Sunday, August 7, 2011

Why Captain Marvel?

No, not that one. The other one. No not her, either. Or him. LOOK, IT'S THE DC ONE, OKAY?!

SHAZAM! With that one word our young Billy Batson swaps bodies with the magical superhuman himself, Captain Marvel! You've all heard of his adventures, from his fights against Dr. Sivana, Mr. Mind and the Monster Society of Evil, to crying in the arctic with Superman because his friend died, Captain Marvel has done it all.

But why have I chosen such a classic character for this week's Thought Balloons? Well... It's mostly because he's starred in the best all-ages comic EVER created; SHAZAM! The Monster Society of Evil, by Jeff Smith (of Bone fame). In that title we had this very fresh approach to superheroics thrown at the reader, that of it being a large responsibility, sure, and adventures having high stakes, but more than anything the adventures are FUN. Remember fun? I'm not talking about "oh haha Deadpool mentioned Miley Cyrus, that's hilarious" fun (because that's awful), but rather that sort of good-natured feeling that just makes something really exciting to read, regardless of subtext or author intent.

That and it's open to endless interpretation. Captain Marvel has had a tendency to be... reinvented, with certain aspects of him and his family altered drastically from relaunch to relaunch, in those varied attempts to make lightning (ha. ha.) strike twice. So you could tell a story where the Billy Batson persona is always present, or where they're seperate, or use Freddy Freeman as Captain Marvel instead. Or why not have Mr. Mind and his race of mind-worms from venus, or the more modern approach of him as a gross winged thingy from DC's 52 maxi-series? And of course you can play with the six gods that lend him his power (Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury), or the ancient wizard Shazam, in both his crushed-by-a-rock and not crushed variants. Or his "made up of six kids and a tiger" Flashpoint version that's doing the rounds at the moment. JUST LET RIP.

If you want a good grip on the character, Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil is where I'd direct you, but you can't go wrong with Superman/Shazam: First Thunder, Trials of Shazam, or the Showcase Presents: SHAZAM volume.

Or just use wikipedia if you want the coward's way out ;)


  1. Captain Marvel – Forever Young – Shaun Richens.

    One Page

    1. A young looking Billy Batson (16 years old or so) is sat in a laboratory. Michael Holt (Mister Terrific) stands in front of him holding some test results. Michael Holt is wearing a lab coat though out the scene.

    MICHAEL HOLT: The test results have come back with some unusual results Billy.

    BILLY: Come on Doc give me the news. Good or bad.

    MICHAEL HOLT: Well from the blood work I’ve run it appears as if every time you use your abilities as Captain Marvel the energy from the transformation is making you younger at a cellular level.

    Keep panels 2 + 3 quite small. But put across as much emotion in the space as you can. This is BILLY dealing with his news.

    2. A close up on BILLY’s face. He looks shocked by this revelation.

    3. Same as 2. Sadness comes across BILLY’s face.

    4. Same as 1. BILLY has a sudden look of determination come over him.

    BILLY: How fast am I de-ageing?

    MICHAEL HOLT: It appears to be at a rate of two to three days per transformation. You will only get younger and younger I am afraid.

    5. BILLY has gotten to his feet. A steely confidence coming over him. MICHEAL HOLT looks sad at the prospect of what he is about to tell BILLY.

    MICHAEL HOLT: Billy. I don’t know how to say this…

    BILLY 1: Save it Doc. I know what you’re gone say. I can’t stop using my abilities.
    BILLY 2:I can only think of one thing I can do.

    6. CAPTAIN MARVEL stands hands on hips looking every bit the figure of power and respect that he is. Light seems to emanating from all around him.

    CAPTAIN MARVEL 1: The world needs Captain Marvel more then Billy Batson.
    CAPTAIN MARVEL 2: From this point on. I am only Captain Marvel.

    (This is an Elseworld tale for Captain Marvel.)

    I had a few ideas of what to do with Captain Marvel. This was the only one that felt right for me. I am not entirely happier with it over all. But heck I tried my best with a character I am pretty unfamiliar with. Any feed back would be great.

  2. For a page written about a character you're really not familiar with, I'd say you did a good job. The page is probably at least as good as what I've written. But then, I'm not all that familiar with Captain Marvel either.

    The one caveat is that I'd say I don't think it needs to be an Elseworlds tale. I'm certain there are ways that a plot idea like this could be fit into the regular (as it is now, at least) DCU.

  3. @MK the main reason I thought it should be an Elseworlds tale was that I wasn't sure how much of a liberty i was taking with the character.

    I'm glad the actual story held up ok.

  4. I think that unless you know and are deliberately taking liberties with a character in a way that directly contradicts canon (like, for example, if you were to do a Captain Thunder version of him, or writing a scene that goes directly against what's well-recorded in the comics that have already been written), you don't need to worry about specifying that a script is set in 'elseworlds' or an alternate reality. I get the impression that we're pretty cool around here about that kind of thing (and I think the 5th rule of thought balloons backs me up on this).

  5. @Shaun That's is a solid page considering you're not overly familiar with the character. You've touched upon one of the things I find fascinating about the character (the disparity in age-- at least physically-- between his superhero identity and his civilian one). I also agree that this would work in main continuity.

    For my own page I was drawing a blank for most of the week. I had a few ideas but none were particularly strong. In the end I just went for what I love about the Jeff Smith series (which I also recommend)-- fun.

    It's not amazing and there's really no subtext there at all but I thought I'd just go with it. I'm not entirely sure the logistics of it come across (I had a much more elaborate set-piece planned but hey, we only get one page):

    PAGE 1

    PANEL 1

    OPEN ON: CAPTAIN MARVEL as he flies towards CAMERA, hurtling down a futuristic looking corridor.

    SIVANA (LOUDSPEAKER): You're too late Captain.

    PANEL 2

    From Cap's POV we can see a huge metallic door ahead of him in the corridor as it closes, leaving only a foot of clearance beneath it.

    Even if he gets there in time he's not going to be able to fit underneath it.

    SIVANA (LOUDSPEAKER): Not even you can get past this door.

    PANEL 3

    CUT TO: DR SIVANA on the other side of door as he shouts into the tannoy. He's standing in a very kitsch looking control room and is wearing a ridiculous looking radiation suit (inspiration: .

    Around him, various henchmen go about their business.

    SIVANA: You've failed!

    PANEL 4

    From Sivana's POV as the door closes. Smoke billows out from underneath it, making it difficult to see.


    PANEL 5

    Sivana tries to clear the smoke by waving his hands around.

    SIVANA: *Kaff* Where- *kaff* is- *kaff*

    PANEL 6

    From Sivana's POV we can see the smoke has begun to clear, revealing a small figure standing a few feet away.

    It's BILLY BATSON. He's dressed in jeans and a grey zip up hoodie. He has his hands in his pockets casually, looking towards CAMERA.

    BILLY: Hi...

    PANEL 7

    CLOSE UP on Billy's face as he smiles.

    PANEL 8

    EXTREME CLOSE UP on Billy's mouth as he says the word.

    BILLY: Shazam.

  6. @Dan Hill A really solid and tight page. Love how Billy Batson was the real hero of the piece. Instead of Captain Marvels powers being what is needed to save the day Billy's size and bravery are what is called for.

    This week has shown how great comics can be. All the pages so far have elements of big adventure and danger, but also deal with emotional, real human issues like growing up and dealing with responsibility whilst at the same time everyone has got to use the word Shazam. This is why I love comics.

  7. @ Dan: I'm mostly just going to echo Shaun and say 'Nice page'.

  8. @Shaun - A fine script for a character you don't know all that much about. The idea of the importance of Billy Batson versus Captain Marvel is something that would be really interesting to see through. I'd say the dialogue is a little overwritten in places, where less words could have gotten across the same information, but that might just be personal preference (also, writing characters you aren't familiar with isn't easy, so kudos on that).

    @Dan - Some solid panel choices here. I like the Jeff Smith vibe you have going on here. It's a simple page, as you say, but it holds together well. Billy's ingenuity in switching back and forth at the right time is well done.

  9. Shaun - excellent, it's Captain Marvel: The Benjamin Button Years! Great idea, well-executed, but like MK says I don't see any reason why you couldn't have done that story in regular continuity (whatever regular continuity is these days at DC!).

    Dan - fun, cartoony vibe and a cool twist at the end.


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If you want to play along at home, feel free to put your scripts under the Why? post for the week.