How do you suppose it came to be that "Captain" became the military rank most often adopted by super-heroes who did adopt a military rank as part of their super-hero code-name?

Sure, once it became established as a popular choice, there was probably a certain amount of "me-too-ism" in its adoption for subsequent characters, but how did it get so established in the first place?  Yeah, you see the odd "Sergeant" or "General" or "Major" or "Colonel", but "Captain" seems to be the most common. How come, do you think?

The only thing I can come up with is that maybe "Captain" resonates with a certain amount of authority, but not so much that it starts to have a "top brass" vibe that might not be a good fit for the "Everyman" sort of character that super-heroes tend to be.

So, what do you think?

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..." WAG : means ????? Presumably , " Guess " is the last word .

Captain Comics said:

Something to ponder.

One possibility is that there really wasn't any coast-to-coast mass communication until radio. Perhaps the former military men felt they needed the honorific to lend a little weight to this new, and possibly suspect, industry.

But that's just a WAG.

Commander Benson said:

Captain Comics said:

And Captain Billy's Whiz Bang was named for a real person who was a real officer, U.S. Army Captain Wilford Hamilton Fawcett. 

Just to muddy the waters, National Allied Publications, which evolved into DC Comics, was started by Army Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, but "major" didn't become the ubiquitous rank that captain did. 

Which touches on a subject that I've always pondered.

After World War One, a number of men who had held commissions as officers in the Army left the service and returned to civilian life.  However, looking though the history of America, it seems that, for some reason, figures in the publishing industry continued to refer to themselves, and insisted on being addressed by, their former military titles. You had:

Colonel Frank Knox, publisher of the Chicago Daily News

Colonel Robert McCormick, owner of the Chicago Tribune

Captain Joseph Medill Patterson, owner of the New York Daily News

Captain Joseph T, Shaw, publisher of Black Mask magazine

(As Cap mentioned) Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, owner of National Allied Publications, Inc.

Plus, closely related in the field of commercial radio:

Brigadier General David Sarnoff, president of the Philco Corporation

Commander Eugene F. MacDonald (hey, a Navy guy!), founder of the Zenith Radio Corporation

Major Edwin Armstrong, inventor of FM radio

Bear in mind, I'm not registering a complaint here.  First, because if any of the above retired from the service, he retains his commission and thus, is entitled to the honorific. As far as the ones who achieved that rank in the service then resigned, yes, they no longer hold their commissions and aren't technically entitled to the honorific.  But I kind of look at it the way the British do;  once a (military rank), always a (military rank), and I don't mind referring to them by their former rank as a courtesy.

No, my question is:  why was the continued use of their military rank so prevalent among those in the mass communication industry?  One rarely saw noted personages in other fields continue to use their military titles.

I think "Wild-Arsed Guess", but I'm open to correction.

Nope, you got it one.

The Baron said:

I think "Wild-Arsed Guess", but I'm open to correction.



Richard Willis said:

President William McKinley was affectionately called "The Major," referring to his Civil War army rank.

As a boy, I was surprised to read that somewhere, and realize that William McKinley had served in the Civil War. McKinley was first elected in 1896, and the war had ended in 1865. Moreover, his running mate, Theodore Roosevelt, was born in 1858 -- three years before the war began! I thought, "Boy, McKinley must've been an old fart." Since he was assassinated (in 1901, after re-election), his age ended up being meaningless.

Just shows how occasionally a mind can be without curiosity, or without context. Years later I discovered another president had served in the Civil War, who was not among the three I knew about (Grant, Hayes, McKinley), and further exploration revealed that ALL of them between Andrew Johnson and T.R. (except Grover Cleveland) were Union officers in the Civil War! If you consider that Lincoln was Commander-in-Chief during the war, and Johnson a military governor, that pushes the boundary back further. It seems like participation in the largest war in memory was virtually a requirement for higher office in those days.

Contrast that to today, when we've had a string of people in high office or who seek high office who dodged the Vietnam War (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Joe Biden, Donald Trump), whereas those who did serve (Al Gore, John Kerry) got no bump for it.

Times have certainly changed!

McKinley was only 58 when he was assassinated. Doesn't sound so old now, huh?

Not to this 54 year old!  Also, seems to me that the title "captain" combined with whatever named is coined just has a catchier and hence more commercial ring than any other military title.  Lieutenant Marvel?  Admiral America?  General Canuck?  Major Carrot?  Captain at once indicates leadership but not at such a high level as to be giving orders but not taking a direct part in the action, in contrast even to the title Colonel which for several decades now brings up the image of a refined, elderly Kentucky chicken farmer in a white suit than a man of action.  Or a bungling German officer wearing a monocle.  And, unlike Sergeant, Captain is not a term reserved solely or mostly for usage in the military.  The most famous comicbook sergeants are Rock & Fury who are very much in the army in stories usually set in WWII.  Fury survived and to become an officer and eventually a Colonel but that title was never used on for any comics title featuring Fury in contemporary times.  Oddly he was "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." rather than the more accurate, "Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.",  or even "Nick Fury and His Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (although I think that one was used briefly) but I'm sure Stan Lee correctly felt "agent" would read and sell better than "director" or any other high-falutin' sounding title.  Even though he was in charge, Fury still had to be depicted as not that far above one of the grunts, calling the shots but still not above getting his hands dirty as much as any of his agents in getting the job done.  

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