Sunday, February 10, 2013

Shazam!


When I first arrived in the comic book universe Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family were largely defunct. One sole page in Jules Feiffer's magnificent tome was all the glimpse of the great hero I could discover at the time. Captain Marvel was truly a legend, so much like Superman allegedly that he was adjudicated into oblivion.

Nick Cardy and C.C.Beck

Then DC Comics, the behemoth which killed the good Captain returned him to the comics scene, safely beneath the corporate umbrella of their then shiny new logo. "The Big Red Cheese" was back and he's been back more or less since, though never with the magnificent success he and his cohorts enjoyed long ago.

I never really got just how successful Fawcett's hero had been until I found and read Chip Kidd's tome Shazam! The Golden Age of the World's Mightiest Mortal, a book which focuses wonderfully on the merchandise, marketing, and assorted whatnot concerning the hero and his friends. When I read that Fawcett had to hire thirty-five women to just handle the volume of fan mail the series generated in its first days, I suddenly had a sense of the scale of that success. Nothing today in printed comics comes close in magnitude.

Included in Kidd's book are an array of special toys, posters, gimmicks, and such mostly from one magnificent collection. It's a book that gets you up close and personal with the materials, making them almost palpable on the page. The thing that made me pick this up from my local Half-Price Book Store was the complete Simon and Kirby Cap story from issue one of Cap's comic. It's a outstanding example of their work and a story that flows superbly, in which Cap battles Sivana and his powerhouse, an enemy dubbed merely "Z".

Add that to the other goodies in this book, and it became a must have for this fanboy. If you can find it cheap like I did, I highly recommend this glimpse into a time when Captain Marvel was the most popular superhero in these United States.

Here are some samples of what you can find underneath the cleverly die-cut cover.





Jack Kirby and Joe Simon


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6 comments:

  1. This is indeed a great book, have you seen what New 52 DC have done to the character?

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    1. I have remained mostly blissfully unaware of the "New 52", though I confess I do follow it online in preview out of idle curiosity. The new "Shazam" seems in keeping with the tone of the new material, and consequently no something I'm much interested in.

      In Kidd's book it says that if anything CM's greatest power might be "charm", and sadly that's the one element DC has been largely unable to capture.

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    2. Charm is exactly what the Marvel Family has in abundance. I find their Golden Age adventures still highly entertaining.

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  2. I think Captain Marvel is a good example of a character working best with a certain age group. Perhaps if the comic had been aimed at that same age group in its earliest revival, the subsequent ones wouldn't have been necessary.

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    1. It's been rare that the DC powers-that-be have seemed to understand what they have in the good Captain. I agree, they did seem to want to dumb down the series at first, confusing clarity of storytelling with simplicity of concept. Some characters won't be molded.

      The Phantom comes to mind. They've tried to grit him up from time to time, and it mostly falls flat. You can draw him off model, likewise Captain Marvel, but you can't take away those aspects of character which motivate him. Otherwise he becomes a whole other character, and that's finally what I think DC has done with Shazam.

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  3. Shazam! works for all age groups when done correctly, just like Pixar movies. Sadly, the comics
    industry is largely one-note and subtlety is not valued. Anything with an element of humor is considered for kids; real men want decapitations on every page and heroines you might mistake for
    streetwalkers.

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