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Tuesday, April 02, 2019 

Superficial article about Shazam history

Here's a weak "article" on the Bristol Herald Courier about the history of the original Captain Marvel, Billy Batson, prior to release of the live action movie, that cites the following without delivering any opinions or arguments whatsoever:
8. One of the original Captain Marvel’s greatest achievements was “The Monster Society of Evil” (1943), a long-running serial in an era of self-contained stories, and featuring the first supervillain team in comics. DC has so far shied away from reprinting it, fearing reaction from some truly egregious racial caricatures found therein.
Let me put it this way. If it's the rendition of the black co-stars they're talking about, that's one thing, though I should point out Steamboat was one of the good guys and like Ebony White in the Spirit, was depicted heroically, and as for the Japanese military, they were considered enemies at the time of WW2, so why does that matter? The article doesn't even make clear where exactly the concerns lie in stereotypes, nor is there any explanation in articles like these why it's such a big deal today that soldiers from what was an enemy country at the time were depicted in negative terms, especially after the Rape of Nanking. Sure, Japan reformed impressively since, but it doesn't change facts about history.
20. The current version of the “Marvel Family” is called the Shazam Family. It consists of Billy Batson and five other children he lives with in a foster home (including remodeled versions of Mary and Freddy). All six can become super-powered adults by saying “Shazam.”
If they're alluding to Geoff Johns' execrable reboot from several years ago, I would not want to waste time on that after finding out how vicious a portrayal Billy gets there.
21. While most Shazam material isn’t consistent with modern portrayals, many of them are well worth reading anyway. The 1940s reprints — if you can find them — are clean, light-hearted fun. Various reboots over the decades, such as the ‘90s “Power of Shazam” series by writer/artist Jerry Ordway, still maintain much of the strip’s core appeal. The current “Shazam!” title is written by Geoff Johns, former Chief Creative Officer at DC Comics, and a writer/producer on DC’s TV and film content.
The Ordway material may be fine, but the Johns material, again, is something I would not touch with a ten foot pole. On which note, how come he still gets to write Billy and company after his rendition didn't work out in the first place? The fairly simple answer is because Dan DiDio, in a now higher position, makes it possible for him, another reason why better talent is so sparse today, and the way most universities are run now is just one more explanation for the dearth of real talent.

And no real opinions or anything are offered in what's just a tedious list of items that we could all research in better places. Anybody who intends to see the film shouldn't rely on this kind of poor news coverage.

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Ebony was one of the good guys, but drawn in a stereotyped manner; he looked like the makeup on the characters in a minstrel show, but he had a lot of heroism to him. Even back then there was criticism though, and Eisner for a while sent him off to elocution school to drop the minstrel show dialect, replacing him in the stories with an Eskimo boy. Steamboat was entirely different; he was a superstitious clown all the way, and Fawcett got rid of him back in the 1940s because he was too stereotyped for a good share of the audience to accept even then. DC has been reprinting all the old Spirit stories in collected editions, including the ones that Ebony starred in.

It is too bad that they won't reprint the Marvel stories though. Most people are able to recognize that these aspects of the story are historical anachronisms; but given the white nationalist terrorism out there and how it feeds on and generates these kind of stereotypes, I can understand the publisher's caution.

I have the 1989 collection of Monster Society of Evil, and it does have some pretty unfortunate portrayals of Asians and others. I am not PC in the least, but they make me cringe. DC has scheduled this collection for print many times in the past 20 years or so, but has chickened out each time, probably for the best.

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