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Earlier this week, DC Comics announced some details on the upcoming Shazam-centred back-up story taking place in Justice League. For starters, they're officially changing his name from Captain Marvel to Shazam. Previously, 'Shazam' was the magic word that transformed young Billy Batson into Captain Marvel. However, decades of legal battles between DC and Marvel (long story) have left DC struggling to use the name 'Captain Marvel' (copyrighted by Marvel). They worked around this by never calling him Captain Marvel by name on their covers, with titles like The Power of Shazam. Now, it seems they're giving up on the battle and simply renaming him 'Shazam'.

As far as that's concerned, I have no problem with it. Personally, I prefer 'Captain Marvel', but for legal reasons, I can understand their reasoning.

No, what bothers me is DC constant attempts to reboot the character. Most times, they attempt to darken the character or make him more 'mature'. For this particular character, I think it's completely the wrong direction to go. Additionally, I feel their constant attempts to add him into the DC universe is also the wrong way to go. Let me explain.

Superman, for all intents and purposes, is a very kid-friendly character. In fact, when you look at a lot of the 'sillier' aspects of the character, it could be looked at as something kids would love. For example, I love Krypto the Superdog. What would be better for a kid who wants to fly and do cool stuff than have a dog they can play fetch with in outer space? Now, of course, that's my own interpretation of Superman, which also includes that his mythos is very science fiction based; something that was best implemented in the DC animated series back in the mid-90's.

Then, you have Captain Marvel. Compared to Superman - who has been called a boyscout - Captain Marvel is an even greater example of child fantasy. Not only is the star character a child himself, but he's got the best of both worlds: he still gets to be a kid (unlike Superman, who has a full-time job and responsibilities), but can also be an adult when they want, all with the power of a magic word: SHAZAM! Suddenly he has the wisdom of Solomon! The strength of Hercules! The stamina of Atlas! The power of Zeus! The courage of Achilles! And the speed of Mercury! So underneath, you've still got this kid, but backed by the power of the gods! Combine that with a supporting cast that includes a talking tiger and a wizard, not to mention a great rogue gallery that includes a mad scientist, an ancient Egyptian king, giant robots, and a mind-controlling worm, and you've got yourself one of the coolest superheroes that any kid would love to read!

And yet...DC just keeps dropping the ball. Constantly, they want to add Captain Marvel into the already over-populated DC universe. When Captain Marvel first appeared in 1940 in Whiz Comics, created by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker, it was a separate universe. Given his comparisons with Superman, the character and all rights were bought up by DC and eventually folded into their universe. Although we've had a small smattering of good stories as a result (crossovers with Superman or Justice League, his jaw-dropping appearance in Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, and a very fun crossover in James Robinson's Starman), he's mostly been a side-character with little room to grow or be his own character.

Personally, my favourite rendition of the Big Cheese (yes, that's one of his nicknames; and I love it) was in Jeff Smith's Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil.

Jeff Smith's Shazam!

Smith is already famous to kids for his amazing series, Bone. For The Monster Society of Evil, Smith took the Shazam mythology, tweaking it just slightly (Ex.: Talky Tawny is now a mystical tiger, not just a bipedal anthropomorphic tiger in a green 3-piece suit), treated his entire mythos as separate from the DC universe, and most importantly...made it something fun and readable for kids! My one issue with the series is that he treats Captain Marvel and Billy Batson literally as two separate identities. I prefer the idea of a child wearing an adult's body, but it's a minor complaint from me. Yet, despite the fact that the mini-series is kid-friendly, it's incredibly well-written with some amazing character moments. My personal favourite is when Batson first meets the wizard, Shazam. Humbled, he kneels before him and meekly asks, "Are you God?"

The mini-series is not only critically acclaimed and a big seller, but every comic book store I walk into has it on their shelf alongside other great children's literature.

And yet DC continues their attempts to "reboot" the character by making him darker, more 'mature', and 'relateable.'

At the same time, they struggle to put on good, quality children's literature that is, quite honestly, dumbed down on most occasions. In fact, the majority of their kids comics are merely off-shoots of whatever televised animated series they currently have playing (as of this writing, Young Justice; previous titles included Batman: Brave & the Bold, Justice League Unlimited, and others). They're serviceable as far as fun, one-issue adventures, but they're often hit and miss.

Here is a character with a rich, magical mythos that evokes childhood empowerment to the Nth degree. This is the sort of character that should be a household name for children alongside Ninja Turtles, Harry Potter, Power Rangers, Pokemon, Transformers, Spongebob, etc. He could sustain his own cartoon series with adventures taking place in Fawcett City. He could have his own line of toys with a rich variety of characters, both supporting and villains. Like Batman, Captain Marvel has a rich enough mythos to sustain his own separate universe.

Yet, DC continues to try reinventing what doesn't need reinventing. Yes, he may share some similarities with Superman. But on a whole, the character and its mythos is just as rich, if not richer, than the Man of Steel. Whereas Superman may relate more with science fiction, Captain Marvel evokes great fantasy in the same line as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. Where Batman often works best when steeped in a dark, gritty, nearly realistic setting, Captain Marvel soars highest when the child empowerment fantasy is allowed to soar.

So, come on, DC. Take this character and really show us his true potential. All it takes is a magic word:



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Mar. 7th, 2012 11:09 pm (UTC)
It should be two magical words spoken to whoever is making these decisions.


But that will never happen.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )