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Sunday
Mar242019

Top 10 Best of Captain Marvel Shazam!

One of my all time favorite characters is the Billy Batson-Captain Marvel.  With his movie being release soon (it might be out by the time this comes out)I wanted to honor the characters legacy in some way.

In 2016 I did a Superman retrospective and gave a personal list of his best comic book stories of the last 25 years.  So now for the Billy Batson/Captain Marvel I wanted to do the same thing.  The difference here is I’ll reach back further than 25 years and I also won’t just focus on comic books but from other media as well.  The reason is simple.  People don’t read comic books anymore (sob).  They just consume other media about them.

 

One last thing before I begin.  Keep in mind this is only my personal list.  If you have a difference of opinion then please comment below but keep it classy and civil.

So now lets begin!

 

10. Shazam 1981 cartoon - I remember as a kid thinking this is pretty random.  Also where’s that old guy (mentor)from before?  My vague memories of the show are people in uncomfortable positions and Captain Marvel standing around.  I decided to take a look at the first episode and…wow…WOW!   We get an uncle Dudley who sounds like a cross between W. C. Fields and Snagglepuss.  Black Adam turning Captain Marvel Jr.(Freddie Freeman) into a dog for yucks and a Captain Marvel that sounds like the the 1960’s Spider-Man.  Meaning he sounded like a 45 year old accounting exec!

 

I really need to re-watch this series(hopefully it’s available on the DC streaming service).  Maybe I’ll review it one day.  The show wasn’t successful running on NBC from Sep 12, 1981 - Sep 11, 1982 and had only 12 episodes.  It was part of “The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam!”.

 

9.  Kingdom Come - This is an else worlds story(a story taking place on an alternate earth timeline)that takes place years into the future after superheroes from Superman, Batman & Wonder Woman retired.  The reason was because of the rise of darker superheroes led by a new one called “Magog”.  After a catastrophic event in the midwest Superman gets the band back together to put an end to this dark age of heroes.  Not only that but they also have to combat a new group of villains.  Some of which are old timers(Catwoman, Riddler, Vandal savage and the new Ra’s Al Ghul who’s Talia and Bruce’s son) and some new kids on the block.  They call themselves the MLF.  No not the “Mutant Liberation Front” that’s MARVEL but “Mankind Liberation Front”.  How did Marvel not sue DC over this?

 

Kingdom Come is a great story from beginning to end.  I didn’t realize it at the time(but I do now)but it was a response to the 1990’s “Dark Age” of comic books.  So this is a Superman story right?  Where does Captain Marvel fit in then?  

 

He’s being controlled by someone.  Who?  That would be spoilers but let’s just say he’s used as insurance against Superman because: 

 

1. He’s as powerful as him(Superman).  

2. The whole Superman being weak to magic thing. 

 

Billy’s part in this story is bittersweet.  It’s good to see him here but it’s not as a hero and then there’s how his story finishes here which is bittersweet.

 

I will have to place this on the honorable list because while he plays a significant part in the story(the 2nd half of it really) it’s not about him.  This is primarily a Superman story.

 

8.  Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil (2007) - Let’s say you have kids and after seeing the movie in early April they want more of the good captain.  Well, this is the perfect series for them.  Written and drawn by “BONE” creator Jeff Smith.

 

This is another origin story about Billy Batson but once again it’s tweaked.  One difference here is when Billy turns into Captain Marvel it’s not a boys mind in the body of an adult.  The Captain is his own person with his own personality.  Shortly into the story Billy, the captain and Shazam not only find out that Billy has a little sister that he needs to find. They also find out about the titular Monster Society of Evil which is led by the devious “Mr Mind” who is usually a super intelligent caterpillar he’s a snake in this story though!  But it’s okay because Billy get’s help from a magical talking tiger named “TAWKY TAWNY”!

 

God I love comics! 

 

I can’t really explain well how I feel about this mini-series.  It’s heartwarming, exciting, creative, great writing.  It’s just so much fun!

 

My only problem with the story is that there never was a sequel to this.  Yes there was a 21 issue series that came out a year later(“Billy Batson and the Magic of SHAZAM!”(2008) but it wasn’t by Jeff Smith and didn’t have the energy or fun that this did(also it may not be in continuity with the series).  Considering the current state of the character I wish that this version of the character would come back.

 

7.  Justice League Unlimited “Clash” (2005) - this was probably a lot of peoples first experience of Captain Marvel and this episode nailed the character just right.  We first see him being heroic then see him inducted into the Justice League.  Everything goes down hill from there for billy and clark.  This episode reminds me of the phrase never meet your heroes.  Because they won’t be what you built them up to be.

 

6.  Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam (2010) - Hey a DC animated film that’s not solely focused on either Superman or Batman!  Oh wait, Superman’s in it too, my bad.  Also this isn’t a full film.  It’s more like a short film at about 25 mins.  I wish I had known that when I first bought this years ago.  Still this is a good representation of the character.  Within the first 2 mins you get a handle on Billy’s character.  He’s upbeat and positive despite his current situation and will stand up for anyone in need.

 

5.  Shazam! 1973  - It’s the triumphant return of the character after being gone for 20 years.  This time being published by DC Comics.  What’s interesting about the series is that the look and tone was the same as it was in the 1940’s - 1950’s.  Goofy, campy aiming more for really young kids.  At least at the start of it’s run.  It kept it’s light tone until issue 34 & 35(#34 has Captain Nazi in it, I mean how light can you get!).  The last issues of the series.  Looking at the comics the 70’s the Shazam one was an anomaly.  In the 70’s comics were getting more mature and serious.  It aiming for a younger demo sounds good but by this point that comic reader was aging up not down.  

 

I can’t find any numbers but it seems this series didn’t do well.  It ran from 1973 - 1978 and was bi-monthly.  Even with the popularity of the live action show it doesn’t seem this helped the comics(that’s true even today ex. Captain America: Civil War made over 1 billion dollars but the Captain America comics struggle to sell 300,000 copies a year(in the 70’s it sold that in a month!)). 

 

Still because of his new series it was able to get the character back into the for front.  This led to both of his tv series and eventually being inducted into the Justice League.

 

4. The Shazam and Isis Hour - One year after the triumphant return of the good captain in comic books in SHAZAM! (1973) a live action series was created for him and ran on CBS from 1974 - 1977.  It followed a teenage(? yeah right!)Billy traveling with a man named “Mentor” across country helping people along the way.  My first experience of the show was in the early 80’s in syndication(from the 1980’s - 1990’s if a show had even just one season it would be shown for years in syndication).  The show is a bit low rent and campy but there is fun to be had her.  Also I believe in season 3 there is a cross over with Isis from “The Mighty Isis”.

 

3.  Young Justice S1 EP 19 “Misplaced” (2012)  This appears to be a very loose adaptation of the comic JLA: WORLD WITHOUT GROWN-UPS mini-series(1998)(this lead to the YOUNG JUSTICE SERIES).  Klarion the Witch Boy (along with villains The Wizard, Felix Faust, Wotan & Blackbriar Thorn)does a spell that creates an alternate earth.  One has only kids(under 18 years of age)and the other only adults.  While Billy and the Captain are supporting players in this episode I still think he plays a huge role in that he can blink into both worlds and was also able to get one of the crystals.

 

What I really liked about this episode(Captain Marvel wise) was it should how resourceful Billy was.  The good Captain was a supporting player previously in the series so it was good to see him take a more active role in the series.  Even if it was only for one episode.  I could be wrong but the the voice of Billy here seems to be the same for the “Superman/Shazam! Return of Black Adam” short movie.

 

2.  Shazam! Power of Hope (2000) - From 1998 - 2003 DC Comics put out six tabloid size comic books co-written by Paul Dini and painted by Alex Ross(there was Superman: Peace on Earth, Batman: War on Crime, Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth, Shazam: Power of Hope, Justice League: Secret Origins & Justice).  Each in the collection focus on a single defining trait for each character.  I know It’s cliche to say but this story shows just the kind hero Billy Batson is as Captain Marvel or just himself.  We see him save people and battle giant robots but then we see him giving joy and hope by just being himself and doing the right thing.  For example, Billy just by talking and listening to an obviously abused boy helps him open  up.  There’s a lot that I want to say about this book(the amazing art and writing)but I don’t want to get too emotional.  I will say that you can sum up the story and Captain Marvel with this quote from the book:  

 

“Frustration, Triumph, Despair and Joy.  The memories of those and a thousand other childhood experiences stay with me as Billy and as Captain Marvel.  It makes it easy for me to relate to children.”

 

1.  The Power of SHAZAM! Graphic Novel (1994) and ongoing series (1995) - It was these two stories that made me the fan of Captain Marvel I am today.  While he did appear before here(he was in the BWAHAHA Justice League of the late 80’s early 90’s)this was I believe his first ongoing series since the 1970’s.  This completely revamped his origin and was his definitive origin…until Geoff Johns retconned it in the NEW 52…sigh.  Anyway, the art in the graphic novel had a very paintery pulpy feel.  Initially when I read the GN I thought that this took place in it’s own reality because the designs of the book has a 1930’s -40’s feel to it.  The GN plays out his commonly known origin but adds some tweaks to it.  We see the introduction of some future villains and a mysteriously shadowed individual is tasked by Shazam to guide Billy on his journey.  

 

The graphic novel is a great introduction for anyone who’s interested in learning more about the the good captain.  The only negative possibly is that while I liked the art the current generation of comic reader may find it too dated(Jerry Ordway wrote and illustrated the entire graphic novel!).  Also looking back on it now it’s pretty obvious who the mysterious individual was.

 

The ongoing series that followed a year later is a continuation from the GN.  It’s still written by Jerry Ordway but this time he’s not doing the art for the series(Peter Krause, Mike Manley & Glen Whoitmore does the pencils, inks and colors).  Visually the pulp style is still present but minus the paint strokes.  Because of this the art looks simplified and more conventional.  The first issue does end with a bang with a fire, Billy using his powers irresponsibly, still needing to find his sister and Shazam punishing Billy.

 

This is a great series to read to get to know the character.  The original graphic novel is available in print and digital(at comixology.com).  Unfortunately none of the issues from the series are available in paperback but you can read them digitally at comixology.com as well.

 

A side note.  I find it interesting that on the cover of issue # 1 it has Captain Marvel’s name on the cover.  Per the copyright with Marvel Comics they could’ve sued DC for that(or whoever owned the character at the time.  There’s some that say that DC didn’t own the Marvel Family of characters until 1997 -1998).  Oh well, it doesn’t matter anymore.  He’s only called Shazam these days.  Not by me though(that’s still a stupid name to call him).

 

 

Well that’s a lot and I have more to say about each them but I edited myself to keep it as brief as I could.  All of these works of art are available in either trade, paperback, dvd or digitally so if you’re interested then check them out.

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