Monday, March 12, 2018

Has Captain Marvel's name changed to "Shazam"?

This was a reply to a comment on Facebook, but since it was so long and thorough for a "Someone is Wrong on the Internet" comment, I figured I would post it here so folks could refer to it with ease. 

Whether or not the name has been "changed" depends on how you look at the character.

In the mid '00's, DC had a series of company-wide epic events, part of which involved Captain Marvel having to take over the job of the old wizard Shazam (who had given Billy Batson the power to speak his name and transform into the hero), and his name changing to "Lord Marvel." Freddy Freeman (Captain Marvel, Jr.) took over the job of Captain Marvel, but after going through the "Trials of Shazam!" 12-issue series (that lasted from 2006-2008,) he became the new hero and was called "Shazam" for a while (Wikipedia says he went back to the name Captain Marvel for a bit).

Then, in 2012, the New 52 came around, and every superhero was "rebooted" or "recreated" and started over. Some of these new versions were drastically different, some were not. The character who was published under the title "Shazam!" in back-up stories n "Justice League," and who later joined the Justice League, was named "Shazam." He had a different costume, different origin, and drastically different powers from the previous characters marketed under that title, all but the Freddy Freeman version having been named "Captain Marvel," and being continuations of, or based on, the original Captain Marvel from Fawcett.

A few years later, DC revealed that the universe in which these "New 52" heroes live is actually part of a "multiverse," and in this multiverse is a world labeled "Earth-5. On this world is a superhero named "Captain Marvel. This world has been said to be "Earth-S," which was the world on which DC placed the original Captain Marvel when they started publishing him in 1972.

To backtrack just a bit...

In 1972, DC began publishing the continuing adventures of the original Captain Marvel, placing him on Earth-S, just as Jay Garrick/Flash was on Earth-2 and Barry Allen/Flash was on Earth1, and while both Earth-1 and Earth-2 had a Clark Kent/Superman, Earth Three had Kal-ll/Ultraman

In 1985-6 DC published the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" saga, which rolled all the alternate Earths into one, rebooting all their characters, re-setting the Big Three of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman into the current era, and re-booting Captain Marvel under the title "SHAZAM!" The New Beginning." He had the same powers, a slightly different origin, and the same costume. And while the original Billy Batson and Captain Marvel were separate personalities, now Captain Marvel was simply Billy Batson in the hero's body.

In 1994 DC released Jerry Ordway's re-boot of the character under the title "The Power of SHAZAM!" Again he had a slightly different origin but the same powers, his costume was slightly different, and he maintained the "boy as hero" concept. This was retconned as the part of the new world that emerged from the "Zero Hour" crossover event that happened that same year in DC Comics.
 In 2007, DC released Jeff Smith's "SHAZAM! The Monster Society of Evil" which again re-booted the hero, giving him a slightly different origin and the same costume as the "Power of SHAZAM!" version. In this version the boy and the hero were different personalities, but were starting to merge towards the end
A slightly different version of this character was the hero of the "Billy Batson and the Magic of SHAZAM!" series published for the kid-oriented "Johnny DC" imprint. In this version, the hero had the boy's mind.

Now, if all of these characters, existing on different worlds or after different universe-altering events, count as "different characters," then the New 52 hero, named "Shazam," is not the same character as the original Captain Marvel.

If, however, you want to say that a character with a different origin, different concept, different costume, different powers, a different name, and living on a different world, but marketed under the same trademark as a previous character is the same character as that previous version, then yes, Captain Marvel's name has been changed to Shazam, along with almost everything else about him.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Two movies, Three Articles

Some big news is dropping about the two Captain Marvel-relevant movies that have recently begun production: DC's Shazam! and Marvel's Captain Marvel. I don't have time to write everything that I want about them right now, so I am going to link three articles here to revisit later, if I can.

First, about Shazam!: The suit has been revealed!

This is the final confirmation that this movie is not about a superhero named Captain Marvel. Despite director David F. Sandberg posting pictures of Fawcett comics, Captain Marvel action figures, a clip from an animated cartoon with Captain Marvel, and even a drawn comic strip with Captain Marvel referred to by name, this movie is not going to have any version of the classic character by that name.

As the casting rumors and announcements hit the news websites and spread throughout the clickbait-verse one by one, it became clear that the cast of characters was coming from DC's New 52 story about the superhero named "Shazam."Instead of the "Seven Deadly Enemies of Man" we had the "Seven Deadly Sins," The foster parents and additional foster siblings of Billy, Mary, and Freddy were cast, Dr. Sivana is to be played by someone tall and good-looking, and IMDB even reports that Mr. Bryce, a Richard Branson-inspired millionaire is part of the cast.

Then word came out that the hero's costume would be inspired by that worn by the hero Shazam in the DC animated movie JLA: War. THis costume is the spoctume worn by the hero Shazam in the New 52 story.

And now we have the picture, leaked form on-set, of the costume of the hero of this movie. As movie costumes go these days, it is remarkably faithful in design to the costume of the New 52 Shazam, even down to the infamous hood.

As regular readers f this blog know, DC decided to title the comic book that chronicled the adventures of the original Captain Marvel "SHAZAM!" because Marvel Comics had trademarked "Captain Marvel" in 1967 before DC licensed the original character from Fawcett in 1972. In 2006 DC made the lead character to be marketed under that trademark Freddy Freeman, whose new superhero name was Shazam, and when DC created the New 52, the re-imagined Billy Baston and his heroic alter ego to have that same name as well.

This hero, his origin, his costume, his powers, and his alter ego were drastically different from the original. Some people liked it, but a lot of fans of the original did not. One could say that this hero was more "based on" or "inspired by" the original Captain Marvel than simply a "new version" of him.

Since it was later revealed that the universe of the New 52 was actually a "multiverse," and there were 52 different universes, each with their own set of superheroes, and one of these universes, "Earth-5," had the original Captain Marvel on it, I was comfortable with the idea that Shazam and Captain Marvel were two different heroes, existing simultaneously on different worlds. I like the original CM better, though.

I had been hoping for a great movie about that beloved character since a SHAZAM! movie was first announced in 2002, but with the release of this picture of the costume, it is the final nail on the coffin of any idea that anything in this movie is going to be about anything other than the New 52 Shazam. If there is any reference to the original Captain Marvel that cannot be found in the New 52, it is just crumbs to the faithful.

Meanwhile in a different note, Marvel Comics is updating the origin of their Captain Marvel.

The description of the actual incident in which she gets her powers is non-specific enough ("a chance encounter with a Kree hero gave her incredible super powers") that it may not actually be different from what happened between 1967 and 1977, but they are obviously focusing more on the psychological and emotional effects that this had on Carol Danvers. This is undoubtedly an attempt to boost interest and mainstream familiarity with the character in anticipation of her movie.

I wonder why DC is not making more of a similar effort with their movie-bound hero?

Finally, in researching this post, I found this old article ("Meet Captain Marvel: Fighter Pilot, Feminist and Marvel's Big Gamble") that came out shortly after Marvel announced their Captain Marvel movie. What with all the #MeToo business going on and women's roles in society being looked at closer and closer, I thought this had extreme relevance and was worth revisiting.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Jude Law as Marvel's first Captain Marvel, Mar-Vell (real news!)!

It seems I am a little behind the news on this one, but to quote a very young Queen Elizabeth, "Dear me, I've been busy." With what Ihave been busy are subjects for my other blog, my other, other blog, my other, other, other blog, and my Facebook page.

So here is the news: JUDE LAW IS GONG TO PLAY CAPTAIN MARVEL (MAR-VELL...probably)!

The clickbait press was all over this one as soon as the sister publications Deadline and Variety announced that Jude Law was "in talks" and "negotiations" for the role. Headlines over the next couple of days were about 50-50 between "is" and "might be." That "in talks" status seems to be what is current, though the Net-o-shpere is pretty much taking it as a done deal

Variety describes the role played by Law as "Doctor Walter Lawson, a.k.a. Mar-Vell, who becomes a mentor of sorts to Danvers as she tries to figure out her new powers."

I think this is an interesting choice. Physically, Jude Law is not as tall as Mar-Vell, nor does he have white or blonde hair and blue eyes, as Mar-Vell has had. He is lean and fit, though.
Mar-Vell has gone through several looks during his time. Initially, as drawn by Gene Colan, Don Heck, Dick Ayers, and others, he was a beefy, square-jawed hero, with short white hair and a frustratingly generic average handsome white man face. Gil Kane made him leaner and his face longer and more expressive. Jim Starlin continued that trend, also cueing off of Kane's had given him, and finally Pat Broderick gave him his version of a hero face, with a pompadour and sideburns growing through his mask.
The difference between the Colan and Broderick Mar-Vells were so great, it was almost laughable when, in a Broderick-drawn story, a character saw him without his mask and identified him as Walter Lawson (an alter ego he had not used for ten years, real-time)

This just goes to show that Jude Law's specific features and physique are not so important when casting the role, so we can just move on from that. Instead, let's consider the character and Law's previous body of work.

 Marvel Comics' first Captain Marvel was never a top-tier character in terms of popularity. His comic was always teetering on the precipice of cancellation, switched from monthly to bi-monthly, and even was cancelled a few times. The character went through some wild, shark-jumping escapades, being put through major changes at a dizzying rate, often in an attempt to boost sales. Through all these changes, the character, understandably, was confused. He was often "seeking his place in the universe." Having deserted the Kree, then driven from Earth, he was a man without a home for a while. During his lengthy period of sharing time in the Negative Zone with Rick Jones, neither he nor Jones were able to put down any kind of roots anywhere.When the two finally separated their time-sharing for good, he bounced around from place to place, never staying in one place for more than two issues, until he finally found the love of Elysius and settled down on Titan for a few brief years, until he died of cancer.

This rootless uncertainty made him a bit of a tortured soul. Even his "cosmic awareness," granted to him during Jim Starlin's run with the character, could not calm his uncertainty. It did, however, enable hi to handle challenges of a super-villain nature with a sense of yogi-like serenity.

Jude Law has shown himself to be very good at serious, sensitive roles in movies like Gattaca, Cold Mountain, and Enemy at the Gates. If that aspect of his character is explored in the movie, Jude should do well in the role. He has also played a hero mentoring an adventurous female in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I could see some of that coming into play in his relationship with Carol Danvers.

Mar-Vell was an accomplished warrior for the Kree when he was first introduced in the comics, and his stocky build was perfect for that role. He was constantly battling giant monsters or hordes of enemy soldiers. Jude Law's smaller frame is not, at first glance, built for such a role. In Enemy at the Gates he was a sniper, so being smaller he was able to sneak and hide, and he did not have to engage in fisticuffs. He just had to serenely find his target and shoot.

This would serve the "cosmic awareness" aspect of the character better than the "alien warrior" aspect. When the cosmic entity Eon gave Mar-Vell the power of Cosmic Awareness and made him the "Protector of the Universe" With this new power, instead of having to engage in a slugfest with a powerful foe, he could sense his adversary's weak points and center of balance and defeat him with a minimum of effort in a minimum of time with a minimum of damage. With that ability, the hero does not have to have big, showy muscles.

In the "Someone is Wrong on the Internet" department, Cheat Sheet has posted a whole "What We Know About..." article by Brendan Morrow. However, despite most of the article being pretty darn accurate regarding the character of Mar-Vell, the author commits one unforgivable sin. He states "the first time we were ever introduced to someone called Captain Marvel, the character was a man who was referred to as Mar-Vell. He also used the pseudonym Walter Lawson."

As anyone who has watched my video of the history of the many Captain Marvels knows, the original Captain Marvel was Billy Batson's alter ego, into whom he transforms when he says "Shazam!" The fact of this error is compounded by the GIF that is posted in the article of Garret Craig as the Fawcett-DC hero in the 1979 TV special "Legends of the Superheroes: Superhero Roast."

And here is your clickbait roundup:
GeekTyrant brings attention to how Variety's article at first did not mention Mar-Vell, then updated itself to do so.
NY Daily News
 io9.gizmodo mentions that "Keanu Reeves was being considered for the role before passing."
BBC America
Nerdist actually shows a cover of Marvel's "Captain Marvel" comic book.
SyfyWire supposes that Ben Mendelsohn will play the leader of the Skrulls.
Entertainment Week
The Wrap
Hindustan Times
The Action Pixel
Screen Rant
Geeks of Color
Por La Libre
Se Estrena

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Dan Didio clarifies the whole Captain Marvel/Shazam name thing at NY Comic Con

I was finally able to get to Dan Didio at New York Comic Con after his discussion panel and ask him a few quick questions about the name of the superhero who says "Shazam!"...

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Artists and Heroes...thanks to Dan Didio (Part 2)

When last we left our story, I was at a panel discussion with Dan Didio and some DC artists and writers and he was asking questions of the audience and panelists. One of them was a very interesting question to which I had what I thought was a brilliant, insightful answer, and even had relevance to the ostensible reason for me being there:

“Who was the first artist you started following and did you start following comics for the character or the artist?”

Funny thing about that…

Of course, growing up, I saw Archie and Casper the Friendly Ghost comics and superhero comics, and I was aware that the art was different for Archie and Casper than it was for Batman. However, the first time I actually noticed a specific artist’s art as being distinctive of of other artists was when I saw the original Captain Marvel.

Though I was not yet sophisticated enough to tell the difference between C.C. Beck and Kurt Schaffenberger, I did realize that the Big Red Cheese, in both reprints of old stories from Fawcett Publications and the contemporary stuff from DC, was not like what I saw in Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and other superhero comics (which was what most of my other comics were).  It was simpler, clearer. One might say it was more “cartoony,” but the simplicity disguised the mastery of the medium that Beck and Schaffenberger had. The storytelling was always clean and concise. The anatomy was proportionate and believable.

However, in 1981, DC decided to give Captain Marvel a makeover. Out went that simple style of Kurt Schaffenberger (who was drawing the hero at the time) and in came the slightly warped but realistically detailed work of Don Newton. I actually avoided reading those stories in Action Comics because I did not like seeing that art for Captain Marvel. I spent hours trying to think of which artists would be able to draw the World’s Mightiest Mortal in the appropriate style, and did not understand that calling for such a change back was a lost cause. DC wanted to update the look, and there it was.

Now, of course, I recognize the quality and skill of Newton’s art. I also see how he was able to realistically distort faces and features for comedic effect. Captain Marvel always was a quasi-comedic character, and one of the challenges faced by DC when they revived him was how to keep the lightness and whimsy in the character while making him relevant and appealing to the modern world. It was a shame I did not read too many of those stories, either, because some of them were quite good, and some of them actually went into the hero’s past and explained aspects of his origin, powers, and backstory that had not been explored before.

So that would have been an interesting thing to share with Dan Didio and the lineup of artists, writers, and editors on stage. It would have also been interesting to see his reactions and hear his thoughts, considering what DC has done with the character and the concept under his watch at DC.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Outlaw Heroes...thanks to Dan Didio (Part 1)

At NY Comic Con last month, I attended Dan Didio’s panel in which he has a semi-informal discussion with some of DC’s top talents and the audience. I was ostensibly there to ask him questions about Captain Marvel, but I didn’t want to be a dick and hijack the panel, so I listened and participated in the spirit of it.

He asked some interesting questions and invited the audience to share their answers. Again, not wanting to be a dick, I did not raise my hand every time and beg to be picked, but upon reflection, those questions inspired me to come up with some interesting answers, so I would like to share them with you here now.

One of the first questions was “What was the first comic you ever read?” I can’t remember which comic book was the first I ever read, specifically. Comics have always been a part of my life. However I can remember how some of the first few superhero comics I read gave me a very specific impression of a superhero that was probably unique to the time.

The time was the early 1970’s, and between Vietnam, Watergate, and the rise of the various youth counter-cultures,  in the popular mainstream it seemed that governmental authority was not infallible, and the hero maybe the hunted. I may have been vaguely aware of this dynamic from other elements of culture and media that I absorbed, but it really came home to me in superhero comic books.

The three comics in question were issues of Batman, Spider-Man, and Tales of Suspense featuring Captain America.

The Batman story was part of a storyline in which Batman was accused of the murder of his adversary Ra’s Al Ghul. When the story began, he was already being hunted by the police, and unearthed the dead man’s grave to find it empty. At that moment, two cops found him. He fought them and dragged one of them to the grave, only to find the body or Ra’s in it, where it had not been before! The story ended with Batman still on the lam ad Commissioner Gordon continued to direct the manhunt against him.

The Captain America story involved an imposter with a ray gun on his wrist leading high-profile bank raids. This, of course led to Captain America being a hunted man. Cap ultimately defeated the crook, but not before there were serious doubts as to whether or not he was still n the right side of the law.

Finally, the Spider-Man story was the famous first appearance of the Punisher. I don’t have much memory of this story, as the comic disappeared from my life not long after I acquired it. Lost or stolen, I imagine. I do remember that the Punisher was trying to hunt him down in the belief that he was a bad guy, and the police didn’t seem to like him much either. There was an air of desperation about his life that impressed me well.

So with these three stories, I was of the mind that to be a superhero was to be outside the law. That wearing a mask and costume to fight crime was a thing that the police and authority did not like. But since these characters were the sympathetic characters of the story, that meant that rebel fugitives were the good guys and law and authority were the bad guys.

This sort of view of things was only reinforced as I started to learn about the American Revolution (this being the bicentennial decade) and read about folks like Paul Revere doing things under cover of night to avoid the redcoats.


Artists and heroes.