Shazam!! Great news, Captain Marvel fans!
Recently, Geoff Johns spoke with a group of journalists about Rebirth.
One of those journalists asked Johns if Shazam/Captain Marvel among others) was getting his own book (and what the strategy was.
On getting a Shazam book, Johns’ response was:
“There will be a Shazam book. Not by me, but they’re definitely doing a Shazam book.”
Okay, two things. First: We finally have an answer!
We knew based on the DC’s promotional art that Captain Marvel – or rather – New 52 Shazam was almost certainly going to be in the Rebirth universe. We just did not know if he was going to get his own title.
We do now.
DC has predicated their Rebirth universe on the idea of taking the New 52 and getting back to the core of their characters and moving on from there. Essentially, it is Infinity Crisis + New 52.
Despite my disdain for New 52 Shazam, giving up on the character altogether immediately following Darkseid War: Shazam! #1, the idea that DC intends to get back to the core roots of their characters gives me hope that we may see the same being true of Captain Marvel again. Johns’ New 52 Shazam was nothing like the classic Captain Marvel. Speaking of, that brings me to my second observation:
Johns will not be writing Captain Marvel’s Rebirth book.
For long-time Captain Marvel fans such as myself, short of DC reinstating classic Captain Marvel in Rebirth, that is about THE absolute best news we could possibly get.
Let me explain:
In his Fawcett origins, Billy Batson was chosen and bestowed the powers of gods by the wizard Shazam to be his champion. Despite horrible tragedies and serious misfortune at such a young age, Billy remained selfless, morally wholesome, and incorruptible. This is what made Billy worthy to chosen by the wizard.
That Billy Batson was chosen because he was utterly and purely a good boy with the biggest heart is the core idea and core template of the character. This is what made him worthy of being chosen to transform into an adult superhero by saying a magic word. It’s the ultimate wish fulfillment. It was a winning formula in the 40’s and it still holds mass appeal even in today’s highly cynical world.
Over the decades, that core element about Billy Batson remained largely, if not completely unchanged. Why not? Because when you change the core idea and template of a character, the character becomes an entirely different character. You change the product – the brand, really – into something else entirely.
Take Reed Richards, would he be the same character were he someone who did not possess a prodiguous intellect? That’s right, he would cease to be Mr. Fantastic and become something else: Mr. Average.
New 52 Billy Batson was a victim of that. Gone were the core elements of a purely good and selfless boy that Bill Parker and C.C. Beck created together, replaced by the pale imitation that Johns created, one with an entirely different set of core characteristics: selfishness, bitterness, and egotism. Non-endearing traits.
Put simply, New 52 Billy Batson was a jerk. He no longer had the virtuous and timeless qualities that made him special. The very concept that made him worthy of being chosen to be Captain Marvel was gone.
Think about it. The world is full of jerks, so when you give a jerk the power of the gods, you say that just about any jerk can be given those powers. Thus, if Billy Batson is a jerk, what is there to separate him from just about anybody else? What makes him worthy?
It then becomes a question of why the powers were not just given to someone else who has endured similar, if not greater tragedies and retained a purely optimistic perspective in the cruel world around them.
See? It just does not work. Without that incorruptibility, that selfless wholesomeness and pure Norman Rockwellian goodness, Billy Batson would not be special. He cannot possibly stand above the rest in being chosen.
This is the flaw that Geoff Johns did not foresee when he made Billy Batson an embittered jerk.
Yes, in Johns’ case, I can easily see that when an orphaned young child is kicked out on the street by an uncle who stole his inheritance that it would be easy for him to become disenfranchised with the world and begin to see it with a jaded, selfish, hardened, and hate-filled heart. I even get how that would seem “modern” and interesting to him in today’s day and age.
And yes, I get that for some people, which I presume would include Johns, they think that being morally wholesome is an outdated notion, a relic of a time past, so in an effort to modernize a character, they change such characters like Billy Batson into hardened, embittered meanies to fit with the times.
The problem with that is that it is flat-out untrue. The notion of moral wholesomeness being outdated, that is. Pure-heartedness is a timeless virtue, one that has been in the stories of our heroes in countless cultures and eras. It still stands strong today. In no era can it possibly be outdated.
That is why even today, it cannot and does not work to make Billy Batson be a jerk.
Don’t get me wrong, Johns is undeniably a good writer and I have nothing against him as a person, but he did a lot of damage to Captain Marvel by removing Billy Batson’s core elements.
So knowing that Johns will not be writing the Rebirth Shazam book gives me hope that under another creator’s care, we just might get a much more holistic treatment of Captain Marvel. That is why it is great news for long-time Captain Marvel fans that Johns is not writing his Rebirth book. If we are lucky, DC will put creators who are not just a tonal fit for Captain Marvel, but understands why we love the character in the first place.
Since it is quite likely we will be getting New 52 Shazam, it seems the best-case scenario is that they take him and infuse him with the beloved Fawcett-era core elements of Captain Marvel.
Moving on, Johns also talked about the strategy for the Shazam! Rebirth book:
“One of the reasons they’re double shipping, the advantage to double-ship, is to take the number of titles and contract it, and the number of characters. Get these characters right. Then, slowly, when you’ve made sure everything’s working in a great way, then Shazam comes out. Legion of Super-Heroes comes out. Justice Society comes out. Atom comes out. All the other books can come out. But it’s important to get them done right first. It is hard to launch 52 books, and make them all great. I think it’s better to focus on fewer characters, then expand it as the emotional base is back.”
That makes a lot of sense, and I agree. Start small, get the quality right, and build out from there. This way, it prevents them from making a confused muddle of a mess like they did when they launched the New 52.
It is just better for the long term health of their overall brand.
It is too bad DC does not consider Captain Marvel/Shazam to be a part of their core foundation, but I agree with their approach. When the time comes, they can focus on getting back to the core elements of Captain Marvel.
All in all, I feel optimistic now.
As always, call down the lightning and post in the comments.