Top positive review
Great Presentation of a Fabulous Series
Reviewed in the United States on June 13, 2019
When I was very young I absolutely loved the Shazam comics and they started my lifelong fondness for the character. In 1972, DC bought the rights to Captain Marvel from the defunct Fawcett comics and in February 1973 revived the character even bringing in Fawcett artists C.C. Beck and Kurt Schaffenberger. It would have been awesome had they managed to land Otto Binder but Binder was having some very serious personal problems and passed away in 1974. It was clear that DC was trying hard to recreate the look and feel of the classic Fawcett stories and wisely separated Captain Marvel from the rest of the DC universe, for the most part. The big difference is that Captain Marvel is now in the 1970’s and the first story includes an explanation as to how Cap and all his friends hadn’t aged since 1953 when Fawcett ceased producing comics. There is even a bit of a fish out of water vibe as Captain Marvel and Billy Batson adjust to a decade 20 years in their future.
Volume one includes the first 18 issues of Shazam comics but it doesn’t include everything. Along with the new material, each issue originally included at least one reprint of a Golden Age Captain Marvel story but this volume doesn’t include the reprints. Issue 8 was a 100-page super spectacular but since it was all reprints the only thing included in this book is the cover. In the early 70’s, DC was moving in a grittier, more realistic direction so Shazam was definitely going against the tide. In fact, I would say that this series was possibly aimed at children as well as fans of the Fawcett stories. C.C. Beck did most of the art for the first 10 issues but then left DC over creative differences. His art is very simple, impeccably clean and one of the highlights of the book. Kurt Schaffenberger and Bob Oskner did most of the rest of the art and Schaffenberger was at least as skilled as Beck. Oskner was the weakest of the three but his art still looked very good.
I really like the design of this volume. It includes an awesome cover portrait by Michael Cho and a ton of yellows and reds on the back cover and interior. This has to be one of the nicest looking DC hardcover volumes I own. Besides a well done introduction by Jerry Ordway and some short bios on the creators there are no extras. This isn’t a Deluxe Edition so the physical size is slightly smaller and the paper quality is middle of the road. Not that some of DC’s Deluxe Editions don’t have equal to or lower quality paper. The 1973 Shazam was the last time DC tried to recreate the Fawcett style in a series and from here on out Captain Marvel was treated in a much more serious manner and integrated into the official DC universe. This was also closing out Billy Batson’s existence as a separate being from Captain Marvel as Roy Thomas would merge the two in the mid 1980’s.
This is a comic that could only have existed at one moment in time. As far as I know, all the artists and writers who worked on Captain Marvel for Fawcett are dead and it was inspired to bring in two for one last hurrah. Denny O’Neil, E. Nelson Bridwell and Elliot S! Maggin did a fantastic job of recreating the Golden Age Captain Marvel to the point where Jerry Ordway claimed he would sometimes get confused as to which stories were new and which were reprints. A story like “What’s in a name? Doomsday” feels like it came straight from Captain Marvel Adventures. I would suggest that in many ways Shazam improves on the original by giving Billy a bit more of a life and circle of friends. In the Golden Age, Billy was often just the weak point of Captain Marvel rather than a fully realized character. Reading these stories again I have gained an all new appreciation of what DC managed to do. There have been a few moments including Thunderworld and Convergence that managed to create a story that merges the classic Marvel with a bit of a modern day interpretation but mostly I’ve been unimpressed with how DC has managed Captain Marvel. This is the one series where DC nailed it and this is a collection that clearly respects the source material. Good Job, DC.