Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Superheroes

Why Shazam Should Return in DC Rebirth.

convergence-shazam-2015-001-017In the year plus since Rebirth was rolled out. DC has managed to gain back good favour with its fans. The mistakes of the New 52 have been largely set right, and we can now enjoy the DC books as they should be. The Superman of old returns, “letting the colour fly”. Bringing us one of the strongest interpretations of Lois Lane in years, as well as their young son Jon. Batman has returned more heavily to his detective roots. Providing truly intriguing stories, focusing on Bruce Wayne and Batman’s intelligence, rather than as a power fantasy. Wonder Woman splits her story between the modern tales of gods fighting amongst gods, as well as her early and brighter adventures. All seems right with the DC universe. However, one character seems to be left out. One that would benefit greatly from the new direction DC has taken.

Shazam!

In the landscape of DC Rebirth, alongside such characters of Jon Kent, Damian Wayne, and the Teen Titans. Young Billy Batson could once again find a home.

05First appearing in Whiz Comics #2, in 1939. Captain Marvel as he was originally known, competed for space on the racks against Superman himself. Created by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck for Fawcett Comics. Young Billy Batson lives on the streets, selling newspapers. Despite his bad situation, he has a cheerful personality, and works hard daily. One day while working outside the subway. He is led down to a mysterious station. Upon boarding the train, he finds himself in an ancient cavern. Statues representing the seven deadly sins to the side, and an old wizard sat alone. The wizard Shazam reveals to Billy that after 3,000 years, he has grown old, and can no longer fight the forces of evil. Explaining to Billy that he has been chosen to take his place, due to him being ‘pure of heart’. The wizard instructs Billy to speak his name, but to say it with purpose. As the word,”Shazam!” leaves his lips, he is granted the power of gods. The wisdom of Soloman. The strength of Hercules. The stamina of Atlas. The power of Zeus. The courage of Achillies, and the speed of Mercury. Billy rises as Earth’s Mightiest Mortal. Captain Marvel!

With Superman, kids could idolise and look up to a superhero they could dream of someday becoming. Captain Marvel however, was the kid who was a hero. Sales of Captain Marvel sored, to the point that his comics at one point out sold the Man of Steel. In 1953 Fawcett stopped its publications of Captain Marvel stories, due to a copyright infringement suit from DC. A black haired, flying strongman was a little on the nose for them. In 1972, DC Comics acquired the rights the Captain Marvel, and thanks to his name, they decided to rename his book, though not the character at the time, Shazam.

“I suppose I feel a lot better about this realm of magic, or mysticism.. Well .. Knowing that you’re guarding the gate.”

Shazam_01_01Originally sent in his own little universe with the rest of the Fawcett characters, Earth-S. Captain Marvel was largely kept separate from the rest of the DC universe, with the occasional fun cross-over with Superman. However, with Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985, the worlds were merged. Making both Billy Batson, and Captain Marvel a part of the mainstream DC Universe. Joining the Justice League and becoming as much a part of DC continuity as the likes of Green Lantern or Aquaman. Captain Marvel appeared in multiple story lines, both in and out of continuity. Even playing a major part in the highly celebrated Elseworld story Kingdom Come, by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. Fans of DC animated shows, also know the character from Young Justice (2010 – 2013), Justice League Unlimited (2004 – 2006), and Justice League Action (2016). It’s hard to refer to him as an unknown or obscure character.

Shazam! v1 (2013) (Digital TPB) (Darkness-Empire) 071In 2011, DC launched the New 52. Renaming the character Shazam, and modernising the character. Instead of the fun and kind-hearted kid, who worked hard and thought of other. We meet the jaded, sarcastic and brash Billy. Acting kind in front of potential foster parents, only to show his true colours once the door closes. After being fostered by the Vasquezes into a house with other foster children, his origin remains largely the same. Being transported to a strange cave from a train cart, and meeting the wizard Shazam. However, when Shazam scans his heart, he pushes him back and refers to him as an “impure soul”. Billy stands up to the wizard, asking him how long he has been looking for a pure good person. When he responds with “A very long time”, Billy scoffs telling him that there is no such thing.

“People are Horrible. They disappoint you. They let you down. I’ve spent my life learning that. Good people get swallowed up. They get taken advantage of. They disappear. Trust me. It doesn’t matter how good you try to be. Everyone else is going to drag you down with them. You’re searching for something that doesn’t really exist.”

Sensing his life about to end, Shazam gives Billy the power anyway, needing there to be a champion. Black Adam has already returned, and the Earth needs defending.

This change to Billy’s character largely reflects the New 52. A darker, more ‘realistic’ direction for the characters and the universe. While he received a few issues of the Justice League book to tell his origin (which did become its own trade paperback). Shazam never had his own solo series. He became a member of the Justice League, part of an ensemble cast who rarely gained the spotlight.

Superman Shazam - First Thunder (Wezz-DCP) 04-30With Rebirth, light and love were returned to the DC universe. Room was made for lighter characters. Brighter adventures alongside the dark. In this new world, why can’t the Shazam of old return? Despite appearing on the back cover of DC Rebirth’s one-shot, neither Shazam or Billy have made an appearance.

There was once a time, where the adventures of Superman and Shazam brought joy. Tales of a young boy and the Man of Steel fighting side by side. Judd Winick’s First Thunder comes to mind. With Rebirth, it’s time to bring those days back. Imagine stories where Billy teams up with Jon and Damian. Superboy and Robin respectively. How fun would it be to see the kind-hearted kids, Jon and Billy, play off the harsh Damian. Only for Billy to speak the words “Shazam”, and put Damian in his place?

Captain Marvel or Shazam, however you refer to him. Billy Batson has a place in this world, and it’s time the thunder strikes again.

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC Comics, Documentary, History, Marvel, Papers, Spider-Man, Superheroes, Superman, The Flash, Video, X-Men

Spotlight on: Nerdsync Productions!

While the properties are everywhere in the 21st century, comics are still one of the hardest mediums to get started with. Especially if you want to dive into the mainstream stuff, such as Marvel and DC. With the use of the internet, you can make the job a little easier for yourself. You can look up character history, cool stories, and maybe get an idea of what you want to read. But it can still be over whelming, with nearly 100 years of comic book history. Enter, YouTube! Through YouTube, it’s never been easier for you to stumble across great comic book content. There are countless Comic Book channels, giving you brief histories of key characters. Run downs of major or recent storylines. Tips on collecting and preserving. Even channels doing fun comic related games, and dares. All you have to do is quickly type ‘comic book’ in the YouTube search engine, and there you go! However, these channels can start to blur together after a time. The same brief histories, of the same characters, feeding back the same information till you can recite it from memory.

Enter Nerdsync.

Since launching their first Comic Misconceptions video on March 26th, 2013. Scott and the Nerdsync crew have worked hard to deliver quality, fun and informative videos for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a well-read veteran, who can recite ever single Lantern oath from memory. Or a movie going fan, who wants to break into the source material. Nerdsync breaks down their material to be completely accessible to even the newest of readers. Beyond that, their choice of subject is far and wide. Giving nice little twists on the now stable Comic Book/YouTube formula. You want a history of Superman? Not only will they give it to you, they will go through the real-life reason for his creation, and the story behind that. When a film comes out, and every channel is scrambling to bring you a funny story or origin relating to the characters involved. Nerdsync proves their nerdy worth by talking about science, history, mythology and psychology. There is a reason why the Nerdsync slogan is ‘helping you grow smarter through comics’!

The show’s host, one Scott Niswander, brings a fun, passionate and energetic feel to the show. Encouraging his audience to get involved, create their own content, and start discussions. The show prides itself on its community of ‘loveable nerds’, banning together to help pool together resources, create on going jokes, and sometimes, just taking to the internet to spread their love of comics. Over the 4 years since Nerdsync burst on to the scene. Other shows and creators have taken to the channel, and added their own little segments, connecting to their own work. Giving us an even greater variation, to an already wonderful channel. We have Hass with Comicana, bringing us insightful looks at how comic pages work. Exploring the flow of panels, pacing and tone, using recent books, and well-known classics. We are given a dose of legal history with Joel in Super Suits, breaking down the insane history of comic book lawsuits. Not to mention the fantastic cameo and cross over appearances from the like of Auram, Ricky of Stewdippin, and Mike of PBS Idea Channel.

What makes Nerdsync stand apart, is its dedication to education through comics. In the world of academic, comics have a surprising and glorious history. They have been the subject matter when talking about so many real-world events. Including politics, genetics, physics, mythology, and pseudoscience. While these concepts, books and papers, may seem dry and none accessible to outside readers. Nerdsync delivers compelling, interesting, and outright fun material, that inspires and entertains the audience. It’s hard to deny the number of comics, characters, theories, and principles you will be exposed to, without realising it. And, you will enjoy every second of it.

“Holy here we go again Batman!”

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC Comics, Review, Superheroes, Superman

Super Sons #6: Planet of the Capes Part 1 (2017) [Review]

Super Sons 06 (2017)Six issues in to the Super Sons series, and it’s time to start the boys second arc. One that explores not only the super sons team, but introduces Jon to the Teen Titans! After an issue off, the wonderful Peter Tomasi returns to writing, and the fun and energetic art of Jorge Jimenez explodes off the page.

After the previous issue, we find the Kent’s living in Metropolis, and Jon preparing for a night of super heroics, and a chance to test his ever-growing powers. Tomasi is fantastic at highlighting the family dynamic of the Kent household. Even when confined to a handful of panels, their interactions are perfect.

Jon: “Come on, it’s FRIDAY – Damien’s Dad lets him stay out all night.”

Clark: “Damian’s Dad dresses like a bat and gets hit in the head 28 times every night. So maybe not the best argument.”

After the first arc of Super Sons, and the in-between issue, this is the first time we can really see Lois and Clark’s thoughts on Jon’s team up with Damian, and putting himself in harm’s way without Superman around to save him. There moment together as Jon leaves, adds to Clark’s development as a father, and shows, not only that he is learning from his own past, but the example his own father set.

Super Sons 06 (2017)sfdghsdfhfgshAs with the previous 5 issues, and there appearances together in Superman, Damian and Jon play off each other with an incredible beat to their dialogue. As they take to the streets to fight crime, Damian’s more harsh and darker upbringing comes out almost instantly, jumping to conclusions, such as jay walking quickly turning to store robbery, while Jon, despite being the younger of the pair, acts as the voice of reason between the two.

The Teen Titan’s introduction here works remarkably well, with Beast Boy acting as his usual jokey self, appearing as a cat beside Jon, just after Jon rescues neighbourhood cats, almost rubbing in Jon’s more wholesome and ‘uncool’ roots. The moment the Teen Titans show off, there is an immediate change in how Jon is treated. Robin, while still cocky and commanding, takes on a far more authoritative and constructed tone, almost hammering in Jon’s younger age, as though the work Jon and Damian do, is below actual Super heroics. It seems that even being the son of Superman doesn’t grant you all the privileges. The abandonment of Jon is even commented on by Starfire, despite his abundance of power, he is still just a ten-year-old kid. Despite Jon’s almost carefree attitude, it’s clearly shown that it bothers him, providing a very interesting look at Jon as an average ten-year-old. Upset at not being invited, feelings of being left out.

Despite the book itself focusing on the adventures of Damian and Jon, this issue spotlights the Teen Titan’s incredibly well, in a brief encounter with Atom-Master and Chun Yull, the team’s dynamics and how they work off each other are defined and played with. Something that is remarkable to see in such a short space of time. This arcs villain rears his head, and while his appearance is brief, his impact hammers in the theme of age and youth in this issue, and possibly the entire arc. Damian’s feelings of superiority due to his older status and training, may well be a hindrance to him here.

Damian: “Weird. No one is answering.”

Jon: “Who are you calling?”

Damian: “My Team. I have more responsibilities tonight than just us.”

Jon: “Sounds super-important if they’re ignoring your calls.”

Damian: “They’re raw. Young. I’m still working on them. One day maybe you’ll even be ready to be a Titan.”

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This arc, in the first issue at least, is shaping up to be an interesting one when it comes to growing, not only Jon, but especially Damian as characters. While it’s fun and interesting to see their personalities play off of each other, they need to grow. Especially Damian. The added benefit of this issue, is a curiosity to explore the current Teen Titans book. The team makes enough of an impact here, as well as showcases another side to Damian, that certainly leads to a desire to check out their solo title.

As the start of a new arc, this issue is a perfect jumping on point for new readers, as well as intriguing set up for things to come.

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Posted in Comics, DC Comics, History, Superheroes, Superman

A Brief History of Superboy

The mantle of Superman is a heavy one to bear. With nearly 80 years of history, and a legacy that stands for truth, justice and hope. Those hoping to live up to the mantle have a lot to deal with. The members of the Super Family stretch far at different points of history, with the name Superboy passing from member to member. To those training to become the man of steel, those made from him, and ultimately the heir to Superman. With titles such as Superman and Supersons currently being released from DC, it seems fitting to look back at the history of the mainstream Superboy name.

Kal-El/Clark Kent:

895599-superboyOriginally introduced in More Fun Comics # 101 in 1945. The first Superboy was simply a young Clark Kent. His first appearance chronicles an 8-year-old Clark discovering his powers, and leaning that he can’t use them out in the open. Ending the issue with Clark deciding on a public identity, and designing his Superboy costume. Superboy went on to have his own ongoing series, including Superboy (1949 – 1977), and The New Adventures of Superboy (1980 – 1984). The stories chronicle the childhood adventures of Superboy, growing up in Kansas, and learning to use his powers. As well as back up features including his time with the Legion of Super-Heroes, a group of teenage superheroes from the 30th and 31st century. These stories were basically erased from continuity after the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985.

There was a second Superboy series from 1989 to 1991, however this is in continuity with the Superboy television series. Lasting 22 issues. This incarnation of Superboy makes appearances in various other titles, such as Superman Secret Origin by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, as well as an alternate reality version in Superman Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen.

Kon-El/Conner Kent:

5776290-1d156a231f5306f48a2d61c8446b22efOriginally claiming to be the Man of Steel himself, Kon-El made his first appearance in Adventures of Superman #500, at a time where the real Superman was dead, due to his fight with Doomsday. A genetic clone of both Superman and Lex Luther, He showed up in Metropolis, sporting a blue and red Superman leotard, two belts, high black boots, and a black leather jacket. His very design screaming 90s era comics. Kon-El fought for the right to be named the one true Superman until the day Superman returned, returning to the Cadmus institute to learn more about his origin. Eventually, he moves out of Clark Kent’s apartment, and starts his journey to find his place.

Moving to Hawaii, he starts a relationship with reporter Tana Moon. He goes on a multitude of adventures in his own book, even crossing paths with Aquaman, and Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad. At times, he joins forces with the likes of Knockout, and The Ravers, before becoming a founding member of Young Justice. Alongside Robin (Tim Drake), and Impulse (Bart Allen II). Shortly after this, he is excepted by Superman as part of the family, and receives the name Conner Kent. His adventures, both solo and with the team, take him through the ‘Day of Judgement’ event, the death of Tana Moon, and Our World’s at War. With the disbanding of Young Justice, Superboy becomes a member of The New Teen Titans, and learns of his connection to Lex Luther, before dying during Infinite Crisis, at the hands of Superboy-Prime.

In the 30th Century, Conner is reborn by the Legion of Super-Heroes, and returned to the 21st Century alongside Bart Allen. Re-joining the Teen Titans, and dawning his more iconic costume of the black Superman T-shirt, and jeans combo. He takes part in The Blackest Night event, New Krypton, and eventually becomes a founding member of the Supermen of America.

This incarnation of Kon-El, became the inspiration for the fan favourite portrayal in the Young Justice animated series. As well as other animated counterparts.

New 52 Kon-El:

e0ffdfb0d1bbfd99145c7ae6b87ac492--supergirl-superman-superhero-charactersWith the New 52, characters were re-imagined, almost from the ground up. This incarnation, while based on the previous Conner Kent, has some major differences. A clone of Jon Lane Kent, created by the N.O.W.H.E.R.E. organization, a nefarious institute, founded by Harvest. Raised in alternate reality simulations, and awoken by his caretaker and surrogate mother, Caitlin Fairchild. Superboy is cloned and raised as a weapon by N.O.W.H.E.R.E. to be used against rogue metahumans. On his first field mission, he loses control of his telekinetic powers, and separates from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. before being attacked by his targets. After running in to Supergirl, he learns of his Kryptonian history, and is given the name Kon-El by here, ‘an abomination in the House of El’. Superboy returns to N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and learns that he was the second clone created, but fails to learn more in his fight against Rose Wilson.

He takes part in The Culling event, alongside the Teen Titans and The Ravagers, teaming up with the titans, and ending up stranded on an island full of animals thought to be extinct, alongside Wonder Girl. Upon returning to New York, he is attacked by H’el, due to his status as a clone, Supergirl saves him and is taken to Superman after being badly injured. At the Fortress of Solitude, they discover that he has three strands of DNA, one human, one kryptonian, and one unidentified. To stop Superboy’s genetics breaking down any further, Superman gives him his Kryptonian battle armour, which limits his telekinetic powers to only items he touches.

He joins Supergirl in the Crucible story line, stating that he has nothing to lose. However, he is captured in an attempt to use him to start an entire clone army of Kryptonians. He and Supergirl manage to destroy the cloning facility, but Superboy returns to Earth with none of his mounting questions answered.

Jonathan Kent:

jon-white-superboy-189580-1280x0Born during the Convergence event, Jonathan Samuel Kent is the son of the Pre-New 52 Clark Kent and Lois Lane-Kent, and the most recent incarnation of Superboy. Born in the Batcave of Flashpoint Batman (Thomas Wayne), and delivered by Batman himself, Jon grew up in the New 52 Earth as Jon White, while his parents hide from a world that was not their own. When this Earth loses their Superman, Jon discovers the secret identity of his father, as Clark rises to take up the reigns, and protect the world he has raised his son and called home. Jon begins to discover his abilities, and starts to fight alongside his father, before falling ill. His parents rush him to this world’s Fortress of Solitude, where Jon beats his first supervillain, The Eradicator, alongside his mother, dawning Batman’s HellBat armour, and his father. Due to Jon’s mixed heritage, the nature and strength of his powers become a source of concern throughout various storylines and as he develops.

During a science experiment Jon creates for school, Jon, Superman and Krypto the dog, are transported to Dinosaur Island, where they encounter Captain William Storm of The Losers. They return home, and when Christmas roles round, Jon attempts to find the prefect Christmas tree, before needing to be rescued by Nobody and Goliath. Jon wakes up in the Batcave, discovering that Robin (Damien Wayne) has been keeping his eye on him. The two argue, before Batman and Superman show up and order the two of them to undertake a series of team work exercises, to learn to work together. Despite their fighting, they learn to work together, and form their own hap-hazard team, Super Sons.

Later, Jon is kidnapped by long time Superman villain, Mister Mxyzptlk, in the Superman Reborn event. Jon becomes the major saving point of the event, as Mxyptlk blurs realities and bring the New 52 Superman and Lois Lane in to this reality, in place of Jon’s parents. The people he knows as his parents don’t recognise him, and are simply colleagues rather than married. It’s Jon who eventually defeats Mxyzptlk, by bringing forth his real parents, and making him merge the two versions of his parents together, making a new history for all of them. One in which Jon was born in the Fortress of Solitude, in the presence of Batman and Wonder Woman. His godfather is Perry White, and they have never had to hide themselves, reclaiming the public identity of Kent.

During Black Dawn, Batman becomes concerned of the slow rate in which Jon’s powers are developing, and discovers that several members of the city they live in, are in fact alien, and aligned with Superman villain, Manchester Black. Manchester Black has been suppressing his powers for years, and upon taking out Batman, Robin, Frankenstein, and Frankenstein’s Bride, Manchester takes control of Jon, unlocking his full potential, and pits him against Superman. Jon is finally able to overcome the mind control, and with the help of his lifelong friend Kathy, defeats Manchester with a blast of psychic feedback. Jon’s powers are drained, but they eventually return, along with the ability to fly.

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC Comics, Review, Superheroes, Superman, The Flash

Spotlight on: DC Rebirth One-Shot – The Deluxe Edition

DC Universe - Rebirth (216)DC’s New 52, now that it’s at its end, can be seen for what it was. A failed cash grab to try and rope in an older audience, and move the characters in, what they thought was a darker, more appealing direction, while forgetting who they are. Some good titles did come out of it, the Batman line springs to mind including Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, and Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleeson’s Batman & Robin. However, the rest of the DC universe moved away from its strengths. Particularly characters such as Superman and the Blue Beetle. Overall, the New 52 did its job, brought in a new audience, mostly for Snyder’s Batman, but it also served another purpose. To show DC exactly what they should be. DC Rebirth not only acts as an introduction to the new titles, but as an acknowledgement from DC that there was a problem.

While the DC Rebirth one shot, could have been as simple as 20 pages giving seemingly clever allusions to plot points we already know. The one-shot instead gives us a wonderful look at the reshaping of the DC universe, through the eyes of an outsider, and a truly touching story of love. The story is narrated throughout by the pre-flashpoint Wally West, Kid Flash, as he tries to return to a world that has forgotten him. First to Batman, trying to bring up the events of Flashpoint, hoping to spark a memory of his existence, before being pulled away by the speed force as he fails. As Wally travels through this world, looking for his lighting rod, his tether to this world, we see the New 52 through his eyes. His comments feel more like an acknowledgement from Geoff Johns that it had problems, that it was missing what made these heroes iconic.

“I have so many questions. Left unanswered. The history I know continues to echo. Seeing everything. I realize it wasn’t ten years that was stolen from us. It was love.”

EmbraceAs Wally comments on the changes, we see little details starting to correct themselves. Friendships being reformed, events being set up. While Wally’s journey is essentially an excuse to show off all the heroes and give hints to their possible stories that lie ahead, it’s his commentary that makes it worth reading. Finally, Wally’s encounter with Barry Allen, The Flash, just as he is starting to fade away, is both emotional and triumphant. Watching Wally give up on being part of this new world, excepting the new Kid Flash, giving him his blessing, and thanking Barry for a wonderful like, is heart-breaking. The moment where Barry remembers him, only for a second, and pulls him through. Breaking down, franticly apologising for ever forgetting his dear friend and sidekick. The image of Flash and Kid Flash embracing is triumphant. At once emotional in context, and standing for everything DC needs to be again. Even for a none Flash reader, it’s a tender moment.

“Thank you for an amazing life. Thank you for your kindness. For your inspiration. For being there for me so many times. For now. The last time. You were right Barry. Every second was a gift. That’s why I won’t die in anguish. I’ll go with love in my heart. Good-bye Barry.”

The books epilogue has become a talking point more so than anything, the reveal of the Comedian’s iconic smiley face button buried in the wall of the Batcave. As well as the final page taking dialogue from the final book of Watchman. While it’s interesting to see, and certainly sets up future events that are sure to ‘shake up’ the universe at some point. However, they feel forced in, just to give fans something to salivate over, and to debate franticly, up until the time the point is revealed. Luckily, it takes nothing from the overall story, and acts simply as a quick set up.

Written by Geoff Johns and pencilled by Gary Frank. The DC Rebirth One-Shot is more than worth the read, even outside of a set up for the new line. Giving a complete story as well as hints for future events across the line. For those interested The DC Rebirth Deluxe Edition is certainly worth the money, with some wonderful extra pages. Worth it for any DC fan, or novice alike.