So what does this image have to do with Captain Marvel, or Shazam if you will? It's the thing that's prompted me to sit down and start writing about DC's perpetual failure in reviving Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family.
What you see is DC Comics' teaser image for FINAL CRISIS -- due to hit stores in May 2008. It's a striking image and it's made ever more so by its total lack of any Marvel Family character. Over the past year and a half, DC Comics has made a lot of noise of their plans to increase the popularity of Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family and bring them back to promience in the DC Universe. From the looks of the teaser image, DC hasn't hit its goal. Surely no universe-crackling teaser image would be complete without DC's Holy Trinity: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman and I have no issue with Green Lantern and Flash being there either. But where is Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, or even the new Shazam, Freddy Freeman? Who knows? All that's important is that none of them are in that teaser image. It appears that Captain Marvel is not one of the "legends [who will] live forever," instead that would be Hawkman!
So, what's the problem, you might ask? Captain Marvel is a C-Lister at best, you could add. Anyone who knows even a tiny bit of Captain Marvel lore knows that the Big Red Cheese, as he's fondly called by his fans, was THE number one best-selling super-hero of the 1940s. Yes, that was a long time ago; so long ago that I hadn't even been born yet, but the fact remains that the World's Mightiest Mortal was the number-one superhero around the world.
So what happened? Captain Marvel's fame was cut short in 1953 by a decade long legal battle with National Periodical Publications (DC Comics' former corporate name) and a dwindling-audience for super-hero fare. In 1973, DC Comics revived its old rival superhero in a thirty-five issue long series titled SHAZAM! due to Marvel Comics swooping and snatching up the Captain Marvel name. While the title was ultimately cancelled, our hero took it on the chin and was awarded the clean-up spot in WORLD'S FINEST COMICS for a roughly 30 issue run when it went dollar-size.
And then he was off the newsstands only to make occasional guest-star spots before getting a quick shot at fame in both the LEGENDS mini-series and the four-issue SHAZAM!: THE NEW BEGINNING as well as an insulting six-issue stint as a member of JUSTICE LEAGUE. It wasn't until 1994 that Cap would get a shot again in Jerry Ordway's THE POWER OF SHAZAM! graphic novel and a series the following year. Ordway's THE POWER OF SHAZAM! monthly series ran 48 issues before succumbing to cancellation.
Captain Marvel's star started to rise again when David S. Goyer and Geoff Johns added Cap's old foe, Black Adam, to the membership of the JSA and ultimately Cap was awarded a role as well. With his popularity on the rise and his frequent appearances in the DC Universe there were rumblings that Cap might be in line for another series try. In fact, a mini-series by acclaimed writer/artist Jeff Smith was announced in 2003 but remained on the back burner until this year and just finished its four-issue run today.
During the long years between the Smith announcement and mini-series, Cap kept making appearances around the DC and talks of another series started to rise again. Captain Marvel appeared in a successful three-issue crossover in the Superman line of titles by Judd Winick and Ian Churchill and also co-starred his Superman in the well-received SUPERMAN/SHAZAM!: FIRST THUNDER four-issue mini-series by Winick and Josh Middleton. Again there were rumblings of on ongoing series to spin out of DC's hugely popular INFINITE CRISIS company-wide crossover book. But the excitement was short lived as the old wizard Shazam was destroyed along with the Rock of Eternity. Fortunately, the Rock of Eternity was put back together but the same couldn't be said for Shazam. Captain Marvel took Shazam's place on the Rock t act as its guardian and to prevent the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man and the Three Faces of Evil from escaping its prison.
Shortly thereafter a twelve issue mini-series was announced that would feature Captain Marvel. It would follow close on the heels of a special preview in the $1 80-Page Giant titled BRAVE NEW WORLD.
On August 31, 2007 DC Comics launched the twelve issue mini-series titled TRIALS OF SHAZAM - an attempt to modernize and popularize the Marvel Family cast of characters. The intent of this blog is to both criticize and review the series and the decision making that guided the launch as well as DC's recent handling of the Marvel Family as a whole. The next blog entry will focus on INFINITE CRISIS and its crossovers while subsequent entries will tackle BRAVE NEW WORLD and the TRIALS OF SHAZAM series itself. Along the way, assorted entries will also focus on the individual characters that make up the Marvel Family.
The criticism will focus on the missteps DC has made with the Marvel Family post-INFINITE CRISIS. Unfortunately, a lot of that criticism will fall on the shoulders of self-proclaimed Captain Marvel fan and TRIALS OF SHAZAM writer, Judd Winick and DC Comics' Senior-VP Executive Editor, Dan DiDio.
Perhaps the FINAL CRISIS of the teaser image will be a massive reboot of the DC Universe and wash away the aftertaste of TRIALS OF SHAZAM and that we get a renewed and invigorted Captain Marvel. I would like to hope that this blog will provide a small resource to any new writer taking on a SHAZAM project so that the mistakes of TRIALS OF SHAZAM can be prevented in a future series.