown his chops by bringing new depth and levels of characterization to his Legion of Super-Heroes tales, and here we got to see what he could do building a new world of characters from scratch.

6. And Now a Moment of Stupidity. I’ve never figured out whether Carl’s bonehead move of letting the bald-headed Krellik, a wolf in sheep’s clothing as a visiting archeologist, in the door during their ongoing war with a bald-headed villain was a way to portray his youthful naivety or just a bad plot contrivance. The fan in me prefers to believe it’s the former.

7. The Captain Action Ad. A meta-moment as the story is interrupted by a full-page ad for the Captain Action, Action Boy, and Dr. Evil figures from Ideal, with art by DC Comics stalwart Kurt Schaffenberger. In keeping with the comic book concept, the ad pushes the figures only, with no more specific mention of the costumes from the various IPs than the action line prompting readers to “Get his crime-fighting accessories.”

8. The Hidden Sub-Basement Headquarters. Because you can’t really be a hero without one, can you?

9. Brains Over Brawn. Knowing he’s outgunned by the stronger Krellik, Captain Action opts for a strategy of wits over muscle. I loved his use of the coin of Odin to puncture his foe’s ruse from the shadow revealed on the wall, a bit of business that I’ve never forgotten.

10. Gil Kane Butt Shots. Lesser known but almost as frequently used as his famous low angle “up the nose” shot, Gil knew how to put his best cheek forward, a shot one might have overlooked for the breathtaking levitation of a NYC subway train from its underground tunnel taking place behind it. And bonus shot: our first look at Cap’s Silver Streak, “the fastest thing this side of the Batmobile!”

11. No Autographs, Please! It was great to see Captain Action getting the love from a grateful public, just like a real superhero should.

12. Bwha-ha-ha-ha! Krellik’s plan to run Captain Action in circles seems to be working… or is it?

13. The Denouncement. Remember Cap’s foreshadowing of events on Page 4? It pays off here, with a lovely one-two punch, sending Krellik flying nostrils first at the reader and proving, as if we needed proof who was the better man.



— The Complete CAPTAIN ACTION WEEK INDEX of Features. Click here.


Sure, you know PAUL KUPPERBERG as the prolific writer of over a thousand comic books for such characters and series as Superman, Aquaman, Doom Patrol, Vigilante, Life with Archie, Bart Simpson, Scooby-Doo, and dozens more for DC Comics, Archie Comics, Bongo Comics, and others, and that he is also the creator of the series Arion, Lord of Atlantis, Checkmate and Takion, and is a former editor for DC, Weekly World News, and WWE Kids Magazine. But Paul is also the author of numerous books, including the superhero novel JSA: Ragnarok and the comics industry-based murder mystery, The Same Old Story, not to mention (but we will anyway) Paul Kupperberg’s Illustrated Guide to Writing ComicsI Never Write for the Money, But I Always Turn in the Manuscript for a CheckDirect Comments: Comic Book Creators in their Own WordsThe Unpublished Comic Book Scripts of Paul Kupperberg and Son of the Unpublished Comic Book Scripts of Paul Kupperberg. You can follow Paul at PaulKupperberg.com and at Crazy8Press.com.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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1 Comment

  1. Nice shout-out to Margaret Hamilton.

    Karl’s stupidity in welcoming the bald-headed archaeologist never occurred to me. I had never gotten past the derivative nature of a Superman-powerful hero with a bald-headed scientist arch-nemesis.

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