BHOC: SHAZAM #25

Summer was upon us. I had finished Third Grade and had another seemingly-eternal vacation stretched out before me. Over at DC Comics, the first moves by new incoming Publisher Jenette Kahn began to appear on the comic book racks. This included the DCTV initiative. There were a number of programs based on properties controlled by DC on the air at this time, primarily on Saturday morning kidvid, but no push had ever been truly put behind capturing that audience in publishing. So Kahn grouped the existing SHAZAM title with new launches for SUPER-FRIENDS and ISIS, both based somewhat on the shows and also got the rights to WELCOME BACK, KOTTER and these became a little sub-line in the DC output. As I recall, the initiative didn’t last all that long.

ISIS had been appearing on Saturday mornings as a sister show to SHAZAM for close to two years at this point–the two shows had done crossovers as well, a rarity in this period. So it only made sense when launching the new ISIS comic book series to set the character up in Captain Marvel’s title first. And that’s what this opening story is all about. It’s really more of an Isis adventure than a Captain marvel one, although the Big Red Cheese does show up in it. But it’s a make-no-bones-about-it pilot for the ISIS comic.

The format of the story very much follows that of the television show, and uses the series’ three principle characters: Isis herself, alias schoolteacher Andrea Thomas, her colleague Rick Mason and student Cindy Lee. Dick Giordano turns in a fabulous art job on this story, capturing the likeness of all three actors and grounding the adventure in reality. The one discordant element is Captain Marvel, who is illustrated in the faux-C.C. Beck manner that had been used since the launch of his comic. So standing next to the other characters, he feels like he’s in some other dimension.

The adventure itself is pretty thin, but there are some criminals, so low-rent danger, and even a TV Show-style moral at the end, as well as a plug for the new ISIS comic book. We also get to see Isis’ origin dramatized for the first time, and Giordano does a lovely job of it. It must be said that Isis seems to have the power to do just about anything in this story, provided that she can come up with an appropriate rhyming verse to cover it, but her powers typically revolved around nature.

In the back half of the issue, editor Julie Schwartz passes the reins to Joe Orlando, who’d be the editor from this point out. Captain Marvel superfan E. Nelson Bridwell takes over as writer, and there’s a deliberate push to bring the comic book more in line with the television series, which didn’t feature old SHAZAM at all, but rather had Billy Batson traveling with his father-figure Mentor in an RV and contacting the six immortal elders from whom his powers derive in times of trouble by use of a magical gizmo.

It would take Bridwell an issue or two to square that circle and find ways to replicate all of those elements using existing Captain Marvel lore, but he did it. Her, though, he sets his table by using the Bicentennial as a backdrop hook, as well as a callback to a series of Captain marvel stories from the 1940s in which the World’s Mightiest Mortal visited different cities around the nation. Here, Marvel’s enemy Sivana has a Bicentennial plot that has him striking at items of historical significance across the country, thus prompting Billy Batson and Uncle Dudley to RV up in order to give pursuit.

It’s a solid enough story, but wasn’t compelling enough to get me to add SHAZAM to my regular buy-list. In fact, I’m not certain why I purchased this particular issue. Could have simply been opportunity, possibly I was attracted by the introduction of Isis, or even by the house ads DC had been running for weeks touting the DCTV initiative. And I enjoyed the issue, just not enough to immediately come back again. (Nor to start following the ISIS title.)

The letters page this time out is not only written and answered by Bridwell, but includes letters from both future DC editor and BACK ISSUE magazine creator Michael Eury (credited as Mickey Eury here) as well as filmmaker and sometimes-comic book writer Don Glut, who was himself a huge fan of the classic Captain Marvel, in particular the 1940s serial incarnation.

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