What is ‘The Power of Shazam’? The Power of Shazam' started off as a graphic novel created by Jerry Ordway in 1994. This masterful piece of storytelling chronicled the origins of Captain Marvel, as well as some of the other Fawcett City heroes too. Now, Captain Marvel’s own origins are kind of convoluted to explain, but it involves a young orphan named Billy Batson, who escaped from the evil clutches of his uncles, only to stumble upon a magic wizard (called Shazam) whom bestows him with the powers of the Gods...

Power of Shazam

OK, there was a lot more to this than that, and it all has to do with Billy estranged archaeologist parents, his missing sister Mary (A.K.A. Mary Marvel), as well as mysticism, history, and the main protagonists, Black Adam and Dr Sivana.

But that is most probably why this graphic novel became an ongoing comic book series soon afterwards, right? This series ran from 1995 to 1999, entailing 48 issues, one or two one off specials, all aided by the creative efforts of Jerry Ordway, Peter Krause, Mike Manley, and Dick Giordano.

Why do I think that it was cancelled?   I suppose that there are a number of reasons’ why this series never caught on in the way it should have, and none of them has anything to do with the quality of the series.

From start to finish, ‘The Power of Shazam’ was just a great read. Granted, it was corny at times, and did spin out into surrealist fantasies that were more akin to a child’s parable (Hoppy, the Marvel Bunny). But all in all, this was a series that delivered compelling stories each and every month.

However, the problem with the overall efforts of all involved, is that they tried to ground the whole ‘Captain Marvel Family’ into an art deco 1950's mould, where people walked around dressed as Cary Grant and Vivien Leigh, and talked in that pronounces English that you would hear in the old Hollywood musicals. Now personally speaking, I do not mind this style at all – as there is a certain clean and simple way about it that is very refreshing. The drawback with this however, is that it can be perceived as being too clean and simple – especially whenever the corny factor raises its head.

Also, the other drawback with this series, is that it was generally perceived (not by the comic book fans of course) that Captain Marvel is a pale imitation of Superman. There is a certain synergy between these two heroes, which always seem to lumber them into the same category. This is probably due to the muscular and somewhat chilled appearance of these two heroes, as well as both of them being created in, and root to, a specific place in time. But where as Superman has managed to break this association over time, Captain Marvel just cannot seem to. Well, not yet anyway.

Any plans for the future? In recent years, DC has tried to innovate the Captain Marvel franchise with ‘The Trails of Shazam’ mini-series. What it basically did, is upgrade each of the characters to the next level – with the Wizard dying and being replaced by Billy, and due to Billy’s absence, Captain Marvel Junior (CM3) took on the mantel of world strongest mortal. Also, the ‘Black Adam Family’ have been given more time in the spotlight as well, especially in their own miniseries – the ‘52’ maxi-series – and quite a few of DC’s team books (JSA and Titans to name but a few).

However, in even more recent months, this innovative concept has started to wane a bit, and it seems that the original big red cheese will be back in action again – this time, in his original ‘Billy’ form. This makes the future seem somewhat brighter for all the characters involved, and hopefully, with a possible film in development, the sky could be the limit.

IN RETROSPECT – THE POWER OF SHAZAM IN RETROSPECT – THE POWER OF SHAZAM Reviewed by David Andrews on June 10, 2011 Rating: 5
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