Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Comic Book Ramblings: SHAZAM! The Return of the Big Red Cheese

Captain Marvel art by Alex Ross
This past week brought great news to fans like myself of the original CAPTAIN MARVEL, DC's Chief Creative Officer GEOFF JOHNS announced at the DC JUSTICE LEAGUE panel at this year's NEW YORK COMIC-CON that he'll team-up with artist GARY FRANK to bring back "the World's Mightiest Mortal" as a back-up series in the pages of the JUSTICE LEAGUE starting with issue #5 in January 2012. Titled "the Curse of Shazam", this will introduce young Billy Baston & his superhero alter ego to DC's New 52 Universe.

Captain Marvel Adventures #142
The character at one time was America's most popular comic book in the 1940s, with original publisher FAWCETT selling over 2 Million copies a month of CAPTAIN MARVEL ADVENTURES before DC launch a lawsuit against FAWCETT for copyright infringement. Today's top sellers average about 200, 000 copies a month.

Captain Marvel Adventures #4
Tom Tyler as Captain Marvel
Also the CAPTAIN has the distinction of being the first comic book superhero to make it to the Movie Screen in a live action adaptation with the release of the 1941 serial by REPUBLIC PICTURES, the ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL starring cowboy actor & stuntman TOM TYLER as CAPTAIN MARVEL. Considered by most "the best serial ever made", and I agree. Someday I plan on writing a about when I first saw this serial as a child, a sort of movie review.

Well, I became familiar with the character in the late 1970s by way of the live-action Saturday Mornings TV series produced by FILMATION, the SHAZAM!-ISIS HOUR starring JOHN DAVEY & JOANNA CAMERON as the superheroes. The character of ISIS would later be re-introduced into the DC Universe as BLACK ADAM's wife by JOHNS during his run on the year long 52 series.

Joanna Cameron as Isis

A nice shot of Joanna Cameron's tits  :)

Next in the early 1980s I found the good CAPTAIN back on Saturday mornings as an animated cartoon series playing on THE KID SUPER POWER HOUR WITH SHAZAM!. The CAPTAIN along with ISIS would make guest appearances on the animated HERO HIGH episodes as well starring in his own animated adventures with the MARVEL FAMILY. Some of the CAPTAIN's supervillains would make their animated  debuts on this series. MISTER MIND, IBAC, & BLACK ADAM would be seen for the first time as animated characters.

But the first time I can remember seeing the CAPTAIN in a comic book was as a back-up series in the pages of WORLD'S FINEST COMICS, written by E. NELSON BRIDWELL & drawn by the late great DON NEWTON . Someday I hope DC puts together the entire BRIDWELL-NEWTON SHAZAM! run into a trade paperbacks because it is just beautiful.I gave me a lasting impression on how the CAPTAIN should be.

Shazam! art by Don Newton

At the start of the whole 52 Relaunch I questioned what would happen to the CAPTAIN & other DC favorites of mine (like the JUSTICE SOCIETY). The character sort of showed up in the pages of FLASHPOINT as the superhero CAPTAIN THUNDER which I thought was cool. They were kind of like CAPTAIN PLANET and the PLANETEERS, with all 6 teenagers shouting out "SHAZAM!", calling forth CAPTAIN THUNDER.

Made me wonder if DC was trying on the name, seeing how it fit the character. It was the first choice by the original creators BILL PARKER & C.C. BECK in 1940, but had to change it after they found out it was already being used (not only that, but their title too, FLASH COMICS).

Ashcan copy of Flash Comics starring Captain Thunder

The Other Captain Marvel
Must be frustrating for DC not able to use the character's own name cause of MARVEL COMICS trademarking & copyrighting it first in the Late-1960s, then using it for their own superhero .

DC did try for awhile after the INFINITE CRISIS in 2006 calling him just SHAZAM with CAPTAIN MARVEL, JR. taking over the role of "World's Mightiest Mortal" in THE TRIALS OF SHAZAM by JUDD WINICK & HOWARD PORTER. The magic word being most associated by people with the character was an obvious for DC. Funny, at the same time WINICK & PORTER were pitching their idea about revamping the hero, GEOFF JOHNS & ALEX ROSS pitch their idea for a new series they called "SAY MY NAME...SHAZAM!". Why DC Choose TRAILS OF SHAZAM over in my opinion the superstar team of JOHNS & ROSS is a mystery.
Shazam art by Alex Ross

So far JOHNS, FRANK, & DC haven't call the character by the name of CAPTAIN MARVEL, just SHAZAM, so I'm guesting that how the character will be now known in the NEW 52 Universe.
Although the news makes me quit happy, I am sad that the CAPTAIN is only returning as a back-up in the pages of the JUSTICE LEAGUE and not as a regular series of his own, but a can see why DC is doing this.

Justice League art by Jim Lee
First the JUSTICE LEAGUE is a very high profile title, so the exposure the character will get to readers who never heard or read about him will be good. Second, it cuts the pages that Co-Publisher JIM LEE has to do every month. It can be easy for him to help run DC & put out 20-something pages of art every month. I also wonder if this will be a trend with back-up series appearing in the New DC 52? Who will be next?

JSA #41
GEOFF JOHNS is not unfamiliar with the character, having the good old CAPTAIN show up in the pages of the JSA during his run on the series. CAPTAIN's alter ego BILLY BASTON had a nice little romance start to blossom with fellow JSAer STARGIRL before being kick out of the group by it's senior members who thought the CAPTAIN's flirtations with a teenage girl was out of line, not knowing that he was really a teenager himself. It was in those pages that JOHNS made one of the members of the CAPTAIN's rogues gallery BLACK ADAM a total Badass in the DCU. JOHNS made BLACK ADAM a complex & intriguing Anti-Hero, were before he was just another superficial supervillian.  Here's hopes that BLACK ADAM returns as well.

Black Adam art by Alex Ross

Superman art by Gary Frank
I'm syched that GEOFF JOHNS is teaming up again with the phenomenal artist GARY FRANK. I loved their run together on SUPERMAN/ACTION COMICS & before that GARY FRANK's run on SUPREME POWER/SQUADRON SUPREME with J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI, which I felt was unfinished (more on that another day).

Squadron Supreme art by Gary Frank

Supergirl's attention to detail
GARY FRANK has a crazy attention to detail & ability to drawn superheroic action I just love, that & his ladies are damn Sexy ;)
Gary Frank's Sexy She-Hulk

Stan Lee's SHAZAM!
Funny, this isn't the first time FRANK has drawn a SHAZAM comic book. Back in 2002 FRANK teamed up with MARVEL COMICS Godfather STAN "THE MAN" LEE for DC's JUST IMAGINE STAN LEE CREATING... series, coming up with a different take on "the Big Red Cheese".  It reminded me of JACK KIRBY's THE DEMON.

Captain Marvel Adventures #18 
Few more questions I have for "THE CURSE OF SHAZAM" are will we also see the return of THE MARVEL FAMILY? Will JUNIOR & MARY be seen along with the newly revamped CAPTAIN?

Snow White Mary Marvel or ...

Black Leather Mary Marvel, art by Alex Ross
Will it be the classic girl next door MARY or the new black leather wearing badgirl of Post-INFINITE CRISIS?

Dr. Sivana
Will everyone's favorite mad scientist DOCTOR SIVANA show up with some kind of new "death ray" or "giant robot" to battle against "the World's Mightiest Mortal"?

Shazam! art by Gary Frank

I can't wait until I can read aloud those magic words again, SHAZAM!

~ Rajadevilman74

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