This afternoon’s post concerns my last Shazam 100 Super-Spectacular, bought in Strathaven in 1974. There is a good deal of “bang for your buck” in this issue for the late- Golden Age fan. Half-a-dozen stories drawn from the stable of Marvel Family books. And yet, somehow, Wonder Woman is always the third pillar of DC’s “Trinity”. Pah.
The Evil Return of the Monster Society: this is a gorgeous, airy new story by Kurt Schaffenberger. It also featured the revival of Uncle Marvel, who reminds me of Frank Morgan’s Prof. Marvel in The Wizard of Oz.
The Sivana Family team up here with Mr. Mind, the World’s Wickedest Worm and the brutish Ibac. I was always excited to see teams of DC villains, since I knew little of them,compared to Marvel’s baddies.
The Monster Society of Evil sadly vanishes from the second chapter, replaced by a pack of Sivana-headed dream-monsters. Denny O’ Neil’s story is as serviceable a pastiche of Golden Age whimsy as one might expect in post-Watergate ’74.
A modern take on the Monster Society appeared in Jeff Smith’s mildly satirical 2007 Prestige Format series:
The Prophetic Book: A 1946 reprint from Captain Marvel Adventures. An archaeologist unearths “The Exploits of Capt. Marvel”. The book creates all manner of trouble but it turns out to be cargo from a crashed time-vessel from the unthinkably-distant year 1977!
The Man Who Lived History: A 1950 reprint from Captain Marvel, Junior. Librarian Jeremy Thremm is able to transport himself to the exact time period of any history book he reads. Imagine if he could travel in space and meet all kinds of aliens too- nah, Shazam is full of preposterous childish ideas! Who’d be interested in a time-travelling eccentric?!
The striking blue-clad Junior is a charming character.
Mr. Tawny’s Fight for Fame: Dissatisfied with his museum tour-guide job, the civilized talking tiger becomes obsessed with fame and embarks on a series of dangerous stunts. A witty satire from 1951’s Captain Marvel Adventures with a important message for modern celebrity culture.
Legends of Shazam: a fascinating text feature on Solomon. Some of this lore would be utilised in the adventures of the Bridwell/Fradon creation, the Seraph.
Curse of the Books: A 1946 story from Mary Marvel. A crooked auctioneer masquerades as various fictional villains including Bluebeard and the Black Knight. The impersonations in this short aren’t supernatural and therefore seem oddly improbable, even for a Marvels story!
Shazamail: features a letter from a real Billy Batson and a rave from Bob Rodi, who bemoaned Batman’s love life- or lack of same – in our last entry.
The Magic Mix-Up: A charming 1949 short again from CMA. Skeptical Porfessor Tweedle is blissfully unaware of the chaos unleashed when he reads aloud from a medieval book of black magic
The Word Wrecker: A 1951 reprint from Marvel Family, beautifully drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger. Prehistoric King Kull attempts to destroy civilization by attacking libraries. Of course it’s not REH’s introspective barbarian king. With his rocket ship and genetically-engineered bookworms, this Beast-Man has more in common with the immortal Vandal Savage from 1943, one of the most prolific villains in DC history.
There is of course an overt message about the value of libraries. This is probably my favourite story in this issue. Kull appears in the animated Batman Brave and Bold series renamed Krull and voiced by Michael (Worf) Dorn.
Superman-Shazam Battle Page: Editor Schwartz playfully pits the Man of Steel against the Big Red Cheese in this extra letters page. Superman has a superlative mythos; Cap is an anachronism. Superman is a cult and must satisfy the Superman buffs; Cap is light-hearted and free of relevant issues. Superman will not lose his dominance to Cap; much more imagination goes into Cap’s stories. LoC-er Ellen Hanington was, sensibly, president of the Superman and Shazam Fan Club.
I was surprised to find myself well-disposed to this Super-Spec. It was, however, the last Shazam issue I read for nearly two years . In the autumn of 1976, at thirteen, I was struck by the winsome elemental Isis . So much so, I ripped her off shamelessly for my own super-hero Horus in 1981. ( About ten years ago, in a fit of nostalgia, I revamped Horus in the persona of my dentist, a Welsh lad called Sherif el-Gharib. One day, I’ll get around to posting The Elgin Marvels.)
The drip-feed of John and Frank’s modernisation of Shazam keeps me coming back to the New 52 Justice League. In the light of the name -change , however, will this mean the début of a (shudder) Mary Shazam?
Coming soon: All is well in Gotham town
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