Cap bursts out of the page. Artists: Jack Kirby inked by Mort Meskin and Steve Ditko.


Original Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Harvey Comics
First Appeared: 1953
Creators: Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
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Joe Simon (Red Raven) and Jack Kirby Captain Victory), working as a team in the 1940s, were responsible for many significant comics. For example, their Young Romance brought the romance genre to comic books. But sometimes, even the most innovative creators are just following the trend. The first issue of Captain 3-D was dated …

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… December, 1953; whereas several others, a little quicker on the draw, had 3-D comics on the stands by November. One, cartoonist Norman Maurer (Little Wise Guys), got a 3-D version of his Tor in print as early as October of that year, in 3-D Comics.

Where Simon and Kirby did innovate was in making Cap an actual comic book superhero, using the 3-D process itself as his superheroing theme. But that didn't spark any trends. In fact the next such hero wasn't seen until 1977, when Roy Thomas (The Liberty Legion) used it as a schtick for a very self-conscious '50s period piece from Marvel, called 3-D Man.

3-D was imported from the contemporary film industry. Movies were being made to be viewed through special (and cheaply manufacturable) filters so each eye seemed to see the action from a different angle, creating a realistic illusion of 3-dimensional depth. Experiments were made in 1952, followed by a full-scale fad. It was easy to see how the technique could be adapted to comic books, so by the end of 1953, newsstands were crawling with them.

Captain 3-D was introduced as the denizen of an ancient book that worked much the same as the comic book the reader was holding in his hands. Except that when young Danny Davis, who ran the inner-city bookstore that a mysterious stranger brought The Book of D to (just before he was murdered), put on the "glasses" that came with it (actually, cardboard with colored celophane inserts — "just like the glasses you get in a 3-D movie", he observed), the picture of the stalwart hero in it didn't just seem to jump out of the page. It really was transformed from a flat picture to a full-size, living, three-dimensional man. And not just any man, but one with the power to mop up the mess Danny had unwittingly gotten involved with.

Captain 3-D explained the book had been created using "D-power", which was also used to make weapons far more powerful than the atomic bombs humans had used in the previous decade. His purpose was to protect humanity from the cat people who had been living among us, in disguise, plotting against us, for millennia. Danny, whom circumstances had made the new guardian of the book, could also use the glasses to penetrate their disguise. Among the villains they met was Tigra (no relation) (her, either), who used D-power techniques to turn ordinary pictures into super-powered minions to further the cat people's plans.

Harvey Comics (Shock Gibson, The Black Cat), which published Captain 3-D, was one of several comics producers exploiting the technique. They also published westerns, war stories and their mainstay, comics about children, in that format, but the only regular, ongoing character they did that way was Sad Sack.

The 3-D craze in movies lasted until about 1955. In comic books, its stay was even briefer. It was over by the early part of 1954. None of the dozens of 3-D titles lasted more than two issues. Captain 3-D, in particular, had only one.

But work was done on a second. Among other things, it was to feature a villain named King Solitaire. But when the title was canceled, all that material was shelved, never to be published by Harvey. It remained on the shelf almost half a century, until AC Comics (Femforce, The Haunted Horseman) converted it to regular black and white, and ran the origin story and some of the material scheduled for the unpublished second issue, in their Men of Mystery Comics #15 (1999). The cover for #2 was used as the cover for that issue of Men of Mystery.

To this day, Cap's only appearances in color were on those two covers.


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Text ©2008-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Harvey Comics.