Monday, October 23, 2017

Captain Marvel and The World's Toughest Guy!

In Shazam! #2 we were introduced to Sunny Sparkle, the nicest guy in the world.  Now in the pages of Shazam! #5 (published June 19, 1973) we get an introduction to Sunny's not so nice cousin, Rowdy Sparkle, who wants to be the toughest guy in the world!

Our adventure begins with Billy Batson going door to door on a rainy day.  His boss, Mr. Morris, has asked him to collect newspaper for recycling.  Billy's not getting any papers, but he is getting a lot of doors slammed in his face!  Billy gets an idea - why not ask Sunny Sparkle, the world's nicest guy - to help him.  Surely people will help Sunny on such a rainy day!  Sunny agrees to help and asks if his cousin Rowdy can tag along.  Right away we see that Rowdy's not a nice guy like Sunny.  Billy actually thinks he's a pain in the neck!  

Billy and his crew return to the house that Billy last visited, and sure enough, when they see Sunny they sparkle with delight at the thought of helping him.  They offer up old newspapers, books, and magazines.  They even offer to make some snacks and give some cookies to the boys but Sunny politely declines.  (Did you notice who this couple was?  It's Archie and Edith Bunker from the 'All In The Family' TV show which was popular in the 70s!)

Under the cover of an awning the trio discovers a magic book among their collection of recyclables.  It is called "The How-To-Do-Everything Handbook" but all the pages are blank except for the index.  They find a topic in the index on how to stop rain, and when they turn to the page in the book the words appear!  Billy and Sunny follow the instructions and the rain stops.  Rowdy asks them how they did it but the boys can't remember.

After filling their wagon with recyclables, they head back to Station WHIZ where Mr. Morris tells them the paper drive has been a big success and they can drop off their collection in the back.  But rotten Rowdy grabs the magic book and looks up 'how to become the toughest guy on earth' in the index.

Meanwhile, Mr. Morris is driving a forklift and suddenly loses control.  Billy sees it happening and says the magic word, "Shazam!" and transforms into Captain Marvel.  But before Cap can save Morris, Rowdy Sparkle steps in and stops the forklift from flipping over.  Rowdy has become the toughest guy on earth!  But Rowdy is still a pain in the neck bully and calls Mr. Morris a few choice names.  Captain Marvel tells Rowdy to apologize but Rowdy responds, "Says who muscle-brain?  Get lost!"

With the wisdom of Solomon, Cap figures out a way to handle Rowdy by challenging him to a show of strength.  He asks Rowdy if he can tear a phone book in half.  Rowdy sneers, "Haw, give it to me you big phony!" and tears it in half.  He challenges Cap to do the same and Captain Marvel tears the magic 'how to' book in half much to Rowdy's horror!

Rowdy takes a punch at Captain Marvel and discovers that his powers are gone now that the book has been destroyed.  Rowdy tries to kick and head butt Captain Marvel but ends up knocking himself silly.  Sunny puts Rowdy into the wagon and carts him home, his stint as the world's toughest guy is over.

This is one of my favorite stories from the Shazam! comic series.  It was great to play off Sunny's previous appearance in the comic as the nicest guy in the world by making his rotten cousin Rowdy the total opposite!  I also liked how they brought in the Bunkers from the popular TV show of the day, I'm sure readers thought that was pretty cool when the comic first hit the stores!  Besides these things, I also like the fact that Captain Marvel stands up for Mr. Morris and stands up to a bully.  He does it in such a way that Rowdy would surely learn a lesson but not in a mean-spirited way.  I hope you enjoyed this adventure of Captain Marvel when the world's mightiest mortal met the world's toughest man!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Captain Marvel and The Nicest Guy in the World!

In the pages of Shazam! #2 (published February 15, 1973) we are introduced to a new character in Captain Marvel's comics.  In the story, "The Nicest Guy in the World" Sunny Sparkle makes his first appearance and we learn that Sunny has a unique problem that turns out to help Cap solve a crime!

We first meet Sunny Sparkle as he attempts to sneak past a crowd.  Why is Sunny sneaking about?  Because people just can't resist doing nice things for Sunny!  People give him books, coats, food - they want to do something nice for him.  This unique problem turns into a bigger problem when two bank robbers pass by Sunny and they feel so compelled to do something nice for him - they give him all the money they just stole!  Prior to meeting up with Sunny, the two thieves socked Billy Batson and made a getaway from Captain Marvel with a smoke machine built into their car.

Captain Marvel was on the trail of the bank robbers when he encounters Sunny Sparkle, and Cap flys Sunny home so he doesn't have to walk carrying the load of gifts he's just been given.

Meanwhile, the two bank robbers report back to their boss who is infuriated that they gave away the loot.  The boss tucks a pistol into his coat pocket and tells his crew, "I'll get him!"  The boss shows up at Sunny's house, reaches into his coat pocket and lets Sunny have it - more money that is!  Back at the hide-out the boss laments that he can't handle Sunny.  But one of his thugs hatches a plan to get back their stolen money.

The boss runs across Billy Batson and asks Billy if he knows Sunny.  Billy says he does, and the boss tells him that Sunny was to give him some money for charity and asks Billy if he can get it for him.  Billy goes to Sunny's home, and with his mom's permission, retrieves the satchel full of loot.  The crooks take off but Billy recognizes them as the bank robbers because of the smoke coming from their car.  

Billy says the magic word, "Shazam!" and transforms into Captain Marvel who quickly captures the trio of crooks.  The next day, Sunny Sparkle is in the Mayor's office along with Captain Marvel and is presented a medal for his assistance in helping Cap catch the crooks.  But the Mayor and others can't resist giving Sunny even more things because he is the nicest guy in the world!

It was interesting to have a new character introduced into Cap's comics.  Sunny Sparkle would appear in a few more stories in the Shazam! comic series.  

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Mystery of Mr. Mind's Return!

Captain Marvel fans are faced with a conundrum in the pages of Shazam! #2 (February 15, 1973)!  For in this comic we have the return of Mr. Mind, the wicked worm that fought Captain Marvel for two years in the pages of Cap's golden age comics.  Mr. Mind created the Monster Society of Evil, a story line that began in Captain Marvel Adventures #22 (February 26, 1943) and ended with Mr. Mind's execution in Captain Marvel Adventures #46 (April 20, 1945).

Captain Marvel Adventures #46 (Note that Mr. Mind was placed in a museum!)
Why is his return a mystery?  It's a mystery because in Captain Marvel Adventures #46 Mr. Mind was found guilty of his crimes and was executed in the electric chair but in Shazam! #2 he is alive.  How could he return when he is dead?

Shazam! #2
That's the same question Cap, Billy Batson and Talky Tawny have!  Captain Marvel foils Mr. Mind's plot, and at the end of Shazam! #2 we find that the mystery has not been solved yet.

Captain Marvel met Mr. Mind again in Shazam! #9 (October 18, 1973) in the story, "Worms of the World, Unite!"  At the end of the story Cap asks, "Mr. Mind, how did you survive the electric chair?"  Mr. Mind's responded with, "Would you believe a segment of me broke off and I regenerated my body?"  Cap doesn't believe him and Mind promises to tell him another explanation the next time they meet!

We finally get the answer to the mystery in the story, "The Rainbow Squad" in Shazam! #31 (June 9, 1977).  Captain Marvel has captured Mr. Mind once again and asks him directly, "Just one question - and this time I want an answer!  I captured you - you were tried - found guilty of 186,744 murders - and you were executed in the electric chair!  How did you survive?"  This time, Mr. Mind gives the true story of how he survived the electric chair.  Mr. Mind replies, "You forget - I'm an alien!  My race is immune to electric shock!  It doesn't kill us - only puts us into suspended animation!"  Mind further explained that when he revived he found himself in the taxidermist shop and hypnotized the taxidermist into making a fake worm and letting Mr. Mind go!

The conundrum of Mr. Mind's mysterious return has been solved!  

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Shazam! Comic of the Week

The Shazam! comic of the week is Shazam! #2 which published on February 15, 1973 and had a cover date of April 1973.

This comic featured two new Captain Marvel adventures, a golden-age Captain Marvel adventure, and an article on the Marvel Family.

The first story is "The Astonishing Arch Enemy" and featured the return of Mr. Mind!  There's also appearances from Mr. Tawny and Herkimer, who was one of Mr. Mind's evil henchmen in Cap's golden-age comics.

Next we have the story, "The Nicest Guy in the World" which introduces us to the character of Sunny Sparkle.

The comic has a one-page article that gives a brief history of the Marvel Family from the golden-age of comics.  The article is entitled "Shazam and Family."  It's a good brief article, but I noted that it omits Freckles Marvel.

The final story is a reprint from Captain Marvel Adventures 139 (published October 3, 1952) entitled "The Original Captain Marvel Fights Niatpac Levram!"  (The title from Captain Marvel Adventures was "Captain Marvel Fights Captain Marvel!")

This was the second issue in a row that reprinted a golden-age Captain Marvel adventure as well as an article that gives a summary of Cap and friends from the golden-age.  It seems DC was doing that to show the continuity from Captain Marvel's original Whiz and Captain Marvel Adventures comics and his stories that were beginning in the new Shazam! series.  It refreshed the memory of Cap's original fans and gave history to Cap's new fans.  

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Captain Marvel and Sivana's Suspendium Watch

Suspendium is the compound Dr. Sivana created and used to put Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family into suspended animation.  In Shazam! #6 (published on July 19, 1973*) Sivana and his Suspendium return in the story, "Better Late Than Never!"

The adventure begins with Billy Batson meeting his self-proclaimed greatest fan who gives Billy a brand new watch as a present.  The fan turns out to be none other than Dr. Sivana in disguise!  After Billy leaves, Sivana cackles that Billy and Captain Marvel are now out of business because of the watch.  

What could this mean?  We soon find out as Billy hears a report of a bridge collapsing and needs to transform into Captain Marvel.  As he starts to say the magic word, Billy can only blurt "Sha...." and then goes into suspended animation for two minutes and finally finishes saying,"...zam!"  The magic lightning strikes and the transformation into Captain Marvel is complete!

Captain Marvel arrives too late to keep the bridge from collapsing, and this makes Cap wonder as he says, "I can't understand it!  I got here as quickly as I could...yet I was too late!"  As Cap walks away, we see Sivana observing him and happily recounting that the watch he gave Billy is made of Suspendium, and any time Billy or Captain Marvel say "Shazam!" when wearing the watch, it puts them in suspended animation for two minutes!  Two minutes, opines Sivana, is all he needs to become the 'rightful ruler of the world'!!!

Meanwhile, Captain Marvel has decided to transform back into Billy, and as he begins to say the magic word he is placed in suspended animation for two minutes.  Once the transformation is complete, Billy needs to get back to the office and notices that his new watch is two minutes too slow so he sets the correct time.  It then turns out that Billy has actually set his watch two minutes ahead of the correct time!

Later in the day, Sivana hijacks all television broadcasts to announce that in two minutes he will attack the world with his Universal Will-Power Paralyzer which will enable him to take over the world!  Billy realizes this is a job for Captain Marvel, and as he says the magic word, the Suspendium watch explodes because it is no longer set correctly!  There is no suspended animation this time, and Captain Marvel finds Sivana and destroys his Universal Will-Power Paralyzer in a matter of seconds.

As Captain Marvel flies Dr. Sivana to jail, Cap tells him, "Speaking of time you'll be doing a lot of it -- behind bars!  I hope you have a calendar watch to keep track of the years!"

This was a fairly short adventure for Cap and Billy, but what I enjoyed about it was Sivana once again using his Suspendium compound to try and defeat Captain Marvel.  It didn't work the first time, and it didn't work this time either!

*According to Mike's Amazing World of Comics

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Shazam! Comic of the Week

The Shazam! comic of the week is Shazam! #1, published on December 14, 1972* with a cover date of February 1973.

The cover of Shazam! #1 featured Superman, Billy Batson and Captain Marvel on the cover with words stating "Billy Batson say the magic word...and become the World's Mightiest Mortal!"  Across the top of the cover you read "With one magic word...Shazam!...The Original Captain Marvel.

The first story is entitled "In the Beginning" and is a "retelling of the greatest legend in comics."  It gives readers the origin story of how Billy Batson met the wizard Shazam and was given the power to transform into Captain Marvel, the world's mightiest mortal, by saying the magic word, "Shazam!"  

The second story is "The World's Wickedest Plan!" and is the very first adventure of Captain Marvel since the golden age of comics!  And who is the nemesis for this new adventure?  None other than Dr. Sivana!  The story also explains how Captain Marvel and friends were captured by Sivana and held in suspended animation for over 20 years.

There is a brief article entitled "Shazam and Son" by E. Nelson Bridwell that gives an overview of Captain Marvel's comic history and a brief bio of some of his friends that were held in suspended animation along with him.

The final story of the comic is "The Endless String."  It is a reprint from Captain Marvel Adventures #55 (first published on March 1, 1946*).

This is a great comic that introduced Captain Marvel to comic readers that may have never heard of him and it reintroduced Cap to fans that hadn't seen him in action for over 20 years!  It bridges the gap from Captain Marvels golden age adventures and launches him into new adventures in the 1970s.  

*According to Mike's Amazing World of Comics

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Mystery of Billy Batson's Birthday

One of the things I like about older comics is they had a section where they printed fan mail and answered reader's questions.  I recently bought a copy of Shazam! #26 (published August 12, 1976) and started reading the "Shazamail!" letter page.  The last question/answer on the page knocked me for a loop!

The question from Sharon Porper was, "Can you settle an argument?  Is Captain Marvel's birthday April 1 (Billy's) or is it the day he was first created (whenever that was)?  That's a great question and one that Captain Marvel fans have asked many times!  The answer is given by E. Nelson Bridwell, a great DC comic continuity expert and was the writer of many Shazam! comics.  Mr. Bridwell answers that Captain Marvel's chose to celebrate his birthday on February 29.  That is a fact, in Whiz Comics #52 Captain Marvel chooses February 29 as his birthday.  (You can read my article about that here.)

But what got me really confused is that Mr. Bridwell says that Billy's birthday is December 23 and that the story about his birthday being April 1 was an April Fool's joke!  Well, I guess I'm an April Fool because I wrote an article that Billy's birthday was on April 1!!  Then, to top it off, Bridwell states that Billy first became Captain Marvel on November 8!

I have not read all of Captain Marvel's golden age comics, and I've read most of the 1970's Shazam! comics and I've never come across anything that would indicate Billy's birthday was December 23.  Also, I'm really curious how Mr. Bridwell came up with November 8 as the day Billy first transformed into Captain Marvel.  

I know Mr. Bridwell was an expert on character continuity, so now I am trying to find out how he came up with the date for Billy's birthday and the date Billy first was transformed by the magic lightning into Captain Marvel.  Once I find anything I'll update this article!  Until that time, Billy's birthday remains a mystery to me - although I am holding to his April 1st birth date for now!!