Secret Origin Sunday #6: “Shazam!”

Secret Origin Sunday #6: “SHAZAM!”

This week Secret Origin Saturday for the first time ever has become Secret Origin Sunday! Don’t worry! I’ll continue to shoot for Saturday as the posting time for these one-page origin stories, but as these are labors of love done largely for fun, they may occasionally have to take a back seat to other work I may have on the drawing board.

The star of this week’s episode is a personal favorite. I know! EVERY week features a personal favorite, but this week’s subject is certainly near the top of the “Personal Favorite List!” This week we’re looking at The World’s Mightiest Mortal… The Big Red Cheese himself… Captain Marvel! Yes. I know what DC Comics calls him these days. To me, he’ll always be Captain Marvel and I’ll forever just shake my head in the face of DC simply waving the white flag on this great, classic name.

Like a lot of my favorite characters, I first discovered Captain Marvel on television. This was via Filmation’s Saturday morning live action Shazam! TV series of the 1970’s. I know this show receives a lot of critical heat but I haven’t revisited this show since it originally aired so I can’t fight too hard to defend this one. Whether or not it holds up, it did introduce me to Captain Marvel and it made him a familiar enticing face when I’d come across him in comic books.

Last week, in my Supermarvel post, I wrote about the first time I’d find a comic book featuring Captain Marvel. That was DC Comics Presents #33.

If you missed that post, you can read it here:

It was love at first sight for me and the Big Red Cheese. The problem though was at the time, Cap didn’t have an ongoing series of his own. His Shazam! series of the 70’s had been cancelled by that point so poor Cap was relegated to occasional guest appearances across the DC Universe. There was a series that ran within the pages of the Superman and Batman team-up series, World’s Finest, but I wasn’t aware of it at the time and I’m still not sure when that feature originally ran. I’d read some of those stories when DC’s long-running anthology, Adventure Comics would become a digest book and reprint series. Shazam!, now a more serious series featuring more detailed, realistic art, by the reliable and underrated Don Newton. Have these stories ever been collected anywhere? If they have, please let me know in the Comments below!

The 1970’s Shazam! series often gets knocked. As a kid, I loved it. I had no idea at the time that the stories were written simplistically for a juvenile audience in mind. They were compelling enough for me… although at the time, as I matured into a more demanding and critical twelve-year old, I was becoming hungrier for more serious super hero fare and grittier, more formidable villains. Still, at the time, this series was not very much in demand and the back issues could often be found in dollar boxes. I grabbed them up whenever I could. Say what you want, but it was a fun series.

On today’s page, we’re revisiting Captain Marvel’s origin as it was depicted in his first appearance in Whiz Comics #1 in 1940.

I drew this page with a blend of C.C. Beck’s stylized simplicity and a bit of my own more modern detailing. This is my preferred look for the World’s Mightiest Mortal. I’ve written before about my preferences for Captain Marvel’s uniform. I won’t go into all of the over-designed clutter unfortunately heaped upon the character’s elegantly simple outfit these days. Even before all of that busy noodling, artists liked to give Cap such unnecessary details as metal bracelets and gold trim on the chest flap that just made him look like a bellboy to me. In fact, I’m not even a fan of the flap and yes. I’m aware it’s part of the character’s original look. I still prefer him “flapless” and with four simple gold stripes around the wrists. I like a simple gold band for the belt. I never cared for the gold sash other artists give him. He ends up looking like he’s wrapped in a towel! I like the cape to be short coming down to Cap’s waist and for the love of God…! NO HOOD!!!

Now let’s dig into this week’s Director’s Cut Commentary… There’s not a lot to chew on this week. Cap has a very streamlined, elegantly simple origin that easily lended itself to Secret Origin Saturday’s… er… Sunday’s… format., but let’s jump in anyway… Panel One features the mysterious shadowy stranger approaching the orphaned homeless Billy Batson on the street corner. I’ve always wondered who the mysterious stranger was and I wondered in that way I wonder about many things where I like to theorize and ponder without ever really getting an answer. I think more contemporary versions of this origin did elaborate on the stranger’s identity. I may be wrong about this but I think it was Jerry Ordway’s version that put forward the idea that the stranger was actually Billy Batson’s real father. I never liked that and I never cared to learn the story of Billy’s parents. To me, certain characters simply have to play the role of “being dead.” That’s all we need from them. They’re in the main character’s past and then they died. We don’t need to go any deeper.

I do wish I had room to add the funky weird subway train that the stranger uses to ferry Billy to the wizard Shazam.

I wanted to add this scene but alas there was no room. Secret Origin Saturday… er… Sunday is ONE page only… Well, except for something special coming up this summer. Stay Tuned!

Panel Two was fun for me as it is an homage to the iconic panel from that famous origin story in which the mysterious guy leads Billy past the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man.

I stayed largely true to the original panel except I pushed the textural detailing more.

In the last panel, I did something similar to my Hulk page where I framed the main subject with a montage of his most notable bad guys. In this case, I included Black Adam… even though this now infamous villain originally only faced off against the Marvel Family only ONCE during their Golden Age Run, Dr. Thaddeus Bodog Sivanna, and Mister Mind, the World’s Wickedest Worm! I wanted to also include Captain Nazi and Mister Atom but there was no room.

That does it for this week, Everybody. I hope to be back on track for Saturday next week but let’s see how work goes during the week. I’ve got another personal favorite for next week’s SOS. It’s a character I’ve always thought was very… COOL! Get it…?

See you next week, Everybody!


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