Captain Marvel Jr and Elvis Presley
Captain Marvel Jr and Elvis Presley by Robby Reed
If you think you know all about Captain Marvel Jr's influence on Elvis Presley ... think again! Because the World's Mightiest Boy didn't just influence the King of Rock and Roll's hairstyle ...
- Captain Marvel Jr. helped shape Elvis' entire lifestyle.
It all began on the battlefields of the first World War, with soldiers enduring bombs that whizzed right over their heads like a lightning bolt, then exploded nearby with a tremendous bang. Wilford 'Billy' Fawcett, a former police reporter for the Minneapolis Journal, was a World War I Army captain.
After the war, Fawcett began printing a small two-color pamphlet containing barracks humor meant to entertain disabled servicemen in veterans hospitals. The title of Fawcett's self-published pamphlet came from his own former army rank and nickname, plus a reference to one of the 'whiz-bang' bombs of WWI. The magazine was called 'Captain Billy's Whiz Bang'. But the monthly collection of off-color jokes, sexy stories and racy cartoons wasn't a bomb -- it was an instant hit. A wholesaler picked it up in 1919 and started selling it in hotels and drugstores. It soon became an American standard, published continuously for the next thirty years.
Vernon and Gladys Presley had married in 1933 and moved into the shotgun shack pictured right, in East Tupelo, Mississippi -- a two-room house Vernon built himself, for $180. Gladys soon got pregnant, and she gave birth to twin boys right in the Presley's modest home, on January 8, 1935.
The first of the twin boys, named Jesse Garon Presley, was stillborn. Vernon Presley placed the baby's tiny corpse in a shoebox and buried it in an unmarked grave. A half hour later, the second twin was born. Gladys Presley would later tell the boy', When a twin dies, the one who lives gets the strength of both'. The Presley twin who survived (pictured left with his parents, Gladys and Vernon) was given Vernon's middle name: Elvis.
Just a month after Elvis Presley turned five years old, Fawcett publications decided to try their luck in the comic book business. Fawcett oversaw the creation of a new superhero whose name came from his own actual rank during the war, Captain, plus the source of the hero's magical super powers, Thunder. At the last minute, Captain Thunder's name was changed to 'Captain Marvel' for legal reasons. The new book was titled 'Whiz Comics', a nod to 'Captain Billy's Whiz Bang'.
The first issue Whiz Comics starring Captain Marvel was published in February 1940. The explosion the book made when it hit the stands was not nearly as loud as that of the 'whiz-bang' bombs it was named after -- but for the comic industry, it would prove to be every bit as earth shaking.
In the issue, drawn in a cartoony style by Fawcett artist C.C. Beck, a homeless young boy named Billy Batson followed a mysterious stranger deep into the tunnels of an abandoned subway station. There, he encountered an ancient wizard named Shazam, who ordered Billy to speak his name. As Billy spoke the magic name ...
SHAZAM, the magic name that transforms Billy Batson into Captain Marvel, is an acronym. It stands for the wisdom of Solomon, strength of Hercules, stamina of Atlas, power of Zeus, invulnerability of Achilles, and speed of Mercury. The term was popularized as a rustic expression of surprise by Jim Nabors on the TV sitcom 'Gomer Pyle, USMC' (pictured left).
Captain Marvel wore a red military-inspired uniform with gold trim and a yellow lightning bolt insignia on the chest. His costume also included a white collared cape trimmed with gold fleur-di-lis symbols, modeled after the ceremonial cape once worn by British nobility.
MUSIC TRIVIA: The World's Mightiest Mortal, as Cap was often called, is mentioned in the 1968 Beatles song 'The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill', written by John Lennon: 'Deep in the jungle where the mighty tiger lies, Bill and his elephants were taken by surprise, So Captain Marvel zapped him right between the eyes ... Zap!'
With Whiz Comics selling like hotcakes, Fawcett decided to expand their line by giving Cap his own title, Captain Marvel Adventures, and introducing other superheroes such as Ibis the Invincible, the Golden Arrow, and Spy Smasher.
Spy Smasher #2
With Captain Marvel outselling even Superman, Fawcett next decided to expand the so-called 'Marvel Family'. In the fall of 1941, Fawcett writer Ed Herron came up with the idea of creating a junior version of Captain Marvel. DC Comics wouldn't begin publishing Superboy until March 1949, so this was the first time a superhero teenager was created not as a mere sidekick, but as a hero in his own right.
Would Herron's concept work?
Would comic fans accept a teenage version of a wildly popular adult superhero? Young Elvis Presley would soon get his first guitar as a birthday present when he turned eleven years old (an event immortalized with a statue, pictured right, located near the Presley's first home) -- would a junior version of Captain Marvel appeal to boys like Elvis?
And even if fans such as Elvis would be willing to accept the new character, how could his origin be explained? After all, the wizard Shazam had already given all his powers to Billy Batson -- how could there be any left for a new teenage hero?
At The Rock of Eternity!
Eons ago, after a monumental struggle, the wizard Shazam defeated his arch-enemy, 'Evil', and imprisoned him in a bottomless pit located in 'Eternity'. To keep Evil trapped in this pit, Shazam placed a colossal rock atop it, and Shazam's spirit took up residence in a Temple located near the top of this gigantic stone, which is known as the Rock of Eternity. Here, time itself stands still.
At the Rock of Eternity, it is possible to reach any time period, world or dimension. And it is here, reader, at Rock of Eternity, where we shall reveal the secret origin of Captain Marvel Jr., discover when the first encounter between Elvis and Captain Marvel Jr. actually took place, and see how Cap Jr. started to become a dominant force in the life of young Elvis (pictured right).
As we learned above, Captain Marvel (Sr.) first appeared in Whiz Comics, published by Fawcett Publications. The Big Red Cheese, as Cap is often called, was a huge hit, and in no time his comics were outselling even Superman himself. Fawcett wanted to expand their line, so they created a junior version of Cap. The name 'Captain Marvel Boy' was more than a little awkward, so Fawcett decided to call their new teen character (drum roll please)... Captain Marvel Jr.! With the creation of Superboy still years away, Captain Marvel Jr. debuted as the first kid superhero who was NOT just another hero's side-kick. Fawcett took another risk by hiring artist Mac Raboy to draw the character. Raboy's fine, delicate line work was far more realistic than that of cartoonists C.C. Beck and Pete Costanza, but it was perfect for Cap Jr., a character whose adventures Fawcett was aiming at slightly older readers.
When Elvis was just six years old, in December 1941, Captain Marvel Jr. appeared on the scene. His three-part origin story crossed over between two different titles, a rarity in the Golden Age. Cap Jr's origin started in Master Comics #21, continued in Whiz Comics #25, and concluded in Master Comics #22.
The story went like this: Freddy Freeman and his grandfather were out fishing when they were attacked by a villain named Captain Nazi. Freddy's grandfather was killed , and Freddy was crippled and left for dead. Captain Marvel discovered the young boy, barely alive, and flew him to a hospital, where doctors told Cap that young Freddy Freeman would not live through the night. Desperate to save the boy's life, Cap transformed back into Billy Batson, snuck the unconscious Freddy out of the hospital, and took him to the underground chamber where Billy had first met the wizard Shazam.
There, Billy could communicate with the wizard's spirit, which resided at the Rock of Eternity. Billy begged the wizard for help. Shazam said he couldn't repair Freddy's damaged body, but Captain Marvel could share a portion of his mighty powers with Freddy to revive him. Billy agreed. Billy said the ancient wizard's name, SHAZAM, and was transformed into Captain Marvel. At that moment Freddy woke up, saw Cap, and exclaimed 'Captain Marvel!' As he did, the magic lightning struck again, and Freddy Freeman was transformed into the World's Mightiest Boy, to be known henceforth as Captain Marvel, Jr.
Unlike Billy Batson, who transforms into Captain Marvel by saying the name of the wizard SHAZAM, Freddy Freeman transforms into Captain Marvel Jr. by saying the name of his hero, Captain Marvel. Fawcett thought this would remind readers to buy Cap Sr's book -- which it may have -- but it also had unintended comic consequences. Because of it, Captain Marvel Jr. is the only superhero who is unable to say his own name, since he transforms back into Freddy Freeman when he does.
Captain Marvel Jr. began starring in Master Comics with issue #23, February 1942. Junior was given his very own title just nine months later, when Elvis Presley was seven years old.
On November 6, 1948, Vernon, Gladys and Elvis, now 13 years old (pictured below left), moved from Tupelo, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee. The Presley's lived briefly in two Memphis boarding houses, then, in September 1949, their application to reside at Lauderdale Courts, a public housing apartment, was approved.
The Presley's modest two-bedroom unit consisted of a living room, bathroom and walk-in kitchen that came with a working 1951 Frigidaire fridge, and a tiny stove issued by the Memphis Housing Authority -- all for $35 a month rent. Compared to their previous residences, it was a huge improvement, but they remained dirt poor. To be eligible for public housing, a family's income could not exceed $3, 000 per year.
Lauderdale Courts consisted of 66 buildings and 449 apartments. The Presley soon became part of this vibrant community, and it was here, in a basement laundry room, that future superstar Elvis Presley practiced his singing and guitar playing. Presley lived here between 1949 and 1953, when he was attending Humes High School.
From his apartment at Lauderdale Courts, Elvis could fill his leisure time by walking to Beale Street to hear black rhythm and blues music, attending gospel concerts two blocks away at the Ellis Auditorium, and, quite possibly, reading comic books. Elvis' Lauderdale Court apartment has been preserved as a historic spot, and a copy of Captain Marvel Jr. #51, cover dated July 1947, has been placed on a desk in Elvis' old room (pictured right). It's not likely that this particular issue ever made it to Lauderdale Courts, though. Since the Presley's moved in 1949, Elvis would had to have saved the book for over two years. But as a symbol of Elvis' love for the character, it's perfect.
So what issues DID young Elvis read? From our timeless vantage point at the Rock of Eternity, reader, it looks like September 1949 to January 1953 is the time period when Elvis, from the ages of 14 to 18, is most likely to have first encountered Captain Marvel Jr.
According to Pamela Clarke Keogh's 'Elvis Presley: The Man. The Life. The Legend', Elvis used comics as an escape'. Like a lot of kids with a chaotic home life, Elvis created his own world inside his head. He read comic books and was drawn to Superman, Batman, and, most of all, Captain Marvel Jr. Around the age of 12, Elvis discovered Captain Marvel Jr. and quickly became almost obsessed with him'.
Billy Smith, a lifelong friend of Elvis' and member of the so-called Memphis Mafia, concurs'. One of the comics Elvis read when he was a kid was Captain Marvel Jr. He went after Captain Nazi during WWII. And he had this dual image -- normal, everyday guy and super crime-fighter. Sounds like Elvis, don't it?' Finally, Elvis himself once mentioned comic books in a speech'. When I was a child, I was a dreamer', Elvis said'. I read comic books, and I was the hero of the comic book'.
|So, there can be no doubt that Elvis Presley did, indeed, read and love Captain Marvel Jr. comic books.|
Since the Presley's were dirt poor, with a family income of just $3, 000 a year, it's likely Elvis borrowed comics from friends, and didn't get to actually BUY comics himself very often. Imagine the young king of rock and roll in front of a newsstand, staring at racks full of comics -- each one calling out to him, each one bursting wit h amazing action and dazzling color, each one promising a fantastic new adventure. He could probably only have afforded to buy a single comic. Which book, specifically, might have caught young Elvis' eye?
Master #107, Sept. 1949
Marvel Family #41, Nov. 1949
CMJ #78, Oct. 1949
A historian might say we have no way of knowing -- but historians aren't usually comic book fans. We are.
We don't have to imagine what it's like to stare at racks of comics and choose -- we do it every week! And we know that when money is in short supply, we comic fans are likely to buy team books, because they features LOTS of superheroes. Or, if we have a favorite character, we'll more than likely buy just that character's own title, because that way we're guaranteed more stories featuring the hero we want to see. So, although Captain Marvel Jr. appeared in a number of different comics, it's almost certain that Elvis, if buying, would have gone for Cap Jr's own title. Given the dates of Elvis' move to Memphis, the issues of Cap Jr. he is most likely to have read are #77-119. Here are some of the covers that might have attracted the future king of rock 'n' roll:
CMJ #84, April 1950
CMJ #100, August 1951
CMJ #111, July 1952
Late in 1952, Fawcett Publications was faced with a lawsuit from DC comics claiming Captain Marvel was a rip-off of Superman. Rather than continue to fight it at a time when the comic book market was in rapid decline, Fawcett discontinued the entire 'Marvel' line. For Captain Marvel Jr., this meant his own title ended with issue #119, Master Comics was canceled with issue #133, and the Marvel Family's final issue was #89.
The times were changing.
And things were about to change for Elvis, too. Lauderdale Courts was not meant to be a permanent residence. Tenants could be forced to move if they were earning too much money, and this is exactly what happened to the Presley's in 1953.
They moved to 698 Saffarans in the Uptown neighborhood in January 1953, just one day before Elvis turned 18. He had already begun to model his look after Captain Marvel Jr., as a comparison of the Mac Raboy drawing of Cap Jr. and the early publicity photo of Elvis pictured right shows.
'He already had the greased hair, color and black satin pants -- with his friends standing next to him in jeans and shirts. He already looked different than every other boy. Everyone in the Courts knew who he was', according to Elvis researcher Alex Mobley.
Six months later after moving, on June 3, 1953, Elvis Presley graduated from Hume High School in Memphis. What would he do now?
'You know', Elvis confided to his cousin Earl', I believe there's a superboy inside me, just waiting to bust out'.
Elvis was right. He had the talent, the looks, the charm and the style. There WAS a superboy inside him just waiting to bust out. The only thing missing was the magic words. Freddy Freeman transformed by saying the name of his hero, Captain Marvel. Now, Elvis was ready to transform too -- by saying a name that belonged not to a Captain... but to a Colonel.
The Lightning Strikes!
The debut of Captain Marvel and his protégé -- Elvis' hero, Captain Marvel Jr. -- had struck the comic book world like a thunderbolt -- and now it was Elvis' turn to do the same for the music business, and the world.
Leonard Bernstein called Elvis Presley 'the greatest cultural force in the twentieth century. Elvis introduced the beat to everything, music, language, clothes. It's a whole new social revolution -- the 60's comes from it'.
Disc jockey John Peel describes the sense of shock Elvis brought: 'It might sound pretty safe now, but in the context of what was happening in the 1950s, hearing Heartbreak Hotel was as shocking as if someone was dancing naked in your living room'. Even Presley himself agreed. Years later, Elvis would comment', Man, I was tame compared to what they do now. Are you kidding? I didn't do anything but just jiggle'.
Rolling Stone magazine thought Elvis did a bit more than just jiggle: 'At Sun Studio in Memphis (1954, label pictured left), Elvis Presley called to life what would soon be known as rock and roll with a voice that bore strains of the Grand Ole Opry and Beale Street, of country and the blues. At that moment, he ensured -- instinctively, unknowingly -- that pop music would never again be as simple as black and white'.
John Lennon: 'Before Elvis, there was nothing'.
Bob Dylan: 'When I first heard Elvis' voice I just knew that I wasn't going to work for anybody; and nobody was going to be my boss. Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail. I thank God for Elvis Presley'.
Elton John: 'If it hadn't been for Elvis, I don't know where popular music would be. He was the one that started it all off'.
Mick Jagger: 'Elvis was a unique artist -- an original in an area of imitators'.
Keith Richards: 'Before Elvis, everything was in black and white. Then came Elvis. Zoom, glorious Technicolor'.
Bruce Springsteen: 'There have been a lot of tough guys. There have been pretenders. And there have been contenders. But there is only one king. That Elvis, man, he is all there is. There ain't no more. Everything starts and ends with him. He wrote the book'.
Elvis' Manager: Colonel Tom Parker
It was 1955. Elvis had been booked as a warm-up act for another singer, Hank Snow. Snow's manager was a colorful West Virginian who had run away from home at an early age to join the circus. He became a music promoter in the late 1940s, managing musicians Minnie Pearl and Eddy Arnold, and western film star Tom Mix. When Elvis was introduced to Snow's manager for the first time, he must have been thunderstruck -- the man's name was Colonel Tom Parker.
Elvis knew well that Freddy Freeman transformed into his boyhood hero, Captain Marvel Jr., by saying the name 'Captain Marvel'.
Now, here he was, being introduced to the man who would soon transform him into an immortal superstar -- not a Captain, but a Colonel! Holy Shazam.
It was destined to be!
Parker wasn't a real Colonel -- he received the honorary title in 1948 from Jimmie Davis, the governor of Louisiana.
But then again, Captain Marvel wasn't actually a real 'Captain' either! And, as fate would have it, the Navy rank of Captain is directly equivalent to the Marine rank of Colonel!
Elvis must have felt fate was calling.
Parker took over Presley's contract on August 18, 1955, and proceeded to dominate every phase of his career for the rest of his life. The Colonel was instrumental in virtually every business decision Presley ever made. His influence over Elvis has been criticized as Svengali-like, but without the Colonel, Presley might never have become the superstar he became.
Elvis' relationship with the Colonel could not be damaged, even when the truth about Parker's past was finally revealed.
It turned out Colonel Tom Parker, West Virginian, was actually a Dutch citizen, and his name wasn't Tom Parker. He had been born Andreas Cornelius van Kuijk, in Breda, Netherlands, in 1909. When he was 18, he fled to America and joined the US Army, changing his name to Tom Parker.
Some have speculated that the reason Elvis never performed abroad may have been that Parker was worried that as a non-citizen, he would not be readmitted to the United States. One book even claims he left the Netherlands to escape a murder rap. But whatever the Colonel's past may have been, it had no effect on his legendary management of the future King of Rock 'n' Roll.
Mirror, Mirror: Elvis and Cap Jr.
Now, with his talents at their peak and the skills of a brilliant manager to guide him, Elvis hit his stride. From January 1956 to November 1957, Elvis Presley spent a phenomenal 51 weeks occupying the number one spot on the Billboard pop chart. He would go on to record 104 singles that hit the Top 40, with an astounding 38 Top 10 Billboard hits. This total is unchallenged even today. The closest competitors are Madonna with 35, and The Beatles with 34. No artist before or since has ever dominated American popular music so completely.
And who was there, with Elvis, every step of the way? Who else? Captain Marvel Jr.!
|Above: Master Comics #119, featuring Cap Jr. in a typical pose.
|Above: Master Comics #54, with Capt. Jr's black hair, long sideburns and red cape.
Elvis and Cap Jr. in the Seventies
As he grew older, Elvis began to look and dress even more like Captain Marvel Jr. Below, an unpublished sketch of Cap. Jr. by artist Dave Cockrum -- who drew the World's Mightiest Boy in his DC revival of the early Seventies -- and a 1971 portrait of Elvis. Note the locks of tousled black hair on both foreheads, and Elvis' ultra-high shirt collar and jacket, both blue, the main color in Cap Jr's uniform.
Now middle-aged, Elvis took to wearing jumpsuits during his numerous live performances. Where did the designs for these outlandish, theatrical outfits come from? According to Elvis' cousin Billy Smith, 'If you go back and look at a drawing of Captain Marvel Jr., it looks a whole lot like the seventies Elvis -- one-piece jumpsuit, wide belt, boots, cape, lightning bolt and all'.
|Above: Captain Marvel Jr. #131, with Cap Jr. wearing a blue uniform with gold trim, wide belt, and short cape.
Right: Elvis in 1972, wearing
Captain Marvel's alter ego, Freddy Freeman, also inspired several of Elvis' stage outfits. According to Elvis expert Elaine Dundy, 'Subconsciously, the grown Elvis copied his hero's glistening black hair, his sideburns and his triumphant stance. Years later he wore his version of the Marvel Jr. cape, and the white scarf Freddy Freeman often wore turned up around Elvis' neck in performance'.
Below: Freddy Freeman, and a similarly-clad Elvis on stage, in concert.
|Above: Captain Marvel Jr's alter ego, Freddy Freeman, wore a blue coat with a long white scarf.
The TCB Thunderbolt Logo
Elvis' motto was 'Taking Care of Business in a Flash', represented in his personal logo by the letters TCB and a lightning bolt. Elvis wore a famous ring with the TCB logo on it (pictured left). Where did the phrase and logo come from? It was designed in the Seventies by Elvis and his new bride, Priscilla'. Taking Care of Business was a Black expression', recalls 'Memphis Mafia' member Marty Lacker, and Elvis used to say it in a sort of ethnic way. It was just a hip saying. Aretha Franklin sang 'Take care/TCB' on her version of Respect, for example'. The lightning bolt has two meanings', Lacker explains'. One is 'in a flash'. In other words, 'whatever you need to do, do it quick'. But the lightning bolt was also the insignia for the West Coast Mafia. In addition to doing things in a flash, [Elvis] liked the idea that the West Coast Mafia used it'.
Billy Smith, another of Elvis' 'Memphis Mafia' pals, strongly disagrees with Lacker ...
'Nah. The lightning bolt came from his army days. It was the insignia of his battalion ...
Or maybe in the back of his mind, he identified it with Captain Marvel Jr ...
That's where he got the idea for the capes. From the comic books'.
Given the fact that the 'C' is elevated far above the 'T' and 'B' in the logo, I tend to agree with Billy Smith. Why would Elvis raise the middle letter so high -- unless he wanted to pay homage to someone whose name began with a 'C'. Someone such as ... Captain Marvel Jr.
Elvis gave various diamond-encrusted gold jewelry pieces bearing the logo to members of his inner circle as a gift. According to Lacker, the TCB jewelry was created around 1970'.The lightning bolt emblem Captain Marvel Jr. wore on his chest became Elvis' logo, his signature', says Elaine Dundy'. The lightning bolt turned up on Elvis' private plane, the Lisa Marie (pictured left), and in the Graceland game room (pictured above). It turned up on the jewelry he gave special friends: the gold neck chains and bracelets. All of them were designed with Captain Marvel Jr's lightning bolt in the center'.
There was also a 'TCB Oath', written by the King himself, which Elvis' pals were required to follow. It stated:
'More self-respect, more respect for fellow man, respect for fellow students and instructors. Respect for all styles and techniques. Body conditioning, mental conditioning, meditation for calming and stilling of the mind and body. Sharpen your skills to increase mental awareness, for all those who might choose a new outlook and personal philosophy. Freedom from constipation'.
That last sentence is not an editorial insertion -- Elvis had a great sense of humor, and he actually included the phrase 'Freedom from constipation' in his otherwise-solemn 'TCB Oath'.
The lightning had struck, and it seemed there were no new heights left for Vernon and Gladys' little boy Elvis to scale. But there was one thing Presley had still never done ... he'd never had a private, Oval Office meeting with the President of the United States. That was way out of even Elvis' league. Or was it?
Elvis Meets Nixon! plus... the King on the Couch!
One day in December 1970, Elvis Presley disappeared. Through he had slept at Graceland the night before, he was suddenly nowhere to be found. His Memphis Mafia gang (pictured below, with Presley seated in center), was about to begin a frantic search, when the phone rang.
Elvis' bodyguard Sonny West answered the phone. He listened briefly, then hung up the phone and announced to the panicked room: 'You won't believe this!' Sonny told the Memphis Mafia', Elvis is in Washington D.C. -- he went there to meet with President Nixon!'
Elvis had gone to the Memphis airport all by himself, something he had never done before. Elvis flew to Los Angeles and phoned his friend Jerry Schilling, telling him to meet him there, and bring $500 in cash, because Presley didn't have a penny in his pocket. Presley and Schilling flew from LAX to Washington, and on the flight they met a veteran just back from Vietnam. When Presley found out the vet had no money, Elvis told Schilling to give him the $500'.But Elvis', Schilling protested', That's all the money we got!'
'Jerry', Elvis replied sternly', I said give the man the money'.
After this incident, Elvis wrote a letter to President Nixon on American Airlines stationery, asking Nixon for a small favor. Here's an excerpt from Elvis' letter to Nixon (the end section of the actual letter is pictured below):
Dear Mr. President,
I can and will do more good if I were made a Federal Agent at Large and I will help out by doing it my way through my communications with people of all ages. First and foremost, I am an entertainer, but all I need is the Federal credentials. Sir, I am staying at the Washington Hotel ... I will stay as long as it takes to get the credentials of a Federal Agent. I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing where I can do the most good ... I would love to meet you just to say hello if you're not too busy.
Respectfully, Elvis Presley
On December 21, 1970, Elvis and Schilling arrived in Washington, D.C., hoping to get a private meeting with President Nixon -- although he had no appointment, and Nixon didn't even know he was coming. Elvis and Schilling got off the plane, met Elvis' friend Jerry, and took a limo to the White House, where Elvis gave the letter he'd written to a guard at the gate, then left to wait for an answer in his hotel room.
At the White House, Nixon's aides read Elvis' letter, and decided it might not be such a bad idea to get photographs of the President meeting with the legendary King of Rock and Roll'. The President will see Mr. Presley for 20 minutes', Presley was told by phone.
Elvis, Sonny and Jerry quickly went to the White House. The guns Presley had brought as gifts for Nixon had to be left at the gate.
As he was taken into the Oval Office, Elvis was wearing a black suede suit, a white shirt with a high collar open to the chest, and a dark purple cloak around his shoulders. He carried a cane, and wore amber-tinted sunglasses to cover his eyes, which were covered in heavy eye shadow and mascara'. He had on more mascara than the Avon Lady', recalls Marty Lacker. The meeting was awkward at first. Elvis showed Nixon some pictures of his wife, Priscilla, and his daughter, Lisa Marie'. I want to help get people to respect the flag', Elvis told Nixon', because that's getting lost'.
After some small talk, Elvis got down to business'. Mr. President, can you get me a badge from the Narcotics Bureau? I've been trying to get a badge from them for my collection'. Nixon nodded and said', I'd like to do that. See that he gets one'. Elvis was so overjoyed, he actually hugged Nixon!
Nixon patted Elvis on the shoulder and told him', Well, I appreciate your willingness to help us out, Mr. Presley'.
They took a series of formal pictures, and then Nixon opened the left-hand drawer of his desk, which was where he kept gifts for visitors. Elvis could see the drawer held some Presidential tie clasps for men, and Presidential pendants for women. Nixon presented his pals Sonny and Jerry with some tie clasps, then Elvis boldly told Nixon', Remember Mr. President, they've got wives'. So Nixon returned to the drawer and got some pendants'. Now I know why they call you Tricky Dicky', Elvis said to the President jokingly.
Nixon, unshaken, shot back'. And now I know why they call you Elvis the Pelvis!' Regarding Elvis' theatrical get-up, Nixon told Presley', You dress kind of strange, don't you'. Laughing, Elvis gave a classic reply'. Well, Mr. President, you got your show, and I got mine'.
Elvis, Sonny and Jerry left the White House, and flew out of town without ever checking out of their hotel. Elvis later got his badge (pictured right), currently on display at Graceland. But what was the real point of Elvis' bizarre encounter with Nixon?
There must have been more to it than just collecting a badge -- and there was.
Elvis had recently gotten several death threats, and become obsessed about carrying a gun everywhere with him. The Memphis Mafia all carried guns, too. Excessive drug use had made Elvis irrational and paranoid, and he kept saying he wouldn't go anywhere without a gun -- not even to the bathroom. Elvis usually kept a derringer in his boot, and carried another gun in his pocket. Sometimes two! Elvis bought almost $20, 000 worth of hand guns in 1970 alone -- a small fortune at that time.
Presley also began collecting police badges from every city he'd visit, and he soon had hundreds of them. The badges allowed Elvis and his posse to carry the guns legally -- at least in the localities the badges were issued in. But Elvis, as always, wanted more.
This was the real purpose of Presley's trip to see Nixon -- he wanted to be declared a Federal Agent so he and his bodyguards could legally carry small arms in every state in America. Nixon's badge allowed them to do just that. Now, Elvis was legally empowered to protect himself, and carry on the fight for justice and 'respecting the flag' -- just like his boyhood hero, Captain Marvel Jr.!
The King of Rock 'n' Roll met with President Nixon in 1970. Just seven years later, on August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley passed away at the age of 42. His body lies in Graceland's Meditation Garden, next to the graves of his parents, Gladys Love Presley and Vernon Elvis Presley.
One haunting question remains: WHY did Elvis Presley idolize Captain Marvel Jr.? Elvis' twin brother, Jesse Garon, had been stillborn. Several books maintain that this trauma was the source of Presley's hero worship.
In 'Elvis and Gladys', Elaine Dundy was one of the first to draw attention to recurring themes in Elvis' films that reflected aspects of his life, for example the overreaching manager, missing parent, twin motif ('Double Trouble', pictured) and Elvis' Indian ancestry'. Elvis was a twin whose brother died at birth', Dundy wrote'. For the rest of his life, Elvis would feel loss and guilt but he would also feel something more; something without which we cannot begin to fathom Elvis' character. He would feel triumphant; he was after all, the one who survived. He would relate to friends and lovers with the dependent intimacy of a twin looking for his other half, but always the dominate one'.
'Behind Elvis there was another great legend: the metaphysical world of double identity comic book heroes. Elvis' favorite was Captain Marvel Jr., who looks, in fact, exactly like Elvis made himself look. Captain Marvel Junior is the most powerful boy in the world, the other identity being the reality of poor Freddy Freeman, but both go about saving the world'.
Elvis himself believed there was a reason why Jesse was born dead, and he lived. Billy Smith, Presley's cousin, recalls Elvis once wondering out loud', If my twin brother had lived, do you reckon the world could have handled two?'
According to 'The Inner Elvis: A Psychological Biography of Elvis Aaron Presley' by clinical psychologist Peter Whitmer, every twinless twin displays the same distinctive psychological pattern'. The twinless twin wants to prove his uniqueness, to stand as an individual. Yet he is also powerfully pulled toward being reunited with the dead twin. To win the mother's love, he must grieve for the dead twin. Yet at the same time, to establish self-love and his own security, he must compete with the very person he is compelled to mourn'.
Being a twinless twin can cause lasting psychological scars, says Dr. Thomas Stuttaford'. Surviving twins can start life with an unbearable sense of guilt. They blame themselves for their sibling's death. The surviving twin also feels an immense obligation to make it up to his parents, and believes he always has to do better, and be better. Several research projects have demonstrated that surviving twins have an increased chance of suffering from depression in adult life'.
These are interesting theories. But the are just that -- theories. And they were created by people who, though they may be brilliant in many other aspects, are NOT comic book fans. Therefore, in the opinion of Robby Reed, the creator of this blog and author of this article, they are missing a gigantic piece of the puzzle. After all, it's impossible to successfully analyze why someone liked a particular comic book character if the person doing the analysis thinks all comic books are vile and insipid trash!
Let's try another approach.
Elvis Presley, Comic Book Fan
Who is YOUR favorite superhero?
Or, who is your favorite non-super hero? And WHY?
We often idolize those who most closely resemble our current situation, as well as those who embody the ideals and values we wish to achieve ourselves. In other words, we tend to like either who we ARE, or who we WANT TO BE. This is part of the genius of Superman, from whom all other superhero characters flow. The Superman mythos combines both aspects of hero worship in a single character, through the use of the 'secret identity'. We ARE like Clark Kent, and we WANT TO BE like Superman.
In my view, THIS is why Elvis idolized Cap Jr. -- because the Captain Marvel Jr./Freddy Freeman character was a perfect mirror image of the once and future Elvis. Freddy represented Elvis as he was, and Captain Marvel Jr. represented Elvis as he wished to be. (Pictured right: Alex Ross sketch of 'King Marvel', a possible future version of Captain Marvel Jr. from 'Kingdom Come'.) Freddy Freeman was a poor, crippled young orphan; Elvis was poor, and neglected by his father.
Freddy said 'Captain Marvel!' and the lightning struck; Elvis said 'Colonel Parker!' and the lightning struck. And what was 'the lightning'? The lightning was inspiration -- the power to use the works of others as sparks for one's own creativity, and to fashion from them something entirely NEW. In blending strains of the Grand Ole Opry and Beale Street with country and the blues, this is exactly what Elvis did, revolutionizing music -- and the entire nation -- in the process.
Immortal Elvis will always be remembered, and as long as Elvis endures, the world will remember Captain Marvel Jr., too -- because there is a Captain Marvel Jr. comic book stored in the Elvis archives!
This precious piece of memorabilia serves to remind us that powers bestowed at the Rock of Eternity will now rock FOR an eternity. The King is dead -- LONG LIVE THE KING!
By Robby Reed