Thursday, May 3, 2012

Shazam! The Greatest Stories Ever Told

Written by Bill Parker, Joe Simon, Otto Binder, Denny O'Neil, Elliot S! Maggin, Roy Thomas, Julius Schwartz, Gil Kane, Joey Cavalieri, Alan Grant, Barry Kitson, Jerry Ordway, and Steve Vance
Art by CC Beck, Jack Kirby, Kurt Schaffenberger, Curt Swan, Bob Oksner, Gil Kane, Barry Kitson, Peter Krause, Dick Giordano, John Delaney, and Ron Boyd

I've never really been a fan of Captain Marvel, although I did enjoy his stint with the Justice League back in the Giffen/DeMatteis days.  I know he has a fairly solid fan base, and has not ever really been given much of a chance as part of the regular DC Universe, as there is little for him to do that can't be accomplished just as well by Superman.  I also know that he is due for a major revamping, and when I saw this trade for only a dollar, I figured it was worth checking out, to see if I could at least understand the character's appeal to so many.

It didn't really work though.  The Golden Age stories, by people like Binder, Beck, Simon, and Kirby are quaint, but don't have the edge to them that a lot of Golden Age comics have.  Denny O'Neil's attempt to revive the character after DC bought out the Fawcett line, where Cap was originally published, is fine I guess, but not too special.

I did like the DC Comics Presents Annual, which has the Supermen of Earths 1 and 2 teaming up with Captain Marvel, but that was probably mostly because of the Gil Kane art.  The only story that gave me a sense of nostalgia is the edited-down issue of LEGION '91, which has Cap fighting Lobo, during some big crossover or another (War of the Gods, I think).  I loved that old LEGION title, and was thrilled to read something with Telepath, one of the weirder characters DC ever had, again.  Too bad there was so much Lobo in it, but that was the problem with that title in the early 90s exactly.

In selecting the stories for this book, I think the editors did well to pick so many of the Binder/Beck classics.  I did think it odd that the LEGION story was included, and that the story chosen to represent Jerry Ordway and Peter Krause's long-running The Power of Shazam was so maudlin and 'after school special'.  I also thought it odd that Black Adam was completely missing from this collection - he's by far the most interesting part of the Marvel Family story.  At the same time, I appreciate that there were no Talky Tawny stories.

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