Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Brief History of Shazam and Isis

The Marvel Family (Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel, Jr.) have always been among my favorite comic book characters. With their beginnings at Fawcett Comics in the 1940s, the trio (along with their friends and enemies) were put out of business in the 1950s when DC Comics won a lawsuit which claimed that Cap was a rip-off of Superman.With one magic word, SHAZAM! (Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury) Boy reporter Billy Batson was transformed to Captain Marvel...and a sweater salesman. Not only were these sweaters BARGAINS - they were GUARANTEED and ONLY $2.95!
While Billy was selling cheap pullovers, sister Mary was "going green" - telling kids not to waste paper--for VICTORY!
Almost 20 years after DC silenced Billy, they decided to license (and eventually purchase) all the Marvel Family and Fawcett Comics characters - merging them into the DC Universe.Because Stan Lee's Marvel Comics Group appeared in the 1960s and launched an entirely different character named Captain Marvel, DC was not legally allowed to use the name "Captain Marvel" on the cover of any it's publications or merchandise.
Instead, the magic word SHAZAM became identified with the character - even though "Shazam" was also the name of the wizard that granted Billy his powers.The Filmation Saturday-morning TV series called SHAZAM introduced the good Captain to a new generation of fans (me included).
Though Mary and Cap Jr. only appeared in the comics. Mary also co-starred in this awesome Little Golden Book from the same period. 
THE KID SUPER POWER HOUR WITH SHAZAM! brought Captain Marvel back in 1981, this time with Mary and Jr. in segments which were much more faithful to the comic book than the live action series had ever been.
The second season of  the SHAZAM TV show welcomed a new character,  ISIS into the Marvel Family.
Portrayed by Joanna Cameron, Isis was to Saturday mornings what Lynda Carter's WONDER WOMAN was to prime-time.Isis was also awarded her own DC  Comic series. 
Unfortunately she only got to meet Captain Marvel in one issue of the Shazam monthly book.
Isis was lucky enough to get her own Mego action figure ...
...a View-Master 3-reel presentation...
...a Golden Book...
...and eventually an animated segment  called FREEDOM FORCE that was recycled on various Filmation long-form shows.
Both FREEDOM FORCE and SECRETS OF ISIS are now available on dvd.
Years later, the SHAZAM comic was relaunched by Roy Thomas and Tom Mandrake as A NEW BEGINNING.

The miniseries was not well-received, so Jerry Ordway was given a shot - and his POWER OF SHAZAM set the tone for The Marvel Family in the 1990s.
After the DC Universe's INFINITE CRISIS - Shazam the wizard was dead. 
Isis was finally introduced into the DCU via 52 and quickly became a fan favorite as a love interest for Black Adam, Captain Marvel's nemesis. Unfortunately Isis (and her brother Osiris) died during the weekly megaseries. Soon Billy Batson lost his mojo and was chosen to take the wizard's place at the Rock of Eternity. Freddy Freeman (Cap Jr.) was promoted to Cap status - now calling himself "Shazam" in a terrible miniseries called TRIALS OF SHAZAM
Meanwhile, sweet Mary Marvel turned bad girl in COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS
and became truly evil during the controversial FINAL CRISIS miniseries!

Thankfully recent events in JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA reset things for The Marvel Family. 
Shazam (the wizard) is back, Billy and Mary are normal again, Isis was returned to life (though both her and Black Adam are now stone statues). As for Freddy, we will see him in action soon in a new JUSTICE LEAGUE miniseries coming this summer.
Jeff Smith's Monster Society of Evil miniseries and Mike Hunkle's Billy Batson and The Magic of Shazam all-ages series harken back to the Marvel Family that longtime fans love.
What the future holds for Cap, Mary, Freddy, Adam and Isis remains to be seen. Marvel Family fans pray to the gods (Roman, Greek and Egyptian) that their glory days are yet to be seen.

1 comment:

Brian Klotz said...

Can't tell you how much I loved ISIS as a kid, as I did Princess Leia, Wonder Woman, Jamie Sommers... well, you get the picture!

Thanks for that trip on the way back machine.