Friday, October 12, 2007

Shazam!-Grim and Gritty by C.C. Beck


Yesterday, AOL ran a piece on the best airport restaurants in the US. As I work in an airport, I gave it a read and was surprised to find that it was written by Conde-Nast travel writer Joe Brancatelli who was --in an earlier incarnation--an editor for THE MONSTER TIMES and INSIDE COMICS! As I am still immersed in reading the 1940's adventures of Captain Marvel, this all reminded me of the cover of 1974's issue 4 of INSIDE COMICS which featured this "grim and gritty" interpretation by Cap's original artist (who had just left DC's revival in disgust at that point). Strangely, DC apparently took the idea to heart and before the end of the original SHAZAM run had poor Don Newton (himself a big Beck fan who would undoubtedly have preferred not to) doing a musclebound, oh-so-serious version of the Marvel Family. It didn't sell because, to a large extent, Beck's complaints were right. The original Captain Marvel run in the forties and fifties is an almost perfect series. Continuity is not always great but fans didn't really notice or care about that until the sixties. The stories are invariably light but well-told, fun but exciting, beautifully drawn and cleverly written (often by Sci-Fi legend Otto Binder). DC's SHAZAM wasn't bad but it never quite seemed to get it and later floundered around for a new direction that never really came. Subsequent revivals have gone from stillborn to entertaining but unoriginal homages to the current myth-destroying TRIALS OF SHAZAM. Sigh. Guess in the real world the magic lightning only strikes once.

Apparently the publishers of INSIDE COMICS would have had to have paid more for just a little blue and thus Junior's costume on the original was the same red as the others. I've taken the liberty of attempting a quick color correction on my scan.

2 comments:

sam kujava said...

Beck's cover art of a "grim and
gritty" Marvel Family is funny because it's so exaggerated and
patently ridiculous. Or so I thought back then. Beck predicted
correctly, but even he couldn't imagine the depths to which DC
would sink.
Given the current treatment of Billy, Mary and Freddy, the 21st
Century Marvel Family is altogether
exaggerated, ridiculous and all kinds of fanboy serious. But it's
not in the least bit funny, so as
usual they've missed the mark!

Anonymous said...

I read someplace recently that DC is going to offer a new comic aimed at kids--their Johnny DC line, I think, which carries Looney Toons and adaptations of TV superhero shows like The Batman, Teen Titans and the Legion of Superheroes--that will feature Billy Batson and Captain Marvel! Perhaps, not tied in to the main DC continuity and under no obligation to be dark and gritty, this kids' version of Capt Marvel might be worth picking up?