As everyone surely knows by now, Superman's true arch
enemy in the Golden Age was Captain Marvel.
After all, Luthor could only offer up giant
robots and Kryptonite traps against our hero, but the Big
Red Cheese hit him where it really hurt; in the wallet.
At the height of his popularity, Captain Marvel was the best-selling
superhero in the business, beating out even the Man of Steel,
but DC's lawyers took care of that, dragging out a long nasty
court battle against Cap's publisher Fawcett Comics until
the latter threw in the towel in 1953.
To the victor goes the spoils, I guess, but I was still surprised
to see this ad from 1962: Not content with a laundry list
of nicknames including Man of Steel, Man of Tomorrow,
Action Ace and Metropolis Marvel,
Superman here appropriates Cap's famous title of "World's
Mightiest Mortal!" Holy Moley!
Personally I've never taken much pride in Superman's "defeat"
of Captain Marvel (in reality, Fawcett saw the coming down
times for superheroes and simply stopped fighting). Through
DC's lawyers, Supes comes off as kind of a bully, kicking
poor orphan Billy to the curb. But on the up side, the fall
of Fawcett did net Supes the talents of writer Otto
Binder and artist Kurt Schaffenberger,
former members of Team Cap who became prime architects of
the Silver Age Superman mythos. And as Fawcett realized, there
was a pretty good chance the Mavel Family wouldn't have survived
the great superhero purge of the 50s, anyway. Ultimately,
DC's worst offense against Cap probably wasn't kicking him
off the stands in 1953, but rather resurrecting him twenty
years later to struggle through the Bronze and Modern Ages
as a mishandled, underappreciated also-ran.
I don't know if this is the only time Superman is referred
to as "the World's Mightiest Mortal," but it sure
didn't stick as well as the other nicknames. Somehow it just
doesn't fit, though I guess we should just be grateful they
never tried calling him "the Big Blue Cheese."