Well-written and better than probably anything I could have written myself.
by Mike Greer
Fri, 30 March 2012
Whenever the phrases “we removed the circus strongman elements of his costume” or “the emotional journey of this troubled teenager” get used in an interview about a character’s redesign, I have to admit I get a little bit frustrated. This was the case with a March 5 article on DC Entertainment’s public relations blog, The Source, in which Justice League writer Geoff Johns discussed his and artist Gary Frank’s new direction for the superhero Captain Marvel. Set to debut in Justice League #7, this new version of Captain Marvel, rechristened “Shazam,” is said to be a more mystical, magical take on the Big Red Cheese.
Now, I will admit that I am not the biggest Captain Marvel fan in the world. The character wasn’t really at the forefront of the superhero genre during the ‘80s and ‘90s, so a lot of fans like me just grew up bypassing the character altogether. Most of the time I just thought he was a half-hearted attempt at creating another Superman. It wasn’t until I began reading up on the Captain Marvel stories that Fawcett Publications put out in the 1940s that I saw the real charm behind this character.
Rather than being just another Superman knock off, Captain Marvel had taken a decidedly goofy and absurd direction with the concept, creating a family of spin-off heroes to go on adventures with, and paling around with a walking, talking tiger. But it was when I read about the epic, two-year “Monster Society of Evil” story arc that my idea of the character changed forever. The story gave readers their first look at Mister Mind, the greatest enemy that Marvel had ever faced. What they were shown was… a two-inch long talking worm with glasses.
That’s when I began to see the real brilliance of the Captain Marvel franchise. It was unabashedly a kids comic. It was a goofy, absurd superhero fairy tale. Winnie the Pooh with capes and thunder. Sadly, once the character was revived by DC in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the character never again rose to its original prominence. Writers and artists have been trying ever since to reconcile the storybook childishness of Captain Marvel with the progressively grim, melancholy DC universe, but their attempts at making characters like Mister Mind into something we should take seriously never hit the mark.
And that’s largely where I stand with this latest reboot of the character from Johns and Frank. In the NewYorkPost’sarticle about the reboot, the first image of the character was revealed, and it wasn’t pretty. Rather than a dauntless, smiling Captain Marvel (or Shazam, if that’s what they want to call him now to make him more accessible to non-comic book readers) dashing around above the clouds, we’re treated to a tortured soul gritting his teeth and looking predictably angst-y. Bolts of angry lightning shoot from his eyes and skin, but fail to illuminate his body or hooded face, which are cloaked in the darkness of blah blah blah I couldn’t care less...