Written by Bill Parker, Joe Simon
Art by C.C. Beck, Jack Kirby, Pete Costanza, Charles Sultan
Forward by R.C. Harvey
Published by DC Comics
R.C. Harvey begins his Foreward to this second Hardcover collection of early Captain Marvel comics by pointing out how these stories dispel the common myth that Captain Marvel’s stories were always geared towards humor and fun, with a “whimsical” tone. That may have been the case with the 1981 Shazam cartoon, as well as the comics DC Comics published at the time, but not in these early issues. As I noted in my review of Vol. 1, right from the first origin story, it was pretty dark.
This volume gives us another collection of stories, starting off with some by his original creative team of writer Bill Parker and artist C.C. Beck. In their stories, Captain Marvel faces such menaces as the new Heavyweight boxing champion who has teamed up with an evil scientist and a giant gorilla to overthrow the government (yes, I know it sounds silly, but it’s played straight), a haunted house filled with deadly ghosts and zombies, a murderous gambling ring, and good old evil Dr. Sivana again, back with a machine to control the weather for nefarious purposes.
But the real highlight of this edition is when the legendary writer/artist team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby come onboard to give us their take on Captain Marvel. It’s a real joy to see these two geniuses, producing some of their earliest work here. They give Captain Marvel what could be said to be his first real supervillain to face, in a story in which Dr. Sivana uses his scientific skills to create his own superhuman, a man simply called “Z” (““because he’s the ultimate in toughness”). In his purple suit with a big yellow Z on his chest, Z appears to have all the same powers as Captain Marvel. Over the course of this 15-page story, Captain Marvel and Z have several brutal battles, from the top of a skyscraper to the ocean. Eventually, Captain Marvel prevails, upon discovering the secret of Z’s creation, but this story shows the new direction Simon and Kirby were taking.
Next Billy takes a vacation out west, covering a rodeo in his radio job, only to discover a real crime ring going on, which needs Captain Marvel’s help. A funny scene in the end has a woman grabbing and attempting to kiss Captain Marvel, as he shouts “Help! Help!” and then says SHAZAM! so that he turns back into Billy, slipping right out of the woman’s arms, to her surprise.
Things get decidedly serious in the next story when Captain Marvel intercepts a radio message from Saturn. Using a rocket ship, Captain Marvel flies to Saturn where a race of giant humanoid lizard-men have enslaved the humans of Saturn, and Captain Marvel helps the humans rebel and overthrow their evil masters. This could have been taken straight out of any sci-fi serial of the time and is quite fascinating. We go from sci-fi to horror, as Captain Marvel next battles a vampire.
The Simon/Kirby stories alone are worth the price of this collected edition. Although this being earlier in his career, the art isn’t as recognizable as Jack Kirby’s style would later become, but you can see early traces of it within. And Joe Simon did a great job writing these stories, it’s intriguing to wonder what else they could have come up with if they’d stayed with this title longer.
Another Fawcett Comics superhero from that time period, SPY-SMASHER, appears in this issue, first in a solo adventure by Charles Sultan, followed by a series of stories in which he and Captain Marvel team up. These latter stories bring back C.C. Beck and Pete Costanza as the artists, although no writer is credited.
The SHAZAM! Archives vol. 2 is another must-have for fans of the original Captain Marvel, and for fans of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, and is a wonderful representative of the Golden Age of Comics. I highly recommend this for your bookshelf.
[…] nature of Captain Marvel’s earliest adventures, this edition, like Vol. 1 and Vol 2, dispels that notion. In the opening story Captain Marvel faces The Ghost Of The Deep, a mysterious […]