Sunday, January 20, 2008

Winick on TRIALS OF SHAZAM for Scripps New Service

In November, 2006, Scripps News Service released this interview with Judd Winick written by Terry Morrow, A little spice added to 'The Big Red Cheese'. In the interview, Winick makes several of the same claims that he made to Jen Contino.

Winick says:

"Come on! People call him The Big Red Cheese," ... "Even Aquaman doesn't have a disparaging nickname."
Here, again, Winick is making the claim that "The Big Red Cheese" is a "disparaging nickname." It's a classic example of the straw man argument. Winick proposes an untruth, in this case that the fans and non-fans of Captain Marvel think that "The Big Red Cheese" is a disparging nickname as one of the rationales for his overhaul of the Marvel Family.

Morrow writes:

Nevertheless, when Winick started writing for DC Comics years ago, his goal was to tackle one of the oldest franchises in comics -- Captain Marvel.

And now he's getting his chance with "The Trials of Shazam," a 12-part miniseries that sets out to redefine the character for a new generation of readers. "Trials" has been a hit for DC Comics so far.
At the time the article saw print, 3 issues of TRIALS OF SHAZAM had hit the comics shops and by looking at the sales figures for those issues, the title was already in decline. TRIALS OF SHAZAM had lost a little more than 15,000 copies in sales. Commentator Marc-Oliver Frisch was a bit rosy in his DC Month-To-Month Sales Chart column when he said "Trials of Shazam is performing decently so far," although he was referring to its performance in relation to the other BRAVE NEW WORLD spin-offs. That's a far cry however from saying the title was "a hit for DC Comics."

"There's an inherit geekiness to the character," Winick says.
And therein lies the problem. If the writer thinks the character is geeky, then what chance does the character have other than to be completely overhauled. It would be different, if Winick had said something like, "there are some eccentricities to the character, but I'm going to embrace those and show why they're cool." Alas, he didn't.

Morrow claims:

In fact, his [Captain Marvel's] phrase is so well known that many folks assume "Shazam" is also the name of the character. That's just one of the hurdles facing the character, though.

It's hard to disagree with this. Many non-readers do think that Captain Marvel's name is Shazam but it's hard to imagine that any regular reader of DC Comics thinks so. The point being that the title SHAZAM should be enough to draw the non-reader in and by the end of the issue, he should be clear on the difference between the character and the magic word. That is, if the writer is doing his job.

Morrow says:

While Superman and Batman evolved with the times during the 1960s and 1970s, Captain Marvel did not. In some ways, even today, he's still a throwback to the 1940s, thus the nickname "The Big Red Cheese" among comic-book fans.

You practically expect a "gee whiz!" to come from the character's mouth.
Of course Captain Marvel didn't evolve with the times, he wasn't being published for 20 years. But as I pointed out in my previous blog post, when Captain Marvel reappeared at DC they had the chance to evolve him for a modern audience. Instead, they chose to write and draw his stories as if he never left. Is that Captain Marvel's fault — or DC's?

Winick says:

"He's not going to be stopping bank robberies and stuff like that," he says.

Again with the bank robberies. You'd think that's all Captain Marvel ever did. That he became the most popular comic book character on the planet by foiling bank robbers. One would think that Winick keeps pushing this false line of reasoning to bolster his case for reinvention.

Morrow writes:

Instead, Captain Marvel will take over the role of mentor and the mantle of a wizard named Shazam. Taking over the name of "Captain Marvel" will be his sidekick for decades, the unfortunately named Captain Marvel Jr.
Sure, Morrow gets it wrong, Cap Jr was never Captain Marvel's sidekick. Rather Cap Jr headlined his own title for over 100 issues and anchored MASTER COMICS for almost as long. But to the heart of what Morrow has written — what's the point? If Captain Marvel Jr. were to take over the name of "Captain Marvel," which still remains to be seen, aren't we left we essentially the same status quo albeit with the new "Captain Marvel" boxed in his own "realm"? Given that it is fairly common knowledge that the new "Captain Marvel" will be given the name "Shazam" — it seems that this is really what the change is all about. To give non-readers, a hero with the name they associate him with. Will this drag all those non-readers into the comic shop. Will the Midtown Comics of New York, or the Graham Crackers Comics of Chicago, or the Mile High Comics of Denver see their doors beaten down because non-readers will be able to correctly say the characters' name. What utter hogwash!

Morrow continues:

His adventures will have Shazam and the new Captain Marvel tackling the tricky
world of magic-based threats.
and Winick responds:

"This gives him his own 'world,'" ... "I'd rather him have his own realm."
Yep, Winick rather put him in a box as if this is what has been holding Cap back. What DC failed to capitalize on and what Winick fails to see is that Captain Marvel held a unique place in the super-hero community. He was both boy and man and man and god. The young Billy Batson could relate to the escapades of the TEEN TITANS while the god-powered Captain Marvel could stand tall with the members of the JUSTICE SOCIETY or JUSTICE LEAGUE. DC had a character who could relate to both younger and older readers and although they had a few hits with Ordway's THE POWER OF SHAZAM! and Johns' JSA, they had more misses and ultimately failed in execution. Now, they've created a character in the adult Freddy Freeman who has lost that specialness.

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