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Captain Marvel and the Art of Nostalgia$
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Brian Cremins

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781496808769

Published to University Press of Mississippi: May 2018

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496808769.001.0001

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Steamboat’s America

Steamboat’s America

(p.98) Chapter 4 Steamboat’s America
Captain Marvel and the Art of Nostalgia

Brian Cremins

University Press of Mississippi

Steamboat, Billy Batson’s friend and valet, was a stereotypical African American character who appeared in Fawcett’s comic books until 1945, when a group of New York City middle school students visited Captain Marvel editor Will Lieberson. Those students, all part of a program called Youthbuilders, Inc., successfully argued for the character’s removal. Drawing on the work of Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, and George Yancy, this chapter studies the character and his similarities to other racial caricatures in U. S. popular culture of the era. It also provides a short history of the Youthbuilders, an organization created by social worker Sabra Holbrook. The chapter concludes with a discussion of Alan Moore’s Evelyn Cream, a black character who appears in the 1980s series Miracleman. Although not directly based on Steamboat, Moore’s character was an attempt to address racial stereotypes in superhero comic books, figures that have their origins in the narratives of the 1930s and 1940s.

Keywords:   African American studies and comic books, Alan Moore’s Miracleman, Captain Marvel’s Steamboat, Sabra Holbrook, Youthbuilders, Inc.

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