Saturday, November 26, 2016

Mister Tawky Tawny is an anthropomorphic tiger who appears in books published by DC Comics. He's a supporting character in Captain Marvel stories, although he's appeared in other comics on rare occasions. He was created by writer Otto Binder and penciller C.C. Beck and made his first apperance in Captain Marvel Adventures #79 (December 1947), published by Fawcett Comics.

The character was originally introduced merely as "Mr. Tawny", a humanoid talking tiger who travels from India to the United States. Quite naturally, a tiger in New York City causes panic, and Captain Marvel intervened. Once he realized that Mr. Tawny was friendly, Captain Marvel introduced the tiger to society and got him a job as a tour guide at a local museum. Mr. Tawny made his second appearance in Captain Marvel Adventures #82 (March 1948). Tawny revealed that he had been a normal tiger until he was accused of killing a man. A local hermit gave Tawny a serum that gave him the ability to speak and anthropomorphic form. But no longer fitting in as a real tiger, he left India. In Captain Marvel Adventures #90 (November 1948), Fawcett Comics introduced a contest asking readers to give Mr. Tawny a first name. Mary Garrisi and Pat Laughlin of Detroit, Michigan, won the contest with their submission, "Tawky" (a deliberate misspelling of "talky"). Mr. Tawny's first name was revealed in Captain Marvel Adventures #96 (May 1949).

Tawky Tawny proved highly popular (all talking animals were popular in the 1940s and 1950s), and became a recurring character in Captain Marvel comics. He was depicted as both Captain Marvel's and Billy Batson's best friend. Captain Marvel Adventures ceased publication in 1953. Binder and Beck attempted to launch a Tawky Tawny newspaper comic strip, but it failed.

Fawcett Comics ceased publication of all its superhero comics in 1953. DC Comics had filed suit in 1941 over Captain Marvel's similarity to Superman. The case, National Comics Publications v. Fawcett Publications, went to trial in 1948. The trial court held Fawcett held that even though Captain Marvel was different from Superman, Fawcett had instructed its pencillers to deliberately steal from Superman comics. Fawcett appealed, but the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Fawcett in 1951. By this time, superhero comic book sales had dropped significantly. Fawcett decided to cancel all its superhero books (thinking that this genre was dead) in 1953. In 1972, DC Comics licensed all of Fawcett Comics' characters and began publishing new Captain Marvel stories. Tawky Tawny appeared 12 times, beginning with Shazam! #1 (February 1973) and ending with Shazam! #32 (December 1977). Shazam! #35 (June 1978) was the last issue of the series. Captain Marvel disappeared from DC Comics publications after the cancellation of the book. DC Comics found it too expensive to pay the per-use royalty fee to Fawcett. But DC Comics very much wanted access to the characters, so in 1980 it purchased Fawcett's copyrights outright.

No Captain Marvel characters appeared after the purchase for several years. In 1985, DC Comics decided to reboot its entire comic book universe in a crossover limited series story line known as "Crisis on Infinite Earths". This story line rebooted the entire Captain Marvel universe, and Tawky Tawny was written out of existence.

DC Comics rebooted their comic universe again in 1994 in a crossover storyline, "Zero Hour: Crisis in Time". As part of the reboot, writer Jerry Ordway and penciller Peter Krause introduced a new version of Tawky Tawny in the graphic novel The Power of Shazam! A comic book of the same name began publication in 1995. Tawky Tawny makes his first appearance in The Power of Shazam! #4 (June 1995) as a near-lifesize cartoonish anthropomorphic tiger doll owned by Mary Batson (and, apparently ten million other kids). Black Adam hides part of the scarab necklace which gives him his powers in the doll. Lord Satanus, who created the necklace, uses the necklace to imbue the doll with the power to transform into a six-foot tall anthropomorphic tiger. He forces a pooka (a Celtic fairy) into the doll. This pooka takes on the form of a tiger based on the doll which it found itself inhabiting. Satanus only allowed Billy Batson, Mary Batson, and Uncle Dudley to see Tawny as a six-foot, sentient tiger; everyone else merely saw the doll. Satanus hoped that the pooka would help the Marvels defeat his sister, Blaze. But Tawky Tawny proved more of a hero than Satanus intended, and helped the Marvels in myriad other ways as well. In The Power of Shazam! #11 (January 1996), the superhero Ibis the Invincible gave Tawky Tawny permanent life.

Tawky Tawny only appeared rarely and sporadically in DC Comics stories for the next decade. DC Comics decided to reboot its comic book universe YET AGAIN in 2005 and 2006 in the crossover storyline "Infinite Crisis". 52 was a year-long limited series comic book, published weekly for one year, which chronicled the events that took place in the DC Comics universe in the year after the end of "Infinite Crisis". Tawky Tawny appeared in 52 #16 (August 23, 2006), which indicated that he'd survived the changes in the DC Comics universe which had occurred in "Infinite Crisis". But his origin and powers weren't defined in this cameo. Tawny made his first substantial post-"Infinite Crisis" appearance in The Trials of Shazam! #10 (January 2008). This limited series comic had the wizard Shazam dying, and Billy Batson taking his place. Freddy Freeman demanded that he be named the new Captain Marvel, but he was required to undergo a series of tests to do so. Competing against him was Sabina, a witch and "fury" who was a descendant of Merlin. Tawky Tawny helps Freddy locate the god Mercury. During the battle with Sabina, Tawny is shown to have the power to transform into a giant sabre-toothed tiger.

DC Comics rebooted its comic book universe YET AGAIN in 2008 with the crossover storyline "Final Crisis". In Final Crisis #6 (January 2009), Tawky Tawny is depicted as an advisor to Freddy Freeman. Tawny joins Freddy in his battle against Mistress Marvel (the now-evil Mary Marvel), and then assists the All-Star Squadron when the Gods of Apokolips invade Earth. Tawky Tawny faces off against the demi-god Kalibak and his Tigermen. Although Kalibak knocks Tawky unconscious, Tawky attacks him again and slays Kalibak. This gives Tawky Tawny leadership of the Tigermen.

Tawny continued to appear as a recurring character in the "Shazam!" backup stories published in Justice League Vol. 2. These stories essentially reboot the Captain Marvel universe, given the DC Comics reboot which concluded in 2008. Suddenly, Tawky Tawny is a radically different character. He is now depicted as a normal tiger at a zoo in Philadelphia. He made a cameo appearance in issue #8 (June 2012) in a photograph, and appeared as a normal tiger whom Billy visits at the zoo in issue #10 (August 2012). In issue #21 (August 2013), Captain Marvel (now known as Shazam) realizes he can give anyone a portion of his power. He transforms the tiger into a giant sabre-toothed cat during a battle with Black Adam. The process goes awry, however, and the tiger no longer can resume its normal form. Instead, it transforms into Tawky Tawny, an anthropomorphic tiger.

Several alternative versions of Tawky Tawny also exist.

In 2007, Jeff Smith wrote and pencilled the limited series Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil. Set in the past, early in Captain Marvel's career, this limited series presented an alternative origin story for Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family -- essentially updating it for modern readers. In these stories, Tawky Tawny is an ifrit (an Arabian spirit) who takes on one of two disguises: A homeless man who is a friend of the orphan Billy Batson, and a realistic but talking (but not anthropomorphic) tiger who mentors Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel.

In 2008, Mike Kunkel wrote and pencilled a cartoonish children's comic book, Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!. Drawing on Jeff Smith's version of the characters, this version of Captain Marvel (and Tawky Tawny) was silly and funny. Although still an ifrit, Kunkel re-imagined Tawky Tawny as a shapeshifting servant of the wizard Shazam. When he is magically fixed in his humanoid tiger form, he leaves Shazam and comes to live with the Marvels.

In 2011, DC Comics rebooted its comic book universe YET AGAIN in the "Flashpoint" storyline. Barry Allen, The Flash, goes back in time and stops Professor Zoom from killing his mother. This completely alters the future. In the Flashpoint future, the orphan Pedro Peña -- one of five living in a foster home -- has a pet tiger he has named "Tawky Tawny". The other orphans are Eugene Choi, Mary Batson, Freddy Freeman, Billy Batson, and Darla Dudley. When the five say the word "Shazam" all together, they combine to form the superhero Captain Thunder. The tiger is actually one of the last "great Khandaq striped tigers", given to the group by the wizard Shazam. As a magical animal, the tiger is perceived as a housecat by everyone but the five children (who see him as a normal tiger). The magic word "shazam" can also transform Tawky Tawny into an armored giant sabre-toothed cat. Although the Flashpoint future was mostly undone, some small changes were wrought in the permanent timeline. As depicted in stories in Justice League Vol. 2, Pedro, Eugene, and Darla were still Billy, Mary, and Freddy's foster-siblings, although they had no superpowers or role in the Marvel Family.

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