Wednesday, May 1, 2019

SHAZAM's WORLD'S FINEST CRISIS! (History of ALL Captain Marvels Part 11)

Back in Part 5 we saw how DC licensed the original Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family from the still-extant Fawcett Publications. When last we left our hero, his book had been cancelled right at the start of the "DC Implosion" and he had been relegated to the back of World's Finest, a "DC Dollar" anthology book.

In those pages Don Newton did the art and E. Nelson Bridwell wrote the stories under the editing of Jack C. Harris. Many parts of Marvel Family canon were explored.

It was revealed that the wizard Shazam had been a superhero named "Champion" thousands of years ago, with his own fictional "proto-semitic" pantheon that gave him powers when he spoke the magic word "Vlarem!" (unscramble that to find out where World's Mightiest Mortal got his name). Together, he and Captain Marvel put the Rock of Eternity into its place.

Freddy Freeman found that he was actually the brother of Christopher "Kit" Freeman a.k.a. Kid Eternity, a young hero from Quality Comics who had been acquired by DC and rolled into the Marvel Family's universe. Interestingly, Kid Eternity had been created by Otto Binder, the prolific writer who had written more than half the stories of Marvel Family characters for Fawcett.

Mr. Tawny discovered that the serum that gave him the ability to speak had also slowly transformed him physiologically until he was so human-like, it was difficult to walk like a tiger.

The "power of Zeus," long undefined (except in that he was the one who delivered the transformational lightning), was revealed to be an augmentation of the powers of the all the elders (wisdom, strength, stamina, etc), thus enabling certain abilities that were not strictly the named powers, such as flight and invulnerability.

Even the brocade on the capes of the Marvel family was brought into play, as someone mentioned that "moley" (As in Billy Batson's frequently-used expression "holy moley") was a plant with "little yellow flowers."

Eventually, DC cancelled its DC Dollar Comics line. SHAZAM! stories continued as a backup feature in Adventure Comics for a while, then in April, 1985, DC began their Crisis on Infinite Earths "12-Issue Maxi-Series." The object of this was to "simplify" the DC Universe.


Here is a little backstory on the original DC Multiverse:

DC's original cast of superheroes had mostly ceased publication by the 1950's. As we have seen,  in 1956 the Flash was re-invented with a new costume, a new alter ego, and a new "secret origin." He was such a hit that DC decided to reboot its entire superhero line. They would keep some characters largely the same (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman), alter the costumes, powers, origins, and alter egos of others (The Flash, Green Lantern, the Atom, Red Tornado), create some brand new heroes (Martian Manhunter, Adam Strange, Captain Comet). A couple of heroes who had already existed (Green Arrow and Aquaman) continued to exist largely unchanged with these new and newly-interpreted heroes. This world continued as the main superhero world of which stories were told in DC Comics.

But what happened to the original heroes, including the ones who were not re-booted or re-invented, like Dr. Fate, Hourman, Mr. Terrific, Wildcat, and Johnny Thunder? It turned out that they still existed, along with their pre-reboot comrades, but in an alternate universe existing on a different "vibratory plane." This was discovered by the new Flash (Barry Allen) when he traveled to the world of the original Flash (Jay Garrick). Because the new Flash had discovered the world of the old one, his world was called "Earth-1" and the one with the older heroes was called "Earth-2." This world appeared from time to time in special stories uniting the Justice Society of America (The original DC superhero team) and the Justice League of America (the new superhero team).

It was later revealed that there was an "Earth-3," whose versions of superheroes were really super-villains, Supeman being called "Ultraman," Wonder Woman "Superwoman," and Batman "Owlman," for instance.

When DC acquired the superhero characters of Quality Comics (Uncle Sam, Black Condor, the Ray, Doll Man, Phantom Lady, Human Bomb, etc) they placed them on "Earth-X," a world where the Nazis won World War II.

So when DC revived Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family, they put them on their own world Earth-S (for SHAZAM!).

Our world (in which the writers and artists of DC Comics created all these stories) was even a part  of this "multiverse," known as "Earth Prime."

By 1985, the folks at DC decided that having all all these worlds was confusing to the readers, hence Crisis. The story was a massive, sprawling epic that crossed over into almost every DC comic book. By the time it was all done, all the worlds in the multiverse (including a brand new one on which the recently acquired superheroes from Charlton Comics, Blue Beetle, The Question, Peacemaker, Judo Master, Captain Atom, etc, resided) were merged into one. The fictional history of these characters was re-written. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and most of the characters of Earths 1, X, and S, and the Charlton heroes, began their careers contemporaneously in the present day. The original superheroes of Earth 2 began their careers in the 1930's and '40's, corresponding with their original creations. DC's "Trinity," however (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) began their careers in the modern day, and were retconned to not have existed in the early days, and their origins were re-written with a few tweaks here and there.

So, with this new, combined universe, the Big Red Cheese was given an all-new origin story...

NEXT: The New Beginning!

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