Although The Curse Of Shazam isn’t a series I plan on purchasing, your humble host has tried to refrain from joining the chorus – an admittedly small one, I must add – of outraged Captain Marvel fans decrying the wholesale reconstruction of a beloved Golden Age character.
After numerous failed attempts to revive a once-thriving creation that DC itself once put out of business, it seemed inevitable that the company would one day throw the baby out with the bathwater and rebuild the Big Red Cheese – errrrr, I mean “Shazam” – from scratch to better fit the needs of a modern comic book universe and its continuity-crazed fans.
To be frank, despite the noble attempts of such creators as Jerry Ordway and Jeff Smith, the classic Captain Marvel never really seemed to click with modern readers at any rate. I first discovered the Marvel Family during DC’s first revival in the ‘70s, and found myself far more captivated by the Golden Age reprints included in the comics than anything devised the creative teams of that period.
The gentle humor, quietly detailed characterization and old-fashioned thrills of the Fawcett era belong to an earlier age that seemingly can’t be recaptured by writers and artists – no matter how talented – in the 21st century.
So why not rename the character Shazam? The real Captain Marvel and family flew into the sunset back in 1953 anyway.
The following story is a nice example of how Golden Age Cap stories often dug a bit deeper than one would expect from a series featuring talking tigers and evil alien worms. I can’t imagine a tale like this playing to the far older and cynical audience comics are directed toward these days, but it remains affecting all the same.
From Captain Marvel Adventures # 38 (Fawcett, August 1944), here’s “The Man Nobody Loved” by writer Otto Binder and artist Pete Costanza.