Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Groove's Faves: "New Look" Shazam #34

Ya think making kids' superheroes more "realistic" is something new? Think again! As Ol' Groove previously mentioned, DC's revival of the Captain Marvel Family (under the title Shazam!) didn't set the world on fire as DC's powers-that-were had hoped. By late 1977 the handwriting was on the wall. Something had to be done to save Shazam! from cancellation...or, was this a "it's gonna get canned anyway" experiment done up to look like "a bold new direction?" Whatever the reason, DC hired one of the most hip and dynamic artists of the Groovy Age to infuse the Big Red Cheese with a hip and dynamic look. I remember seeing the ads and waiting on pins and needles for Shazam! #34 (December 1977) to hit the stands.

I was stunned! Weiss' art, inked by the awesome Joe Rubinstein, was even more dynomite than I'd hoped. The sturdy and dependable E. Nelson Bridwell turned out one of his best plots, adding new dimensions to the Shazam! mythos while staying true to all that had come before. Teen Groove flipped for "The Fuhrer of Chicago", and that's no jive! Check it out, Groove-ophiles!

Big surprise (not!)--that was Weiss and Rubinstein's only issue. With issue #35 (January 1978), Don Newton took over the penciling chores with former Shazam! artist Kurt Schaffenberger providing the inks. They, along with author Bridwell, kept the new look going, with a little less funk and a bit more realism, so it was pretty cool in its own right. Unfortunately, that was the final issue of Shazam! The strip was kept alive for a few more years in World's Finest Comics with Bridwell, Newton, and usually Schaffenberger at the helm, so the "new look" proved to be a semi-success.


  1. I had a new look Captain Marvel story in an old Adventure Comics digest back when I was a kid. It was the first part of a two part story and it used to drive me crazy that I didn't know the conclusion to the story.

    Personally, I think the new look Shazam was fantatic. It's a pity it didn't make it.

  2. Oh yeah. When this issue came out, I vividly remember thinking "It's about time!"

    One of the things that's always hampered the Marvel Family at DC -- be it the early days of the revival, or the misguided effort to shoehorn them into DC continuity, or even dare I say Cap's most recent incarnation as a kiddie book -- is an excess of self-consciousness. Either "we've got to make it extra goofy and campy so no one thinks we're taking it too seriously!" or "we'll stop people from saying this is kid stuff by making it extra dark and creepy!" Nelson was different: to this day, he was the only writer who liked old Captain Marvel stories just the way they were and simply wanted to write more like those, with sincerity and affection.

  3. ENB definitely "got" CM and his family!



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