Sunday, February 18, 2018

Comic of the Week - Shazam! #4

The Shazam! comic of the week is Shazam! #4 which published on April 17, 1973 and had a cover date of July 1973.

This comic featured two new Captain Marvel stories and one golden-age adventure featuring the world's mightiest mortal!  The comic cover features Billy Batson in front of some fun-house mirrors - with Captain Marvel's image reflecting back!  A similar cover was used in Captain Marvel Adventures #45.  (I wrote a brief article about that which you can read here.)

The first storys is "IBAC the Cursed!"  The front page tells us, "Out of the past comes one of Captain Marvel's deadliest foes, a hate-filled villain as bad as the world's mightiest mortal is good!"  IBAC was one of Cap's golden age villains, making his debut in Captain Marvel Adventures #8 (1942) in the story "Captain Marvel and the Curse of IBAC!"  Here, in Shazam! #4, IBAC makes a come-back!

The second new Captain Marvel story is "The Mirrors that Predicted the Future."  Billy is bummed out that it appears his friends have forgotten his birthday.  I wrote a separate article about that which you can read here.

The final story is a reprint of Cap's golden age adventure, "The Ownerless Diamond" which was first published in Captain Marvel Adventures #97 (1949).

There is also a full page of "Shazamail" with letters from fans.  Interestingly, there are letters from two people that wrote Captain Marvel stories from Cap's golden age:  Otto Binder and Manly Wade Wellman.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Captain Marvel and A Switch In Time

In the pages of Shazam! #3 (March 15, 1973) we have one of my favorite stories, "A Switch In Time!"  Here's the lead in to this adventure from the front page, "Holy Moley, folks!  There's something wrong here!  We're seeing boy newscaster Billy Batson as a man -- and Captain Marvel as a boy!  This could lead to trouble!"

The adventure begins with Billy Batson at a dance.  He's trying to meet kids his own age but is feeling like an outsider - even though he's wearing some groovy '70s threads!  Billy's bummed because, thanks to Sivana's placing Captain Marvel in suspended animation, Billy's a boy out of time.  He doesn't understand the dances or the language of his modern-day companions.   Billy says to himself, "My problem is, I only look like a boy!  Actually I'm twenty years older - because I was in suspended animation for twenty years!"  Billy continues, "It's not fair!  I've missed growing up!  The joys...the sorrows...the heartbreak and laughter...I'll never be normal!  I'll always be behind my time..a freak!"  Then Billy has an idea - he'll go see the wizard Shazam who might be able to help him.

Saying the magic word, "Shazam!" Billy is transformed into Captain Marvel who then makes his way to the ancient throne room where he first met Shazam.  Captain Marvel explains Billy's plight to the kind old wizard and asks if Shazam can help Billy.  The wizened wizard warns, "I can accelerate his personal time stream...but I warn you...meddling with time streams can be risky!  It may affect you, too!"  Heeding the warning, Captain Marvel states that he accepts the risk and is willing to take the chance to help his buddy Billy.  (Note:  The exchange between Captain Marvel and Shazam show that Cap and Billy are two different people!)  Shazam has Captain Marvel grasp an enchanted hourglass and say the magic word, "Shazam!"  Magic lightning strikes and transforms Cap into Billy Batson - but this time Billy is a full-grown man!

Meanwhile, back at TV station WHIZ, a wizard school reject named Shagg Naste is rejected by the station.  He runs across Mr. Morris, owner of WHIZ and threatens to put a spell on him if he doesn't give the nasty Naste a television show!  Mr. Morris laughs in his face and doesn't take the threat seriously.  Shagg Naste proves his threat is real by saying a magic word, "Alakazamboola!" and turns unsuspecting newsboy Freddy Freeman (Captain Marvel, Jr) into stone!  Shagg Naste continues his threatening demands - he wants his own TV show, a big cast, lots of dancing girls, and a big salary!

Billy Batson comes upon the scene and transforms into Captain Marvel.  But he's a teen-age Captain Marvel!!  Shagg Naste tries to turn Cap to stone, but it the spell does not work.  However, it does have an effect on Cap's ability to fly!  Cap transforms back to Billy and Billy makes his way to fix things with Shagg Naste.

Shagg Naste is confronted by Billy Batson who tells him to bring the stone newsboy back to normal.  Billy picks Naste up over his head and Naste complies.  Billy tells Naste to scram and never come back - and Naste quickly complies.  Not recognizing Billy, Mr. Morris and Freddy Freeman thank Billy for helping them.  After all he's been through, Billy decides its best to head back to Shazam and see if the wizard can undo the time-mixup that Billy got himself into.  The teen-age Captain Marvel says to himself, "I hope he (Shazam) can undo the time mix-up!  After all -- Billy's better off as a teen-ager than I am!  He has more experience!"

What makes this a great story is how it deals with what someone would go through in Billy's situation.  Think about it - what if you had been in suspended animation for twenty years?  What was once your present situation is now history.  It reminds me of the Captain America movie and the struggles Steve Rogers had adjusting to modern times.  

The story also shows what a great and self-less friend Captain Marvel is.  He's warned that he might be impacted by Billy's desire to be an adult.  Cap is willing to pay the price to help out his friend.

I think it's funny to see Billy as an adult and Captain Marvel as a teenager, that's a great plot twist that I don't recall being used in the golden age comics!

Finally, the story also gives us insight into Shazam's powers.  We learn that he can manipulate the time stream and uses an enchanted hourglass as his tool to do that.

A switch in time taught is a great story that proved the old adage, "Be careful what you wish for, you might get it!"