Monday, October 17, 2011

The Curse of Shazam

It was announced this weekend at New York Comic Con that Geoff Johns will be writing a backup in the new Justice League omniously called The Curse of Shazam. which promises to reluanch the Golden Age Captain Marvel into the newly revamped DC Universe.

My initial reaction was a bit like this:

..but the more I thought about it, the more I'm convincing myself it might work.

Johns did a great job with the Billy Batson character in JSA. The scenes with Billy and Stargirl was some of the nicest teenage romance writing I've seen in DC comics in the last decade.

And while it is typical of fans of the Golden Age Captain Marvel Character to decry any take on the hero that doesn't smack of the lighthearted whimy from the bygone days (myself included) but in Alter Ego 75, noted Fawcett Historian PC Hamerlinck makes an impressive case for updating the character.

One of the accursed judgment calls from the early planning stages of the revival was that, instead of going with their initial gut instinct to develop an updated Captain Marvel for the modern 1970s audience— one that would fit snugly next to a Curt Swan Superman (“Make Way For Captain Thunder!” in Superman #276, June ’74, reveals that such an approach would have stood a good chance of succeeding)—DC chose instead to travel down memory lane. The nostalgia crowd was going to pull this book … so they thought … and hopefully grab new readers along the way with a funny, light derivative of the Captain. (The majority of readers at that time—small children to college students—had no idea what Shazam! meant or stood for.) The decision not to mature Cap after all those lost years, but rather to keep him as a throwback from another era, waiting to be plucked out of “suspended animation,” ultimately became the foundation that cemented a curse for
future generations.

The entire article is fantastic, so feel free to wander over to the Twomorrows website to pick up a copy (either in paper or in pdf format)

So, even if the mention of Geoff Johns' name does make me think of comics with people exsploding everywhere, I'm willing to give his new take a try. Even it if can't match the magic of the original Golden Age versions, it may be enjoyable.

With that, I present today's Free Comic - Marvel Family 45!


- Jim


nude0007 said...

Captain Marvel is one hero that I think would be good for reinvention. I have always liked the original name for him, Captain Thunder and I would then make him a black man. I know they kinda did this in an alternate universe version, and I think if done right it would be a good way to update a major character as a different race. Billy Batson as a black kid in the inner city couldn't be more relevant. I'd re-think the other marvel's into various races and make the red part of their costumes other colors. I'd initially start with Black Adam as being a good guy (when he shows up) who has no problem with killing because he is from a different time/culture. Being branded as a villain would tick him off and slowly make him more evil, but having him be a god guy who knows evil must be destroyed, not molly-coddled, would also resonate in today's society. He would make decisions based on outdated concepts and be mis-construed at every turn.
The only real problem with the Marvel's is making his laughable rogues gallery into serious villains. What do you think, Jim?

MattComix said...

Honestly, "curse of.." just sounds like typical Didio Comics grimdark nonsense to me. Not to say that I would mind a bit more of a straight faced and action packed take, but not one that sucks all the damn joy out of the thing, Needlessly drowning the character in angst and blood soaked panels. They already turned Mary Marvel into some weird goth stripper parody of herself.

Basically I'd like to see something that could bring together the best aspects of Jeff Smith's Shazam and the Monster Society of Evil, Jerry Ordway's Power of Shazam series, and Alex Ross's Power of Hope.

Actually, Ross's rejected Shazam pitch featured in his book Rough Justice could have been a great way to go depending on who would have been helping him with writing it. I guess what I'm really saying is that I would Jim Kruger nowhere near this thing.

JimShelley said...

@Nude0007 - I like that idea! It reminds me of some of the best things from Dan Jurgens run on The Power of Shazam with a few things from John Byrne's proposal for the character as well. I especially like the idea of setting the story in the inner city because there are some neat things you could do vis a vis how Captain Marvel reacts to inner city problems.

JimShelley said...

@MattComix - yeah, I hear you and you do have to wonder about that title. Still, maybe they've learned from their past errors?

MattComix said...

@Jim Shelley I'm not convinced DC has learned much from past errors in regards to Shazam! or anything else for that matter.

Caine said...

Did anyone see Captain Marvel's guest appearance in YOUNG JUSTICE recently? Well done.

I want to know why the JLU will be shorter and NEEDS a back up? Damn :(

cash_gorman said...

There is a balance that needs to be struck. Depart too far from the core concept (such as changing race, making Billy an adult) and you should just create a new character. The whole idea of the Marvel Family allows for different permutations of the concept (different boys that turn into the hero, a girl version of the hero, various villainous dark versions, a con man pretending to have the powers, a teen-age girl that just dresses up in the costume, and even a talking rabbit).

The Power of Shazam I thought had achieved much of that balance of updating him as well as holding on to some of the nostalgia. Jeff Smith's not so much. Ordway's felt like it looked at the mythos and asked, "How much of this can I keep" while Smith's was "how much can I change to make it mine while still being 'recongizeable'?"

At one time, years ago, I might have liked to have seen what Johns could do with the character. Nowadays, not so much.

nude0007 said...

Unfortunately, I haven't seen any of the new attempts at Capt. Marvel. I have seen references to them on sites like this, and the DC encyclopedia. I saw pix of the Mary Marvel Dark Phoenix saga, and gave a deep sigh. I think much of the problem with movies and comics is the attitude:"How much of this can I keep" while Smith's was "how much can I change to make it mine while still being 'recongizable'?" As Cash remarked of Ordway.
I prefer stories that are true to the character concept and revamps that try to build on what the character has already established while getting rid of bad costuming or ridiculous concepts. Sometimes most of the character is bad, so you try to think what IS good and what could be added to make more sense and make them more appealing.
The good capt. has a killer costume design, even avoiding the underwear syndrome (although the over-trunks actually serve a valid function [think zipper, if u r curious what that is]). It is unfortunate that c. c. beck apparently wanted to keep Capt. Marvel for kids, so now we have the dilemma of how "real" to make him. Still, Billy has to make real decisions with real consequences without the benefit of growing up or taking college classes to round out his view of the world. No ethics classes or years of trial and error, he has to get it right the first time or innocents might suffer.
Well, till Dan Didio hires me as a consultant, let the DC non-reboot do-over continue, and may the flaming fall be over quick and their whole universe get drop-kicked into a well deserved death so a real reboot can occur.

Sphinx Magoo said...

Maybe one aspect of this CURSE OF SHAZAM series is revealing that Black Adam wasn't the only person powered with Shazam's powers that went bad. Maybe one of the things Billy (and Mary and Freddy?) will have to deal with is using that wisdom of Solomon to keep using their power of good without using it to lord over all us non-powered mortals. Maybe that's why the first thing Billy (and the reader) sees when he enters the wizard's presence is the statues of the 7 Deadly Sins; they're what Shazam fights against, but also what the wielders of his powers have to guard against in themselves.


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