Bizarro Back Issues: Reltih, The Reverse Hitler (1944)
A few weeks ago, I asked my pal Andrew Weiss if he knew of any Captain Marvel stories that involved boxing that I could use for my annual pugilism-themed December 26th post, and he pointed me to Captain Marvel Adventures #35 and the story of Radar, the International Policeman. Under ordinary circumstances, the story of Billy Batson’s alter-ego getting into a boxing match with a mind-reading circus acrobat soldier with radar eyes would be the strangest story in a comic, but friends… Captain Marvel Adventures is not normal.
And we know that, because this is the issue that introduced us to RELTIH, THE REVERSE HITLER.You might assume that being a Reverse Hitler would make Reltih a little nicer than his regular, un-reversed counterpart, but as Otto Binder and Pete Costanza are here to tell you, that is certainly not the case. Instead, “Captain Marvel In The World Of Largeness” — a promising title if ever there was one — gives a flip-flopped führer that’s every bit as rotten as the one we have on Earth.
It’s just… you know. Spelled backwards.
I should probably start at the beginning.
Our story opens with Billy Batson waxing philosophical about whether our entire universe is a mere atom in the structure of a larger world. For you and me, this might be just an interesting thing to think about while we relax with a Pink Floyd album, but for Billy, this is about to turn out to be the 100% factual way that his universe works, which he learns when Professor Sufoog busts into the offices of station WHIZ, flipping right the hell out about an imminent apocalypse.
Sufoog is intent on alerting the world to the dire peril facing them, so once he gets to the radio station, he decides to… grab the first ten-year-old boy that he sees and drag him back to his laboratory. I’m not even sure that makes sense by Captain Marvel Adventures standards, but as soon as Sufoog starts to break it down for us, that becomes the least of our worries:
Yes, the Magno World, a strange “cosmic dimension” to which we are insignificant and highly crushable dots! Which is extremely dangerous for us, because as you well know, it’s super simple to crush atoms with your bare hands. Why, every time I smash out a letter on this keyboard, I’m bringing fiery wrath down upon a miniature civilzation! FLEE, FLEE IN TERROR, MICROSCOPIC FOOLS! HA HA HA HA HA!
Sorry. I lost my head for a second there, something that appears to be a pretty common occurrence when one discovers the existence of tiny people. For while Sufoog and Billy are enlarging themselves through the miracle of science (something that apparently involves first shrinking down, then referring to the planet Earth as a “muskmelon” [?]), a scientist on Magno World is totally getting off on his newfound space-god status:
Fortunately for the Earth, Billy and Sufoog arrive just in time — and even more fortunately, magic lightning still works in a universe that’s a billion times larger than ours. But after a round of fairly justified fisticuffs, Billly and Sufoog learn a curious quirk of the Magno World:
You can probably guess where this is going.
But the thing is, while Goofus’s description of Earth as being a “reversed image” and a “mirror” of Magno World might give you the idea that we’re dealing with a Star Trek-style world where good is evil and things are the opposite of what you expect, he means that literally. The exact same stuff is happening, just spelled backwards. And also a billion times larger, I guess, but that’s never really brought up again for the rest of the story.
What matters is that on Magno World, Acirema is at war with Ynamreg, and whatever happens in their war is sure to be reflected in ours. There is, however, one difference:
I love how the lack of a Captain Levram is the only conceivable reason for the presence of evil in the world. It’s downright philosophical.
Since there are apparently no other supervillains to oppose him (this world is apparently also without a Dr. Anavis), Cap decides to head off to Ynamreg to see what he can do about ending the war and helping everybody back in his now-microscopic home. He heads across the ocean and descends into the horrors of World War II (sorry, I mean World War II), which chill him to his very core:
What? Boredom is chilling.
The reason for Cap’s trip right to Berlin is that Goofus tells him that the “Rerheuf” has developed a secret plan that will “bring Dnalgne to its knees,” and after he busts right into Nazi headquarters, he learns exactly what, as we finally meet the man himself, RELTIH, THE REVERSE HITLER:
That’s right, y’all: Reltih has gone straight up Bowser Koopa on this and kidnapped himself a princess. I’m not quite sure how the mechanics of this whole cosmos work, though. Does Cap mean that Reltih’s “win by a trick” will just mean that the Nazis win World War II back on Earth, or does he mean that Hitler, our Hitler, will literally marry Princess Elizabeth? It’s a tricky one to figure out.
Either way, it can’t be allowed to continue, so Cap leaps into action. And by that, I mean that he straight up walks down the hall, tells the guard on duty that he’s the dress designer, and walks into the room where they have the Princess locked up. And this might be the only — yes, the only — flaw in the story.
Look. I’m not saying that every superhero has to struggle and conquer insurmountable challenges at all times, but when he doesn’t even need to change out of his super-suit to convince the Reverse Nazis of Magno World that he’s a dress designer, things are coming just a little too easy. Anyway, he has a quick conversation with the Princess where they hash out their plans on what to do next in the classic cartoon style of “Here’s what we’re going to do!” and then a bunch of whispering.
The next day, it is time for the wedding, and if it wasn’t for how it ends, my favorite thing would definitely be the “Good Luck” bouquet someone sent along:
And that… is the story of how Captain Marvel married Reltih, The Reverse Hitler.
Fortunately, they never consummated. Instead, Cap just beats the living hell out of Hitler for a few panels, then stands around while the Nazis open fire, causing bullets to bounce right into Reltih:
And then he drops the princess back off at home and heads back to Earth, secure in the knowledge that everything will work out okay because he basically just straight up killed Hitler.
And all this time, you thought it was a suicide.
Still, of all the stuff that’s come back over the years, I’m absolutely shocked that a gigantic reverse Hitler has never reappeared in comics. Seriously, if they’re just gonna leave that on the table, then why even bother with new Shazam stories?