Friday, November 14, 2008

Mary makes me Marvel

Given that Veterans Day was earlier this week, this might be an appropriate Comic Art Friday on which to check out one of my popular Bombshells! pinup commissions.

Then again, is there really an inappropriate time to check out some Bombshells! art?

I think not.

That, of course, is Mary Marvel, the World's Mightiest Maiden, who's riding that surprise package for the Axis. (Clicking on the image will take you to my Comic Art Fans gallery for a closer look.) Artist Jeffrey Moy, who illustrated an acclaimed five-year run on DC Comics' Legion of Super-Heroes, designed and drew Mary's show-stopping Bombshells! entry.

I've written at length about my Mary Marvel fixation on previous Comic Art Fridays, but there's an aspect of Mary's supremacy that I don't believe I've touched on before. Mary Marvel represents, from my perspective, the perfect realization of the Captain Marvel archetype — in a nutshell, a kid who turns into a superhero by uttering a magic word.

Captain Marvel never really worked for me, as he did for the millions of comic book readers in the 1940s who made the Big Red Cheese the most popular costumed hero of the day, outselling even Superman. While the concept of Captain Marvel is brilliant — doesn't every kid want to be a superhero? — the actualization leaves something to be desired.

When Billy Batson says "SHAZAM!" he doesn't become a superhero — he gets replaced by one. Billy vanishes and Captain Marvel, the immortal champion, appears where Billy had been. Yes, I'm aware that in current DC continuity, Billy and Marvel are the same person. But that wasn't how it played when I was reading DC's Shazam! in the early '70s. In those stories, Billy and the Captain were clearly two discrete beings. (When Marvel Comics developed their own character named Captain Marvel during this same timeframe, the same paradigm existed — when Mar-Vell was in the "real" universe, his teenage counterpart Rick Jones was banished to the Negative Zone, and vice versa.)

What fun is that for a kid? Some chubby middle-aged guy in long underwear gets the superpowers and all the adventures, while you're off cooling your heels God only knows where? That's a nightmare, not a fantasy.

Captain Marvel Jr. was equally inexplicable. Physically handicapped newsboy Freddy Freeman (he was "crippled" back before we got all politically correct up in here) speaks the name "Captain Marvel," and he becomes a superhuman version of himself. Riddle me this, Shazam: Why on earth would Freddy ever change back into his crutch-dependent everyday self? And yet he did, at the end of every Captain Marvel Jr. story. Methinks poor Freddy might have been handicapped in more ways than one.

Mary Marvel got it right — she was a smart, resourceful teenager who could power up into a smart, resourceful young woman who was actually herself, not a completely different adult. Now that's how you roll, Mary. You go, girl!

And that's your Comic Art Friday.


4 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger HouseT offered these pearls of wisdom...

Amazingly, that's the exact same train of logic I have concerning the characters. Why Freddy (or Mary for that matter) would ever change back is beyond me.

But it's hardly a second thought considering how DC is treating most of the Marvel family, Mary especially. Ah, Mary... what have those monsters done to you?

7:29 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

House: Clearly, you are a wise and perceptive individual, because you agree with me completely. :)

I have no idea what DC is doing these days. They've just canceled two of my favorite books, Legion of Super-Heroes and Blue Beetle. They also persist in their efforts to ruin two of my favorite characters, Mary Marvel and Supergirl (although I have hope for Supergirl's new creative team).

On the bright side, I'm enjoying Gail Simone's take on Wonder Woman (and her new other series, Secret Six). And DC's current weekly, Trinity, is lightyears better than the one that preceded it, Countdown.

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous offered these pearls of wisdom...

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3:24 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Anonymous: "I am now coming out..."

Wanda Sykes, is that you?

4:15 PM  

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