This evening’s post concerns a 100 page Super-Spectacular from December 1973. At the age of ten, I was a bit dismissive of DC’s Shazam! It seemed very juvenile compared to Kirby’s brutal and cosmic clashes. I read three of the Super-Specs though (which might have been bought for my brother, six at the time). I would go on to sample nearly every revival of the property for the next 25 years; I now think that Capt. Marvel should be the third member of DC’s Trinity, rather than the campy and outdated Wonder Woman.
A Twice-Told Tale: Dr. Sivana travels back in time to try and prevent the creation of Captain Marvel. A clever device which enables a re-telling of the origin and first adventure of the World’s Mightiest Mortal.
Shazam Introduces Mary Marvel: The pretty and athletic (and rich!) Mary, Bily’s lost sister, debuts in this story, predating Supergirl by seventeen years. Both were creations of Otto Binder; the more child-like iteration of the modern day means Mary is now very different from Supergirl, of course.
The Mighty Marvels Join Forces: The first-ever team -up of the Marvel Family introduces Black Adam. Contemporary fans of the villain, who was something of a pet character for Geoff Johns in the last decade, becoming the Namor of the DC Universe might be surprised. After about four pages, Teth-Adam reverts to his mortal form and ages to death. It’s all a bit anti-climatic and the story also rather mechanically retells the origins of the Marvels, which- Junior apart- we’ve just read.
The Vest Pocket Levitator: a Wellsian fantasy about Jonas Weatherby, a fussy old flying robber who uses a magic egg whisk. This labour-saving device has been granted magical powers by a gremlin- the US air force kind (or the kind Shatner saw in the Twilight Zone.) Mac Raboy’s figurework is more cinematic and “realistic” than the other strips.
The Dog-Nappers: a gently humorous tale of Mary and Uncle Marvel, who seems run a private detective agency- “Shazam Inc.”- raising money for charity. It’s very well drawn by Jack Binder but it’s probably the weakest story in the issue.
The Adventure in Time: This puzzle story features The Lieutenant Marvels: Hill Billy, Fat Billy and Tall Billy. They seem pretty redundant but the gimmick enables Sivana to be defeated in four different locations.
Captain Marvel and The Talking Tiger: Binder and Beck present a witty fable about civilization starring Mr. Tawny, the mild-mannered talking tiger who becomes a museum lecture guide.
The Return of Mr. Tawny: The origin of the loveable Tawny is a very sweet story of friendship and a murder mystery.
A Look Through The Super-Specs: ENB devotes the entire column to letters about the whys and wherefores of Mary Marvel’s chart of super-powers. I wonder what he would have made of the modern Mary?
This Super-Spec is a charming collection of stories and the art is often of a very high quality. However, it feels very much like it’s aimed at fans of Golden Age reprints.
DC has generally faltered when it comes to The Marvel Family. The recent Billy Batson series (above) struggled through a disappointing mid-period dominated with unappealing colouring- book artwork and patronising “stinky-pants” humour. The Captain is returning again as a back-up in the New 52 Justice League but I can’t see him fitting into that abject Nineties/ Image revival.
More on Captain Marvel amd Marvelman in February…
Next: The Dreaded Song of the Blackhawks.
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