These days, they call him Shazam, but some may not realize the reasons WHY the Big Red Cheese had to change his nom de guerre…  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review of Shazam #1 awaits!

Shazam1CoverSHAZAM #1
Writer: Denny O’Neil
Penciler: C.C. Beck
Inker: C.C. Beck
Letterer: C.C. Beck
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 20 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $50.00

Previously in Shazam:  In 1939, Fawcett Comics, seeing the profit to be made in the superhero comic game, recruited a crew of writers and artists to create their first comic, tentatively titled “Flash Comics”, featuring the adventures of Captain Thunder!  They quickly ran into copyright issues with both the book’s title and the hero’s name, as DC Comics had already debuted a book called Flash Comics earlier that year.  Renaming the book Whiz Comics and the hero Captain Marvel, Fawcett quickly found that they had a hit on their hands.  By the end of the 1940s, Captain Marvel was the most popular hero extant, selling millions of books EVERY MONTH.  Unfortunately, DC Comics (remember them?) didn’t cotton to the Captain’s resemblance to their popular Superman, and by 1952 Fawcett Comics shut down the publication of the Captain’s adventures due to ongoing DC litigation.

20 years later, in a fit of situational irony, DC Comics editor-in-chief Carmine Infantino licensed Captain Marvel for new comic book adventures, but found that Marvel Comic had established a trademark on that name with their own Captain Marvel character, and (partly because of the precedent that DC themselves set in 1952) DC was unable to print a comic titled Captain Marvel, and instead had to call the book ‘Shazam!’  When this issue went on the stands, though, the Big Red Cheese had been out of the public eye for over two decades, so writer Denny O’Neil started us off with young Billy Batson walking down the street, meeting a “Mister Binder” (a nice tip of the hat to noted Captain Marvel writer, Otto Binder) who remarks that Billy has been missing for decades.  Cue a recap of the good Captain’s Golden Age origins…


With the powers of legend within him, Billy Batson became Captain Marvel, the World’s Mightiest Mortal, and gathered a group of friends and super-powered colleagues to join him in the never-ending fight.  But, where has he been for the past (as of this writing, 40 years ago) twenty years?  That’s what everybody wants to know, especially when Cap gets involved in a police chase, and apprehends a gang of criminals…




The most charming part of the whole story is Mary Marvel holding down her skirt in the tractor beam, a cute moment that reminds me of the Captain Marvel comics of old.  Doctor Thaddeus Bodog Sivana, it seems, finally discovered a way to defeat the Marvel Family once and for all, entombing them forever in a mysterious substance known as Suspendium.  Of course, having brought his children, Sivana Jr and Georgia along with him, Sivana has also sowed the seeds of his own defeat…


The Suspendium having done its job, the Sivanas, the Marvels and assorted denizens of their city floated through space, moving ever closer to the sun.  After twenty years, the heat and pressure finally took their toll, freeing Captain Marvel’s head from suspended animation, just long enough for him to speak a certain magic word…


The three Marvels, now freed of their years of suspended animation, combined their powers to save innocents, even as the bad guys escaped…


It’s Mister Tawky Tawny!  I love that guy…  Thanks to his recollection, Captain Marvel realizes that the electronics thieves were clearly in the employ of Sivana himself, and tracks them back to their mountain lair.


After decades out of circulation, the Sivanas are actually happy even to go to jail, and Captain Marvel and his entire supporting cast (including Uncle Dudley, Sivana’s OTHER daughter Beautia and more) are brought into the present of the 1970s to enjoy all-new adventures.  Interestingly, though this issue’s cover gets away with using “The Original Captain Marvel” in text, Marvel’s trademark would successfully have even that removed from the book within a few issues.  The new adventures of Captain Marvel lasted until 1978, with their world kept separate from the mainstream DCU until the Crisis On Infinite Earths.  With the history of five earths fused into one, Captain Marvel was part of the new timeline from the beginning of his history and the man himself has been part of the DC Universe ever since.  Interestingly, they didn’t actually purchase the rights outright until the 1990s, when Cap was launched in a new series, ‘The Power Of Shazam’, which presented the post-Crisis Captain Marvel and company in tales that remained fun and relatively light-hearted, even in the darkest of comics’ dark ages.  Shazam #1 is an interesting case, a book whose real-world story is almost as fascinating as what takes place in its pages, but nonetheless combines a clever story and fun art to earn 4 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s easy to hate the name Shazam, but I find it a little bit comforting that at least there’s an interesting story behind its use…



A clever explanation for Captain Marvel's absence and CC Beck KILLING it on the art.

User Rating: 4.45 ( 2 votes)

About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


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