Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fawcett Universe

Interesting thing about blogs - people can comment on articles that are many months old as if they were just published, which can lead you to discover all sorts of things. This was the case with a post I had about Kid Eternity which recently elicited an interesting response from Cynthia Finnegan wherein she let me know about a connection between Kid Eternity and Captain Marvel Jr. that I was unaware of...

Actually, Freddy was a year older than the Kid, and ENB even tied in Junior's meeting Sherlock Holmes to the Kid!

Upon further research (which is this case was clicking some links) I discovered that Cynthia runs an awesome Golden Age site dedicated to Fawcett Comics called

Go check out her site as she has a lot of interesting stuff there!

Here's a Question: DC has made 3 (or is it 4?) attempts to revive the Marvel Family for modern readers. I'm incline to say the 70's versions were probably the closest to the mark as they enlisted CC Beck to help with that version. The Jerry Ordway Power of Shazam version ran the longest and I've heard good things about it as well. (It came out at a time when I was working in a cafeteria, and had zero cash for comics...)

However, I tend to think that Captain Marvel is a little like the Quality Heroes in that as soon as you try to put him in a modern setting, you lose something. I don't know Kieth Giffen seem to have some fun with him in the Justice League. Still, my question is this: What is the best way to revamp a Golden Age hero? What do you keep and what do your revise?

Anyway, in keeping with the Fawcett theme, I present two awesome issues of Captain Marvel today.

Captain Marvel 43

[ Captain Marvel 43 ]

Captain Marvel 44

[ Captain Marvel 44 ]


- Jim


cash_gorman said...

I think the first question you have to answer is what exactly you mean by revamp? Is your goal to create a modern version of the character ie Jerry Ordway's version of Captain Marvel or the Red Circle heroes, or is it meant to be the same character as was originally in the 40's, just tweaked for modern day audiences ie Stan Lee bringing Captain America into the Marvel U or ostensibly Superpowers.

I am of the mind, when you chuck it all in order to recreate the characters from scratch, often you lose a lot of what makes them appealing, their history. And, it opens the door for more recreations as subsequent creators come on board and the characters become more ephemeral, having less substance and relevance. It's hard for me to read Dynamite's Buck Rogers because in my lifetime I've seen four or five completely different Buck Rogers rebooted from scratch. I cannot get caught up in the character because he no longer has any sense of reality to me. Ditto on DC's Legion of Superheroes and their takes on Captain Marvel. Each iteration seems to get further from the purity of the core concept.

For me, a lot of what I liked about the Earth-2 heroes and the original Freedom Fighters was the idea that these were the original characters, they had history. DC is so caught up on rebooting the characters by killing off the originals and introducing various legacy characters, they have lost what made them attractive in the first place. The same is true for their Charlton massacres.

I'm not anti changes though. I recognize that there is questionable content, wild inconsistencies in powers and such. But, I think the mindset should be first, what is the core concept of the character? What makes this character cool and interesting (not how can I make it cool and interesting)? Lastly, how much can I keep and what needs changing for modern sensibilities while remaining true to the first two questions? I think this is where most go wrong. DC's changes to many of the classic characters indicate less of "what can we keep" to "how much do we have to keep to have the characters still be superficially recognized in order to market them to a modern audience."

Caine said...

In my opinion, the way to do it successfully is to allow the "revamp" to happen naturally.

By that I mean the character needs to instantaneously go from 1943 (or when ever) to 2009 in a blink of an eye (by what ever means) and learn that he/she has made that journey and be forced to adapt on the go. The reader tags along for the ride each issue and that generates a bond between the reader and the character (or the character's journey). This also paves the way for a modern support cast in the comic to help ground them.

Much the way Captain America used to find the modern world strange and so different from the one he actually lived in.

How much of this element written into the story is "to taste". The writer doesn't have to bang the audience over the head with it every issue, but then only having an element or two in the first issue and dropping it from then on probably isn't the best way to go either.

JimShelley said...

@cash_gorman - Well said!You made some excellent points and you know, I think you've made a very good point about the main problem I have trying to connect to modern Legion stories, and perhaps some of the Project Superpowers stuff as well.

You are also right about DC feeling the need to kill off originals in order to introduce modernized versions. What's strange, is that wasn't necessary during the Silver Age, so why do they feel the need to do it now? And when has that ever been a successful way to introduce a new version? I think the Jason Rusch Firestorm and the latest version of Blue Beetle are good examples of characters that were done this way - and failed to connect with an audience. (Couldn't they have made Jason Rusch Firestorm simply by depowering Ronnie and keeping him as a mentor ala Professor Stein?)

I'm not familiar with the Charlton massacres you mention - I'll look them up on wikipedia.

JimShelley said...

@Caine - Yeah! We are totally on the same page here! You Captain America example works and they did the same thing with the Sub Mariner too. When he shows up in the 60's you don't see him standing around for 6 pages trying to understand color TVs.

cash_gorman said...

Look at how DC re-introduced the Marvel Family in the 70s. In a few pages, they simply showed Sivana pulling a stunt that cast all of them, their friends and allies AND villains into suspended animation for a couple decades. From that point on, all of their adventures took place in present day with nary a hiccup. In a superhero universe it isn't that difficult to come up with a way of explaining the passage of time away.

I'm not sure why things changed, when the history and continuity of characters became hurdles and hindrances instead of tools and benefits. Until the 80s, if a character was re-introduced, it was usually the same guy before. He might be a little gray around the temples but that was it. Or the names and powers got re-used, but usually the new guy had no real relationship to the original, there wasn't a long story arc showing the fall of the original and building up the new guy. When Ditko killed off the Silver-Age Dan Garrett to introduce Ted Kord, that was different from the norm (and well done to boot). Nowadays, people don't realize that Barry Allen. Hal Jordan and the Justice League were NOT legacy characters in the sense they were honoring their GA counterparts. Concepts were revamped, but the modern characters didn't overwrite the original.

That was the beauty of the creation of Earth-2 concept, it allowed DC to have their cake and eat it too. They had the modern versions, but put in place a system that availed them all that history and the original characters as well.

Popbox Entertainment said...

Let me ask another question here:

What changed? I mean, Captain America was revived in a very well written manner. The earth-2 stories were also very good. But now, as I know it has been mentioned, the characters are either completely different (Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters) or not allowed the evolve from the characters they were in the 40's to who they are today (Project Super Powers)

I know a lot of it has to do with the fact that all these characters are in public domain. So it stands to reason that these companies would have to take certain steps to make the characters more "theirs". That is why they are made completely (In most cases) different. Any company can have a Phantom Lady or a Black Terror story. They just have to go to the original versions of these character's costumes and personalities, they can't use Dynamite or DC's versions in any way shape or form.

Another "modernizing" of GA characters that I thought was done very well was Marvel's The Twelve. I may not have been able to pick up the whole series, but I think it was well done.

Just a few thoughts on the subject.

JimShelley said...

@Cash_Gorman, y'know, one of the sad things is I was really hoping that out of Infinite Crisis, we would see a return to the Multiple Earths (which we did, but in a half assed way I think) because like you say, it gave DC an easy way to have their cake and eat it too. Want to show us the adventures of modern Freedom Fighters? That's Earth MX. Want to show us adventures of WW2 Freedom Fighters? That's Earth WW2.

btw - The Dr. Sivanna Frozen Earth idea was always one of my favorite explanations as a kid, and now that I'm older, I totally see the beauty and simplicity in it.

JimShelley said...

@Popbox Entertainment - I'm not sure exactly what has changed, except that maybe the 60's Silver Age Sensibilities jived a bit better with the original spirit and conception of the characters than today's modern sensibilities does. It seems like adding Grim and Gritty (or in some cases, just new psychological interpretations) to a character drastically changes them from the original intent.

As to the Twelve - is that finished? Is it ever going to be finished? I thought it was going to be a 12 issue series, but didn't it just stop at issue 6? I'm also mixed on my opinion of it. It does some neat things, but seems to try to hard to make the chracters shocking (not quite the right word) or relevant. Why was Rockman's world revealed to be a traumatic delusion? Because it's poignant! And while it is a neat twist, it feels a little like March and Burn storytelling.

Popbox Entertainment said...

According to wikipedia, the Tweleve stopped at issue 8 (Nov. 2008)with no plans to finish the series. It stated the writer became bogged down after a successful screenplay, and didn't have time to finish it. (Yet he has time to move over to DC's Brave and the Bold??)

But my point with that series was that the characters came back from the Golden Age in a well written story. The characters were allowed to evolve in a Captain America type way. That is the point, companies are in such a hurry to make the characters "theirs" that they basically go from step 1 to step 12 in a matter of pages.

Yes, I also feel that DC has once again dropped the ball with their new version of the muli-earths. I think what really hurt DC was when they dropped the motto "be original" and ttried to follow fads insted of trying to start them.

CynFinnegan said...

Here's an update: I lost the .com domain a couple years ago. The address is now

I also have a "sister" site for fans of the 1990s animated series Gundam Wing.


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