The New DC and Shazam: Way Too Serious

DC is just past six months into its relaunch (don’t call it a comeback; I’ve been here for years) and we’ve been shown the new Shazam. That’s right, he’s not called Captain Marvel on covers anymore since DC lost that to Marvel comics more than thirty years ago, but since character has always been called Captain Marvel it looks like DC has just given up on that one. Which may be a good thing because they’re basically cutting away everything that C.C. Beck made Captain Marvel Shazam! Editor Brian Cunningham said:

[quote]His powers come from a different place, and we wanted to see that reflected in the design. We’ve removed the “circus strongman” elements from his costume. Rather than a traditional cape, he wears a cloak with a hood; there’s more of a mystical, magical, fantasy feel to that.[/quote]


Captain Marvel has been one of the most powerful characters in the DC universe for a very long time, and has been woefully underutilized. His most popular run in recent memory was as part of Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire’s Justice League International.

What’s most concerning is taking DC’s most upbeat and positive character and modernizing him. Just look at that image: dark, brooding, a new grimacing Shazam hiding under a cloak. Geoff Johns said:

[quote]Gary and I will be focusing on the magic hero instead of the super hero…We’re telling the story of the hero’s young alter ego, Billy Batson, a foster kid at a crossroads in his life. The question is, how does the emotional journey of this troubled teenager collide with the fate of the world? The Rock of Eternity and the legacy of SHAZAM! will be explored in a different way as the extent of Billy’s connection to the magic world around him is greater than ever before. The story will have a profound impact on Justice League later in the year and you’ll see new characters, locations and creatures along with the classics from the SHAZAM! universe. Billy’s friends and enemies will be along for the ride.

We changed his name for a lot of reasons. One of them is that Shazam is the word most associated with the character, so we just felt it made sense — a lot of people already thought that was his name, anyway.[/quote]


Why is Batson a troubled teenager? Can’t anyone in the new DCU be happy? Who are these “people” who thought Captain Marvel’s name was Shazam? My grandparents and parents know his as Captain Marvel, as do most non-comic readers I spoke to. Nothing about that preview image says positive or upbeat. Hmm.

Scott VanderPloeg
Scott VanderPloeg

Scott works in I.T. but lives to eat and read. His other ramblings can be found at AE Index and eBabble. Art collection at Comic Art Fans.

Articles: 1231


  1. I believe that being a troubled teenager is a prerequisite to becoming a super hero. Sort of like being “brilliant” as a scientist… You never really hear about the so-so scientists…

    What get’s me is the “stock” press release. It’s almost as if they don’t even believe it themselves.

  2. This needed to happen a long time ago… Over the years Captain Marvel has been merely in the back drop of the DCU. Yes, everyone knows he beat the hell out of Superman, but let’s face it, that quirky piece of info can only take the character so far. Captain Marvel suffered from various different problems (mind you this is my favorite super hero of all time…). First, he was conceptualized in the 30’s, the Golden Age of comics. Back in the day, they were more concerned with Captain Marvel kicking Hitler’s ass than they were about continuity (yes I know he wasn’t originally a part of the DCU, but my point still stands). He’s needed an update for a while. Second, when they tried to reboot him and his family (ie Day of Vengeance, Infinite Crisis, 52, and Trials of Shazam), they started great but fizzled. Willingham (along with Johns) had the right idea about firmly placing Captain Marvel in the Magical realm of the DCU; he needed to find a place where his story could be developed expanded and integrated. From the beginning the definitive difference between Captain Marvel and Superman has been the nature of their powers. Cap. has always been a magical hero, thus it’s only logical that he would be placed in the DCU as a major player in its mystical/mythic component. Second, as for changing his age, let’s be honest, Ultimate Spiderman and Invincible have done well. Teen Titans has done well. Teenage superheroes work well for this point in history, because it’s teenagers/young adults reading comics. The 30/40’s were more excepting of younger heroes; however, the medium has evolved as well as the social context. Billy needs to grow up a little. Third, his name is not that big of a deal. They had already hinted at it in Trials. Yes it’s a bit disappointing (I’ll admit that), but it’s been an issue for years. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to explain to people the Captain Marvel/Shazam issue. I haven’t found it to be common knowledge. Despite my personal feelings about the matter, I understand the decision. Heck, they’ve been marketing this character as Shazam for years. It’s been the title of his book sense he appeared in the DCU, and it’s been on the packaging of his toys. I understand the legacy and copyright issues, but for the sake of clarity, something needed to be done. This reboot has given Captain Marvel/Shazam a firm place within DC Comics, and will ensure his legacy for the next generation of Comic readers. It’ll be a part of history, and I’m excited to see what happens next.

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