Captain Who?

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” – Joseph Campbell

Remember the sea shanty “Blow the man down?” Unfortunately, the two superheroes who ran into me yesterday missed the “pick him up” portion of the old ditty. The mall is crowded on Saturday, but on rainy days it becomes a de facto playground and the likes of the two Power Rangers who took me down aren’t an unusual sight. Fortunately, I was not hurt and able to right myself, but I was, to put it politely, miffed. Apparently, the actions of today’s superheroes are so mission specific that that the mess created in the wake of their pursuit of justice doesn’t count for much.

Those who are members of the Silent Generation will remember the days before television. Unless your parents were classics professors, there were few superheroes whose deeds could be followed. Superman and Batman appeared in the post-depression era of the late 1930’s. They were created as symbols of the power of men to overcome adversity, but their adventures had limited exposure and were aired only on the radio and in comic books.

the shadow knowsA better, actually more popular hero was Lamont Cranston, The Shadow,who aided the forces of law and order. His name rarely appears on the roster of superheroes these days, but I can remember rushing home from church on Sunday, plunking lotus style on the floor in front of the radio, waiting for the spine chilling, sonorous program opener, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.” His superpower was invisibility, and like all superheroes, classic or common, he had what Joseph Campbell called an origin story that explains his character and how his superpower came to be. He was taught how “to cloud men’s minds” by a Yogi priest in India and in the process became telepathic and developed a heightened sense of danger.

green hornetThe Green Hornet followed The Shadow, so I’d switch from lotus position to my back or belly and use my hands to support a head made heavy by the concentration crime fighting required. Interestingly, Britt Reid, the Green Hornet, had no special powers, though he did have a special car, called the Black Beauty, that helped him defeat the forces of evil. He also had a gas gun that he used to immobilize crooks because he didn’t want to kill them. Britt was a wealthy young man who was alerted to crimes through his job as a owner and publisher of a newspaper. Initially, the show opened with the words words, “He hunts the biggest game! Public enemies that even the G-men cannot reach!” After J. Edgar Hoover—who oversaw the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its agents, known as G-men—complained, it was changed to “Public enemies who try to destroy our America!” The themes always revolved around criminal schemes that involved corrupt government officials or organized crime figures. After the fact, another interesting facet of the program was its use of classical music for its theme and background music. Anyone who listened to the program came to recognize its theme, “The Flight of the Bumblebee.”


I wanted to compare the two Power Rangers who ran me down to the superheroes of my radio days. Since there are no Power Rangers in my immediate area some research was in order. It turns out I was the victim of one Red and one Purple ranger, but while tracking them down I came across some even more upsetting news. As I paged through various screens I came across two instances where two superheroes had been given the name Captain Justice. They had co-opted Captain Justice and he belonged to me.

When my oldest daughter was in kindergarten, Bob and I made one of those dreaded corporate moves. You know the kind. You wake up the same person who went to bed the prior night, but virtually everything around you has changed. For anyone who has experienced these dislocations, the first rule of survival is to put yourself out there and make new friends as quickly as you possibly can. With that in mind I became an instantly active member of the PTA and volunteered to head the Health and Safety Committee. Now, this is not a committee that comes with great “creds.” The position had not been filled for three years because no one wanted it. I did have a trick or two up my sleeve. One was a campaign to reign in the dog packs that roamed the streets of town. It was successful within six weeks, not because of my efforts, but because the child of one of the commissions was attacked. Despite my protestations, I was credited with the round-up and was taken quite seriously when I shared my next proposal with the group. We had moved from a community that had a strong “Stranger Danger” program and the children there were quite familiar with “Officer Friendly” who regularly visited the schools. Of course, the gals thought the program was a wonderful idea, but I had to work with the police liaison myself.

It took several long visits to get the program started. I’m sure that was due, at least in part, to the fact that the officers in our town hadn’t heard of the program and got a real kick out of hearing me explain the program and Officer Friendly’s role in it. Well, after several back and fourths, they let me know they would proceed with the program, and that Captain Justice would be the school liaison. They collapsed in near hysterical laughter when I asked, “What’s his real name?” The rest belongs to the ages. His name really was Captain Justice and that’s why I don’t want the superheroes messing with it.

2 thoughts on “Captain Who?

  1. Mary, Ah yes…The Shadow! I do remember those radio shows. Also there was The Green Hornet and of course The Lone Ranger. All heroes! For some reason pop culture doesn’t seem to have tried to revive The Shadow but the same can’t be said of the Green Hornet and the Lone Ranger. My literary hero from my younger days was Tarzan and no one has ever don’t a good Tarzan movie that was even close to one of the books. Of course, now days, some the scenes/scenarios would not be socially acceptable. Time flies! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  2. I missed the great radio shows, but experienced many of those “corporate” (though in my case military) moves. I think a lot of PTA and Sunday School teacher positions around the country were filled with women like us needing to find our place, but also out there making our new world a little bit better. Love the Captain Justice story!! Thanks, Mary.


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