Unless a “think-outside-the-box” creator is allowed total freedom with the character, i.e. Jeff Smith and Mike Kunkel, it’s become rather clear that Captain Marvel will never recapture the glory years when his adventures routinely outsold Superman, Batman, Captain America and just about any other super-hero you could name.
My theory: the character simply isn’t kewl enough to survive in these harsh years of Blackest Night zombies, Green Goblin vaginas and You-Know-Who knows what.
After all, Cap’s greatest appeal was reader identification. Billy Batson was a child – just like much of the super-hero audience back then – and what kid wouldn’t love to turn into an all-powerful hero with just one magic word?
The concept is still powerful, judging by my own son’s reaction to the character’s recent appearance in the animated Batman: The Brave & The Bold. Unfortunately, children his age don’t really pick up American super-hero comics these days.
With a core audience that skews closer to readers in their 20s and far, far beyond (I’m 47, FYI), DC is forced to shoehorn Cap, Junior, Mary and the rest of the Marvel clan into an “adult” comic-book universe where relativism rules and super-villains routinely commit acts of ultra-violence with little or no consequences.
How can a hero who’s essentially a big, lovable galoot fit into such a tableau? He doesn’t, judging by the Marvel Family’s miserably grim appearances in Trials Of Shazam, Countdown and – perhaps worst of all – a recent JSA arc that rendered both Billy and Mary radioactive for years to come.
(Jerry Ordway really should have known better.)
So, I suppose all that’s left for the long-suffering Marvel fan is the past. DC was supposed to reprint the original “Monster Society Of Evil” serial at one point and a classic story pitting Cap against Surrealism was recently published in Art Spiegelman’s excellent Toon Treasury Of Classic Children’s Comics.
And … perhaps that’s good enough. Although the corporate desire to retain such “properties” as the Marvels until the end of time probably renders such hopes irrelevant, Captain Marvel and company could well be better off resting on their well-deserved laurels.
Not everything is meant to translate into harsher times, after all. Let’s just leave Cap and his whimsy to a time and place that better appreciated such qualities.
As a tribute to our old friend, the Big Red Cheese, here’s the oddly appropriate “Captain Marvel’s Inferiority Complex” from Captain Marvel Adventures #80.
The writer and artist are, sadly, not credited.