Musing about a potential Shazam: Re-Birth

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Musing about a potential Shazam: Re-Birth

Post by Ares » Mon Dec 19, 2016 7:04 am

So there's a Captain Marvel appreciation thread over on CBR that I've been a part of, and I've had to come to an uncomfortable realization: some people actually like the Nu-52 Billy Batson.

Now, I hate Nu-Billy Batson. I hate him bad. Like, the way Keith Giffen hates Karate Kid bad. But I acknowledge that this hate comes from the fact that he's DC Editorial's idea of 'fixing' Billy Batson, turning someone whose defining traits were compassion, empathy, nobility, optimism and a sense of both wonder and good humor, and replacing it with an angry, angsty, arrogant emo punk of a kid wallowing in his own pain and self-importance.

But some people like this edgy take on the character, and I have to admit that I probably wouldn't have as big a problem with him if he wasn't suppose to be Billy Batson. Nu-Billy is sort of like when USAgent was dressed up as Captain America: John is a perfectly fine character as the Guy Gardner of Marvel Comics, but Captain America he ain't.

So while I had initially thought about what I would do to "fix" the Marvel Family if DC did a Shazam: Rebirth, part of me wanted to just make Nu-Billy the Earth-3 version of Billy Batson so I could have the classic Captain Marvel beat the ugly hooded abomination into the dirt, I thought about how that would feel to fans of Nu-Billy and how that would in no way, shape or form endear the classic Cap to them.

I then decided to see if there was some way to save Nu-Billy while still get the old Marvel Family back.

To start with, I'd want to use Shazam: Re-Birth as an opportunity to undo the mistakes of the last 10 years. Claim that whomever used Barry to mess with the DCU specifically targeted Billy, Mary, Freddy and the Wizard Shazam because their magical powers and the Rock of Eternity made them too big of a threat. This was why Billy was singled out for death in Flashpoint, why Captain Thunder was made to focus Billy, Mary and Freddy’s powers into a single person, and then diluted with the essence of his foster siblings. Billy's death during Flashpoint felt more or less like a confirmation by DC of what they thought of the character. And then the Billy Batson we got in the Nu-52 didn't act like Billy Batson at all, while still having some good points. Meanwhile Freddy Freeman acted nothing like Freddy Freeman, but Mary Batson pretty much acted exactly like herself.

So my take would be that Nu-Billy Batson ISN'T Billy Batson at all. He's Freddy Freeman. Whatever caused Flashpoint and the Nu-52 specifically caused Billy to die during Flashpoint so that they could snag his soul. They then put Freddy's soul into Billy's body when the universe got altered. That's partially why Nu-Billy has been so out of character and kind of a grouch. Freddy always had a tendency towards going towards darker places, and in many ways it was Billy and Mary's friendship and support that kept him from going being a more angry, angsty individual. But when Freddy got put into Billy's body and got his past, he lost that support structure and friendship while having to deal with what Billy endured, so he was a more angry, aggressive person than he'd been as Capt. Marvel Jr.

This would actually fit in with the lore that not anyone could be Billy Batson. Billy had a unique combination of strength and compassion that allowed him to endure with his sense of humor and good nature completely intact. Freddy, conversely, had a very happy life until his grandpa was murdered and he was crippled, and it was only the support and friendship of the Marvel Family that let him deal with his loss as well as he had. As a result, Freddy/Nu-Billy is much more hot headed, aggressive, prideful, etc.

Meanwhile the force causing all of this ignores Mary completely, letting her remain 100% herself. If had seen what happened to Mary in Countdown and considered her no threat, since Billy was the primary champion of Shazam and Freddy became the temporary champion when Billy became the Wizard. And this is that force's mistake, because Mary is ever bit the hero that Billy and Freddy where. She's the one who initially starts to remember their past, she's the one who uncovers who Freddy really is and makes him remember, and she's the one that spearheads their quest to rescue Billy and the Wizard.

Meanwhile Freddy has to deal with the temptation of his situation. Right now, he's got almost everything he's ever wanted. A loving foster home, an extended foster family, his legs work in his mortal form, and he's the main hero for a change. Not Captain Marvel Jr., but the equivalent of Captain Marvel himself. And on this quest, that force that caused this whispers in Freddy's ear about how it's Billy's fault that Freddy got crippled. Billy's fault that Freddy lost his grandfather. Billy's fault that Freddy is seen as a sidekick and has a name he can't even say. And now Freddy has to resist this temptation to just continue to live this life and leave Billy to whatever fate might befall him.

The above is a reference to Trials of Shazam, where Freddy met with the Aspect of Wisdom who was masquerading as a tattoo artist (it was dumb, move on), and Freddy said that he blamed Captain Marvel / Billy for knocking Captain Nazi into the waters Freddy and his grandfather had been fishing in that morning. That Freddy would never forgive Billy for what he'd done to him. Despite the fact that Freddy and the readers knew full well that when Cap did that, he was knocking Nazi away because there were innocent people in danger, and if he hadn't punched Nazi away, they would have died. So he punched Nazi to a place that he was almost sure would be deserted. Only it wasn't. It was the best choice Billy could make at the time to save the lives he could. And what ultimately killed Freddy's grandfather was his and Freddy's decision to save Capt. Nazi from drowning. Billy, Freddy and Freddy's grandfather had all made noble, heroic acts with the information they had, and the only reason it turned out as a tragedy was because Capt. Nazi is a monster.

So the force continues to tempt Freddy with the life he could have, even as he and Mary search for and eventually find Billy. Billy's soul is actually imprisoned in something, but this confuses Mary and Freddy. At one point, the devil himself had tried to capture Billy's soul and failed. And during a fight with the force that caused all of this, Freddy manages to get away and get to Billy, trying to figure out what's keeping him imprisoned. And using the Wisdom, Freddy can see that it's Billy's own guilt keeping him imprisoned. While Freddy isn't sure if he blames Billy or not, Billy blames himself for what happened to Freddy and his grandfather. Billy blames himself for letting Shazam die at the Spectre's hands and for Mary's corruption during Countdown. Billy blames himself for letting things get out of hand and not doing more to protect his family. This force that has set this up in motion could not have chained Billy in place through intimidation or fear, but it could prey on the guilt Billy had tucked away in his big heart. It showed him the life Freddy now had, the life Mary had, and how mostly happy they were. It twisted Billy's guilt, until he felt that it was his fault that Mary and Freddy had lives they'd had before, lives that had gone so wrong. Until the guilt is so strong that it's chaining Billy's soul in place to spare his friends. The only thing strong enough to imprison Billy's soul is the guilt-twisted love Billy has for his family.

So before Freddy is the perfect out. Billy is, ultimately, the one imprisoning himself. However much that evil force might have twisted Billy's emotions, it's only Billy keeping himself here. Freddy can just accept Billy's sacrifice, go back to the Nu-Earth and live out his life, happy and free.

Instead, Freddy realizes that he never really blamed Billy for his grandfather's death. Freddy blamed himself, because he had wanted to go fishing that morning, he had been the one to see Capt. Nazi hit the water, and he'd been the one insisting on pulling Nazi out. Saying that he blamed Billy was just a way for Freddy to lessen the guilt he carried around with him, and which he now saw Billy always carried with him. So Freddy realizes only he and Mary can truly save Billy.

Freddy does this by forgiving Billy, letting Billy know that Freddy doesn't blame him. Mary does this by helping Billy forgive himself, letting him know her mistakes where her own, and Billy shouldn't punish himself like this. And by forgiving him, they remove the guilt holding his soul in place, and with his soul comes the power he had contained with it.

Billy and Freddy get returned to their old bodies, but they realize the Power of Shazam is still incomplete, and that they need to re-assemble it if they're going to bring the Wizard and the true Rock of Eternity back. As they do this, they'd reconnect with Uncle Duddley and Mr. Tawney, as well as find the three Lt. Marvels who would act as a kind of mission control for the kids and eventually work with Duddley and Tawny as the Lt. Marvel Defense Force.

I'd also tie into some ideas that Roy Thomas and Alex Ross had had, the idea of the Power of Shazam being split across the world, inhabiting certain things, empowering objects and people, and that it would require bringing those objects and things to one place to return the power to Billy in order to return Shazam to his proper place. One of the ideas Ross had was for the power to inhabit one boy in Africa and give him powers similar to Capt. Marvel, and for Billy to decide to bring the boy into the Marvel Family at the end of quest.

Now, I don't care for Billy's forster siblings, as I feel they were mostly ethnic sterotypes with little personality, there to add some diversity to the Marvel Family, to make Billy feel guilty, and to be forgotten about once his origin story was over. I'd honestly make them and the forster parents some kind of mystical simulacrum meant to keep Mary and Freddy/Nu-Billy content during their time in the new world.

However, I would like to honor the concept they had for them, the idea of the Marvel Family being sort of like a Super Sentai / Power Rangers team, each with their own color. So some of the people the power would flow into would be people who would use their power to do good. Like a Japanese boy who uses his power to become a Kamen Rider style hero. He would actually agree to help the Marvel Family on their quest, even knowing that he has to give up his powers at the end of it. We actually develop the character of these new people, so that they come off as fully fleshed out individuals and not just stereotypes. And at the end, the ones that helped the Marvel Family would be allowed to keep a version of their powers and join the Marvel Family.

I'd probably make this newer Marvel Family a seven person group. One thing I didn't care for with the Captain Thunder idea was that each of the 6 kids had a single aspect of the Power of Shazam. Billy is the Chosen Champion of Shazam, he embodies all aspects of those powers equally. Thus in addition to Mary and Freddy, we'd get four people (two boys and two girls) who embody one aspect of the power. And they'd keep the _______ Marvel naming convention to be the Marvel Family. Like the Japanese kid I mentioned might be Kamen Marvel (or Masked Marvel, and again a nod to Kamen Rider).

In the end, Shazam is restored, Billy, Mary and Freddy are restored, and the Marvel Family not only has four new members, but the Lt. Marvels, Mr. Tawney and Uncle Duddley can act as support. Furthermore, the old Fawcett heroes can return with the JSA, some classic (Bulletman and Bulletgirl), while some would get an update/legacy hero (Mr. Scarlet is more of a swashbuckler, Minute Man is a patriotic speedster, Spy Smasher is an expert in espionage and counter espionage). Nu-Billy gets to live on as Freddy Freeman, while the classic Cap returns. In theory, everyone should be happy.

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Re: Musing about a potential Shazam: Re-Birth

Post by Ares » Mon Dec 19, 2016 9:01 am

As a follow up idea to the "people get powers to help the Marvels resurrect the wizard Shazam", right now the plan is to have a hero from across the world, though I don't have the specifics beyond wanting a hero from Japan and Africa. Other potential locations include the Middle East, India, China, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and Canada.

Now, while I do want to keep most of the fans of the Nu-52 Shazam happy with technically keeping Nu-Billy around as Freddy, I did want to poke fun at someone else. See, after Fawcett decided to stop publishing Captain Marvel in the mid 50's, a British comic created Marvel Man, who was a Captain Marvel rip off to keep telling those kinds of stories. Later, the character would be used by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, but with Marvel Comics copyrighting the term "Marvel", they changed his name to Miracle Man. At least until Marvel agreed to publish Marvel Man stories.

Additionally, for a brief time there was a Fawcett Comics heroes called Master Man, a blonde guy with superstrength, speed and invulnerability who was quietly dropped because he was felt to be too similar to Superman.

So, I'd have a blonde kid in Britain get some of the Power of Shazam and use it to become Master Man . . . only he'd be wearing something close to Marvel/Miracle Man's outfit. And while on the surface he'd appear to be a good and heroic individual, as time would go on he'd become more like the kind of messed up person Miracle Man became under Moore and Gaiman's pen, to the point that he'd betray the other heroes in an attempt to keep his power. And while he'd lose his powers, Captain Nazi would find the kid, take a liking to him, and turn him into Captain Nazi, Jr.

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Re: Musing about a potential Shazam: Re-Birth

Post by RUSCHE » Tue Dec 20, 2016 5:31 pm

Ares wrote:As a follow up idea to the "people get powers to help the Marvels resurrect the wizard Shazam", right now the plan is to have a hero from across the world, though I don't have the specifics beyond wanting a hero from Japan and Africa. Other potential locations include the Middle East, India, China, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and Canada.

Now, while I do want to keep most of the fans of the Nu-52 Shazam happy with technically keeping Nu-Billy around as Freddy, I did want to poke fun at someone else. See, after Fawcett decided to stop publishing Captain Marvel in the mid 50's, a British comic created Marvel Man, who was a Captain Marvel rip off to keep telling those kinds of stories. Later, the character would be used by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, but with Marvel Comics copyrighting the term "Marvel", they changed his name to Miracle Man. At least until Marvel agreed to publish Marvel Man stories.

Additionally, for a brief time there was a Fawcett Comics heroes called Master Man, a blonde guy with superstrength, speed and invulnerability who was quietly dropped because he was felt to be too similar to Superman.

So, I'd have a blonde kid in Britain get some of the Power of Shazam and use it to become Master Man . . . only he'd be wearing something close to Marvel/Miracle Man's outfit. And while on the surface he'd appear to be a good and heroic individual, as time would go on he'd become more like the kind of messed up person Miracle Man became under Moore and Gaiman's pen, to the point that he'd betray the other heroes in an attempt to keep his power. And while he'd lose his powers, Captain Nazi would find the kid, take a liking to him, and turn him into Captain Nazi, Jr.

It is truly sad that DC has wasted a prime opportunity to address the cannibalism they did to the Captain Marvel property in this last 5 years... I feel they could make him a bright spot in a dark comic medium..

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Re: Musing about a potential Shazam: Re-Birth

Post by Ares » Tue Dec 20, 2016 6:16 pm

That's what I was hoping for when they announced that Billy was going to be in the Nu-52. That with the more hyper-aggressive Superman, Wonder Woman coming from an island of rapists, the Joker cutting his face off and similar shenanigans, that Captain Marvel could be a spot of hope, levity and fun in an otherwise dark place. Only instead for Johns to suck all of the joy and fun out of the character.

Basically, I was hoping for this:

Image

And I got this:

Image

Image

Seriously DC, got to Hell.

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Re: Musing about a potential Shazam: Re-Birth

Post by RUSCHE » Tue Dec 20, 2016 6:21 pm

[quote="Ares"]That's what I was hoping for when they announced that Billy was going to be in the Nu-52. That with the more hyper-aggressive Superman, Wonder Woman coming from an island of rapists, the Joker cutting his face off and similar shenanigans, that Captain Marvel could be a spot of hope, levity and fun in an otherwise dark place. Only instead for Johns to suck all of the joy and fun out of the character.

Basically, I was hoping for this:

Image

And I got this:

Image

Image

Seriously DC, got to HELL.

He is supposed to be a even brighter light of hope than even Superman. I mean a orphan who is NOT crushed to point of no return and only wants to help and inspire when all hope is lost. Gasp a good kid doing good. What a horrible ideal. Ugh.

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Re: Musing about a potential Shazam: Re-Birth

Post by badpenny » Tue Dec 20, 2016 6:42 pm

I think it comes off as too corny. I don't have any familiarity with the character barring his appearances on Young Justice, but he strikes me as being an odd fit in the DCU and largely wearing his importation from Fawcett on his sleeve. But between that and losing the Captain Marvel name, I don't know that DC knows what to do with the character.

There does seem to be an apologetic undertone to a lot of comic book adaptions. It put me off from the first season of th CW's Flash given Cisco's proclivity toward snarking at the silver age villain names. I think it's one of the reasons that DC's movies are so dark. Perhaps it's the fear on their part that people won't come to see them if the characters seem like they're from another age (related: or why Marvel feels Daredevil needs armor on the Netflix show).
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Re: Musing about a potential Shazam: Re-Birth

Post by Ares » Tue Dec 20, 2016 7:21 pm

I didn't really feel Cisco's naming of the villains was snarking at them as much as actually embracing the fun nature of superheroism and giving villains names when they otherwise wouldn't have picked them themselves. It was most apparent when Captain Cold actually adopted the name Cisco gave him and Snart's sister specifically asked Cisco to give her a name. It seemed less "Supervillain names are dumb" and more "Supervillain names are fun".

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Re: Musing about a potential Shazam: Re-Birth

Post by L-Space » Tue Dec 20, 2016 7:26 pm

badpenny wrote:I think it comes off as too corny. I don't have any familiarity with the character barring his appearances on Young Justice, but he strikes me as being an odd fit in the DCU and largely wearing his importation from Fawcett on his sleeve. But between that and losing the Captain Marvel name, I don't know that DC knows what to do with the character.

There does seem to be an apologetic undertone to a lot of comic book adaptions. It put me off from the first season of th CW's Flash given Cisco's proclivity toward snarking at the silver age villain names. I think it's one of the reasons that DC's movies are so dark. Perhaps it's the fear on their part that people won't come to see them if the characters seem like they're from another age (related: or why Marvel feels Daredevil needs armor on the Netflix show).
The thing is you can have a generally good hero that believes in hope without coming across as too corny. As Ares has pointed out before, Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger is a good example of this.

Also Cisco's never came off as being snarky to me when it came to names, it always seemed to be done in good humor with a big smile on his face. Cisco coming up with names is/was one of my favorite things about the Flash.

EDIT: Ninja'd by Ares about the naming thing.
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Re: Musing about a potential Shazam: Re-Birth

Post by Bladewind » Tue Dec 20, 2016 7:50 pm

But Ares, how do you really feel ? :lol:

Seriously, I think BP nails it with the notion of DC no longer knowing what to do with him since losing the name....
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Re: Musing about a potential Shazam: Re-Birth

Post by Ares » Tue Dec 20, 2016 9:46 pm

Well that's the thing: DC never had the trademark rights to "Captain Marvel". Fawcett Publications stopped publishing comics in the mid-50s. Marvel Comics realized the trademark on "Captain Marvel" had expired in the late 60s and made their own Captain Mar-Vell to secure the name. DC then acquired the rights to publish Capt. Marvel in the mid-70s, but couldn't title the book Captain Marvel due to the trademark Marvel had. A trademark Marvel has maintained for decades, sometimes just by releasing a one-shot book to maintain the trademark.

But here's the thing: trademark only prevents you from using that phrase on the packaging of something. So DC just called the book "Shazam" while still calling the character Captain Marvel inside of the books, as well as on tv shows and films. They just can't release a movie or book titled "Captain Marvel".

So nothing has changed from a legal perspective, DC just decided to rename the character as part of the 2011 reboot.

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Re: Musing about a potential Shazam: Re-Birth

Post by Ares » Wed Dec 21, 2016 10:25 pm

Regarding Cap being an "odd fit" for DC, that's actually something that other DC writers have mentioned as well. Dan Jurgens, longtime Superman writer and Booster Gold creator, once talked about how he had to write Capt. Marvel Jr. into the Teen Titans, and how he felt the Marvel Family just didn't fit with the DCU, citing things like Mr. Mind (an alien worm with psychic powers) and Mr. Tawny (a talking tiger in a business suit).

Which made me just shake my head and want to go: "Dan, I love you, but . . . . Superman has a superpowered dog with a red cape. One of Superman's biggest enemies is a little imp from another dimension in a bowler hat. Batman use to dress his sidekicks in little green booty shorts and one of his enemies is basically a talking aligator. Wonder Woman came from an island that rode giant kangaroos as war horses. The Flash has a hidden city of talking gorillas, one of which is one of his greatest foes. The Green Lanterns have a sentient squirrel as a member. The Justice League made their debut fighting a giant starfish from outer space with mind control powers. DC has characters like Plastic Man and Ambush Bug. Trying to pretend that the DCU is somehow less silly than the Marvel Family is just stupid."

Really, there's nothing that separates Captain Marvel from other superheroes in terms of content. The only real difference might be one of tone, but the Captain Marvel stories were never really anymore outlandish than their contemporary stories, and tended to be less silly than the Silver Age, which the Captain missed out on. The tonally, Marvel Family stories tended towards light-hearted adventure and fun, but they could deal with important matters and dark subjects as well. One of my favorite Captain Marvel moments had Cap comforting a young girl in a hospital as she lay dying of a disease. He can't save her life, all he can do is offer her a warm presence, help her smile, and promise her that she won't face the end alone. And she passes away peacefully, with a smile on her face, her pain forgotten in the presence of Cap's sincere compassion and empathy.

So yeah, I never understood why some folks felt Cap was better off on his own world or didn't fit in with the DCU, unless "fun" just isn't a thing DC does anymore.

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Re: Musing about a potential Shazam: Re-Birth

Post by RUSCHE » Wed Dec 21, 2016 10:59 pm

Ares wrote:Regarding Cap being an "odd fit" for DC, that's actually something that other DC writers have mentioned as well. Dan Jurgens, longtime Superman writer and Booster Gold creator, once talked about how he had to write Capt. Marvel Jr. into the Teen Titans, and how he felt the Marvel Family just didn't fit with the DCU, citing things like Mr. Mind (an alien worm with psychic powers) and Mr. Tawny (a talking tiger in a business suit).

Which made me just shake my head and want to go: "Dan, I love you, but . . . . Superman has a superpowered dog with a red cape. One of Superman's biggest enemies is a little imp from another dimension in a bowler hat. Batman use to dress his sidekicks in little green booty shorts and one of his enemies is basically a talking aligator. Wonder Woman came from an island that rode giant kangaroos as war horses. The Flash has a hidden city of talking gorillas, one of which is one of his greatest foes. The Green Lanterns have a sentient squirrel as a member. The Justice League made their debut fighting a giant starfish from outer space with mind control powers. DC has characters like Plastic Man and Ambush Bug. Trying to pretend that the DCU is somehow less silly than the Marvel Family is just stupid."

Really, there's nothing that separates Captain Marvel from other superheroes in terms of content. The only real difference might be one of tone, but the Captain Marvel stories were never really anymore outlandish than their contemporary stories, and tended to be less silly than the Silver Age, which the Captain missed out on. The tonally, Marvel Family stories tended towards light-hearted adventure and fun, but they could deal with important matters and dark subjects as well. One of my favorite Captain Marvel moments had Cap comforting a young girl in a hospital as she lay dying of a disease. He can't save her life, all he can do is offer her a warm presence, help her smile, and promise her that she won't face the end alone. And she passes away peacefully, with a smile on her face, her pain forgotten in the presence of Cap's sincere compassion and empathy.

So yeah, I never understood why some folks felt Cap was better off on his own world or didn't fit in with the DCU, unless "fun" just isn't a thing DC does anymore.
Wow. I thought I was a fan. Well said sir. Billy greatest gift was is his heart, he knows the world can be ugly yet he chooses to see and be the best in it.

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Re: Musing about a potential Shazam: Re-Birth

Post by Ares » Thu Dec 22, 2016 1:40 am

Heh, yeah, I'm fairly infamous for my obsessive fanboy love of Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family. Which is sort of like being an abusive relationship given how DC has treated the characters in the last decade.

I mean, it's hard to believe that we really haven't seen Captain Marvel proper in the mainstream DCU since 2006. He got turned into Marvel the White, got de-powered, was ignored for years, then the 2011 reboot happened and we got Nu-Shazam, who I basically have to consider a separate character. They only places we've seen classic Cap have been in Elseworld style stories like JUSTICE, Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam, Multiversity, Convergence: Shazam and Scooby-Doo Team-Up. It's actually pretty sad when Scooby-Doo Team-Up was more fun than every issue featuring Nu-Shazam combined.

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Re: Musing about a potential Shazam: Re-Birth

Post by badpenny » Thu Dec 22, 2016 1:48 am

Don't forget Young Justice. Since that's coming back for season 3, we might get some more Billy/CM.
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Re: Musing about a potential Shazam: Re-Birth

Post by Ares » Thu Dec 22, 2016 4:52 am

Here's hoping. Young Justice Captain Marvel was hit or miss, but when they got him right he was great. The "Billy Batson has the courage of Billy Batson" line was gold.

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