Now, before we jump into his debut, we should talk about the obvious. Mr. Mind is a telepathic space worm. Does that make sense? I don't know. Maybe? The early issues of Shazam give you the feeling that they were just throwing stuff at the wall to see what stuck. They had Shazam fighting Gremlins, finding a magic lamp, judging a beautiful baby contest, fighting knights, and, the somehow weirdest cover of all, visit Oklahoma City. All this was while they were running the Mr. Mind story. And Mr. Mind, Shazam's nemesis, kicked off his attack on earth with...termites.
Pure Evil of the Termite Variety
We've talked about a lot of villains this year doing a lot of bad things, but Mister Mind's debut in the 1940s? That's what I'm scared of. He doesn't start out with death rays or infinity stones or skinning people and turning them into balloons. He uses his super-advanced mind-control ray...on termites. Yes. Finally someone is talking about the issues relevant to me, a 30-something homeowner. A death ray? Being snapped out of existence? It's like, “oh no, I don't feel so good Mr. Stark”...and I'm gone. A termite infestation, though. That's weeks of headache. Mr. Mind is truly evil.
Anyway, he sent an army of termites against the DC equivalent of I guess Chicago, the Midwestern metropolis known as Fawcett City, and, because all skyscrapers have wood support beams, they started falling over. Shazam propped them up and, as Billy Batson, child radio host, returned to his rooftop garden to eat some chocolate cake with his buddy, Steamboat. Because they're children, they make a complete mess of things, and because they're in a garden, they don't see the worm. The worm that watched Billy transform into Shazam.
Because, once again, Mr. Mind is a telepathic super genius space worm, he speaks to the goons he has brainwashed and they kidnap Shazam, binding his mouth and leaving him in a basement to be eaten alive by ants, a pretty brutal way to go. Fortunately, Billy just ate a piece of chocolate cake, and that not-at-all contrived way of getting the hero free works in his favor when the ants eat the chocolate-covered gag first, Billy says “Shazam,” and returns home to see his buddy...about to accidentally eat his budding nemesis.
Now, maybe I mentioned this the last time we talked about the Monster Society of Evil, but Mister Mind has a worm-sized voice, so he has to have a tiny radio dangling from his neck at all times. He also needs glasses because sure.
Shazam almost stepped on him, but a mind-controlled bird swooped down at the last moment and saved Mister Mind. Dropping him onto, yes, the hat brim of a Nazi spy.
The World at War: the Sequel
Remember, this was 1943, and I guess America was also at war in the DC universe. Now, unlike a lot of supervillain societies, Mr. Mind's Monster Society of Evil was the real deal. He recruited villains, made monsters of his own, but you know who else were card-carrying members? Yeah, Hitler and Mussolini.
Over the course of the next several issues, spanning from ‘43-‘45, Mr. Mind helps the Axis powers. He helps the Nazis stop the rotation of the earth so Germany can have eternal sunlight to get double the crops...which...ok... Shazam goes all Captain America, punching Hitler, but says that he's going to let Hitler go to restart the rotation of the earth which...don't do that. First, if he could fly to Berlin and punch Hitler in '43, do that. Punch Hitler all day every day. Punch Hitler until there's no Hitler left to punch. But also, America has dealt with 30 hours of night. They can deal with thirty and a half hours of night if it means ending WWII.
But, that's not what Shazam did. He got some anchors, attached them to land, and pulled the earth back into rotation.
There was a tit-for-tat between Mr. Mind and Shazam. Shazam beat his monsters, he spun silk around Billy's Mouth so Billy couldn't transform. Mr. Mind made a ten-mile-long gun to shoot at the earth from the moon. Mr. Mind, captured by Shazam and shoved in his pants for safe transport, gives Shazam a, quote, deluxe tickle, to try to keep him from stopping the missile. They go back and forth, with Mr. Mind aiding each of the Axis powers in the Second World War.
Um, but, spoiler, the Axis powers lost, and Mr. Mind was left reeling. Sure, he still had his crocodile head guards and his giant squids and his school of evil, but he had been dealt a crushing blow after the Allies won. It wasn't long before Mr. Mind's own allies deserted him and, in a final ill-fated attempt on Shazam's life, Mr. Mind was finally captured. Even though he begged Shazam for death - for the superhuman to squeeze him between his super fingers and crush the worm - Shazam said no. They lived in a democracy, and even telepathic space worms had a right to a fair trial.
The Winner Takes It All (and then sits at home reading the paper while his nemesis is executed by electric chair)
You might be wondering how a worm that can control people's minds can possibly be subject to a fair trial without using his mind control. You would be the only one, though, because the comic plays it fairly straight. Mr. Mind, apparently responsible for over 180,000 deaths over the past two years, was sentenced to be executed by electric chair for war crimes.
And he was. Shazam sat and counted down the seconds until Mr. Mind got the chair, Mr. Mind was executed, and his tiny worm body, glasses, radio, and all, was stuffed and put on display in a museum.
Now, of course, Mr. Mind survived his execution, thanks in no small part to DC Comics acquiring the rights to the Captain Marvel stories and publishing their own, bringing back both Mr. Mind and the Monster Society of Evil. Despite his very humble beginnings, Mr. Mind turned out to be one of Shazam's greatest villains, even earning himself a spot at the end of the Shazam movie. Here it is:
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