THAT the Golden Age of Comic Books started with the publication of ACTION COMICS No. 1, featuring that sensational action-adventure character, "SUPERMAN", is fact. Created by a pair of former High School buddies from Cleveland, "The Man of Steel" would prove to be a veritable overnight success; providing impetus for not only its publisher, National Comics Publications (aka Detective Comics, Inc. and ultimately, D.C. Comics), but also energizing the whole comics field with the desire to bring the public more and more Super-hero "Long Underwear" Characters.
HENCE, it came to pass that from all corners of the New York's Publishing section, the World saw the rise of every imaginable variation on the "Superhero" theme. That meant a bumper crop of literally a thousand superman' all arising from every and all corners of "publishers' row."
NATIONAL Comics was responsible for a great portion of the bu$ine$$ driven proliferation of those altruistically driven, abnormally endowed with unusual powers and abilities "far beyond those of Mortal Men!" Within a year, DETECTIVE COMICS No. 27 premiered the non-super powered, but highly trained and prowess laden"BATMAN" Feature.
FROM that point on and in rapid fashion, the D.C. dual headed editorial offices* gave us "THE FLASH", "GREEN LANTERN", "THE SPECTRE", "HAWKMAN" , "THE SANDMAN", "DR. FATE", "HOURMAN", "STARMAN" and the inevitable female variation in "WONDER WOMAN".
BUT the other publishing companies weren't standing by idle. From Timely (later Atlas, then Marvel Comics*) we received such luminaries as "THE HUMAN TORCH", "Prince Namor, THE SUB-MARINER" and that pure symbol of patriotism, "CAPTAIN America" THE editorial staff at MLJ Publications brought out a crew of super characters all of their own with the likes of "THE SHIELD", "WIZARD"and "THE BLACK HOOD." MLJ would later change its corporate moniker in honor of a "Henry Aldrich-Andy Hardy" type of Teen-aged comedy strip. To this day it's known as Archie Comics Publications!
THERE were literally hundreds of characters that fit into this category; but we feel that there are a few more which merit at least a mention. Quality Comics Publications gave us the visually stunning and literary whimsiness of "PLASTIC MAN"; as well as publishing Will Eisner's copyright feature of "THE SPIRIT" , both in their POLICE COMICS monthly.
AND from Fox Features, we had an interesting assortment, most interesting of which was "THE BLUE BEETLE", which merited a short lived adaptation to a Radio Series, which starred Frank Lovejoy in the title role.
IRONICALLY the biggest rivalry for Superman and Company came from a character who is in many ways the one with the closest resemblance to the Progenitor of all Super Heroes. Fawcett Publications "CAPTAIN MARVEL" bowed in their WHIZ COMICS No. 2 (there was no # 1 published), dated February, 1940. From the start, it was clearly evident that perhaps Superman-D.C. had met its match, from another super-strong, flying, totally noble hero. As further evidence of this, Fawcett's 2nd comics title to feature Cap & his gang, CAPTAIN MARVEL ADVENTURES, went to publishing every 2 weeks, the first comic book to do so.
BUT all would not remain peaceful in the escapist 4 color mag world as D.C. filed several suits, claiming copyright infringement against Captain Marvel and Fawcett. The legal tug-of-war dragged on for several years; until Fawcett threw in the towel with a figurative "No Mas"! They agreed to never publish the adventures of Captain Marvel in exchange for an armistice. The year was 1953 and comic book publisher faced a lot of changes in the business; including a sharp drop-off in popularity for the "Cape and Mask" set. It was a done deal; no Fawcett Comics, no Legal Troubles.
NOW we must fast forward nearly two decades. A great Super Hero revival had been in progress for several years and once again, the bu$ine$$ $en$e of the 'Suits' at D.C. reasoned that it would be foolishly wasteful to leave the old "Big Red Cheese" on the shelf during such an era of "super-powered" good will. A deal was struck and D.C. first paid royalties to publish Captain Marvel and later acquired the rights to him outright.
SOON, Television beckoned; as the Super-hero was a most desirable item ever since the Pop Art-Camp BATMAN TV Series had made such an impression on the Nation and indeed, the whole World in 1966. Filmation, known for its TV animation projects, which included the NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, AQUAMAN, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF America and the first BATMAN Cartoon Series, came up with a format for a sort of juvenile coming of age/road trip scenario for the weekly episodes. In a typical we would have young Billy Batson pondering some great mystery of life and conferring with the old Wizard, Shazam (and oft with those gods and heroes whose name spelled the acronym of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury). All this was rendered by FIlmation's Animation Department.
PROVIDING proper adult or even a sort of "parental" guidance was the character "Mentor"; played by long time distinguished actor of stage, screen, Radio and Television, Les Tremayne. The character is somewhat mysterious and he seems to be some sort of Wizard, himself; possibly even being Old "Shazam", himself.
ONLY one problem remained as the name of Captain Marvel was tied up under Trademark Law in a more recent character, a member of Stan Lee's Marvel Comics Stable. The name was their's to use, but not as a title. So, the title of "SHAZAM!" was settled on and Captain Marvel was known to whole new generations. The mixed Live Action & Animated "SHAZAM" had a successful 3 year run on CBS, with two guys in the lead. There was Jackson Bostwick (1974-75) and John Davey (1976-77). There was little noticeable difference in the two's performances.
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