Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Try, Try, Try To Understand

When we ponder the future of Captain Marvel SHAZAM! as a "magic hero," we might do well to remember Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

In other words, based on past examples, once we get past the extra-long play version of his origin, I don't expect the Big Red Cheese to be much more magical than Superman.

To wit:

[Man, that is a great Kurt Schaffenberger cover, ain't it?]

Magicman was part of ACG's futile attempts to catch onto the superhero craze in the mid-60s. Magicman, in Forbidden Worlds, and Nemesis, in Adventures Into The Unknown, both were ostensibly "supernatural" heroes, to fit in with their "horror" mag platforms.

But really, Magicman was about as "supernatural" as Kal-El.

Oh, sure, Corporal Tom Cargill was (somehow) the son of ancient wizard
Cagliostro, and therefore "inherited" his powers. And, sure enough, he pulled off at least one "magic" stunt every issue (if by "magic" you mean "something that makes absolutely no sense and functions by no rules"). For example:

[Bonus points for exclaiming "HOLY---H.---SMOKE!" Try that at work today!]


And sure, he could jump into someone's dream--in this case, the "Wizard Of Science," Waldo M. Sissinger--to find out their plans:

Castro?!? Really?? Yeah, Fidel is our master villain, hiring the Wizard Of Science to build him a super-arsenal.

Indeed, when Magicman is captured, they use super-science to brainwash him, and...

Well, eventually Magicman breaks the spell, and, helped by the Pete Costanza art (he drew some Captain Marvel in his day), we get something that's fairly indistinguishable from Superman rousting a military dictatorship:

Doctor Strange does this every day, right?

Doctor Fate--this is right in his bailiwick!


And while it's not quite Captain America socking Hitler in the jaw...

And I'm sorry, but this is completely identical to a billion scenes of the Marvel Family taking Sivana to jail at the end of the tale...

So, yeah, Magicman was a "magic" hero...but 80% of his adventuring was essentially being Superman in a turban. It was the inverse of Clarke's Law: Magic was indistinguishable from regular old science heroes.

So when Geoff Johns is done with his 12 billion part origin story, I'm thinking that aside from doofy hood and crackly lightning chest, SHAZAM will be about as magic as Magicman. As in, not so much.

1 comment:

Martin Gray said...

Oh, I'd forgotten all about this chap, he used to show up in the UK Alan Class comics. Such dress sense