This week, Demythify pieces together DC Comics creator and editorial reveals and hints about their New 52 Marvel Family relaunch. It is a VERY DIFFERENT take on the characters which also see DC Comics essentially caving to Marvel Comics on all the “marvelous” elements of the comicdom’s original Captain Marvel. But, how might Justce League Dark play into all this?
Read on! Here’s what we know and what’s probable.
Justice… Like Lightning 😉
I first mused about Curse of Shazam last Fall and revealed what we knew then. We know more today.
5. Multicultural Marvels?
One of the things that struck me about Flashpoint was the whole S.H.A.Z.A.M. kids angle where six children now would call down the power from the gods to become just one Captain Marvel’esque hero. What was cool about that was in addition to a handicapped character in Freddie Freeman, we also had more diversity among the characters with a young black girl, a Asian lad, and a Hispanic boy in addition to Billy and Mary Batson.
After seeing that, my expectation is that we still get a Marvel “Family” in writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Franks’ Curse of Shazam, and that we will get a less lilly white one in the New 52. Listen, the heart of the franchise needs to remain Billy Batson, but instead of Tall Marvels or Uncle Marvels like we had in the Golden Age, why not have a family of heroes that more reflects the real world? Johns has indicated that “surrogate family” remains an ongoing theme in the new series. So, I’m crossing my fingers about diversity since he also wrote Flashpoint.
Also, lets remember that creator Jerry Ordway had mused about a black Captain Thunder during is classic 1990s Power of Shazam run, so perhaps 2012 will be the year to make the classic Marvel Family more accessible and relatable.
It would unfortunate if the only diversity in the Shazam mythos remains on the villainous side of the family tree with an Arab villain in Teth / Black Adam.
4. Marvelous No More?
In a recent interview, Geoff Johns confirmed that Billy Batson is Captain Marvel no more. Billy is Shazam. Geoff made sense when he says: “…everybody thinks he’s called Shazam already, outside of comics. It’s also, for all sorts of reasons, calling him Shazam just made sense for us. And, you know, every comic book he’s in right now has Shazam on the cover. So I think just by embracing that and calling him Shazam.”
Now, the big question is what this means for the rest of the Marvel Family particularly “Mary Marvel” and “Captain Marvel Jr.”. Since DC is embracing a less campy Shazam tone for the new Curse of Shazam series-within-a-series, it is unlikely that Mary Batson will have her first name in her nom de guerre and Freddie Freeman can’t be a “Jr” anymore with Billy as Shazam… unless Mary becomes Captain Marvel and Freddie stays Jr.?
Or was Johns Captain Thunder use in Flaspoint hint at the names to be used for Mary and Freddie? Or since Billy is “Shazam” would Mary and Freddie become “Thunder” and “Lightning” to keep their heroic names thematically tied?
And, with any name changes, what does that leave name-wise for a potentially expanded extended diverse family for DC Comics Shazam kids? Interesting possibilities.
Congrats Marvel Comics! You have felled a giant of the Golden Age, that pre-dates your company, with your vulture like appropriation of the “Captain Marvel” name decades ago. It doesn’t seem to have done you any good since I don’t see any Captain Marvel (or Marvelman) books on comic book shelves.
3. Worlds building. Geoff Johns style. New, yet familiar Shazam?
From the teaser pics we’ve seen, it looks like Billy Batson is still an underdog nerd, but gone are the red and yellow tee-shirts he wore in the olde days. And, he’s now a kid with glasses and may even be at some kind of boarding school where kids have to wear suits and ties. He feels like a more modern take on a geeky kid. I wonder what else has changed? Likely paperboy no more with the decline of print and assent of digital?
If we know anything from Johns’ past offerings he always combs through a character’s past to find ways to reinforce what works and build on the mythos. In terms of Shazam, Johns has confirmed as much: “Hopefully we’re going to do what we’ve done before on Green Lantern and Aquaman, is take a character and really explore them in a different way, but stay true to what the concept is and what the core is, but also expand it out and introduce a lot of new things to it.”
Love him or hate him, Geoff Johns knows DC Comics history. He’s not only made Green Lantern viable, he created logical extensions to the mythos with the emotional spectrum and other colored Corps to the point that we have two books featuring them in the New 52: Red Lanterns and New Guardians. I can only hope for an equally strong and viable effort to stablize and expand upon on the Shazam mythos. Whose lead rivaled and surpassed Superman in sales in its Golden Age heyday.
Will 2012 mark a new Golden Age for Shazam? This fan hopes so.
2. All-Ages Shazam Means More Darkness?
I was perplexed when Geoff Johns remarked that the Curse of Shazam would be “all-ages”. One of the challenges for DC Comics with this franchise over the years, has been that creators tried to keep its Golden Age innocent “all-ages” sensibilities. In fact, even Jerry Ordway’s acclaimed Power of Shazam felt like a series from a different era with Fawcett City even being a city in the DCU that looked like it was stuck in a Norman Rockwell painting. (I’m deliberately excluding Trials of Shazam from this assessment as its problem wasn’t that it had any connection to the past, but that it deviated so much from it and tried to force a digital-coolness into it and failed utterly.)
What I imagine Geoff Johns meant by “all-ages” was not how the franchise has been handled, but all-ages within the 2012 context. That means embracing the digital age in an era where the internet challenges all innocence and has de-flowered many-a-person. 🙂 So, within this context, what can we expect?
Well, in Justice League #2’s back half “DVD-like” extras, when learn that the wizard Shazam is kidnapping and experimenting on kids.
In addition, in the second interior teaser image by DC, we see a very haggered Wizard. It also looks like parts of the Rock of Eternity and the Wizard may have seen better days. Billy Batson also looks pretty frightened rather than intrigued about what’s happening to him. This is a very different origin and tone than what we’re used to.
Will Billy restore the sheen to Shazam lore in the New 52 or will he embrace a decidely non-innocent 2012 “modern” sensibility?
1. Magical Event Coming For Justice League, Justice League Dark and Curse of Shazam?
In talking about Curse of Shazam Geoff Johns indicated that it made story-sense to feature the return of the Shazam franchise as a second feature in his and Jim Lee’s Justice League series.
We’ve also learned from artist Gary Frank that Shazam will embrace its magical roots. In fact, Billy’s new heroic costume will look very different from the seam-filled New 52 contemporary costumes and be inspired by magic. I’m curious what that will look like.
And now with Jeff Lemire taking over the writing chores of Justice League Dark, the plot thickens even more with this quote: “One of the things I’m anxious to explore is just why the name “Justice League” is in the title of this book? I want to explore and create new connections between this team of mystical misfits and Geoff and Jim’s big guns in The Justice League. On that note, Geoff and I have had many discussions on how to link our two books and make the Justice League franchises connect in new and unexpected ways. More on that in the near future…”
So, with closer connections between both Justice League books and it making story-sense for the Curse of Shazam to be launched from the Justice League series, it seems the unifying factor is “magic” and mysticism.
That would appear to lead to a magical themed event or mini-event (which seems to the New 52 rage) tying the books together.
However, I’m also still curious about how Justice League International fits with the other Justice League titles. Likely more to come on that to come at some point.
Do you have any other tidbits and factoids to share? What else have you gleaned about Curse of Shazam?
Speak now, savvy readers!
Cheers and thanks for reading. 😉
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Tags: Aaron Lopresti, Black Adam, Captain Marvel, Captain Thunder (DC), Curse of Shazam, Dan Jurgens, DC Comics, DC Comics Relaunch, Demythify, Flashpoint (DC Comics), gary frank, Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire, Jerry Ordway, Jim Lee, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Justice League International, Marvel, Marvel Comics, Marvelman, Mary Marvel, Mikel Janin