Wednesday Comments – DC Comics Has Zero Faith In Shazam

Now that SDCC has wrapped up, we can take a good look at things and assess as we decompress.

For me the news out of SDCC that got me the most excited was the buzz around The Multiversity. It’s certainly been a long gestating project, but from all that I saw about it, it certainly appears to be worth the wait.

But the more that I thought about it, the more I realized that my excitement about The Multiversity really spoke to my interest in some imaginative stories and a creator really playing with DC characters and concepts. Thunder World has me very excited, because I’m not the biggest fan of what DC’s done with Captain Marvel in The New 52.

Before I go into that, allow me to give DC their props; out of their iconic characters, DC probably took the most risks with Captain Marvel. They attempted to revamp Captain Marvel and kept core concepts, but changed other things. It was bold move and DC should be applauded for making it.

The problem is that the product wasn’t all that great.

By updating Captain Marvel and making him more modern, they’ve really sort of messed him up and harmed the character.

Right off the bat DC dropped the ball by changing Captain Marvel’s name to Shazam. I completely get why it was done; Marvell Comics owns the trademark for “Captain Marvel” so DC can’t publish a comic named “Captain Marvel” despite owning the originator of the name.

But changing name is move dictated by business, not anything creative. Also, it’s an example of DC acquiescing to Marvel. DC could continued with the character named Captain Marvel and held strong, instead they threw in the towel and said “that’s ok, we’ll change the name of our character.”

DC also messed up by not giving Shazam his own book. Part of the hook of the character is that he’s a 15 year-old who transforms into a super powered adult. Justice League, the only book where Shazam makes regular appearances, it a team book and the team is composed of DC’s greatest heroes with Captain Cold and Lex Luthor. Shazam isn’t going to get any breathing room in that book.

Batman doesn’t need to show up at Bruce Wayne to make Batman work. The same is true of Green Lantern and Hal Jordan. But Shazam needs Billy Batson. You may not be a fan of the current arrogant Billy Batson, but if he had his own book, maybe he could grow to become a better person or at least less arrogant and possibly more likable.

But since we only see Shazam in Justice League, it’s not terribly likely that Billy Batson is going to be making too many appearances. So I’ll ask; why bring back the character if you’re not going to explore him?

Another mistake DC made was by really doubling down on the magical aspect of Shazam. Again, I understand why they did it; Superman and Shazam have similar power sets. You don’t need two character with similar skill sets, one would be redundant. And since Superman is the icon, Shazam is one who is going to have to change.

The manipulating of the magical lightning seems like a natural extension of his powers, especially as they’ve been used for the past decade and a half. But the whole “ping-pong table wish fulfillment” seemed a bit much.

Ramping up his magical element is certainly one way to differentiate Shazam from Superman. But you could also do that with personality. You could make Shazam wiser but less worldly than Superman. Or you could make Shazam someone who is less restrained when it comes to his abilities.

Imagine if you had a Justice League that featured both Superman and Shazam, but the rest of the team was divided over who to follow; Shazam who jumped into action or Superman who exercised restraint. I would be an interesting division to explore.

But DC opted not to make the distinction between Shazam and Superman subtle and make it as simple as he’s got magical powers and wears a hoodie.

You’d think that with the status quo Geoff Johns set up for Shazam, during the back up features in Justice League that DC would launch a Shazam title. But nothings been announced and there aren’t even any rumblings about it. In fact the only rumors around Shazam are about The Rock potentially playing him on the big screen.

I’m not the biggest Captain Marvel fan on the planet, but even I think that DC is squandering an icon.

Anyway, it’s Wednesday, go out and buy some fresh new comic books from your local comic shop.

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