SHAZAM!, a film that has remained stagnant on DC’s extensive cinematic roster for years is finally getting the boost it needs after finding a director in the form of David Sandberg, screenwriters in the form of Henry Gayden, and more recently announcing Zachary Levi as the character of Captain Marvel. Now, a character and film which has remained on fan’s radars for over ten years will finally be getting the recognition they deserve. So, in honor of the recent casting decision, we will be showcasing the character of Captain Marvel to those who are unfamiliar with the property.
Originally created by writer Bill Parker and artist Charles Clarence Beck (C.C. Beck) for the comics division of Fawcett Publications, Billy Batson/Captain Marvel would make their first appearance in WHIZ Comics #2. In the comics, Billy Batson would be granted abilities from an aging wizard who needed a successor and chose Billy due to his “pure heart”, to use these abilities Billy must utter the word SHAZAM, the wizard’s name and an acronym which stood for the wisdom of Solomon, strength of Hercules, stamina of Atlas, power of Zeus, courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury and would be transformed into the costumed, military-esque crimefighter Captain Marvel! And, although frequently considered a “magical superman”, Captain Marvel’s stories dipped their feet into a variety of different genre fiction, stemming from science fiction to war time combat during the circumstances of World War II (a staple of superhero stories during the 1940’s). These stories would introduce the Captain Marvel Family A.K.A. some of the best characters to come from Golden-age fiction via the hands of C.C. Beck, Otto Binder and Marc Swayze: Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., Tawky Tawny, Mister Atom, Mister Mind, Doctor Sivana and many, many more.
But from 1941-1953, his tenure with Fawcett Publications would soon come to an end when Detective Comics (DC) would sue the company for copyright infringement as they said the character had too many similarities with a property of theirs, Superman. And, with many twists and turns in the court case, would conclude with Fawcett consenting to cease any further publications with Captain Marvel and any characters related. Fast forward to 1972 where Carmine Infantino would license the Fawcett characters and add Captain Marvel into their already pretty extensive roster of heroes, these new stories would have to utilize any other title than “Captain Marvel” as Marvel Comics had a character and stories already stamped with such a name and issued a cease-and-desist letter to DC on it, forcing the moniker of “Shazam” to become a frequently-used colloquialism in replacement of Captain Marvel’s name.
Now, with that in mind, let’s look at some of the absolute best Captain Marvel books to both give you knowledge of the character and to give you some fun, future reading choices:
1.) Shazam!: Power Of Hope, by Alex Ross & Paul Dini
If there has ever been a story that you should keep a box of tissues on hand while reading, this is most definitely it. But, with Power Of Hope, Paul Dini and Alex Ross wanted to show just how deep Captain Marvel’s influence was with those in the DC Universe….. Specifically children.
When Billy Batson receives a letter from a young boy who is terminally ill, he uses his superheroic alter ego of Captain Marvel to bring fun and levity into the people who look up to him the most by taking them on high-flying adventures and telling the tales of bouts he’s had with his colorful cast of enemies. But, through the powerful imagery and writing, this story is able to capture the true essence of Captain Marvel that many in the past have failed to do.
2.) Convergence: Shazam, by Doc Shaner & Jeff Parker
One of my favorites to come out of the Convergence line of stories, no modern book quite captures the golden age Captain Marvel quite like this does. Doc Shaner’s artwork mixed with Jeff Parker’s writing is one of the best pairings in recent memory as they have the Fawcett City saviors face off against the characters from Gotham By Gaslight.
Read, you won’t regret it.
3.) Superman/Shazam: First Thunder, by Judd Winick & Joshua Middleton
An underappreciated gem from Captain Marvel’s extensive line of stories.
But, for those hoping to have a Superman/Captain Marvel mentor/mentee relationship will have a lot to learn from this book as in many of the team-ups between these two, Superman has more to learn from Captain Marvel than the other way around. But, with intelligent dialogue and an interesting artstyle this is an essential pick for fans of either character.
4.) The Multiversity: Thunderworld Adventures, by Grant Morrison & Cameron Stewart
As you guys can probably tell, I’m a huge fan of golden-age Captain Marvel and the modern interpretation of that character version, this is no exception as, like Convergence: Shazam, this takes the Golden-age version of the character and his rogues gallery and takes it up a few notches with an incredible art choice and showcases the character of Captain Marvel in his fullest glory without a single breath of hesitation.
5.) Billy Batson & The Magic of Shazam, by Mike Kunkel
As much as I like the Golden-age version of Captain Marvel, I also enjoy creative reinventions. This story, while retaining the core personality of Billy Batson and his superheroic alter-ego, takes several liberties with some of his more popular supporting cast, specifically Black Adam who is turned into a 14 year old within the pages of this book who’s plan is to hunt down Billy Batson and retrieve the magic word which turns him into his villainous alter ego.
But, whatever you do, DO NOT READ THE NEW 52 SHAZAM SERIES
Well, that’s all I got for this Comic Corner! Hope you enjoyed and please let me know your thoughts on the character of Captain Marvel down below!!