Is 2008 The Year of Captain Marvel?
past couple of weeks, Warner Brothers has been aggressively
moving forward with one of DC's most beloved characters. Once
more popular than Superman, Captain Marvel looks poised for
a public onslaught.
you can't call him Captain Marvel; technically it's Shazam!
thanks to trademark issues with Marvel Comics. Still, a lot
of people remember him from his '70's Saturday morning live-action
show on CBS, featuring Michael Gray and Jackson Bostwick as
each other's alter egos.
screenwriter John August (Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate
Factory) came onboard to work on the film adaptation,
possibily tweaking a script by William Goldman. Or it could
be a page one rewrite. The trades are unclear.
wake of August's hiring, rumors have run (making it to the
Internet Movie Database)
that Jake Gyllenhaal is considering taking on a dual role
as Billy Batson and Captain Marvel. August has been quick
to shoot that one down, hinting that the screenplay will leave
Billy as a young boy.
fans of the character want to know how young. In the original
Fawcett publication, orphaned Billy Batson was eight years
old when beckoned down into an abandoned subway tunnel. (Yes,
it was a different time.) There he faced the wizard Shazam,
an ancient imbued with the powers of a variety of pantheons
who passed them on to Billy. When Billy says the wizard's
name, he becomes Captain Marvel, the World's Mightiest Mortal.
his revival by DC in the early seventies, Billy has aged somewhat.
The Variety article described him as a fourteen-year-old boy,
and when Gray played the character, the actor was in his twenties.
now at DC, the character is being presented two ways. In Judd
Winick and Howard Porter's somewhat controversial The Trials
of Shazam, a teen-aged Billy has transformed into a white-haired,
much older Captain Marvel, who has taken the wizard's place
in the Rock of Eternity. His protege, Captain Marvel, Jr aka
Freddy Freeman, is undergoing a series of tests to earn a
promotion to being Captain Marvel.
same time, Jeff Smith has re-imagined the origin of Captain
Marvel with Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil, putting
Billy back to being eight. So which version will capture the
general public's imagination? DC Editor Mike Carlin commented
at Comic-Con 2006 that he thought there was room for both.
putting a twist on the struggle, Rich Johnston revealed in
this week's "Lying
in the Gutters" column that Kids!WB has a Shazam!
animated series in the works. (See image above) It's the first
I'd heard, and notice that it's very squarely (and square-jawedly)
a take on the classic Captain Marvel.
and Goldman have claimed an affection for the innocence of
the character, something definitely not present in Winick's
bold take. If this animated series takes off, the real question
is how rapidly will DC backpedal to make sure the print version
of the character resembles the multi-media juggernaut?
I'd like to say DC doesn't kowtow as much to their "popular"
images, note that for quite some time, Batman went to an all-black
suit to match Tim Burton's vision, and both Hawkgirl and John
Stewart saw their profiles rise in the comic books to match
their importance to the animated Justice League. Then
again, Geoff Johns' Teen Titans hasn't become as silly
as the Cartoon Network show.
rate, it's interesting for fans of the Big Red Cheese.