Friday, November 23, 2018


One quick break in the "Blog History of All the Captain Marvels" to share the news that Warners/DC has released a NEW SYNOPSIS for their upcoming SHAZAM! movie, featuring a hero based on the original Captain Marvel.

As reported by Heroic Hollywood (and I don't have time to do another Clickbait Roundup on it), this is the text of the new synopsis:

“We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s (Asher Angel) case, by shouting out one word—SHAZAM!—this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult Super Hero Shazam (Zachary Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou). Still a kid at heart—inside a ripped, godlike body—Shazam revels in this adult version of himself by doing what any teen would do with superpowers: have fun with them! Can he fly? Does he have X-ray vision? Can he shoot lightning out of his hands? Can he skip his social studies test? Shazam sets out to test the limits of his abilities with the joyful recklessness of a child. But he’ll need to master these powers quickly in order to fight the deadly forces of evil controlled by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong).”

The differences between this and the previous version of the synopsis are few. They have added the phrace "...a ripped, godlike body...", stated that he is "having fun" with his new powers, and estabished that he is facing the challenge of "master(ing) these powers" so he can "fight the deadly forces of evil."

None of these are unexpected details of a superhero film, they seem more like simple expansions of the concepts expressed in the previous synopsis and are hinted at in the trailer. But there is one detail that makes official something everyone already knew except for those people unfamiliar with he character: Dr. Sivana will be the villain!

Those of us who have been following the production have known Dr. Sivana, described in the original comics as "The World's Wickedest Scientist" and self-described "Rightful Ruler of the Universe," would be involved. Mark Strong has been cast in the role, on-set photos revealed him working with Zachary Levy (the hero), and there is a shot in the trailer of him catching the hero's fist and his eyes glowing.

In the original comics, Sivana was short and ugly. He was physically no match for the original Captain Marvel, and used science and chicanery to try to find ways to outwit, out-position, and overcome the hero's opposition to him taking his place as Ruler of the Universe. But somehow the Big Red Cheese was always able to overcome these challenges and obstacles, often because Sivana forgot one little detail that left him vulnerable. Such a character could have been brilliantly played by Armin Shimmerman.

But this version of the hero is based on the New 52 version. For those who may not know, the "New 52" was a 2011 complete re-vamp and re-boot of the entire line of DC Comics. The character who had been known as Captain Marvel ever since he was created for Fawcett Publications in 1939, and had been re-vamped and re-booted at least three times by DC from the 1980's to the 2000's, was put through his most drastic reimagining ever.

As regular readers of this blog should know by now, for trademark reasons, DC could not put the hero's name on the cover of the comic instead deciding to use his transformative magic word, "SHAZAM!" (all caps, with the exclamation point) as the title of the comic and the trademark for merchandising. This confused enough people that for the New 52, the name of the hero to be marketed under that title and trademark would match that title and trademark.

With this change of name also came a change in costume, power set, origin story, and living situation. It also came with a change in the arch enemy.

Dr. Sivana, in the New 52, is a tall, handsome, wealthy man obsessed with finding the secret of magic. He finds the tomb of the ancient wizard Shazam and absorbs the ability to "see magic," as well as use it. It also, eventually started eating away at his body, and he was last seen becoming smaller and uglier, perhaps eventually turning in into the short, ugly character of the original comics.

Mark Strong is a perfect physical type and has a body of work that indicates that he would be a very good choice for this new interpretation of the villain. On top of the increased height and charisma of this new version, the movie is also giving him a degree of physical ability that the comics did not (this is presumably because in the comics Black Adam served as a co-villain to go toe-to-toe with the hero, but that character, announced to be played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, will be making his debut in another film) which is also well within Mark Strong's wheelhouse.

So, to sum up: The specificities added to this new synopsis pretty much confirm what was already known or obvious, and those who were hoping for a movie about the original Captain Marvel will have to be satisfied with a re-imagined character loosly based on him.

Sort of like the upcoming Robin Hood, but that is an essay for another time.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The True Story of ALL the Captain Marvels! DEATH AND ENERGY! (part 7 of a bunch)

Some of the sources of and publications mentioned in this post can be found among these fine products:

By the early 1980's, comic books had regained a lot of the creative diversity that had been lost since the establishment of the Comics Code in the 1950's and were exploring new territories of creativity and publishing formats. Independent comics companies were publishing stories with creator-owned characters that included content that would not have passed the Comics Code. Writer/artists like Will Eisner and Gil Kane were creating stories in formats that came to be called "graphic novels." Marvel Comics decided to get in on this trend.

For several years, Marvel had been producing Epic Illustrated, a slightly toned-down version of the adult sci-fi/fantasy magazine Heavy Metal (itself an American version of the French Metal Hurlant). Now they decided to launch a new line of comics with creator-owned properties under that same "Epic" imprint. At the same time, they decided to launch a line of "graphic novels," which would basically be large, premium format, self-contained, novel-length comic books.The first of these would be The Death of Captain Marvel.

Jim Starlin, who had made a name for himself, and Mar-Vell, with his Thanos War, agreed to take the job, provided Marvel would publish his creation, a character and comic series named Dreadstar, in their new Epic Comics line (This was the latest of a continuing epic that had been preceded by an ongoing series in Epic Illustrated called Metamorphosis Odyssey and a graphic novel called The Price). Starlin had been the one who had given Mar-Vell his cosmic awareness in the Thanos War, and was the writer-artist most strongly identified with the hero.


Starlin used the job the help him deal with the recent death of his father by cancer. In the story, Mar-Vell succumbed to a cancer he had contracted, ret-conned into an incident in which he had sealed a poison gas canister with his hands. The graphic novel is very highly regarded, often making it into top-ten lists.

So Marvel Comics had this trademark, but no living character to cover it. It was noted that the name was no-gender-specific, and there were not many black female superheroes around, so it was decided to make the new Captain Marvel a black woman.

First appearing in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16 (1982), Monica Rambeau was a New Orleans harbor patrol officer facing the "glass ceiling" (for her gender, not race, as was apparent because her boss was black). In the course  of investigating suspicious doings on an off-shore rig, an explosion bathed her in extra-dimensional radiation that gave her the power to become electromagnetic energy (visible light, x-rays, gamma rays, ultra violet, etc.). A Mexican guard had overheard a friend calling her "Mon Capitain" and, slipping into unconsciousness after witnessing the explosion, mumbled "El Capitan es un maravilla..."

 The next day the newspapers read "Who is Captain Marvel?" and the name stuck. She was invited to join the Avengers as a "probationary" member, but proved herself quickly enough. She studied all the records of their foes and was able to direct the battles against them. Eventually Captain America selected her to replace him as leader of the Avengers.

In my personal opinion, she made a better feminist role model than Carol Danvers/Ms. Marvel. She was strong and independent without being socially aggressive. She dealt with her uncertainties (should she be a superhero? Should she lead the Avengers?), maturely, seeking opinions from those she trusted, making up her mind, and not losing sight of her objectives. She also did not have that whole "Schizophrenia" thing that Carol Danvers had in her early days as Ms. Marvel. Or any of Danvers' soap opera drama, for that matter.

In time, however, the decision-makers at Marvel wanted to bring back Captain America as the leader of the Avengers. This bothered Roger Stern, whiter of the book and co-crater of the character. He did not feel it would look good to get rid of a black, female superhero from the lead position of Marvel's premiere superhero team. Stern quit the book, and a story was concocted about how a character named Dr. Druid used mind powers to manipulate events to get himself elected leader. As part of that storyline, Monica lost her powers and nearly died battling a sea-creature, and was a wasted husk of herself afterwards.

She eventually recovered and regained a slightly altered version of her powers...but that is a story for another time.

NEXT: The Crisis of 1986!

The below items also contain material mentioned in this post:

Friday, November 2, 2018

The true history of ALL the CAPTAIN MARVELS! Part 6: What happened to Carol Danvers?

In our last episode, we saw how the original Captain Marvel was revived by DC. In the preceding episode, we met Captain Mar-Vell of the Kree space fleet and made passing reference to Carol Danvers. We now pick up Ms. Danvers' story...

Some of the sources for this history can be found in these fine products...

In a few months Brie Larsen will play the lead character in a movie titled Captain Marvel. This will be the second mainstream theatrical movie led by a female superhero, the first from Marvel. But she was not always Captain Marvel, and as we have seen, was not even Marvel's first Captain Marvel.

In a previous post, we saw how Carol Danvers was head of security at The Cape when the alien Kree Captain Mar-Vell first appeared in the form of Dr. Walter Lawson, and how she became a sort of "Lois Lane" between Lawson ("Clark Kent") and ("Mar-Vell").

As Mar-Vell's fortunes went awry, he went from being a hero to a security threat to The Cape, and Danvers' inability to apprehend him cost her her job. She later became a kidnap target of Colonel Yon-Rogg in his plot to exact revenge against Mar-Vell for foiling his dastardly plans.

In the course of this, she wound up in a cave with a Kree machine called a "psyche-magnitron" as Yon-Rogg and Mar-Vell battled it out. The machine exploded, and Mar-Vell chose to save "the girl" rather than his fellow Kree. Little did anyone know that this event would be ret-conned into the source of her future superpowers.

Years later (as time is measured by readers) Carol Danvers was hired as editor-in-chief of Woman magazine, a Daily Bugle publication. She fought to make it a progressive, empowering magazine as publisher J. Jonah Jameson insisted on it being filled with recipes, fashions, and housecleaning tips.

At this same time, Ms. Marvel made her first appearance, fighting bank robbers and other threats to law and safety. Strangely, she did not know who she really was, and ironically, she had blackout in her memory, and was never seen in the same place at the same time as Carol Danvers, who was having blackouts in her memory as well.

It turned out that these two people were one and the same; a split personality meant by writer Gerry Conway to be a parable for the conflict within the female identity between "equality" and "femininity." there was some critique of having a man write about a feminist character (although Conway's wife got "assisted by" credit) and after a few issues Chris Claremont took over the writing chores, despite the fact that he was also a man (and ever since almost every female character he has written has had some degree of intense inner conflict).

The scanty costume and impractical scarf also seemed incongruously un-feminist for a feminist superhero, and in time the costume was modified. Danvers' split personality was resolved. It was revealed that she got her powers through the radiation from the psyche-magnitron, and that her suit was a sort of exoskeleton. But eventually the powers became a part of her and she no longer needed that suit. She joined the Avengers. She changed her costume. She got fired from her job. Eventually, the Ms. Marvel comic was cancelled, and she was seen exclusively in the pages of the Avengers and occasional team-ups.

During her time with the Avengers, she was kidnapped into Limbo (that is, the literal extra-dimensional space called Limbo), mind-controlled, and impregnated (RAPED) by Marcus, the son of the supervillain Kang the Conqueror, so he could be born to her on Earth (yes it is confusing). This led to a messed-up situation where she went back to Limbo with Marcus, where he died of accelerated ageing (see the pages below), and she found her way back to Earth, where she was attacked by the  young mutant named Rogue, who stole her powers and memory.

In time, and with the help of Professor Xavier of the X-Men, she gained back much of her memory. But, soon after, while in space with the mutant team she gained new powers and became "Binary."

We will return to this character after we visit that happened to some other Captain Marvels...and discover some new ones!

NEXT: Death and Energy!