Monday, June 20, 2011
The Mightiest Man in the Universe
The Shazam! Archives Volume 3, written by Bill Parker, C.C. Beck and Rod Reed, illustrated by C.C. Beck, Pete Costanza, George Tuska and Mac Raboy (1941-42; collected 2002): Another dandy volume of Golden-Age Captain Marvel (Shazam!) stories, though a bit light on the epitomal 1940's version of Captain Marvel as drawn by C.C. Beck. Blame the good Captain's popularity for that -- Fawcett Publications was rushing out Captain Marvel material in response to fervent public demand, and that required artists and writers other than the then-standard Bill Parker/C.C. Beck team.
George Tuska supplies a surprisingly light line in the stories he illustrates here, and the writers keep the fantastic adventures -- always more fantastic than those of Superman during the 1940's -- rolling along. There's some surprisingly metafictional stories here, along with attempts to mesh the mostly inconsistent worlds of the comic book and the recent Republic Captain Marvel serial, which offered an origin for Captain Marvel much different than that of the comic book.
We also get what is probably the first in-story 'franchising' of a superhero, as Captain Marvel 'drafts' the three similarly powered Lieutenant Marvels. This stuff is all so much more fun than most modern superhero comics, it isn't even funny. Michael Uslan supplies a pointlessly continuity-obsessed introduction. Yes, it's true, Michael -- there's a certain lack of consistency in the presentation of a variety of things in the Captain Marvel stories. That's because no one gave a shit about that stuff in 1941, though one day an obsession with continuity would begin to crush the life out of superhero comics. Highly recommended.