Header Ads

Shazam: The Original Captain Marvel

Before Marvel's Captain Marvel, there was another character who shared the same name. Originally created as a Super-Man knock-off but eventually joining the DC Universe, the character was renamed Shazam. As his first live-action movie hits home video, AFA's comic guru Jeremy Harrison looks back at Shazam's recent appearances in animation!

Shazam, "The Original Captain Marvel" finally makes its way to on-demand and Blu-Ray and I'm proud to say that it's one of DC's best movies- and in my opinion is actually better than Marvel's Captain Marvel. (But that's subjective)

The movie was fun, had some genuine dark elements and likable characters that had a decent arc. I'm glad DC is finally focusing on their "more obscure" characters, but the thing is Shazam has always had a low-level popularity amongst comic book fans. He's always more or less been in the public's eye- in fact, he was even more popular than Superman at one point.

Superman won the fight

In the original continuity before the reboot, Billy Batson was indeed a pure soul that the wizard was looking for.

But those days are over, DC has decided that a pure-hearted Billy Batson doesn't work in this modern age. Hence the EDGY CYNICAL Billy Batson that's seen in live-action.

Luckily in the Animated Universe, there's still room for a pure-hearted Billy Batson. So let's look at the latest appearance of Billy Batson in animation today. (excluding his appearance in Young Justice to try and keep this short)

Shazam in the 3 DC Nation shorts

I love these shorts on YouTube created by DC. The total runtime for these are three minutes and 46 seconds. And do my ears deceive me?  I hear Tara Strong voicing Billy Batson (always a delight).

The animation is pretty decent for YouTube and the whimsical episodic style does fit the Golden Age Comics of the Original Captain Marvel (Shazam). Meaning it's actually a pretty good adaptation of the comics of old and just a little wink to the show that aired in the 1970s

1: Wisdom -- The math nerd in me likes this one.

Has a misunderstanding of what Wisdom is and pays homage to the 70s tv show.

In the 70s show, Solomon the king of Israel is in the chair. In the short, Zeus the king of the Gods is in the chair
For those unfamiliar with the Judeo-Christian Bible, Solomon was a king of Israel that was granted the gift of Wisdom by the Jewish-Christian God and is an odd fit to be surrounded by Greek-Roman Legends/Myths, but I'm not Bill Parker. If I was religious, it would seem blasphemous to me to put Solomon in with pagan culture.

As a short itself it's pretty good but it also pretty generic. Doesn't have that much to do with the character Shazam. Any kid super hero would do in this short and nothing would be lost.

2: Stamina -- The best one of these!

Has Tawky Tawny as Shazam's adopted caregiver and features one of Shazam's longtime villains Mr. Mind the worm. If the first one was good as a generic short this one is good as a Shazam short. In the one minute and 18 seconds, it does a good job of relating to you who Shazam is ... his friends and his villains.

3: Courage -- My least favorite!

Inside Out Shazam

This one speaks to some of the problems I have with Shazam. When Billy changes into Shazam he should be a different character after all ... two of his superpowers are Wisdom and Courage! Even if Billy himself would be scared by something when he turns into Shazam he should be in a sense a somewhat different person due to those powers of Wisdom and Courage ... (can courage even be a superpower?) Even if we rule against Courage, he still has Wisdom which should render fear from a scary movie inert. This one is just pretty dumb. 

Shazam in Justice League Action

The first four episodes of Justice League Action is called "Shazam Slam" where evil demons from Shazam's Rock of Eternity invade Earth. While it's a downgrade from Justice League that aired 18 years ago in animation and story quality they do make up for it in well ... ACTION and Humor!

While it's obvious that the show was aimed more at little kids that doesn't make it a bad show. The series only ran for one season and I feel that it went underappreciated because Cartoon Network failed to really promote the show.

The first episode is really a Batman (Kevin Conroy) episode and then Billy aka Shazam (Sean Astin)  comes in and saves the day at the end. It's actually a pretty trite episode. Shazam isn't a member of the Justice League and no other leaguer is shown or heard from ... For the start of a new series, it's amazing how lackluster it is, especially for being a Part one of four. A great evil is unleashed upon the earth and there's no tension or drama of any kind. It's basically played off as:

"Don't worry, it's only a minor inconvenience for our heroes." -- Justice League Action Writers

The next two episodes move pretty fast and despite these evils being Shazam villains he isn't seen again until episode four. My issue here is actually pretty simple. While the episodes are fine; you would figure that a continuation nicknaming itself the "SHAZAM SLAM" would feature ... I don't know ... SHAZAM in all the episodes but it doesn't! I sort of feel lied to and that's never a good thing.

It's actually pretty formulaic on the whole, but I'm a simple man, I'm still happy with what I got. As I said, the fast-paced humor in this is actually pretty good. And the action is pretty decent. It's what Teen Titans Go should have been and this show does get more fun as it goes along.

Shazam in Teen Titans Go

In its fifth season ... Shazam makes an appearance in Teen Titans Go. The episode is called "Little Elvis" because of his hairstyle and Shazam (John Dimaggio) does a good Elvis-impersonation to boot. This appearance is hands down the best adaptation of the character and his golden age stories. While the tone of the comics is done better in Justice League Action, this cartoon wins points for actually giving Shazam a bit of a personality other than a dumb kid with amazing superpowers. In Justice League Action, Billy and thus Shazam who is supposed to have the wisdom of Solomon for the few minutes he's onscreen comes off as rather Obtuse! And since he has to be called in by Batman to help save the day, one can also gather he doesn't take his super hero job seriously. 

Moreover, in these 15 minutes, one leans more about Shazam, the Wizard (of the same name) and the villains he fights during the GOLDEN AGE OF COMICS. Now, this is all shown through the lens of Teen Titans Go meta-humor style of wink-wink, nudge-nudge. So your mileage may vary if you like that type of humor or not. 

While Shazam works best in a Campy world there's no reason why he shouldn't or can't be adapated to a show with a more serious tone like the original Justice League or Young Justice. My favorite appearance of Captain Marvel to date is the Justice League episode "Clash". 

But still things are lost when you try to adapt a more whimsical character to a more realistic tone. 

Perhaps now that the DCEU is done and the sales for the Blu-Ray and digital download shows a strong interest in the character, we can get a decent soft reboot of the character and a deeper dive into his satirical world.