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!!

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!