Sunday, April 24, 2022

The Batman - Adam West vs Robert Pattinson

I watched The Batman on HBO Max. I enjoyed it. The cinematography was superb and I loved the Riddler taken seriously. I liked the portrayal of Catwoman. Batman has never used his detective skills better than he does here. It had some elements from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman Year Zero and other things from The Long Halloween. Some stuff from Geoff Johns' Batman Earth One graphic novel as well.

I remember when the Christian Bale/Dark Knight Rises movie came out and Dial B for Blog photoshopped all these great posters featuring Caesar Romero as the Joker. Here's a great take on that theme, with Adam West in the new movie. 


Afterward I thought that Batman is not really that effective in the movie; he doesn't really trigger any meaningful change as he does in Year One, where he and Gordon partially clean up the Gotham police. What does the Batman really accomplish? The Riddler is more of a hero than Batman is, if we factor out his terrorist methodology, because he exposed the corruption and got rid of Falcone, Maroni and Colson. Batman punched a few criminals, helped Catwoman and saved people from drowning in the end. Once again, the villain is more important than Batman in this movie.

The other thing is going down the well-trod path of making his parents flawed. This also happened a few years ago in the Superman comics, where we found out Jor-El was a bit flawed.

Thomas Wayne was a billionaire, ergo, he must be slightly crooked? Thomas was a surgeon as well as a rich guy; I think when Batman started he was referred to more as a doctor with a trust fund, but the wealth grew as Batman was reinvented so many times. My first thought was, if I was Bruce Wayne - who idolized his parents and mourned them - and I just learned my father was working with gangsters, wouldn't that take away some of my motivation to be Batman? 

After thinking of some of these elements that bothered me, I went and re-read Batman Year One again. What a masterpiece! Nuff Said.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Dresden Files: King-Size Deus Ex Machina special review

Looking back here on my blog, I see that I discovered Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series back in 2010. At that point, it felt like modern/urban fantasy comfort food. A private detective who was a wizard, solving supernatural mysteries and fighting monsters. With a literal talking head, a skeleton named Bob, in Harry's basement, which Butcher created out of frustration in his creative writing class. I devoured the first ten novels the way a vampire might attack a blood bank. They had weaknesses for sure, namely that nearly every woman character central to the plot is described as hot as a Maxim model, and magical Deus Ex Machinas that arise to help Harry Dresden win big battles. But it was still fun, dumb fun to be sure, the equivalent of a comic book series, and I like comics!

But the latest Dresden novel, Battle Ground, may be the last one I read, because the cracks in the mystical armor are just too wide for me to ignore.

Fair Warning: There will be spoilers from here on out!

2020 was a long awaited year for Dresden fans. The last full length novel, Skin Game, was published in 2014; up to that point the fans were spoiled by having a new novel nearly every year. This year we had two new novels, the long awaited Peace Talks, followed by Battle Ground. After I had finished Peace Talks, I had the suspicion that both of these were conceived as one big novel, and split into two books, probably at the suggestion of Butcher's editor.

I enjoyed Peace Talks, perhaps more for seeing an old friend like Harry, after a six year absence. I had to look up things I forgot on the Dresden Files Wiki, like what was the name of that hitman who protected the Archive? (Answer: Kincaid)

There is one startling thing that happens early in Peace Talks: Harry finally has sex with Karrin Murphy, an ex-cop, who became his love interest over the last half dozen novels. My Spidey-Sense was activated when this happened. You may remember the ending of Changes, when it looked like Harry and Murphy would finally have a date (hey, forget about Susan, the mother of my child who just perished!) before Harry was shot. Now it finally happened, although poor Murphy was so injured after the events of Skin Game.

The main problem with Peace Talks is the heist sub-plot in the middle of the story, which is reminiscent of the previous novel, Skin Game. Instead of stealing an artifact, Harry smuggles his white vampire half-brother, Thomas (in prison for attempting to assassinate the Svartalf leader), out of Marcone's castle, with the goal of reaching sanctuary on his island in Lake Michigan, Demon Reach. It ends with a terrific battle between Harry and his grandfather, Ebenezar McCoy, except it isn't a real battle at all, but a fake-out straight from Rian Johnson's Last Jedi movie. It ends on a cliffhanger: Ethniu, the Last Titan, who made a startling appearance at Marcone's castle during the Peace Talks, is coming to lay waste to the city of Chicago.

Battle Ground takes place literally right afterward, as Harry makes his way back to Chicago from his island. The majority of the novel's events take place in the next 12 hours, one battle after another. There is an alliance of mystical forces, from Harry's own Winter Queen Mab, his arch enemy Marcone, the White Court of Vampires, the Council of Wizards, etc. On the enemy's side, it's the Fomor (aquatic beings), Ethniu the Last Titan (equipped with a nuke called the Eye of Balor), Black Court Vampires, Asgardian giants, etc - an overwhelming force, naturally. They are all fighting each other on the streets of Chicago. This becomes a bit tedious as it seems to be a loop of big battles, with this makeup:

  • Harry is tired, injured, still able to fight because the Winter Mantle dulls his pain.
  • A new enemy appears with powers far beyond Harry's level.
  • Harry gets tossed around like an old dishrag.
  • Some other character attacks and gives Harry a reprieve.
  • Harry makes a wisecrack.
  • Harry summons a Deus Ex Machina to vanquish the foe.
Rinse and Repeat for a dozen or so enemies. There are some variations, but that is the majority of the novel. Battle Ground is like a Marvel Comics King-Size annual where big things happen with guest stars galore. Many characters from previous novels show up here. It's appropriate to compare the Dresden Files to a comic book series, because Butcher often references Marvel Comics characters in the novel. Some people have compared it to Avengers: Endgame, but this book doesn't conclude anything like that film did.

The one superlative thing I'm going to say about Battle Ground is the audiobook version, narrated by James Marsters. He delivers an award winning performance here, with many different accents for the various characters. He elevates the pulp material with a layer of gravitas from his performance. If I continue on with Dresden it will be to hear Marsters again.

Somewhere in the middle of Battle Ground, Karrin Murphy dies. It's very upsetting; the emotion in Marsters' voice during these chapters is quite affecting. She dies after saving Harry, naturally, but killed not by the giant she slayed with a rocket launcher, but by a frightened police officer. It's a random, dumb death out of nowhere, a shocking moment, which is what Butcher probably wanted to achieve. Harry grieves for Murphy for a while, but a few chapters later, Harry is back to wisecracking again, which cheapens the trauma of Murphy's death.

What is more problematic is that you can see the writer's machinations behind Murphy's death and patterns emerging. Harry had a previous girlfriend, Susan Rodriguez, who perished (in a more epic way) in the novel Changes. Harry had been intimate with her as well and they have a child together, Maggie. The problem with a long running series is keeping things interesting and not having the main character romantically tied down. Most writers don't know how to make an ongoing relationship interesting in a story. The easy plot device is making characters attracted to each other, keeping them apart, getting them together and making the split apart, to pursue another love interest. We've seen this time and again on TV shows like Cheers or Moonlighting. Only on those shows, they don't kill someone off just to remove them as a romantic partner.

Butcher has lined up women for Harry already. One of them is Lara, head of the White Court Vampires (not blood suckers but emotion suckers), who practically gives Harry a dry hump in Peace Talks. In another scene Lara helps rescue Thomas (her half-brother as well) by stripping off her clothes; Harry is nearly overcome by lust, but he's not sure if it's because Lara is a vampire or because she has a smokin hot body. The other one is Molly Carpenter, Harry's former apprentice and now the Winter Lady. Harry has known Molly since she was a teenager, but there is an attraction between them which seems, well, just yucky.

As I read towards the end of Battle Ground, it seemed like Butcher removed Murphy to clear the playing field for Lara and Molly; that is exactly what happened in the end. Queen Mab, the Winter Queen, orders Harry to marry Lara, in order to cement the alliance between Winter and the White Court. Whether Harry complies or not remains to be seen, he has one year to decide. We see a touch of the Molly/Harry spark before the novel ends. We also get the foreshadowing that Murphy will return one day as a Valkyrie, which is kind of a consolation prize.

By the end of Battle Ground, I didn't feel like I had a true fictionally satisfying experience. Instead it felt like I watched someone play an RPG and move figures around on a board.

I think this series jumped the shark after Changes, which sets events in motion for Harry to become the Winter Knight. As the novels progressed, Butcher probably didn't want to write Harry as a private detective-wizard, or he was creating enemies for Harry that a normal wizard couldn't cope with. Butcher had to amp up the power level and the threat level as well. I preferred the earlier Dresden Files novels, because while the stories were fantastic, they felt more grounded in reality.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Booksellers | Official Trailer

This documentary about booksellers in New York City is now available for free on Amazon Prime. I've been tracking this since last year, glad to finally view it. I hope some of these people are still in business in 2020. While they are not all the books I like to collect, it is kind of a psychological study of why people collect books; the sellers are just as compelled as the buyers. There is a great quote from one seller about the nature of collectors:
"The world is divided into people who collect things and people who don't know what the hell these people are doing collecting things. If you're a collector you're a sick obsessive compulsive person, who would sell their grandmother to buy something they really like, even if it's an Elvis plate."

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Supreme 50 and the Meta Commentary on Superhero Love

I've been re-reading Alan Moore's Supreme run from the 1990s. If you're a Superman fan like me, who often wondered what would have happened if DC Comics let Moore run the Superman franchise instead of John Byrne, this series is in your wheelhouse.

Although I'm sure it benefits from Moore's hindsight, these stories are a salute to the era of Silver Age Superman. For the first nine issues, Moore doesn't get an artist worthy of his writing (for the present day sequences, Rick Veitch did a nice job on the flashback stories). Until issue 50, in 1997, when Chris Sprouse takes over.

Supreme's secret identity is Ethan, a comic book artist working on Omni-Man for Dazzle comics. His super speed powers are a huge benefit that any comics artist would love--it only takes him a few minutes to pencil an entire issue. Diana is the new writer assigned to Omni-Man, taking over for Billy Friday, a British writer resembling Grant Morrison. Moore has long had problems with Morrison, who he felt had stolen many things from Moore and his friend, Michael Moorcock. Friday, through his own Jimmy Olsen like incompetence is trapped in a prison of light, leaving the writing job free for Diana.

Diana and Ethan have been flirting for a few issues, leading up to this, their story conference which is also kind of a date. Moore gets to do this meta-commentary of superhero romance tropes, through Diana's voice, as Ethan struggles with how to make his first romantic move on Diana.

This is played between three flashback sequences, drawn by Veitch, basically showing you what would happen if Superman married Lois Lane, Wonder Woman, and Lori Lemaris. None of these end in contentment! In the case of the latter two women, marrying another super powered being results in super problems.

Diana speculates on the best love interest for Omni-Man, while Ethan tells her about Supreme's misadventures. On this page, Ethan is about to finally make his move, but Diana mentions the dishonesty of the hero keeping his identity secret. Diana also mentions the love scene that Steranko put into SHIELD, which was altered by Marvel editorial.

Buying these original issues in the 1990s, you had to be either a real die hard Moore fan or a Liefeld/Supreme fan. It was especially challenging if you were ordering from a mail order service and tracking these in Diamond Previews: Supreme 41-42 were published by Image Comics; Supreme 43-48 were published by Maximum Press; Supreme 49-56 were from Awesome Entertainment; after a publishing gap came Supreme the Return, issues 1-6.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Story recap pages from Marvel and DC Comics, from 1960s to 2018

Recap pages! Those introductory splash pages that try to summarize the continuing story for a new reader.

In earlier eras, comics were bound to a single story per issue, often there were 2 or 3 short tales per comic. When comic book stories became more serialized, editors were always afraid a new reader would be lost and stop buying that comic. In the modern era where a story arc goes over 6 issues minimum this has gone away. Starting in the Silver Age there have been a number of ways to catch the reader up on a story.

Stan Lee tried to do it in captions or thought balloons in Amazing Spider-Man 33 (1965, concluding chapter of the Master Planner story, see image on top of this post) and here with Amazing Spider-Man 109 (1972, second part of a story involving Flash Thompson). The captions have arrows showing you how to read them.

Jim Starlin used a new character called Sphinxor to retell the lengthy history of Adam Warlock in several pages of Strange Tales 179 (1975) - the first issue of his Warlock opus. Each issue of Strange Tales would have a dense recap page, which probably drove Starlin crazy to have to include.

In the late 1990s almost every Marvel Comic had a "Previously in..." page, sometimes on the inside front cover: Avengers v3 2 (1998). These were done using text and taking captions of artwork from previous issues.

Dark Knight over Metropolis, a DC story arc which crossed over between Action Comics, Superman and Adventures of Superman, each issue had a splash page with a dossier of memos explaining the story thus far. This was taken from Action Comics 654 (1990).

In Brian Bendis Action Comics he started off the first few stories with an image of papers/notes on the desk of a different character. This worked as both a recap and an insight to the particular character. It also has inside jokes and hints of things to come. This was taken from Action Comics 1002 (2018). This image is what prompted me to write this article - as I re-read the 1990s Action run I realized this new recap page had some elements in common with the old one.

Nuff Said!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Superman 13 (2019) cover progression by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

The upcoming to cover to Superman 13, shipping in July 2019, has an iconic cover by Ivan Reis and inker Joe Prado. The colors are by Alex Sinclair.

The image relates to the "Unity" storyline where Superman is leading an intergalactic band through the galaxy. I am sure this somehow culminates in the birth of the United Federation of Planets, leading to the Legion of Super-Heroes in the future.

Joe Prado shared some behind the scenes look at the inking of this page, which he does on blue line paper. First he starts with the main character of Superman...

Then he goes crazy inking the miscellaneous background characters. Notice that Superman himself does not have all the black ink inside his chest / arms yet.

...and finally there is the fully inked page with the planet / outer soace in the background, the black areas fully inked inside Superman. It pops and creates a depth of field in black and white, even more so in color!

These guys are some of my favorite artists at DC and they have been working there over a decade! Nuff Said.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

SHAZAM! The Many Revisions of The Original Captain Marvel!

The movie SHAZAM! is releasing this Friday, April 4th. I've got a case of Shazam fever, looking at various incarnations of The Big Red Cheese since DC Comics started publishing the character in 1973.


First, a word or two on the Golden Age Captain Marvel. Fawcett Comics was the original publisher, not DC Comics. He first appeared in Whiz Comics #2 in 1939 (cover dated Feb 1940). The concept was simple: an orphaned boy named Billy Batson takes an unearthly subway ride, where he meets the wizard Shazam. When Billy says the wizard's name, he transforms into the adult hero, Captain Marvel! He was almost launched as a character called Captain Thunder, but another company beat them to that name. Created by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck, the good Captain was an instant hit on the newsstands. He not only appeared in Whiz Comics but also Captain Marvel Adventures and Master Comics. Due to his popularity a 12 part movie serial, Adventures of Captain Marvel, was produced starring Tom Tyler.

He soon had a family to help him: first a crippled boy known as Freddy Freeman, who upon saying the name "Captain Marvel!" changed into Captain Marvel Jr., who was so popular that Elvis Presley modeled his look / hairstyle on this character. Captain Marvel Jr is a favorite among many fans because of his cool blue costume and the incredible artwork of Mac Raboy. Many iconic covers of this character are from the World War 2 era. About a year after Junior's debut, Mary Marvel was introduced in Captain Marvel Adventures 18 (1942). Mary was the long lost twin sister of Billy Batson and also able to use the word "Shazam" to transform into a hero. She was featured in Mary Marvel Comics and Wow Comics. Suddenly Billy Batson had a new found family with these two by his side, and there was another title called Marvel Family Comics.


What made the Marvels so popular? I believe it was Chip Kidd who said: "Superman was Power; Batman was Menace. Captain Marvel was Charm." Captain Marvel stories were fantastic in nature and also full of whimsy. There was Uncle Marvel, an overweight older guy who had no powers but pretended he did, doffing his street clothes to reveal his red uniform. Uncle Marvel, by the way, was the true hero of Marvel Family Comics #1, the first and only golden age appearance of Black Adam. There was also Mr. Tawky Tawny, a talking tiger who was a dapper dresser. One of my favorite stories has Tawny trying to lose weight with the assistance of Captain Marvel; unbeknownst to both of them, Tawny is hypnotized at night to eat a buffet table of food, spoiling all the benefits of his exercise regime. Many of the stories were written by Otto Binder, later a writer for Mort Weisinger on the Superman comics

DC Comics launched a lawsuit against Fawcett for copyright infringement in 1941. This lawsuit dragged on for years. By the early 1950s, superhero comics were on the decline following the WW2 era. Combined with the lawsuit and declining sales, Fawcett took a settlement with DC Comics and agreed to stop publishing Captain Marvel. The last Fawcett publication featuring the Big Red Cheese was The Marvel Family #89 in January 1954. Strangely enough, only their silhouettes were on the cover along with the caption And Then There Were None!

Mar-Vell: Not the Captain Marvel we are talking about here!!
Between 1954 and 1973, there were no comics published with the Fawcett character Captain Marvel. What happened during this period of time? A little company called Marvel Comics became very popular. The publisher Martin Goodman decreed that they should publish a character with the name Captain Marvel in order to establish a trademark. From this point on, any comic featuring the original Captain Marvel would be unable to use that name on the cover.

20 years after he was last seen, DC Comics licensed the rights to Captain Marvel back from the company they previously sued, Fawcett.

SHAZAM #1 was the debut issue in 1973, with a cover by three artists: C.C. Beck, Murphy Anderson, and Nick Cardy. I am guessing Cardy must have designed the cover with Anderson inking over Superman to give him the standard "house" DC look. You will notice the subtitle here says "The Original Captain Marvel" but this was soon changed to "The World's Mightiest Mortal" due to legal action by Marvel Comics (protecting their acquired trademark). He was still called Captain Marvel in the stories. DC kept the continuity stretching back to the 1940s by giving CM his own Earth-S in the DC Multiverse. He would cross-over to meet (or fight) Superman and the Justice League.

Publisher Carmine Infantino was looking for a way to boost sales and hoping a revival of "The Original Captain Marvel" would be the way. Sadly, it was not as big a hit as Superman or Batman, with C.C. Beck leaving the series early on, due to disagreements with the stories by Denny O'Neill.

However, in terms of licensing and merchandising, it was probably was a success.  In 1974, a Saturday morning live action SHAZAM! show was on Saturday mornings. It was successful enough to last three seasons. There is a great article on this show in Retro Fan #4 by Andy Mangels. There were three treasury sized SHAZAM Limited Collectors Editions published, each with great classic CM reprint material chosen by E Nelson Bridwell.

Shazam the color comic lasted until 1978. Stories continued after the title was cancelled, and he made various guest appearances. Then came the Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1986.

The Crisis led to SHAZAM! The New Beginning! by Roy Thomas and Tom Mandrake in 1987. This version of Captain Marvel resided on the newly integrated Earth with Superman, the Justice League and other heroes. Thomas had long wanted to do a revamp of Captain Marvel and he had one important change to make. Previously, Captain Marvel and Billy were two separate people, though they shared speech patterns and attitudes. Captain Marvel was definitely an adult, not a goofball. As he says in the introduction on the first issue: " this first issue...we have a 15 year old Billy Batson who is definitely in command of the nigh-invulnerable body of Captain Marvel".

This change was immediately echoed post-Crisis in all DC Comics continuity. DC also gave Captain Marvel a prominent role in the newly rebooted universe. In the Legends six-part mini-series, Captain Marvel was introduced on par with Superman and Wonder Woman. Captain Marvel was part of the new Justice League International by Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire. The humor centered around his youthful expressions, especially around Guy Gardner. This was definitely a kid feeling out of place among a super-team of adult powered heroes.

Looking at the various reboots of the character, you get the feeling that DC had never quite figured out how to properly exploit the character, which they had now fully bought from Fawcett. The post Crisis version lasted until 1994, when Jerry Ordway released The Power of Shazam hardcover graphic novel, which completely rebooted Captain Marvel yet again. The graphic novel itself was lushly illustrated by Jerry Ordway. I just noticed now that this is available to read for free on Kindle Unlimited. I haven't fully re-read this yet, but it seems a bit darker than most Captain Marvel tales. Black Adam's origin was changed so that he worked alongside Billy's parents on an archeological dig site, stabbing them to steal treasure and making orphans out of Billy and Mary.

The graphic novel was a precursor to The Power of Shazam monthly series in 1995. Jerry Ordway provided gorgeous covers for the series with interior art by Peter Krause and Mike Manley. This series lasted for four years. Jerry Ordway took over as penciller on issue 42, before the series ended with issue 47. A 48th issue was released as part of the Blackest Night event week in 2010.

Captain Marvel was a big part of the Kingdom Come prestige series in 1996, showing up to fight Superman as the world threatened to burn around them. An Elseworlds story written by Mark Waid and painted by Alex Ross, who definitely loves the Big Red Cheese. There have been numerous Superman vs Shazam battles since the character was introduced to the DCU. In this story he says the magic word "Shazam!" and dodges before the lightning strikes, having it hit and injure Superman (who is vulnerable to magic). This same trick was used in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon years later, in a slightly different way. Alex Ross and Paul Dini would later produce a treasury sized book called Shazam the Power of Hope in 2003.

In the next few years, Captain Marvel most notable appearances were in the JSA series written by Geoff Johns. I thought CM fit very well on this team, his personality much better alongside the Golden Age heroes. There was a charming infatuation the Captain had with Stargirl, a bit icky until she realized he was really Billy. The biggest addition to the Shazam mythos was the development of Black Adam's character, making him not a shallow villain but someone with a valid point of view. Black Adam started showing up in other series and DC events, turning him into one of DC's greatest conflicted characters. He was one of the main characters in the 2006-2007 52 weekly series, co-written by Geoff Johns, which also featured Mr Mind, a classic Shazam villain.

Judd Winick, a big fan of the Marvel Family (who had used Captain Marvel Jr for a while in his Outsiders series), launched The Trials of Shazam! in 2006. This attempted to shake up the status quo in many ways. The wizard Shazam had died after the Day of Vengeance mini series; Billy must become the wizard (even getting long white hair) while Freddy Freeman must take up his mantle on Earth. Another more important change was that Captain Marvel and the Rock of Eternity were now at the heart of the magic side of the DC universe. In this first issue, Zatanna makes an appearance. While Captain Marvel's stories always involved fantasy, this went a step beyond, involving him deeply in the magic cosmos of the DCU.

In 2007, DC published a four issue square bound mini-series by Jeff Smith: SHAZAM! The Monster Society of Evil. If the regular in-continuity Captain Marvel was now saddled with adult responsibilities, this new out of continuity story took Billy Batson back to his roots and made him younger than ever before. This pre-teen version of Billy, homeless and living in poverty, was drawn in a way that would be perfect for animation. I hadn't read this until last week, it is quite a fun read, and Mary Marvel shows up as well. This can also be found on Kindle Unlimited.

I think at this point you can see a lot of indecision on the part of DC editorial on how to handle the Shazam property. Is he for kids or adults? As time goes by, the answer is that any character can be targeted for any market: kids/pre-teens/late-teens to adults. As long as there is an imprint and branding, the characters are malleable. In 2008, a new series aimed at kids was launched from the Johnny DC imprint: Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! I have to admit this isn't my cup of tea, but for kids under 10, the artwork of Mike Kunkel might be the thing. It's drawn in a very manga/sketchy style, very light hearted and fun. This lasted 21 issues until 2010.

In 2011 there was not a relaunch but a re-imagining of the Shazam mythos in the Flashpoint mini-series by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert. In this alternate version of DC's superheroes, Shazam is known as Captain Thunder (which was his original name in the ashcan of Whiz Comics 1). The powers of the gods reside not only in Billy, Mary and Freddy but also in new kids called Darla, Pedro and Eugene. When they say the word SHAZAM! they all transform into one being, Captain Thunder. When we read this at the time, we probably thought, okay, a cool alternative take on Shazam; it was also an evolutionary step towards the current version aimed at movie theaters.

Flashpoint was the trigger event for DC Comics New 52 relaunch. This came with brand new character designs for Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and many other characters. While Shazam was not part of the initial Justice League story, his new origin began serialization (as a backup feature) in JL issue 7 (2012), story by Geoff Johns, artwork by the incredible Gary Frank. This "New 52" origin serves as the basis for the story of the 2019 Shazam movie.

The look of the new character, now never to be called Captain Marvel or Captain Thunder again (his name is Shazam) was controversial for long time fans of the Big Red Cheese. The Golden Age costume for Captain Marvel was designed to make him look like a military man. His cape was clasped on one side and it dangled on one side. It was also very short. He had five rings on his arm bands, the mark of a captain. The folds of his boots are also very military like. Compare that to the Gary Frank costume: the cape is freakishly long and he now has a hood. The hood bothers me more than anything! The cape is held to his chest with two clasps (in the movie these have tiger images). Lightning pours out of his chest emblem and it glows with power even after the transformation. His boots also seem to have lights in them. Shazam also has the power the zap stuff with lightning, which never happened before. I am not sure why he needs this power. I guess it would help in a fight with Superman?

What the new Shazam does have in common with the earlier Roy Thomas reboot is that this is fully Billy in the body of a super powered adult. The new origin basically does read like a movie pitch or treatment: Big (the Tom Hanks movie) combined with super-heroic fun. And it is fun, if you can let go of the classic Captain Marvel look.

The Shazam origin story took a while to be completed. It ran in Justice League 7-11, then continued in the 0 issue (seen above), then resumed in JL 14-16, finally climaxing in JL 18-21. It has been collected in a couple of editions and reads much better in one sitting than over a year as it did back then. The story contained a big twist on the Shazam legend: Billy not only shares his magic powers with adopted sister Mary and friend Freddy Freeman - but also his new friends Darla, Eugene, and Pedro. These are the same names of the kids we saw in Flashpoint. It is a clever way to have kids from other backgrounds share the fun of transforming into an adult. In the comics this hasn't been fully explored yet, so we don't know what the differentiators are between their powers. We know Eugene has control over electronics, which some may consider a poor Asian stereotype. I think Darla is the cutest and in the movie she may work the best.

The one character design I cannot stand in the 2013 revision was my favorite from the Marvel Family: Freddy / Captain Marvel Jr. I cannot believe they turned him into a blond haired kid! The reason is probably from a design standpoint, they did it to differentiate him from Eugene (with dark hair) and Pedro (with brown hair).

This has led us to the newest ongoing Shazam series, launched in November 2018 last year. After the Shazam origin was finished in 2013, the character appeared in Justice League stories, and a regular ongoing was sure to follow. It took five years due to various scheduling issues. Gary Frank was working on Batman Earth One graphic novels and then went onto the Doomsday Clock miniseries which has had numerous delays. The new monthly Shazam series is drawn by Dale Eaglesham, a longtime Johns collaborator from his JSA days. The first story arc seems targeted right at the heart of young adult readers, where the Shazam family travels to the Magiclands to explore realms we haven't seen before in the DC Universe.

Finally, there is one more version of Captain Marvel that DC launched in 2014. Thunderworld Adventures 1 by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart. This was part of Morrison's Multiversity project, a device that allowed him to tell unique stories from one of the 52 Earths in DC's multiverse. Morrison placed Captain Marvel on Earth-5, which I think works best for the character, to operate on his own playing field where magic and whimsy can rule. If he wants to meet Superman he could always cross a dimensional barrier, like going on vacation. This story was full of action and great artwork. Sadly, I don't think we will see Earth-5 again any time soon, now that the monthly Shazam comic is being published.

I do like knowing there is a separate Earth out there, reserved for the adventures of the Big Red Cheese.

Nuff Said.

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