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Monday, August 30, 2021

Carol Danvers Continued; Part 19 of the Blog history of ALL the Captain Marvels)


When last we left Carol Danvers, it was 1982, and she had just gained the power of a "white hole" (a theoretical astronomical phenomenon that must be the opposite of a "black hole") and became the superhero "Binary" while in outer space with the X-Men.
First appearance of Carol Danvers as Binary.

She returned to Earth where, with the help of Professor Xavier, she regained most of her memories, and started to regain her Ms. Marvel powers.

In 1998, she rejoined the Avengers, went back to her second costume (the black leotard with the lightning bolt), and started to lose her Binary powers. She changed her superhero name to "Warbird," became an alcoholic, and was court-martialed out of the Avengers.

Carol Danvers picking her name with a little help (Avengers #4)

Carol Danvers explaining why she turned to drink (Iron Man #7)

Carol Danvers' court martial not going well (Avengers #7)

Carol Danvers getting the wake-up call. (Avengers #7)

She then recovered from her alcoholism and joined S.H.I.E.L.D, switching to a more militarily-practical costume with utility pockets and an armored vest.

She eventually returned to the Avengers, redeeming herself and regaining her status with the team.

In 2005, Marvel Comics' big company-wide, history-changing crossover event was "House of M," an alternate reality created by the mentally unstable Scarlet Witch in which mutants had become the dominant species. In this world, her friend Carol Danvers was Captain Marvel, who, despite being of human birth, was the greatest hero in the world. In short, she was this reality's Superman.

When the storyline concluded and reality was shifted back to normal, she remembered what it felt like to be that successful, confident, and popular. She liked it, and felt that if she could be that there, she could try to be that here, too. She changed her superhero name back to Ms. Marvel, got a publicity agent, and struggled to fight threats cosmic and terrestrial.

In the 2006-7 company-wide crossover event "Civil War," she sided with the government, supporting superhero registration, despite an appeal from Captain America.

It was during this last event that a return apparently occurred. Captain Mar-Vell.

The person who seemed to be the once-dead hero appeared through what appeared to be a hole in time, and he had come to the present day from before he died. He was given the assignment of guarding the orbital prison for unregistered superheroes while he wallowed in melancholy about why he was in a future in which he was dead.


More on this in the next chapter...

Some of the titles in which these stories can be found are taken from a very thorough list about 

How to Collect – Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel

Monday, July 26, 2021

Dwayne Johnson's Farewell to the Crew of "Black Adam" and How I feel About the Movie So Far.

In the above Instagram post, The Johnson thanks the cast and crew of the upcoming Black Adam movie on his last day of filming. We can see his monster physique is covered by a loose tunic that drapes about him like a tent off of those massive shoulders. In addition to his words being very gracious, generous, and thankful towards the crew, it also really sounds like this role is a very big deal for him.

He also posted the following text:  Honored and proud to say that’s an official wrap on BLACK ADAM⚡️

I knew many years ago, the opportunity for me to make BLACK ADAM would be a ONCE IN A CAREER EVENT.

It has been my true honor to go shoulder to shoulder with over 1,000 brilliant and hungry crew of filmmakers and storytellers to bring the antihero known as, BLACK ADAM to life.

This has been one for the ages and easily the hardest labor and toughest grind mentally and physically of my entire career.

Worth. Every. Second.

Love you all.
Thank you all.
And I’ll see you down the road.
Now go have some fun with that $10,000 🤣💰

The hierarchy of power in the DC UNIVERSE is changing.

Black Adam⚡️

I recall back in the mid 2000's when an MTV survey asked whether he should play Captain Marvel or Black Adam (rumors had him pegged as either one) he responded to the result (Black Adam) by saying that he would be interested in talking about it (or words to that effect). It was apparent that he was not so familiar with t he character. Here is an article about the results of that poll. Through the years that the project was in pre-production hell, however (repeatedly being delayed with directors and writers being hired and fired), he would talk about the character as being important, and meaningful. When Peter Segal and John August were tapped as director and writer, things were really looking up for the project, and when a comedy that they worked on featuring Johnson was released, some folks were trying to deconstruct it to see what it revealed abut how they would work together for the SHAZAM! movie. Since then, Johnson had become such a big star that it was decided to give him his own stand-alone Black Adam movie. This makes sense, because Johnson's presence in the movie would distract from the lead characters, Billy Batson and his super-hero alter ego. Besides, with two movies instead of one, the DCCU will have more entries into the superhero film realm, and potentially more profits. So I am interested and excited to see this movie. The cast of characters alone is fascinating (Hawkman, Dr. Fate, and Isis, particularly) showing that DC is not afraid to put lesser-known, even obscure superheroes in their movie, trusting that the overall popularity of superhero movies, and the specific quality of this movies will be strong enough to overcome the unfamiliarity of the characters.

But they have also cast some popular names in the movie as those characters (Aldis Hodge, Pierce Brosnan, and Sarah Shahi), meaning that the actors believe in the project and the studio is willing to spend that kind of money on it. It would be easy to say that everything about this movie is just being built around the star power of Dwayne Johnson, but why does he have such star power? Because enough of his recent movies have been entertaining, and he has been entertaining in them. He has proven himself to be likeable, with charisma to burn, and just good enough an actor to pull off most of the roles that he has been given. I saw him as very much an Errol Flynn type in "The Scorpion King," and that franchise has suffered without him. H did well as a villain type in his debut in "Star Trek: Voyager" and "The Mummy Returns," so we will see how he does as the "anti-hero" that DC has developed Black Adam into since his revival in Jerry Ordway's "The Power of SHAZAM!"

As a footnote, there are some interesting possible clues to the movie visible. We don't know for sure if that tunic Johnson is wearing is costume or is hiding/protecting his costume, but a couple of other actors are wearing what could be some kind of fantasy/sci-fi outfits that could be Kryptonian, for all I know. The background is a cyclorama of a cloudy sky with patches of bright white clouds popping up randomly. The actors have cables attached to their back, so this may have been a flying scene. Many of the crew are wearing Hawaiian shirts and leis. I don't know if that is because the scene is set in (or above)Hawai'i or if it was thee party theme of the day.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

"X" Marks the Mar-Vell! The Blog History of ALL the Captain Marvels, Part 18

The largest and most extensive of the realizations of an Alex Ross idea, the "high-water mark," if you will, of these limited-series extrapolations of possible alternate futures of the superhero universe, was undoubtedly Earth X and its follow-ups, Universe X and Paradise X, and a Captain Marvel or two were right in the middle of it.

Captain Marvel appears in various forms on selected covers of Earth X, Universe X, and Paradise X.

This Captain Marvel's story was intimately intertwined with death (which may or may not have been ironically deliberate, being as, at this time in the regular Marvel Universe, Mar-Vell was still dead). However, the story was so big and complex and convoluted, with so many characters doing so many bizarre and universe-shattering things and changing in so many ways, told over massive numbers of pages in three 14-issue limited series in a combination of sequential art and prose, that I can't honestly say that I fully understood it the first three times I tried to read it.

Mar-Vell did appear in two distinctive guises: One of them was the dead Kree warrior in the afterlife, leading an army of dead Kree warriors into battle, inspiring them with a speech to convince them that they were actually dead, though their enemy told them otherwise; The other was a 5-year-old child battling the Supreme Intelligence and pining over his late lover, Una.

The child and dead versions of Mar-vell in Earth X

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

DEEP DIVE: DC's reprint of "SHAZAM! The World's Mightiest Mortal #19-35"...

Here is the second part of my "deep dive" into Volume 2 of DC's new reprint edition of their 1970's "SHAZAM!" series, reviving the original Captain Marvel.
#captainmarvel #shazam #dccomics #marvelfamily #comicbookreview

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

DEEP DIVE: DC's reprint of "SHAZAM! Th World's Mightiest Mortal #19-35"

Here is the first part of a three-part "deep dive" into DC's new full-color, hardcover reprint of their 1970's comic book series "SHAZAM!" #19-35, reviving the original Captain Marvel. It provides background to the history of the character and places this series in its historical context.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

HAPPY BIRTHDAY C.C. BECK! (An appreciation)

C.C. Beck was the first man to draw the original Captain Marvel. According to all available evidence, it was he who designed the costume (although the coloring may or may not have been the choice of an anonymous colorist) and who established the definitive look of the hero and the stories of Captain Marvel/Billy Batson.

He was a 30-year-old staff artist for Fawcett Publications when he was tapped to do the job. According to his own words, he never really thought of cartooning as serious business. But he did it with a professionalism that was expressed in his writings as the "Crusty Curmudgeon" in later years.

His deceptively simple style was unsuccessfully imitated by a series of artists for Fawcett in the early years, until Beck's shop became the sole source of Captain Marvel art, and eventually the house style was cleaned up ad a certain stability in quality level achieved.

I have found it hard to give a fair assessment of the full arc of Beck's art development for the character, considering the scarcity of reprints available until recently and the prohibitive pricing of the original comics. Most of the reprints DC made available were originally drawn in 1945 or later, by which time the style and quality level was pretty much set. But the "Archive Editions" DC put out showed every single Captain Marvel story from the first couple of years of his publishing history.

The earliest stories were kind of rough. Beck's art was deliberately simple. He was a fan of such newspaper strips as Little Orphan Annie and Barney Google, and it shows in the charicaturistc renderings of certain characters. Captain Marvel's face was said to be based on Fred MacMurray,and was pretty well-defined from the beginning, but Billy Batson was little more than a small mouth, a small nose, and two dots for eyes. Figures seemed awkwardly positioned, layouts rough and simplistic. Some stories, like the origin of Dr. Sivana, showed Beck at the top of his craft, but others must have been done in a mad haste or by staffers.

When at the top of his game though, as he was after those first few years, a close examination of  his work reveals an undercover sophistication and depth that is truly underappreciated by many comics fans today.

Clarity was his watchword, and he believed that everything on the page should advance the story. Thus, nothing that didn't advance the story should be on the page. This meant that excessive detailing, shadows, wrinkles, etc, were not necessary. The linework was always clean, not sketchy.  Sometimes there was no background at all. But if you took a moment to look, you would notice that the perspective, very deliberately chosen, was drawn with precision. Little details, like a telephone on a desk, grain in wood, or a wrinkle in a carpet would give the image an touch of authenticity. There would be a key shadow under an armpit or highlights on the golden wristbands of the hero that gave the figures depth.

Landscapes would show true depth of field. Longshots used to establish a scene would show details like certain types of trees that would indicate the location. A long shot over the ocean would include cloud formations. A sunset might show silhouettes of palm trees.

And oh, those clouds and smoke! If ever Beck had to draw smoke from a fire or the clouds around a bolt of lightning, the billows would roil like a Wagnerian opera!

Space ships and fortresses would have a Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers art-deco style that gave them a fantastical, yet believable appearance.

His anatomy was impeccable.With just a few lines he could establish a person's figure and character from any angle. Ofttimes Captain Marvel would be shown flying, with his feet in the frame, and the feet were always drawn perfectly, with appropriate perspective. The difficulty of this was highlighted by the awkward, inexpertly drawn feet of other artists that drew attention to themselves like a blemish on the page. But Beck's feet were so perfectly drawn that they almost disappeared.

His animal anatomy was likewise fully believable. He was even able to show a gradual evolution of Mr. Tawny, the talking tiger, evolve from his natural, four-legged stance to his anthropomorphic, two-legged stride in just a few pages. The effect was so subtle you wouldn't even think about it.
Two pages showing the evolution of Mr. Tawny from four-legged beast to anthropomorphic tiger.

His sparing use of shadows in most of his work was a deliberate choice, keeping the images clear and whimsical, but he showed true mastery when he did use them. A scene on a city street at night would show the dark shapes of blackness that would be cast by a shadow in lamplight.
Three pages from Capain Marvel Adventures #100 showing C.C. Beck's work at it's finest:
Note ease of following the story left-to-right, top-to-bottom, use of perspective, expressive gestures, anthropomorphic animal anatomy, judicious choices of how much background and foreground elements, use of silhouette and shadow, and juxtaposition of close-up, medium, and long shots.

After the 1953 shutdown of Fawcett's comics line. Beck never returned to comic full-time except for a brief revival in 1966 and his return to Captain Marvel in the 1970's But his legacy had been established through those 13 years of Captain Marvel and the Marvel family, and even still is underappreciated for those little things that made his art so perfect.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

MARVELS and RUINS of the KINGDOM of ROSS! Blog History of the Many Captain Marvels Part 17!

The 1970's had been an era of creative exploration at DC and Marvel Comics because of the new directions pop culture was going at the time the generational change in editorial staffs, and some works of real genius wound up on the stands. The 1980's was an explosion of creative possibilities in the independent comics scene as brand new comic book companies gave creators full ownership of their properties and had no Comics Code Authority to censor their work.

Here is an interesting dialogue-style history of the Comics Code Authority from NPR.

The 1990's, however, incubated creativity through the need to come up with the next big, flashy, collectible "thing" that would prove to be a groundbreaking triumph and raise the bar for the comic book industry. Alternate covers! New first editions! Exciting new changes to characters! Foil-embossed! Polybagged with a trading card! Pogz!

All-Time Greatest Comic Book Gimmick Covers according to Comic Book Resources
Memories of Comic Book "Gimmicks" Resurface
Blown Cover: 15 Covers from the '90's that Destroyed Comic Books
A Pintrest page of gimmick comic book covers through the ages

The success in the late 1970's and '80's of comics that broke ground creatively and in format while referencing or reinventing familiar superheroes and other comic tropes (Dave Sim's Cerebus the Aardvark, Eastman & Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Frank Miller's Ronin and The Dark Knight Returns, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen) and works that re-set or re-organized the superhero universes of Marvel's and DC's superheroes (Marvel's Secret Wars, DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths) had established precedent for what was thought to be needed to have a popular, top-selling comic book.

The work that may well have had the most success as a creative re-imagination of a superhero universe, comic book format, and gimmicky concept and packaging, was 1994's Marvels limited series, by writer Kurt Busiek and artist Alex Ross (that is, the artist Alex Ross, not the music critic Alex Ross).

This series re-told the history of the Marvel Comics characters from before WWII up to the present day, but through the eyes of a news photographer, who called them "Marvels" (hence the title). The only Captain Marvel who appeared was Mar-Vell, who was in one double-page spread of the Kree-Skrull war, but The impact of this series, with its deluxe format and gloriously painted covers, was to become a superhero comic book benchmark.

This comic totally changed the game. Alex Ross set a new visual standard with his realistic painting, often compared with Norman Rockwell (he used models). The cover was a clear acetate sheet with a black border and the title framing the cover painting on the page beneath it. From thence on, the look of an Alex Ross-painted comic book, or even a book with his painted cover, would be seen as a mark of high quality epic storytelling.

The most directly-referencing work was a dark satire titled Ruins (written by Warren Ellis, painted art by Terese Nielsen, Cliff Nielsen, and Chris Moeller), in which everything that could have gone wrong with the Marvel superheroes did. In the case of Mar-Vell, he was part of a Kree invasion force that, due to a mishap involving the Silver Surfer, fell prey to American nuclear missiles that wiped out 90% of the force. They were captured and put in concentration camps in a former nuclear testing base.These last survivors and their children were slowly and painfully dying of radiation poisoning, and Mar-Vell was especially miserable, as his objection to the invasion was blamed for its failure.

Another, and much more well-known and impactful conceptual follow-up was from DC Comics in 1996, a vision of a dystopian superhero-deconstructionist future titled Kingdom Come, by writer Mark Waid and writer/artist Alex Ross. This story turned out to be the greatest use of the human/hero dichotomy of the original Captain Marvel ever.

Based on an idea Alex Ross imagined while working on Marvels and set in he hear future, super-powered being filled the skies and streets of cities having near-apocalyptic battles every day. Superman had retired to his family farm in Kansas, and Lex Luthor was organizing a movement against super-powered heroes. His personal bodyguard was Captain Marvel, dressed in a suit, standing quietly behind him lighting his cigar when needed. The threat of his power is enough to keep all other superheroes at bay.

A tragically destructive incident in a hero-villain battle brings Superman out of retirement, recruiting other superheroes to become the world's police and arresting and detaining those who decline or resist. Batman leads a resistance to this and teams with Luthor. I turns out, though that "Captain Marvel" is really a grown-up Billy Batson, brainwashed and mind-controlled by Luthor into believing that super-powered heroes are evil monsters. The climax occurs during a final, apocalyptic battle between all the superheroes and villains, and Billy Batson/Captain Marvel has the choice of either allowing them to all be destroyed (by a United Nations-launched nuclear weapon) or allow them to survive,  their conflict to continue, and thus doom humankind.

It is Superman who gives him this choice, the reason being that because he has seen life from both the normal human and super-powered perspectives, Billy Batson/Captain Marvel (along with  the wisdom of Solomon) is uniquely qualified to pass judgement on the existence of super-powers heroes. His decision sacrificed himself to same a portion of the heroes and inspired Superman to realize that it was the role of superheroes to help, but not lead, humanity to its future.

Other members of the Marvel Family were present in future-ized incarnations. Freddy Freeman/Captain Marvel, Jr. was now "King Marvel," with a costume redesigned to evoke an Elvis Presley jumpsuit (a deliberate homage to the King of Rock & Roll, who was a big fan of the Little Blue Cheese). Mary Batson/Mary Marvel was now either "Lady Marvel" or "Queen Marvel" (depending on which fan wiki you read). She and Freddy Freeman were married and had a child, "Whiz," who was the inheritor of the SHAZAM! power. Their family dynamic was obvious in their actions (always visible in the background), but none of these characters were given anything significant to do in the story.


This production established two things:

1. Captain Marvel truly was the World's Mightiest Mortal in the DC Universe, able to go toe-to-toe with Superman and with power enough to hold all other heroes at bay. His magic lighting could even be used as a weapon.

2. Alex Ross was a big fan of the original Captain Marvel, and his vision of the character became the most popular iconic image through which the character would be marketed by DC for some time. He has placed the hero in the same level as DC's "Trinity" of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.

Ross had worked on a potential new SHAZAM! series in the very early 1990's.
 An Alex Ross design for his early 1990's project. Note the deliberate resemblance between Captain MArvel adn Fred MacMurray, Mary Marvel and Kathy Ireland, and Captain Marvel, Jr. with Michael Gray.

It never came to pass, being superseded by Jerry Ordway's Power of SHAZAM!, but Ross' star rose with Kingdom Come and other projects. He soon got more assignments designed to take full advantage of his majestic interpretation of comic book superheroes. One such was four tabloid-sized issues, each featuring one hero of DC's Trinity, plus one with the original Captain Marvel. That book was titled SHAZAM! The Power of Hope.
In this gloriously-painted book (written by Paul Dini), what was presented as special and unique about Captain Marvel was that even with his mighty powers, he could still relate to children (being, in his alter ego, a child himself) and give them hope in the midst of despair.

Review of SHAZAM! Power of Hope from Ground Zero Comics.

Ross continued to use the Big Red Cheese as a subject for his art in other publications, and just this year produced this piece, which in one picture sums up the entire focus of my project here:
How many of these Captain Marvels and Captain Marvel-related characters can you identify?