Pulp comics: ‘Captain Gravity’
An interesting, though short-lived comic-book series that came out several years ago is Captain Gravity. While mainly taking inspiration from movie serials, there are some pulp elements as well. Set in the backdrop of 1930s Hollywood, it has movie serial heroes, Nazis, and mystical powers like the Vril.
Published by Penny Farthing Productions, two mini-series were produced, along with a one-shot. The first mini of four issues came out in 1998 and was collected. A one-shot came out in 1999 (it was never collected). And then a second (and final) mini of six issues came out in 2004-05 and was collected in 2006. No word on any further series or stories being planned. The character was created by Stephan Vrattos, who wrote the first series and one-shot. Joshua Dysart wrote the second series.
The series centers around Joshua Jones, a young, black man working behind the scenes in Hollywood in 1938. There, he is the personal assistant to the head of a movie studio. This studio is creating a new pulp-inspired movie serial character “Captain Gravity,” who they feel will compete against characters like Spy Smasher and the like.
A backer for the serial gets them to go to Central America to shoot scenes for the serial. It’s done to cover up a search of pre-Columbian ruins to find a mystical element, called “Element 115,” which gives power over the gravity. The professor who searches for it believe it came from aliens. But the backers are really Nazis, who want it for their war efforts.
But Joshua is exposed to the element, and gains power over gravity. He takes the Captain Gravity outfit, which includes a full-face helmet so that no one knows who Captain Gravity is, not even his race, and defeats the Nazis and saves his friends.
The second series, titled “The Power of the Vril,” is set in 1939, with framing scenes set during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 with Willie Ley. This story makes some changes to what was shown in the first series. Here we see Nazis on a search for Atlantis, with the hopes of obtaining the power of the Vril. Joshua’s friend Chase DuBois, an actress at the studio, is pulled into things after being asked to spy on a suspected Nazi involved with the search for Atlantis. When she is abducted on a trip to Egypt, Joshua gets involved as Captain Gravity.
Soon Captain Gravity is also on the trail to Atlantis to stop the Reich Sorcerer and his two Vril-powered associates who have the same powers over gravity as Joshua. We learn along the way that “Element 115” is really Vril, and the suspected aliens in the first series were really the survivors of Atlantis.
But Captain Gravity triumphs. And we see from the framing scenes that he is still active in the 1960s and will hopefully use his powers to avert a war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Certainly this opens up several decades of potential stories with the character.
Penny Farthing Press is still around and copies of the collections are still available. An interesting series, if fairly overlooked.