Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It's Official: DC Doesn't Care

OK, maybe that's a little harsh, but just a year shy of the 40th anniversary of DC's revival of the character they sued out of existence, a character so beloved by Jack Kirby and Carmine Infantino (depending on who's story you believe) that he was brought back to life and given his own comic with the original artist, that had such a proud history of good stories, great art, and cultural impact, they are "officially" ditching the character's original name.

OK, it makes perfect business sense. DC Comics cannot use the word "Marvel," including in the context of "Captain Marvel" on the cover of a comic book or the package of a toy because Marvel Comics (and their parent company, Disney) owns the trademark on that name. It was the clever solution of the folks at DC to use the magic word "Shazam!" as the title of the comic book in which the character appeared (the full original title was "With One Magic Word...SHAZAM! ...The Original Captain Marvel" until threats of legal action by Marvel forced them to change it to "...The World's Mightiest Mortal").

If you were familiar with the characters, it was pretty clever, actually. The Shazam! comics featured the full Marvel/Shazam family, including Billy Batson/Captain Marvel, Freddy Freeman/Captain Marvel Jr., and Mary Batson/Mary Marvel, and they all got their powers from the ancient wizard named Shazam. Therefore, the comics were more about the power than about any one character.

However, since many people never bothered opening the new comic, and did not remember the original comics, they assumed the guy in the red suit with the lighting bolt and cape was named Shazam. And the similarity of his costume to that of th4 Flash met to many people mistaking a "Shazam" t-shirt for a Flash t-shirt.

Not only is DC legally unable to label its product correctly, it really has a good reason not to. Many more people have heard of Marvel Comics than are familiar with the original Captain Marvel, and when they hear the name of Captain Marvel, many of them assume that he must be a Marvel Comics character. Therefore, if DC puts out a product that says "Captain Marvel" on it, it is possible that other people will think it is a product of Marvel Comics, and not give DC the credit for the work they are doing.

In any event, here's the article in which it is announced that DC will no longer be using the traditional name for this character...

http://www.comicsalliance.com/2012/01/30/dc-captain-marvel-name-change-shazam/

In short, DC does not care enough about the character to let him keep his original name. They figure it will be easier to sell him by the name they perceive people know him by. As if people who don;t care enough about the character to know his name will care more because his name is the the same as the title of the book.

Enjoy. I will write more on this soon.