Did Edmond Hamilton Really Invent Captain Future?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about pulp fiction and whether they are true or false.

PULP FICTION URBAN LEGEND: Captain Future was created by Edmond Hamilton.

Let’s be clear, the great (and eternally underrated) Edmond Hamilton was clearly the driving force behind Captain Future, a very well-regarded pulp hero of the 1940s, who starred in his own pulp magazine (titled Captain Future) for 17 issues over four years. That series was so well-regarded that it was later reprinted in the popular Startling Stories pulp magazine, leading to a short return of new Captain Future stories as part of Startling Stories for a few years in the early 1950s.

When these stories were collected a few years back, Hamilton is the only name mentioned…

and unless you want to argue that his wife, Leigh, had some influence upon Hamilton’s writing, this is a fair assessment, as Captain Future was basically Hamilton’s character and Hamilton alone.

However (there’s almost always a “however,” isn’t there?), Hamilton did not create the character.

Mort Weisinger was many things, some of them not so great, but one thing he definitely was was a man who knew what his readers were into, and he would plan accordingly. This served him to great effect in the years to come when he worked in comic books at DC Comics (where Hamilton would later find work), and it helped him back when he was an editor for Standard Magazines (publishers of Thrilling Wonder Stories, Startling Stories, etc.)

Weisinger figured that their audience of science fiction readers were mostly teenage boys, so he figured that a science fiction adventure hero would be quite successful with such an audience, so he told Hamilton write about a futuristic space adventurer named Mr. Future. Hamilton, naturally, improved the character and we got the Captain Future that would ultimately be published, but the initial character was all Weisinger.

Weisinger then announced the character at the first World Science Fiction Convention in New York City in 1939. Weisinger had been planning the new magazine for months before the convention.

Hamilton added Future’s companions, the “Futuremen,” a robot named Grag, an android named Otho and a brain-in-a-box named Simon Wright.

So, when it comes to the “creator” of Captain Future, it is not blatantly clear that Hamilton should not get co-creator status with Weisinger, but what IS clear is that Weisinger deserves a notable amount of credit that has been lacking for years. Take the website for the great Pulp Fiction convention, Pulp Fest, for instance. They describe Hamilton as:

Best known to many fans as the creator of Captain Future, Edmond Hamilton was actually one of the first full-time writers of science fiction for the pulps.

See what I mean?

So yeah, Hamilton deserves a TON of credit, but not at the expense of Weisinger.

The legend is…

STATUS: False

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is [email protected]

5 Responses to “Did Edmond Hamilton Really Invent Captain Future?”

  1. In Weird Heroes volume 6 Hamilton wrote an article about his career and he explained the changes he made to the main character & his supporting cast. IIRC Grag was to originally be a warrior from Ganymede who was a living gemstone in Future’s ring, Otho was just an automaton, and Simon was a living memory who could remember any scientific fact, but not do much else.

  2. So basically, Weisinger got Fingered? :p

  3. Captain Future, according to most accounts I’ve read, was created as an SF version of Doc Savage. So Weisinger was building on an established model.

  4. Greetings!

    I ran across your article here:

    http://legendsrevealed.com/entertainment/2013/09/05/did-edmond-hamilton-really-invent-captain-future/

    wherein you assert that Mort Weisinger should receive some measure of credit as the creator of Captain Future.

    Personally, I stand by my editorial decision to package and market Hamilton as the sole creator of ” ‘Captain’ Future” based on the evidence contained is the essay, “An Inside Look at Captain Future” penned by Hamilton for Robert Weinberg in the early 70s:

    https://pulpgen.com/pulp/captain_future/inside_cf.html

    Your mileage may vary (Hamilton clearly states that editors made the change from “Mr.” Future to “Captain” Future), but I maintain that the character, as ultimately portrayed to the reading public of 1939-1951 is a creation of Edmond Hamilton and NOT Mort Weisinger. In fact, the “Mr. Future” of Weisinger — with his super-sight and super-hearing and secret laboratory at the North Pole — is a direct rip-off of Doc Savage (as well as Superman!).

    That said, I appreciate your taking the time to write your online essay and may your rocket-tubes never run out of atoms.

    Keep Watching the Skies!

    Stephen Haffner
    Big Poobah
    HAFFNER PRESS
    http://www.haffnerpress.com

  5. I stand by my editorial decision to package and market Hamilton as the sole creator of ” ‘Captain’ Future” based on the evidence contained is the essay, “An Inside Look at Captain Future” penned by Hamilton for Robert Weinberg’s fanzine PULP in the early 70s.

    Your mileage may vary (Hamilton clearly states that editors made the change from “Mr.” Future to “Captain” Future), but I maintain that the character, as ultimately portrayed to the reading public of 1939-1951 is a creation of Edmond Hamilton and NOT Mort Weisinger. In fact, the “Mr. Future” of Weisinger — with his super-sight and super-hearing and secret laboratory at the North Pole — is a direct rip-off of Doc Savage (as well as Superman!).

    That said, I appreciate your taking the time to write your online essay and may your rocket-tubes never run out of atoms.

    Keep Watching the Skies!

    Stephen Haffner
    Big Poobah
    HAFFNER PRESS

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