Thursday, July 28, 2016

Curse of El Diablo

El Diablo started out as a demon that possessed Lazarus Lane, a bank teller in the old west of the 19th Century, who had nearly been killed by bank robbers, then struck by lighting, put in a coma and revived by the medicine man, Wise Owl (with his adventures starting in All-Star Western #2, October-November, 1970, by Robert Kanigher and Gray Morrow), with El Diablo rising to mete out vengeance at night, taking over the body of Lane for early issues of All-Star Western and Weird Western Tales (with his origin in All-Star Western #3 of December-January, 1970/1971), being an occasional back up in later 1980s issues of Jonah Hex...

...until in Swamp Thing #85 of April, 1989, Jonah Hex, the western Johnny Thunder, Madame .44 and a few others ended the life of Wise Owl, all observed by the Alec Holland version of Swamp Thing, while traveling back in time, with the events of November 7th, 1872 in the story, "My Name Is Nobody" by Rick Veitch, Tom Mandrake and Alfredo Alcala supposedly freeing the paralyzed Lazarus Lane from Wise Owl's influence as well as the demon that possessed him (though that later turned out not to be true).

The second El Diablo was Rafael Sandoval, a novice politician in the later 20th Century town of Dos Rios, TX, who was trying to help the town, and realized he could do so better adopting the name of a local legend, and using his athletic ability in secret to fight crime as El Diablo, starting with El Diablo #1 (August, 1989) by Gerard Jones and Mike Parobeck.

That fight lasted 16 issues, battling local crooks and inspiring the kids of the neighborhood to do good, and even working with the original Vigilante, and later, when working with the Justice League, Rafael was temporarily possessed by a demon, retired for a time and came back briefly during the Villains United event, but was ill-prepared for the onslaught of villainy, especially with no powers and no recent training, though he did survive the event, barely.

All this serves as a prelude to the current holder of the El Diablo name, Chato Santana, who first appeared in the mini-series, El Diablo in 2008.

The Curse Is Passed On

El Diablo #1 (November, 2008) by Jai Nitz, Phil Hester and Andre Parks introduces us to Chato Santana, who is the leader of Los Reyes Locos, a Los Angeles gang, who is working with H.I.V.E. (a villainous group known for fighting Superman and the Titans).  Chato gets shot as the police raid a weapons buy, ending up in the hospital, where he meets two, Bob Olsen, who is crazy and kills his roommates, and the other, an old man named Lazarus Lane, whose hasn't moved in years, but won't die (and people put in rooms with him die mysteriously).  Chato also finds he is now paralyzed, and will not cooperate with police, especially Alex Aaron, who then puts out word Chato is cooperating so his gang will come and kill him.  They do try, and this gets Chato to change into El Diablo to take out the murderers (after a conversation with Lazarus Lane on the spiritual plane).  El Diablo (Chato, mobile while transformed and fiery) and Lazarus leave the hospital on a hell horse (Sombra by name), leaving Bob behind, whose voices told him that he was to be El Diablo.  Bob gets approached by another demon...

Hell's Assassin Meets His Match

El Diablo #2 (December, 2008) by Jai Nitz, Phil Hester and Andre Parks has Alex Aaron finding out Chato and Bob have escaped, then the narrative follows the new El Diablo to the desert, where Chato changes back to his human self, with Lazarus explaining the abilities of El Diablo to him (though the full flaming and demonic horse weren't something Lazarus himself used back in the 19th Century). 

Lane tells of the 16th Century conquistador Vincente De Zaldivar, who Lazarus was unable to defeat (making him the first foe the new El Diablo must beat).  Chato also comes to terms with being paralyzed when not El Diablo, Bob reappears as the demonic Vorpal, and El Diablo learns from Alex Aaron that Chato's second in command was an undercover cop (Israel Martino, known in the gang as Jorge Ramos) gone bad.

The Last Stand

El Diablo #3 (January, 2009) by Jai Nitz, Phil Hester and Andre Parks has El Diablo dealing with the Council (villainous group that clones troops, and faced the Manhunter and the JSA), H.I.V.E. and Intergang (a group of villains Superman usually faces), because these groups are all now working with Jorge.  All the while getting help from Lazarus (who is being stalked by Vorpal, who eventually kills Lazarus...

....hard to do since the former El Diablo is a spirit....).

Chato also catches and kills Jorge, and Vorpal shows his trophy, the head of Lazarus Lane to Ninhursag (the demon that gave Bob his mystical blade and powers).

La Muerte De Los Malditos

El Diablo #4 (February, 2009) by Jai Nitz, Phil Hester and Andre Parks sees El Diablo saving a child, and taking Jorge's ill-gotten gains, which include incredible amounts of money and false identities, which allows Chato to set up a safe house, do some research and get handicapped accessible transportation.  Chato also reconnects with his ex-girlfriend, Jules, as the one person he feels he can trust to help him with this.  Chato finds that the demon bound to him is called Chutriel, who rebelled with Lucifer, had the job of meting out punishment, and is the lover of Ninhursag.  Chato and Jules are surprised at home by Alex Aaron, who explains the group he is now facing, Cerberus, made up of members who left H.I.V.E., the Council and Intergang.  El Diablo goes to one of their facilities to find most of the men killed, but that Vorpal had them clone monsters to attack people, including killing Jules.  Alex Aaron reveals he works for S.H.A.D.E., a U.S. government backed super agency, and that its enforcers, the Freedom Fighters, are being enlisted to track down the spirit of vengeance, El Diablo.

I'm The New American Dream

El Diablo #5 (March, 2009) by Jai Nitz, Phil Hester and Andre Parks starts with a confrontation between El Diablo and Vorpal at the Hollywood sign, that soon gets interrupted by the Freedom Fighters.  The heroes battle both mystically powered men, but don't do so well, with El Diablo shooting Human Bomb (and taking out the Ray in the resulting out of control blast), Vorpal wounding Black Condor (as Black Condor senses the demons inside both), El Diablo fighting Uncle Sam as the spirit of vengeance takes on the spirit of America (with America coming away beaten), and only by the luck of Phantom Lady's blacklight projector is the demon Chutriel exorcised from Chato... the delight of Vorpal, as Chutriel can now unite with Ninhursag to father the demon that will end the world.  The Freedom Fighters gather up to take the now powerless Chato into custody, and worry for the fate of the world.

The End?

El Diablo #6 (April, 2009) by Jai Nitz, Phil Hester and Andre Parks starts with the electrocution execution of Chato....where the headless spirit of Lazarus Lane shows up to explain that his beginnings also involved lightning...

....Chato escapes prison as El Diablo, going to face Vorpal and Ninhursag in the depths of the Earth, and her child, Ghatanothoa (whom Ninhursag wants El Diablo to kill, as the lady demon decided she doesn't want everything to end.....).

Ghatanothoa makes El Diablo a counter offer, to be his general and help bring about the end times, which Chato refuses, and with Vorpal's help, ends Ghatanothoa.  Chato realizes who he was has died, crawls out of the hole he was trapped in, and accepts his new role as a demon who hands out vengeance on men as bad as he was....ending the short saga of El Diablo for a time.....

...though the DC Universe seemed to change around the character, and El Diablo ended up as a member of the Suicide Squad, using his hellfire powers to help end evil amongst others who committed evil.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Star Trek Origins And Endings

Amazing that in all the years, it wasn't until DC Comics had the Star Trek property that the beginnings of Captain James T. Kirk's five-year mission were explored....and that DC also explored the end of the five year mission as well, and DC did it in their first two annuals for Star Trek (and had something special for the third Annual as well....).

Let's take a look back at those future events, that haven't happened yet.....

Star Trek: First Mission

Star Trek Annual #1 (1985) features the story "All Those Years Ago..." had a plot by Marv Wolfman and Dave Cockrum, was written by Mike W. Barr, and drawn by David Ross and Bob Smith, who also drew the cover.

This issue dealt with Kirk's first mission on the Enterprise in 2264, taking over from Christopher Pike.  The issue also bid farewell to Pike's first officer, only referred to as Number One and Doctor, Phillip Boyce, eventually allowing Spock (who had served with the ship under Captain Pike) to become Kirk's first officer.  Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy does serve as the Enterprise's medical officer, but he would have to leave for his daughter's graduation, allowing Dr. Mark Piper to be the medical officer of "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (Kirk's Star Trek pilot episode, that introduces ). 

This issue also allows the reader to see Lee Kelso and Gary Mitchell in action for a bit, two characters introduced in Star Trek's second pilot, that do not survive to the series.  It's also a great establishing story for the rest of the five year mission...though it doesn't quite match up with the Enterprise: The First Adventure novel of 1986.

Star Trek: Final Mission

Star Trek Annual #2 (1986) features "The Final Voyage", with the last mission of the five year assignment of Captain James T. Kirk aboard the starship Enterprise in 2270 by writer Mike W. Barr, Dan Jurgens and Bob Smith, under a cover by Denys Cowan and Ricardo Villagran.

The crew thinks it is headed home to Earth, with a refit to be supervised by Commander Will Decker (familiar to those who have seen Star Trek: The Motion Picture, or read the first three issues of Marvel Comics' Star Trek, and the son of Commodore Matt Decker, from "The Doomsday Machine"), but ends up on Talos IV, where the Captain Koloth and the Klingons have taken over, putting Christopher Pike back in his chair, and use the powers of mind over matter on the crew, torturing Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Decker with some of their worst moments, including for Decker encountering the corpses of the crew of the U.S.S. Constellation, Spock dealing with rejection from his human mother, McCoy dealing with the idea of his daughter Joanna dying while he was adventuring in space, and Kirk facing the death of Edith Keeler...until Jim cannot take it anymore, and he breaks free, freeing the Talosians as well, who wipe the Klingons minds of memories of Talos IV, allowing Kirk and crew to leave.

Kirk is shaken by this experience, looking for a quieter desk job as an Admiral, Spock leaves Starfleet for a time to go to Vulcan to purge himself of the emotions he experienced, McCoy also retires the service to reconnect with his daughter, and Decker goes to prepare to take over the Enterprise.

In Between
Star Trek Annual #3 (1988) sets the stages for the Star Trek Annuals that follow in DC's second run of Star Trek books, in that it focuses on one crew member, this time around, on Montgomery Scott, chief engineer of the Enterprise, with the story "Retrospect", by Peter David, Curt Swan and Ricardo Villagran, and a cover by Gray Morrow.

This issue starts in the current time of Scotty, with the man suffering medical problems...which we find out is due to his wife, Glynnis Campbell's, passing.  During the course of the issue, we find out about his wife (introduced in this annual) by looking back at times of Scotty's life, like soon after Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (and his nephew, Peter Preston's funeral in 2285) when Scotty plans to go back into service (but Glynnis wants to remain on Earth, foreshadowing a breakup between the two); years earlier, in 2273, with Montgomery and Glynnis rekindling their relationship after her divorce from Angus while young Peter Preston things of joining Starfleet; Scotty finding Glynnis married to Angus McFarlane in 2267 at an agricultural colony the Enterprise is checking up on; Scotty leaving Glynnis behind in as he goes into Starfleet in 2247; young Montgomery picking a fight with Angus McFarlane over Glynnis in 2237; and Scotty meeting Glynnis for the first time in 2229, where she realizes she will love Scotty forever.

Star Trek Annuals #2 and #3 are reprinted in The Best of Star Trek from 1991.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Star Trek The Motion Picture Comic

Space the Final Frontier....and, in the late 1970s, it was Marvel that got to boldly go where no man has gone before, with an adaptation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture!

It was in Marvel Super Special #15 (December, 1979), with a cover by Bob Larkin, and adaptation by writer Marv Wolfman, pencils by Dave Cockrum and inks by Klaus Janson.

This was the story of Will Decker, Ilia and V'ger, alongside the Enterprise crew of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scott, Sulu, Uhura and Chekov...

...and this led to Marvel's first run at a Star Trek comic book series.


With Star Trek #1 (April, 1980), Marvel boldly went with their first Star Trek comic, taking the first 17 pages from the Marvel Super Special, with V'Ger attacking a fleet of Klingon ships, Spock trying to achieve kolinar, and Admiral James T. Kirk being called into Starfleet to get reassigned to the Enterprise to deal with that "thing" out there.  Kirk informs Captain Willard Decker that he's taking over, and greets a few additions to his crew, like Lt. Ilia (a Deltan who had served with Decker before), as well as beaming Dr. Leonard McCoy on board.  The Enterprise takes off, has problems in warp drive, with Decker saving the ship, and then, they bring Spock aboard.

Quite a bit for this first issue, adapted by Marv Wolfman, Dave Cockrum and Klaus Janson (and a cover by Steve Leialoha).


The Final Frontier

Star Trek #2 (May, 1980) contained the second part of the Motion Picture story, detailing the Enterprise's first encounter with the being known as"V'Ger", with a cover by Dave Cockrum and interiors by Marv Wolfman, Dave Cockrum and Klaus Janson, dealt with the second 17 pages of the Marvel Super Special, dealing with V'Ger and his affect on the crew of the Enterprise, most notably, Ilia and Spock.

A little odd to have this, not starting or ending the story (and a bit of a flash forward to how comics would behave in the future..

....the Enterprise crew hadn't really had continued adventures in comic book form before).

Star Trek #3 (June, 1980), with the title of "Evolutions" and the same writing and artistic crew of Wolfman, Cockrum and Janson (because it was just really a reprint of the Marvel Super Special), with the new addition of Bob Wiacek on the cover, had the last 17 pages of the Enterprise's encounter with V'ger with the alien hovering over Earth, revealing its true intentions (which didn't bode well for the carbon units, that's human beings, living there), and the final fates of Ilia and Decker, with the Enterprise crew carrying on after.
Best of all, these three issues are reprinted IDW's Star Trek Movie Omnibus (June, 2011), that contains the adaptations of the first 6 Star Trek movies (with the last four being done by DC Comics, and IDW handling Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan).  

These Are The Voyages

Star Trek #4 (July, 1980) started the first new Star Trek comic story since the days of Gold Key, with "The Haunting Of Thallus" by Marv Wolfman, Dave Cockrum and Klaus Janson, and a cover by Dave Cockrum, with Kirk and crew transporting a new ambassador through space, and encountering a haunted house (as well as Klingons)....and the story continued into Star Trek #5 (August, 1980), and "The Haunting Of The Enterprise", by Mike W. Barr, Dave Cockrum and Klaus Janson, bring the monsters aboard the Enterprise, where the crew finally solve the mystery of where they are from.

Of The Starship Enterprise

The Enterprise crew dealt with another new ambassador in Star Trek #6 (September, 1980) and "The Enterprise Murder Case" by Mike W. Barr, Dave Cockrum and Klaus Janson (cover by Cockrum and Janson), with Spock bluffing out trouble in this one, and Star Trek #7 (October, 1980), with "Tomorrow Or Yesterday" by Tom DeFalco, Mike Nasser and Klaus Janson (and cover by Mike Nasser), with a planet about to be destroyed by a radioactive cloud, and the inhabitants expecting Kirk, Spock and McCoy to help and their arrival was prepared for by "those-who-have-stepped-beyond", as there are ancient statues of the three on the planet!

Its Five Year Mission

Star Trek #8 (November, 1980) deals with "The Expansionist Syndrome" by Martin Pasko, Dave Cockrum and Ricardo Villamonte, and a cover by Dave Cockrum, with the Enterprise crew dealing with Spock being kidnapped by leftover technology from the Eugenics Wars (a sideways reference to Khan, though he and his genetically enhanced humans aren't here; Khan wouldn't return until much later, in the second Star Trek movie)...

...then in Star Trek #9 (December, 1980) by Martin Pasko, Dave Cockrum and Frank Springer, and an "Experiment In Vengeance!", also sounding like a story that should involve Khan (but didn't, Marvel only had the rights to what was seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture).  Instead, the Enterprise has to find out what happened to the crew of the Endeavor, as the lifeless ship attacks the Enterprise, and is pursued by an entity known as the Unity, looking for vengeance, especially on an old friend of Kirk's, Lt. Karen Hester-Jones (yet another old friend that Kirk was involved with...).

All enough to keep a crew busy for a time!  

To Explore Strange New Worlds

Star Trek #10 (January, 1981) sees Spock and McCoy on a survey of a primitive planet, and a hard landing of a shuttle, involving the "Domain Of The Dragon God" by Michael Fleisher, Leo Duranona and Klaus Janson (and a cover by Frank Miller), with Spock and McCoy getting involved with the natives, but more or less following the Prime Directive of non-interference.

Plus, as a bonus, artist Dave Cockrum shows us Files of Starfleet Headquarters, about Starfleet uniforms and rank insignias.

Star Trek #11 (February, 1981) finds dealing with trouble "...Like A Woman Scorned", as the Enterprise crew has to deal with a station being exposed to radiation, which leads to a meeting with an ex-girlfriend of Scotty's (who brings out a witch who attacks Mr. Scott, putting him into a coma, and even having the Loch Ness Monster come to attack the Enterprise).

Wait, the Loch Ness Monster in space? 

The crew has to find where these old Scottish legends are coming from in this odd science fiction mystery tale by Martin Pasko, Joe Brozowski and Tom Palmer, with a cover by Joe Brozowski and Tom Palmer as well.

To Seek Out New Life 

Star Trek #12 (March, 1981) sees the "Eclipse Of Reason" as Janice Rand joins the crew of the Icarus, and heads out of the galaxy, with an alien crew made of beings of light (including Rand's husband, the captain of the Icarus).

The alien crew have life expectancies of thousands of years, and their form should make them immune to passing through the energy surrounding the galaxy...

....but that doesn't seem to be the case as the ship returns, with Rand and the aliens attacking, and only the Enterprise there to stop them, in this story by Allan Brennart and Martin Pasko, with art by Luke McDonnell and Klaus Janson, and a cover by Joe Brozowski and Tom Palmer.

Star Trek #13 (April, 1981) sees an old character return, McCoy's daughter, Joanna McCoy (getting around the ban on series characters as she never appeared in the original series, only making it into notes), with "All The Infinite Ways" by Martin Pasko, Joe Brozowski, Tom Palmer and Marie Severin, and a cover by James Sherman and Larry Hama.

This leads into a battle with the Klingons, as they try to claim mineral rights to the planet she is on (with Bones finding out his daughter is engaged to a Vulcan as well!  This is why this doctor doesn't make house calls).  

And New Civilizations

Star Trek #14 (June, 1981) has the story of "We Are Dying, Egypt, Dying" by Martin Pasko, Luke McDonnell and Gene Day, and a cover by Ed Hannigan and James Sherman....and oh, what a cover!  It almost belongs on a Gold Key comic, if not for the world balloons!

Ancient space?

Kirk and crew beam down to investigate, with Spock remaining on the ship.  Kirk falls prey to the force in the pyramids, changing his personality, and the captain battles with his crew, until they solve the riddle this situation presented.

Star Trek #15 (August, 1981) was written by Martin Pasko, with art by Gil Kane, Dan Adkins and Al Milgrom (and a cover by Dave Cockrum), and the story about "The Quality Of Mercy".

Spock and McCoy go to Kirk's quarters to find an alien there...

....but, it is really just Captain Kirk, preparing for a new mission, and they will have to be disguised as well.  The disguised Enterprise crew go to free a prisoner, and, things go wrong (when don't they?) and the landing party gets captured itself, giving them something to think about, as well as having to get free themselves.

To Boldly Go

Star Trek #16 (October, 1981) finds "There's No Space Like Gnomes'" under a cover by Luke McDonnell and Al Milgrom, and story by Martin Pasko, Luke McDonnell, Gene Day and Sal Trapani.

Exploring a planet, Spock gets a reading on small humanoids, and the landing party goes to investigate.  While on the planet, McCoy gets injured, and a female member of the landing party gets taken by a pair of hairy arms (much to the concern of Chekov).  It seems the Enterprise has wandered into a battle between gnomes and trolls, and have to work their way out of this trouble!

Star Trek #17 (December, 1981) sees the Enterprise crew face "The Long Night's Dawn" in a story by Mike W. Barr, Ed Hannigan, Tom Palmer and Dave Simons, under a stunning cover by Walt Simonson.

The Enterprise crew go to check on a planet where a Federation probe has crashed, and released a toxic gas on the primitive people's of that planet.  Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down in disguise, so as not to expose their advanced nature to the civilization there.  Sadly, they are found out, having their communicators and tricorders broken, Kirk and Spock escape capture, and then must free McCoy before he is executed the next day by these superstitious people.

Where No Man Has Gone Before

Star Trek #18 (February, 1982) is the last issue of the 1980s Marvel Star Trek comic, with the story of "A Thousand Deaths" by J.M. DeMatteis, Joe Brozowski and Sal Trapani, and a cover by Joe Brozowski and Terry Austin.

The Enterprise is confronted by a huge alien ship, that brings Kirk and Spock aboard, while holding the Enterprise captive.  Kirk and Spock are forced to watch each other die in various scenarios while the Enterprise crew are being slowly killed.  Kirk and Spock both prepare to sacrifice themselves for their ship, leaving an impression on their captor....

....and that is Star Trek at it's best.  Striving for more, showing hope for tomorrow, and a loyalty beyond oneself to one's friends.

Even without access to the depth of Star Trek history, these 18 comics at least show the heart of the series.

Better still, Star Trek #4 to #18 from this run have been collected by IDW, who continues the Star Trek franchise in comic for to this day, these in the Star Trek Omnibus Vol. 1, and after a few years (and the movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), DC Comics takes a chance to boldly go....

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Few Special Star Trek Issues

Star Trek has had a few comic series over the 5 decades of its existence, but there are a few that stand out.

Here's a couple of them from DC's first run at the cast of the Enterprise....

...and why these two issues have stood the test of time (in more ways than one!).

 Chekov's Choice

It is a rare thing when television actors get a chance to write comics, especially about their own character on a beloved show, but Walter Koenig got that chance for Pavel Chekov with DC Comics' Star Trek #19 (October, 1985) and the story of "Chekov's Choice", with art by Dan Spiegle and cover by series regulars Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran.

This issue is important, as it focused on the era of Star Trek between the original series and the majority of original Star Trek movie era, set at a time after the original Star Trek motion picture but well before the events of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Chekov was faced with a choice (thus, the title), and had to lead the crew of the Enterprise in a mutiny to save the ship from a collision with an asteroid.

This issue also showed that DC Comics had, wisely, gotten legal rights from Paramount to cover all eras of Star Trek at the time (unlike the previous Marvel Comic series, which only covered the era of Star Trek: The Motion Picture).

Vicious Circle

The comic took advantage of that fact with Star Trek #33 (December, 1986) and "Vicious Circle" by Len Wein, Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran (and cover by Jerry Bingham), when the original series crew met with the movie era crew in a special, 20th Anniversary story!

Thanks to an early time travel adventure of the Star Trek crew from the episode, "Tomorrow Is Yesterday", Kirk and crew came from the 1960s, overshooting their own time to the time and ending up in the time between Star Trek III: The Search For Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  This caused many time anomalies and both crews had to work together to get the original Enterprise crew to their rightful place in time.  The crew used another time travel device to help them out (which won't be spoiled here, but it was from an episode fans remember forever)...and special note, you can see the differences in the crews, because Chekov wasn't around during those early, first season episodes, yet Yeoman Janice Rand was.

This points out a problem from Star Trek II: The Wrath of how does Khan recognize Chekov, but that's one anomaly beyond our reckoning.  The issue is also special, as writer Len Wein had written original Gold Key Star Trek issues, making him the first Star Trek comic writer to have written Star Trek comics to go from Gold Key to DC (with Mike W. Barr the first in doing duty from Marvel to DC).  Then, in 1991, Walter Koenig wrote a book, detailing his experiences on making Star Trek: The Motion Picture, entitled "Chekov's Enterprise".  Quite a vicious circle of time travel for both writers!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Shazam The New Beginning 1987

After the Crisis on Infinite Earths, many DC heroes found themselves lacking in history, and even with Darkseid threatening their Legends in the 1986/1987 mini-series, these heroes still struggled to find themselves.  None more so than Captain Marvel, who was a brand new hero to start off the Legends mini-series, and had a 4 part limited series called Shazam: The New Beginning, whose first issue came out at the time of the last issue of Legends....yet was set before that series.

A New Beginning

Shazam: The New Beginning #1 (April, 1987) by Roy and Danette Thomas and Tom Mandrake told the story of young Billy Batson, orphaned in a car crash, and involved in a legal battle between Dudley Batson and Thaddeus B. Sivana, ends up with Sivana, who is using the boy for his inheritance to fund his experiments (which eventually bring Black Adam, an evil Marvel, back to Earth).

Billy discovers this experiment and flees, ending up in a subway tunnel, where he meets the old wizard, Shazam, and gives the boy the power to turn into Captain Marvel when Billy says the old wizard's name (even Shazam feels this is familiar....and recalls the original Marvel Family, before trying to forget; but this issue is technically the first appearance of the post-Crisis Sivana and Black Adam, as well as Dudley Batson).

'S' Is For Wisdom...'H' Is For Strength

Shazam: The New Beginning #2 (May, 1987) by Roy and Danette Thomas and Tom Mandrake sees this story continue...

...with Black Adam and Captain Marvel having their first fight (though cut short), as well as Billy reuniting with Dudley to go to fight Sivana for Billy's money (and Billy getting a little help from Sivana's daughter, Beautia, who also hints at the idea that the evil scientist might have caused the death of Billy's parents!).

Beautia is also a post-Crisis version of her old self (and premiered in the previous issue), and had been famous for her charms, and affection for Captain Marvel, in spite of who her father was.

'A' Is For Stamina...'Z' Is For Power

Shazam: The New Beginning #3 (June, 1987) by Roy and Danette Thomas and Tom Mandrake sees Billy and Dudley return to their home in San Francisco, with Billy going to the TV station, K-WHZ, to report his encounter with Black Adam.  The station manager doesn't believe the boy, and calls Sivana to take the boy to his home, which Billy avoids by turning into Captain Marvel and heading to the subway tunnel.

At the subway tunnel, Captain Marvel finds Shazam's ghost, who explains how the wizard had exiled his former protege to another dimension, which Sivana brought the evil being back from.
Captain Marvel heads to Sivana's home to confront the evil scientist, but Black Adam interrupts.  The two Shazam-powered beings are evenly matched, yet Sivana takes out the Captain with a weapon he had planned to use on Black Adam.

'A' Is For Courage...'M' Is For Speed

Shazam: The New Beginning #4 (July, 1987) by Roy and Danette Thomas and Tom Mandrake sees Sivana planning to send Captain Marvel into the dimensional exile that held Black Adam for thousands of years, but Dudley stops Sivana (during which Sivana learns that Billy and Cap are one).

Captain Marvel finds Black Adam, and the two battle, coming back to Sivana's lab, with Cap changing back to Billy, and tricking Black Adam into activating the machine, which sends the evil one back into exile (though he eventually returns in DC's War of the Gods).

Captain Marvel frees hostages taken by Black Adam, gives Billy the credit for his finding them, which leads to Billy getting a job at the television station (just in time to see G. Gordon Godfrey begin his tirade against super-heroes that kicks off Legends....where we see Billy interviewing Godfrey on air).

Action Comics Weekly

This Captain Marvel had a small run in 4 issues of Action Comics Weekly (#623 to #626) in 1988, by Roy and Danette Thomas, Rick Stasi and Rick Magyar, that had Billy dealing with a new Captain Nazi (but he was totally a modern day villain...thus he could have been called Captain Neo Nazi in the post-Crisis world....), set after Captain Marvel's brief run as a member of the Justice League.

Cap didn't even rate a cover appearance in this series, and Roy's version of Captain Marvel was mostly forgotten, even when Cap and Black Adam came back for Wonder Woman's War of the Gods...

...and then Cap and all his family got their origins tweaked again (still accounting for Captain Marvel's brief Justice League membership right after Legends, as well as few appearances in Superman titles like Action Comics Annual #4 and in the War of the Gods), with the whole Marvel Family coming back starting with the Power of Shazam! Graphic Novel by Jerry Ordway, and then the 48 issue series that brought Cap back a little towards his Fawcett roots (mostly notably by placing Billy Batson in his own fictional city...Fawcett City, as well as reviving a few old villains like Captain Nazi, Mr. Mind, Mr. Atom, Ibac and more!). 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Shazam! It's Fawcett's Captain Marvel

A long time ago, Billy Batson first uttered the word, Shazam at the beckoning of the old wizard with that name, and became Captain Marvel!

Let's take a look back at the glory days of Captain Marvel, and the whole Marvel Family!

Captain Marvel

Billy Batson was the one who started it all, when he followed a stranger (secretly Mercury) into a subway tunnel, to meet an old wizard, who was dying and wanted to pass on his power to the boy...

...and bid Billy to speak the wizard's name, Shazam!...

....then Billy became Captain Marvel, as the wizard died, passing on his power.

All this (and more, including a battle with Sivana, the world's wickedest scientist), as well as Billy getting a job at Whiz Radio for Sterling Morris in Whiz Comics #2 (February, 1940) by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck.

Billy's powers were the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury, gained when he said "Shazam!" and was struck by the mystical lightning (and that's also how Cap changed back to Billy...

...all of which really meant he could fly, was invulnerable, super-strong, fast and smart).

Captain Marvel seemed like Superman, but in his earliest adventures, was serialized more like Flash Gordon, and was a young orphan boy's wish be able to speak a magic word and become an adult and solve all his own problems.

Billy wasn't alone, he had many foes, such as Dr. Sivana, beastman King Kull, demonic powered Ibac, atomic powered Mr. Atom, the sinister Mr. Mind and his Monster Society of Evil, and, as he began during World War II, he also fought the Axis powers, and their representative, Captain Nazi (who was the villain that led to the beginnings of the Marvel Family).

Billy and his alter ego were the star of Whiz Comics until it ended, with Whiz Comics #155 (June, 1953), as well as Special Edition Comics #1 of 1940, which led to Captain Marvel Adventures, who ran 150 issues from January 17, 1941 (it was bi-weekly in its early days) to November, 1953... well as being the main feature of America's Greatest Comics for its 8 issues from 1941 to 1943, that spotlighted other Fawcett characters as well, such as Spy Smasher, Bulletman, Minute Man and Mr. Scarlet.

A team-up with Spy Smasher led to our next hero...who ended up having ties to Captain Marvel! 

Captain Marvel, Jr.

Freddy Freeman was a victim, after a battle between Captain Marvel, Bulletman and Captain Nazi in Master Comics #21 (December, 1941), Captain Marvel followed Captain Nazi to Whiz Comics #25 (December 12, 1941, by France Herron, C.C. Beck and Mac Raboy), where Captain Nazi killed Freddy's guardian, grandpa Freeman, and injured the boy, forcing Captain Marvel to take desperate matters to save the child.  Forecast at the hospital not to live, Billy kidnapped Freddy and took him to the subway tunnel where he had gotten his powers from Shazam, and communicating with the spirit of Shazam, came up with the idea to transfer a bit of his power to the boy to save his life, thus allowing Freddy to become Captain Marvel, Jr. whenever he spoke his hero's name.

Captain Marvel, Jr. had pretty much the same powers as Captain Marvel did, only his appearance (other than getting a blue uniform) didn't change as much as Billy's did when he became Captain Marvel, and whenever he was only Freddy, he walked with a limp, as a reminder of Captain Nazi's attack.  Captain Marvel, Jr. worked with Bulletman in Master Comics #22 (January, 1942) to thwart Captain Nazi, and Captain Nazi became more of Junior's foe for a time.

Captain Marvel, Jr. had a few foes of his own...

...such as Captain Nippon (it was wartime), demonic Sabbac, slippery Mr. Hydro, flexible Mr. Acrobat, dreamy Mr. Morpheus, Vampira the Queen of Terror, mobster Graybeard, and even the scientist son of Sivana, Sivana Jr. (as well as facing off against Sivana himself more than a few times, both alone and with the rest of the Marvel Family....).

Captain Marvel, Jr. was the main feature of Master Comics until its end with Master Comics #133 in April, 1953, as well as having his own title, Captain Marvel Jr. for 118 issues, from #1 in November 18, 1942 to #119 in June, 1953 (miscounting one issue), and Jr. also teamed up with other Fawcett heroes occasionally, like Bulletman and Spy Smasher...

...even taking the lead of the one and only issue of All-Hero Comics #1 (March 17, 1943), as well as being there for the final issue of America's Greatest Comics...

...even showing up in a few Captain Marvel Adventures, like #52 to meet the son of Sivana, or all the way back to Captain Marvel Adventures #18, to meet our next character....   

Mary Marvel

Mary Batson first met Billy and Freddy in Captain Marvel Adventures #18 (December 11, 1942, by Otto Binder and Marc Swayze), and this could be considered the first appearance of the Marvel Family, as the three main members were there.  But, at the time, Mary was known as Mary Bromfield.  Mary was the twin sister of Billy, meeting him thanks to competing on a game show Billy was hosting.  Criminals take Billy and Freddy hostage, and Mary finds out that she too can gain the powers of Shazam by saying his name, turning into a female version of Captain Marvel, called Mary Marvel during her time at Fawcett Comics.  Mary had a brief training session with her brother in the next issue of Captain Marvel Adventures, before heading out to her own series in Wow Comics, starting in Wow Comics #9 (January 6, 1943), where she also worked with Mr. Scarlett and his partner, Pinky.

Mary's powers were slightly different from her brother's...

....with Shazam breaking down as Selena for grace, Hippolya for strength, Ariadne for skill, Zephyrus for fleetness, Aurora for beauty and Minerva for wisdom...

...but she could pretty much keep up with the boys in super-feats.

Mary also spent more time facing supernatural threats, or more closely, adventures that sent her to magical lands, than fighting foes..

...though she did have a few... Mr. Night, Mr. Question, Nightowl, and even the daughter of Sivana, Georgia, who also had a penchant for scientific crimes, like the rest of the Sivana family.

Mary lasted in Wow Comics until Wow Comics #58 (September, 1947), and for 28 issues of her own, Mary Marvel, series, that went from December, 1945 to September, 1948.  Mary worked with a few other Fawcett heroes here and there as well, but her biggest contribution to the Marvel Family was finding Uncle Dudley.....

Uncle Marvel

Dudley Batson was Mary Batson's uncle, and introduced in Wow Comics #18 (October, 1943) by Otto Binder and Marc Swayze.  Dudley found Mary's diary, and claimed to be Mary's uncle, but the Marvel's figured better.

Thing is, Dudley was charming and mostly harmless (except to himself)... they let him hang around and fed his fantasy to keep him safe (and others safe from him).

Dudley didn't have any powers, but did fashion his own "Shazam" suit to stand with the rest of the Marvel Family.

Uncle Marvel appeared in Wow Comics #24 (April, 1944), met Captain Marvel in Captain Marvel Adventures #43 (February, 1945) and Jr. in Master Comics #61 (May, 1945), (with appearances in Mary Marvel #34 and #35 between), before finally being accepted as a member of the Marvel Family with Marvel Family #1 (December, 1945).

It was a good thing, too, as Dudley was the one who stopped Black Adam (Shazam's evil protege from ancient Egypt) who had the full Shazam powers, and planned much evil on Earth, at least until Dudley got him to say Shazam, turning Black Adam back to his mortal form of Teth-Adam, where he died of old age.

Uncle Marvel, or Dudley, appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures #53 (February 1, 1946), Captain Marvel Adventures #59 (April 26, 1946), Marvel Family #2 (June, 1946), Marvel Family #8 (February, 1947), Marvel Family #10 (April, 1947 - facing the combined might of the Sivana Family), Marvel Family #14 (August, 1947), Mary Marvel #17 (October, 1947) and Mary Marvel #28 (September, 1948), before fading out for a time.  But, the Marvels really didn't need an unpowered man around, when they had three more men with the power of Shazam!

Lieutenants Marvel

Back to Billy Batson.  But Captain Marvel's alter ego wasn't the only Billy Batson, there were three others (at least) that also had that name, and they met in Whiz Comics #21 (September 5, 1941) by C. C. Beck

A tall Billy from Texas, a "hill" Billy from the Ozarks and a fat Billy from Brooklyn all got together, and the four were threatened by Sivana...

...and the only way the group could escape was to all yell "Shazam!" at the same time as too much noise was being made for the old wizard to hear Captain Marvel's alter ego...and this resulted in all four of the Billys being turned into versions of Captain Marvel, just in time to defeat Sivana. 

Each of the three other Billys (Tall Marvel, Hill Marvel and Fat Marvel) had the same powers as Captain Marvel...

...but the three could only change if all four Billys were present and said Shazam... by necessity, you always saw the three Lieutenant Marvels together. 

The team next appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures #4 (October 31, 1941, but not on the cover), then Whiz Comics #29 (April 17, 1942), Whiz Comics #34 (September 4, 1942) and Whiz Comics #40 (February 19, 1943)...

...before becoming official Marvel Family members with Marvel Family #2 (June, 1946).  It sure took some time as they predated the rest of the Marvel Family!

The Lt's next appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures #62 (June 7, 1946) and Captain Marvel Adventures #71 (April, 1947) before disappearing for a time...

...but neither of those appearances have the 3 Lieutenants on the cover, so instead, take a look at this happy gathering from Whiz Comics #59 (October, 1944), to take a look at the extended Marvel Family in an impossible photo (as Billy, Mary and Freddy are in the picture, along with Cap, Mary and Junior, as is Uncle Marvel!  Even the old wizard, Sterling Morris and a few others like Beautia Sivana, and foes like Sivana, Mr. Mind and Ibac showed up here as well....).

Sadly, with the ironic cover of Marvel Family #89 (January, 1954, drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger), the Marvel Family was gone, or at least Fawcett's version of them was.

Kurt went to work for DC Comics, and snuck him in an issue of Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane (#42 from July, 1963, for only a cameo, and colored differently in green, but colored correctly for the reprint in Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane #104 of September-October, 1970), and later still, DC made it official and purchased the Captain and his family...

...though failing to secure the rights to the Captain Marvel name on the cover, Stan Lee and the Marvel folks caught that in the 1960s, and created their own Captain Marvel.

So, when Captain Marvel debuted at DC, the comic ended up being called Shazam, which was a defining phrase of the hero!  This continued on the adventures of the Fawcett Marvel Family, moving them into the 1970s for 35 issues, then a back up feature in World's Finest Comics, and two issues in Adventure Comics (as a digest-sized book), and they survived through the Crisis on Infinite Earths, with their separate status on Earth-S ending with that series.

Captain Marvel was the first of the Marvel Family to come back, with Legends #1 (November, 1986), and later, after Jerry Ordway retooled Captain Marvel with his Power of Shazam Graphic Novel (January, 1994), which led into a Power of Shazam series, even Mary and Freddy came back as well.

Holy Moley!