THE TOP 100 COMIC BOOK HEROES OF ALL TIME

30.  CAPTAIN MARVEL (SHAZAM VERSION)

The Big Red Cheese (not the Kree warrior) gets the number 30 slot, even though comic book-wise we haven’t seen a good Shazam ongoing book in decades. The reasons are many, but not the least of which is the concept.  As a kid, I thought that Marvel was way cooler than Superman because he transformed via a massive lightning blast.  (Of course, I also thought it was cool that Linda Danvers could spin around and turn into Wonder Woman, and that Bruce and Dick changed clothes by sliding down a pole.)  But even more than the electric wardrobe, he was a kid!  A kid!  It’s so important that we get kids into comics, and here was a perfect entry point

As for his costume, yeah, it’s a little silly that his cape looks like a bathtowel and that he dresses an awful lot like The Flash (red with a lightining bolt?!), but it’s still kinda neat.

There must be some history to this, but the thing I’ve always found baffling about this character is why DC, when they acquired him, insisted on keeping the name Captain Marvel rather than using Shazam.  Shazam is a cooler name, most of us called him that anyway, and it clearly distinguished him from being a member of their greatest publishing competitor.

Anyway, Captain Marvel was such a great idea that he had his own live-action Saturday morning show (teamed up with, of all people, Isis!), on which they called him Shazam–not Captain Marvel.  I watched that show religiously (and was usually furious when it was an Isis episode).  And note that he had the show, not Spidey, Batman, Superman, or any of the other big ones.  They had cartoons, but if you wanted to see real people the only option I had was Shazam.

The Big Red Cheese (not the Kree warrior) gets the number 30 slot, even though comic book-wise we haven’t seen a good Shazam ongoing book in decades. The reasons are many, but not the least of which is the concept.  As a kid, I thought that Marvel was way cooler than Superman because he transformed via a massive lightning blast.  (Of course, I also thought it was cool that Linda Danvers could spin around and turn into Wonder Woman, and that Bruce and Dick changed clothes by sliding down a pole.)  But even more than the electric wardrobe, he was a kid!  A kid!  It’s so important that we get kids into comics, and here was a perfect entry point

As for his costume, yeah, it’s a little silly that his cape looks like a bathtowel and that he dresses an awful lot like The Flash (red with a lightining bolt?!), but it’s still kinda neat.

There must be some history to this, but the thing I’ve always found baffling about this character is why DC, when they acquired him, insisted on keeping the name Captain Marvel rather than using Shazam.  Shazam is a cooler name, most of us called him that anyway, and it clearly distinguished him from being a member of their greatest publishing competitor.

Anyway, Captain Marvel was such a great idea that he had his own live-action Saturday morning show (teamed up with, of all people, Isis!), on which they called him Shazam–not Captain Marvel.  I watched that show religiously (and was usually furious when it was an Isis episode).  And note that he had the show, not Spidey, Batman, Superman, or any of the other big ones.  They had cartoons, but if you wanted to see real people the only option I had was Shazam.

Oh. And the Greatest American Hero.

Homework reading!

29.  DAMIAN WAYNE

One of the things that makes Grant Morrison so much fun, and also so impenetrable, is that he takes the most esoteric elements and characters–ones only the biggest DC fans could know about–and turns them into major components of his stories.  Damian Wayne is a great example.  The kid first appeared in an Elseworlds story, but Morrison obviously took a shine to the idea that Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul did the wild thing and ended up with a shorty.  So, Grant Morrison delivered “Batman and Son,” 2009 Batman story–just a few arcs into his long-running narrative–in which he brought the character into the “main” DCU.  This story, Damian’s “first” appearance, was much more about Batman dealing with the reality of having a personal life than it was about the boy, but we did get to see some hints at what a wildcat this kid would become when he beats the crap out of Robin (Jason Todd).

The importance of the character increased, but it wasn’t until Bruce Wayne “died” and Dick Grayson took over the cowl that we really got to see Damian shine as Robin to the Robin-Batman.  The Grant Morrison Batman & Robin title is, in my view, his greatest Batwork.  And that’s really saying something.

Damian also briefly flirted with joining the Teen Titans, but decided he would be on the team only if he could be the leader.  They essentially rebuffed him (largely because he’s nine), and he quickly gave up on them.

That’s so Damian!

Recommended reading:

  • Batman & Son by Grant Morrison
  • Batman & Robin by Grant Morrison

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