Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Shazam Surprise Surprise
So back in 2009 I started my Blog page. Among the early posts were posts I had on My Space. Since then I have a separate account for blogs and social media. Back then DC Comics was still recovering from the Final Crisis event. Since then, almost four years later, things have changed greatly. In the summer of 2011 they had the Flashpoint event. This resulted in an altered reality. At the end it seemed they would return to normal continuity. Nope, in comes the new 52. They relaunched everything. Most things changed. The big successful franchises, Green Lantern and Batman stayed some what the same. So DC started revamping various Characters and trying some different takes on non-superheroes stuff in their superhero world. When the pre-launch information came out of the New 52, the glaring omission was my favorite hero Shazam/ Captain Marvel/ Billy Batson. Before the New 52 they had depowered all the Marvel family. Freddy who became Shazam was depowered after a run in with Osiris from the Black Adam Family.
For those who are not familiar, Captain Marvel/ Shazam is young Billy Batson a 12 year old orphan. He encounters a Wizard who gives him the Wisdom of Solomon, the Strength of Hercules, the Stamina of Atlas, the Power of Zeus, The courage of Achilles, and the Speed of Mercury. Billy says the name of the wizard, Shazam, and a lightning bolt hits and he becomes the adult champion Captain Marvel with all those powers. He later found his sister who became Mary Marvel and a young crippled boy, Freddy Freeman, who idolized him, became Captain Marvel, Jr. As a group they were referred to as the Marvel Family. Their two biggest Arch-Enemies were Black Adam, Shazam’s former champion who was a tyrant, and Dr. Sivana, a small, frail evil scientific genius.
They finally revamped the character in the 7th month of the New 52. In the World of the New 52, they began a new. They started with Billy Batson again. This Billy was different. He was a manipulative, smart mouthed punk. This version is what the writers believe is what he would be if he were a product of the modern foster care system. The hopeful optimistic characters exist, but they are the other members of the Marvel Family. That family has been expanded with 3 new characters (Eugene Choi, Pedro Peña, and Darla Dudley) that were created during the Flashpoint event. Darla is a nod to the failed Roy Thomas Earth One version of Captain Marvel that was proposed in 1982. This Character was to be called Captain Thunder the original intended name for the character. In this version both Billy and the Captain were African-American. The New 52 story starts with Billy being placed with a new foster home that includes the other kids. As to date Billy is the only one empowered by the power of Shazam. The character is also called Shazam since Marvel also has a Captain Marvel.
All the elements are there, I just have a problem with this version of Billy Batson. They could have made any of the other foster kids the cynical veteran of the foster system. Maybe the writers plan to redeem him and have him rediscover his innocence and wonder. They changed many things Dr. Sivana is no longer the little, frail intellectual, but this buff scientist. I am still not sure what they mean to accomplish. DC is leading up to their new event the Trinity War. Shazam and Black Adam are major players in this. So it will take some time to see what the folks at DC are up to. So far what they are creating does not seem to capture the wonder and innocence of the original character of the 1940’s. The closest DC ever got to this was the Jerry Ordway series Power of Shazam from 1994-1999.
My history with the character goes to 1974 with the CBS Saturday morning Live Action series. During this time DC was publishing Shazam!, a book that reprinted old stories and included new as well. These stories were set in Earth S. During this period DC had many Alternate realities. When they acquired new character from other publishers they were given their own universes. The Multiple Earths lead to the Crisis in Infinite Earths event in 1985 which tightened continuity. From 1981 to 1982 there were some Captain Marvel cartoons on The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam! show that aired on NBC. DC reintroduced Captain Marvel in the Legends miniseries, their relaunch of Justice League and the Shazam!: The New Beginning Miniseries in 1986 and 1987. I read the Power of Shazam series until I left comics in 1995.
Historically DC‘s track record with the character is spotty. One reason is in the early forties Captain Marvel was more popular than Superman. DC, then National Periodicals, sued Fawcett saying they plagiarized Superman due to similar powers and costume. The concepts however were very different. DC still won the lawsuit. I wonder if the editorial mistreatment of the character is due to the fact DC cannot abide any character close to Superman’s power level existing to take his thunder. I am biased though; I love Shazam/ Captain Marvel/ Billy Batson. As to Superman, I am not a big fan of the Big Blue Boy Scout. That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.