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The Wednesday Club’s Comic Picks: SHAZAM!
The Wednesday ClubThe Wednesday Club

The Wednesday Club’s Comic Picks: SHAZAM!

The Wednesday Club is Geek & Sundry’s weekly talk show chatting about all things comics. On this episode, hosts Matt KeyTaliesin Jaffe, and Amy Dallen chatted about DC Comics’ Shazam!, the Golden Age hero formerly known as Captain Marvel.

Thanks to The Wednesday Club, you know all about Captain Marvel of the Marvel Comics universe, but do you know about the DC Comics hero who bears the same name? DC’s Captain Marvel now goes by Shazam!, named after his classic catchphrase that sparks his super hero transformation.

Young Billy Batson is a normal boy until he shouts the magic word, “SHAZAM!” At that moment he is granted the powers of the gods, heroes, and kings: in particular the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. (SHAZAM is an acronym for that legendary lineup. Pretty neat, huh?) Billy was given these powers by an enigmatic wizard to fight the seven deadly enemies of man.

“The big red cheese, which is really his nickname,” said Taliesin, “started [in a book] dated February 1940 in issue two of Whiz Comics.” In his heyday, Captain Marvel was more popular than Superman, which Taliesin attributes to the appeal of pure wish fulfillment.

Shazam! is heading to the big screen for the first time this April, so there’s no better time to catch up on the past and present of this larger-than-life super hero.

shazam2019

Shazam! (2019)

DC Comics kicked off its first SHAZAM! ongoing solo series in almost twenty years in January. Billy Batson is a teenager juggling school, homework, and heroics, but things are about to get even more complicated.

“It’s only two issues in,” said Matt, “and I will say here and now, this is one of my favorite new comics… I love it.”

“He is saving the world, and trying to pass math,” Taliesin said. “[Geoff Johns] is rocking it.”

(DC Comics, Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham)

shazam75

Shazam!: A Celebration of 75 Years

This collection of Shazam!’s long, storied history begins, well, at the beginning. From Whiz Comics to DC Comics, this hefty tome features some of the best stories featuring Captain Marvel and his extended family of Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., and many more.

“So begins this deep lore of characters,” Taliesin said. “It starts with Shazam! and then slowly builds into a whole group of heroes and villains that revolve around him, that are all fascinating, interesting characters. They’re ridiculous. I love them all.”

“It’s so much fun,” agreed Amy.

(DC Comics, various writers and artists)

JLA28

JLA (1997) #28

Taliesin remembers this issue of Grant Morrison’s JLA run as the one that helped him fall in love with the character of Captain Marvel. As powerful beings run amok, “[Morrison] sets up Shazam! as the Superman of the magic world,” Taliesin said.

“This book is amazing and they bring out a lot of the Golden Age super heroes to fight alongside [the JLA]… it’s got crazy genies making reality change and it is just fabulous.”

(DC Comics, Grant Morrison, John Dell, and Howard Porter)

monster-society-shazam

 

Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil

Jeff Smith, the creator of Bone, took a turn at telling Captain Marvel’s origin story, but in a more cartoony version than the darker versions of the character in the 1990s.

“Really interesting take,” Taliesin said.

“[It] leans into many of the beautiful cartoony elements,” said Amy, “and has just a fabulous Talky Tawny.”

(DC Comics, Jeff Smith)

Captain Marvel / Shazam! would later be a major player in a long and complicated legal battle in the 1940s and 1950s between Fawcett Publications and the company that would become DC Comics. Amy recommends this article from Comics Beat for a retelling of the copyright infringement court case that would eventually end with DC Comics gaining the rights to the character. (You can see Superman and “Captain Thunder” themselves face off in a thinly veiled reference to the case in Superman #276.)

Bonus: Did you know there was a Shazam! TV series in the 70s?

THE DAILY WEDNESDAY

Did you know The Wednesday Club has their own letters column with questions and comments from viewers? Send in your thoughts, comic recommendations, questions, and more to Matt, Amy, and Taliesin at [email protected] and you might just see yourself on the next episode.

wedclub-hosts

MORE COMIC AWESOMENESS!

Hang out on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel and on Alpha every Wednesday night to catch the next spectacular episode of The Wednesday Club.

All Images: DC Comics (Art by Dale Eaglesham)

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