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!

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