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!!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Captain Marvel Meets The Mighty Isis!

Shazam! #25 (published June 29, 1976) is a significant comic for several reasons.  It gives us the first meeting between Captain Marvel and The Mighty Isis (both of whom had TV shows on Saturday morning at the time!), gives us the origin of Isis, launched Isis into her own comic book, and launched a new story arc for Billy Batson.  I looked at a few websites recently and a high grade copy of this comic will cost you close to $200, so it is not only significant, but highly collectible!

This article will focus solely on the meeting between Captain Marvel and The Mighty Isis in the story, "Isis...As In Crisis!"  Our story begins with teachers Andrea Thomas, Rick Mason and others watching the demolition of an old school building that will be replaced with a new, modern one.  As debris falls, they see their friend Cindy Lee trapped in rubble, surely to be crushed by a falling wall!  With all eyes on helpless Cindy, Andrea says the magic words, "Isis, O Mighty Isis!" and is transformed into the magical, mysterious, and magnificent super hero - Isis!  Isis rescues Cindy from certain doom just as Captain Marvel appears.  Cap says, "I was about to rescue the young lady...but you beat me to it!"  Cap asks Cindy how she came to be in the rubble of a building under demolition and Cindy tells them that she had seen two men sneaking around looking suspicious and had followed them into the old building, they had escaped and she was trapped.

Captain Marvel asks Isis who she is and how she got her wondrous powers.  Isis replies, "Call me...Isis!  As for my powers...that is a long story...and I'd rather keep it to myself!"  In a momentary flashback, Isis then remembers the events some several years later when she, as Andrea Thomas, was on a scientific expedition in Egypt.  She discovered an amulet and scroll and feeling compelled, she put on the amulet.  The amulet gives her the ability to read the ancient hieroglyphics on the scroll, which had belonged to Queen Hatshepsut, the only woman pharaoh.  The scroll says, "With this you shall have the powers of the goddess Isis; powers of the forces of nature, and of the animals; powers of the mystical regions of the mind!  To have those powers, you must repeat the words, 'Mighty Isis!'" Thus revealing to us comic readers the origin of Isis.

Captain Marvel says, "I have a feeling we'll meet again, Isis!" and flies away.  Isis departs as well, leaving Rick Mason and Cindy alone.  Cindy and Rick talk, and Rick allows Cindy to borrow his car to go see a new movie in Steppville.  As Cindy is leaving, she sees again the two men she had seen sneaking around and discovers that they had hidden stolen gold coins in the old building and had now recovered them and were on their way to fence the stolen coins.  Cindy decides to follow them but the crooks discover she's tailing them and set a trap and catch her.  They tie Cindy up in the car, which is parked overlooking a cliff, and release the parking brake, sending Cindy on a one-way trip that will eliminate her as a witness to their crime!

Meanwhile, Andrea learns that Cindy was seen following the two men and senses she is in danger.  Andrea transforms into Isis and says, "O zephyr winds that blow on high, lift me up so I can fly!" and takes off in search of Cindy.  Within seconds Isis arrives on the scene and, using the power of nature, saves Cindy from plummeting to the bottom of the cliff.  She then uses her magical powers to catch the two thieves with the gold coins.  That ends the story and Isis tells us, "See you the first issue of my own magazine..." (The first issue of The Mighty Isis printed on July 15, 1976.)

I enjoyed this fast-moving story and the telling of Isis origin.  While Captain Marvel only appears in 5 panels in this story, there is a greater connection between him and Isis that you might not now about!  According to The Mighty Isis #1, it is the wizard Shazam that gives Isis her powers - the same Shazam that gives Captain Marvel his powers!  That is the story of Isis' origin and her first meeting with Captain Marvel! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Shazamobile!

If you thought only Batman had an iconic ride, think again!  Shazam! #33 gives us the one and only look at the Shazamobile!

The Shazamobile was built by Captain Marvel, with the help of his fans.  Cap's fans provided the parts, and Cap provided the muscle and wisdom to create his marvel-ous motor car.  And years before the Prius, the Shazamobile was an electric car - powered by the same magic lightning bolt that transforms Billy Batson into Captain Marvel!

Captain Marvel created the Shazamobile to defeat Mr. Atom in a 10 lap race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  At the end of the adventure, Cap returns to thank his fans for helping him make the world's mightiest automobile, and then he places the Shazamobile in their care.

Yes, Batman has his Batmobile, but only Captain Marvel has a unique, one-of-a-kind Shazamobile powered by magic lightning!!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Captain Marvel and Fear in Philadelphia!

Shazam! #27 (October 19, 1976) presents us with Captain Marvel's adventure entitled "Fear in Philadelphia!"  This story features Captain Marvel, Billy Batson, Uncle Dudley, Dr. Sivana, Beautia Sivana and has special guest appearances by Kid Eternity and Keeper!

The story opens with Dr. Sivana using his Reincarnation Machine to bring back some of history's most dastardly ne'er do wells; among them are Blackbeard, Anne Bonny, and Benedict Arnold!  Sivana uses these historical henchmen to commit crimes in order to keep Captain Marvel busy while he finishes his plan to destroy Philadelphia.

Captain Marvel does stay busy stopping these crimes and then figures out that it's a Sivana plot.  Using the eterni-phone (this is a gadget that was brought over from the '70s Shazam! TV show) Billy Batson contacts Mercury at the Rock of Eternity for advice.  Mercury advises Billy that he's well aware of Sivana's scheme and he will send Billy someone who can help.  

Who is it that can help Billy and Captain Marvel fight bad guys from another time?  None other than Kid Eternity and Keeper!  Kid Eternity is a character created by Otto Binder and Sheldon Moldoff in Hit Comics #25 (October 2, 1942).  (You can read it here!)  When Kid Eternity says the word, "Eternity!" he can call people from history and mythology to help him.  

HIT comics #25, Kid Eternity origin

Sivana had made the Liberty Bell into a bomb that would explode when he rang it by remote control - wiping out the city of Philadelphia!  However, Kid Eternity brings back historical heroes to fight Sivana's henchmen and the Captain and the Kid are able to foil Sivana's plot to become 'the rightful ruler of the universe.'  The villains are rounded up and placed back into the Reincarnation Machine and sent back to where they came from.  

And what becomes of Sivana?  Luckily for him he is able to teleport away from capture, vowing to see Captain Marvel in Boston.  The story closes with Keeper and Kid back in eternity and we are told, "So we leave Kid Eternity and Mr. Keeper for now at least."  Kid Eternity will be back to play an unexpected and large role with the Marvel family, and there'll be more about that in an upcoming blog post!

What I liked about this adventure is the connection with Otto Binder through Kid Eternity.  Otto Binder wrote so many of Captain Marvel's adventures, and in this comic we have a character Binder created teaming up with Cap. 

So there you have it.  Captain Marvel, with the help of Kid Eternity, defeats Sivana's plan to bring fear to Philadelphia!  Watch out for a special blog post on Kid Eternity in the near future!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Source of Black Adam's Powers

Black Adam makes his return in Shazam! #28.  Within these pages we learn that while Shazam gave Black Adam his powers, they came from different sources than Captain Marvel's!

The wizard Shazam reveals that Black Adam received his powers from Egyptian gods.  Here are the gods and what powers they gave to Black Adam:

  • Shu (god of air and supporter of sky) - Stamina
  • Hershef (the Egyptian Hercules) - Strength
  • Amon (king of the gods) - Power
  • Zehuti (god of wisdom) - Wisdom
  • Anpu (conductor of the dead) - Speed
  • Menthu (god of war) - Courage
Notice they still spell out Shazam and they are the same powers (stamina, strength, power, wisdom, speed, courage) given to Captain Marvel.

Black Adam was given the same powers as Captain Marvel, but from different sources.  And, as we learned in Marvel Family #1, he let these powers corrupt him and that ultimately led to his banishment by Shazam.  (You can read about it here!)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Billy Batson's Birthday

On my other Captain Marvel blog I wrote an article on February 29th being the date Captain Marvel chose as his birthday.  (You can read that article here!)  However, the date of Billy Batson's birthday has been shrouded in myster.  Going back to Captain Marvel's golden age, from the pages of Whiz comics #47, we see that Billy couldn't find when he was born.  We know from Whiz #52 that Captain Marvel selected February 29th as his birthday after his fans wrote tons of letters offering to let Cap use their birthday.  But that still didn't solve the mystery of Billy Batson's birthday.

Well, on the pages of Shazam! #4, the mystery is solved.  In the story, "The Mirrors That Predicted The Future" we learn from the wizard Shazam that Billy's birthday is April 1st - no, I'm not fooling!  The story begins by telling us, "It is Billy Batson's birthday, but as he walks down the street on what should be the happiest day of the year..." and we see Billy thinking to himself, "For twenty years time stood still for me...and I didn't celebrate any birthdays!  Now, nobody even remembers what day this is!"   

As the story continues we soon come to Shazam who is writing the following, "If the boy Billy Batson, who was born today, remains pure of day I will have him take over my life's mission...fighting evil in the world!"  A look at the calendar on the wall indicates the date is April 1st.

While this story does give us Billy's birthdate, it doesn't exactly fill in all the missing pieces from Whiz #47 and #52.  And, to Billy's surprise, his friends did indeed remember his birthday and gave him a surprise party!

Monday, February 22, 2016

DC Showcase Presents Shazam!

If you are looking to read the Captain Marvel bronze age series but don't want to spend a lot of money doing it, then the DC Showcase Presents: Shazam! is for you!  This compilation of Cap's comics from the bronze age is a wonderful resource which I highly recommend.  Here's a brief review of this book to point out a few of the pros and cons.  

Let me begin with the cons of this book.  
  • The first thing you'll notice is that it is in all black and white!  The only color in the entire book is on the cover.  
  • Another con is that it does not collect the entire '70s series.  It does collect 94% of them (#1 through #33), but it doesn't include issues #34 and #35 (the final two issues of the series).  
  • Also, a lot of the stories included in the '70s series were reprints from Whiz comics, Captain Marvel Adventures, The Marvel Family, etc.  None of these reprinted stories are included, only the new stories written in the '70s are in this book.  (That could be a pro or con, depending on how you look at it!) Keep in mind that some issues were made up completely of reprint stories (for example, issue #8) so you will only find the cover in the pages of this book! 
  • One final drawback is there are two glaring omissions.  You won't find the cover for issue #25 (Isis) nor will you find the story of Cap and the Mighty Isis' first meeting from issue #25.  It does print "The Bicentennial Man" story from issue #25, but for some reason it omits the one collectors would really be looking for with TV's Isis. 
Now let's look at the pros for this compilation!  
  • The first benefit of this book is you get to read almost the entire bronze age series of Captain Marvel at a fraction of the cost it would take you to purchase the individual comics.  For example, a copy of Shazam! #1 can cost anywhere from $18 to $60 .  A copy of Shazam! #25 (Isis) runs $19 to over $250!  A copy of Shazam! #28 (Black Adam) runs $100 to $500.  Even a regular issue can cost you around $3.00 and that's not counting shipping and handling if you buy it on-line!  
  • Not only are Captain Marvel's '70s stories in this book, there are also Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. stories included as well!
  • Convenience is a huge benefit of this book.  You can have almost every story in one publication.  You can read at your leisure and bookmark where you're at without having to go from individual issue to individual issue.
  • One final thing that is a plus for me is the cover.  The cover is by Bob Oksner taken from Shazam! #16 which is one of my personal favorites.  

So there you have the cons and pros for the DC Showcase Presents: Shazam!  I purchased a copy of this a few months ago on eBay and have really enjoyed using it to read through Captain Marvel's bronze age adventures.  If you are looking for an affordable reader that gives you 94% of Captain Marvel's bronze age adventures (1972 - 1979) then I highly recommend you get a copy of DC Showcase Presents: Shazam!  I hope you've found this brief review helpful!