Blockbuster movies, eh? What’s making up a fair slice of them these days is the proliferation of superhero based properties, thanks largely to the runaway success of the Marvel movies with their integrated universe and visual effects that have finally caught up with the genre. DC want a slice of that action, and although it’s too early to say whether they’ll achieve the same level of success, they’re certainly throwing all of their big properties into grandiose productions, including Shazam, sometimes known as Captain Marvel, the latter of which they seem happy to drop in light of its connections to their big rival.
At present both DC and Marvel are utterly reinvigorating their entire comic lines through massive cross-title events that they hope will make it easier for new readers to jump on board and not need to be familiar with decades of continuity. It’s a wise move, especially when it allows them to rebalance their offering to a huge new female audience that simply didn’t exist 20 years ago.
So for Shazam, this means a fresh look at his origin story and bringing the character and the setting bang up-to-date. To do this the book was placed in the hands of writer Geoff Johns, responsible for many a good superhero yarn, and Gary Frank, a British comic artist who stands head and shoulders above most of his global peers with his sublime artwork.
For those of you unfamiliar with the character, the story of Shazam begins with the a young boy Billy Batson, who can transform himself into the ultra-powerful superhuman form by uttering the word ‘shazam’. In this retelling he’s a troubled boy with a heavy grudge, stuck in the foster-care system, and we meet him as he’s placed with a new family, already home to other fostered kids.
Elsewhere an archeological dig releases an entombed evil being known as Black Adam, which prompts the last of an ancient council of wizards to create a champion to oppose him. It’s Billy Batson that gets chosen, and at first the astounding abilities he has bestowed upon him are an excuse for mischief and fun, so it’s not until Black Adam tracks him down in order to obliterate the opposition he represents that Billy fully embraces the power he holds.
Shazam has always been a DC character that never quite worked for me, and never seemed to gel with the other Justice League characters, but between Johns’ sympathetic storytelling and Frank’s superbly cinematic art they grant the character a personality you can relate to. If the movie can follow their lead then it could be a good-un.
And if you liked that: Try and look up Gary Frank’s Kin – a much overlooked work that deserves expanding upon