Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The True History of SHAZAM! and ALL Captain Marvels! (Part 2 of several)


Part 2: The Silver Influence

Welcome back! When last we left our hero (Captain Marvel) he had been shut down by hit first publisher, Fawcett Publications, as part of a settlement with National Comics Publications, the company now known as DC Comics. So there was no reason in the world that anyone would ever expect to see Captain Marvel again.

But his influences on comic book history would not die. In (year), DC Comics decided to try reviving Superheroes. DC had the only three superheroes whose titles survived the decline in comics of the early 1950's, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. The decision was then to try to re-invent one of their second-tier superheroes and see if it would spark interest.

The character decided upon was the Flash, Gardner Fox' speedster. Robert Kanigher wrote the new story of Barry Allen, police scientist, who in an accident involving lighting and chemicals, gained super-speed. He first appeared in Showcase #4 (October 1956).

Carmine Infantino, the artist who redesigned the Flash, has told me that he was a big fan of the original Captain Marvel. He claimed to have designed a new superhero named "Captain Whiz" and his villains would be known as "the Colors of Evil" because each of them would have a costume of a different color. When he got the call to draw the new Flash, he said that he simply took the design for Captain Whiz and adapted it into the Flash, and the "Colors of Evil" became the Flash's "Rogues Gallery."

Other comics professionals have personally told me that Carmine Infantino may not have done everything that he claims to have done, so I cannot say for certainty that his version of the story is the definitive truth of the origin of the design of the Silver-Age Flash. However, the fact that Infantino said it was gives an indication of how much he did love the character.

And regardless of whether Infantino's version of the story is true or not, wearing a "SHAZAM!" shirt today is an invitation for people to call you "The Flash." Even Vice Magazine, in its "what not to wear" feature, showed a picture of a fat guy in a "SHAZAM!" T-shirt (the red shirt with the yellow lightning bolt) and made a comment about how the Flash was the fastest man alive and this guy was definitely not.

The new version of the Flash was a hit, and DC revived and re-invented many of its heroes, some with a revision of costume, secret identity, and origin (Green Lantern); some a radical departure from the original (The Atom); some only slightly updated (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman); some created new from scratch (Martian Manhunter, Snapper Carr); and two, created years before, were slid into this new pantheon of heroes as if they were new (Aquaman, Green Arrow). This was all explained away by saying that the new and re-invented heroes were in an alternate Earth from the originals (more on that later).

Again, the popularity of new superheroes led to an explosion of more new superheroes. DC created a new Superhero team, the Justice League of America. Without going into details, that led, in 1961, to Timely Comics, now known as Atlas, to create new superheros (Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko doing most of the work), including the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, which led to the company changing its name to Marvel Comics.

NEXT: The second Captain Marvel, and it starts to get interesting.


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