Saturday, January 19, 2013

First 10 - Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel's first appearance in Marvel Comics is the result of some ridiculous behind-the-scenes antics on the part of both DC and Marvel. As I understand it, here's how it went down:

Back in the 1940's Fawcett Comics ran a series called Captain Marvel, which followed the life of a normal guy named Billy Batson who would turn into the Superman-esque hero whenever he said the word, "Shazam!" Captain Marvel was actually a more popular hero than Superman in the Golden Age, based on sales alone. After more than a decade of publication, DC decided that Captain Marvel was a bit too Superman-esque. A lawsuit ensued and Fawcett lost. They ceased publication of all Captain Marvel titles, crippling the company. DC later acquired the rights to the Captain Marvel character from Fawcett, but Marvel Comics decided to mess with DC for no good reason. Marvel invented Captain Marvel (given name: Mar-Vell. No kidding) before DC could come out with a Captain Marvel series of their own. DC was then forced to call their Captain Marvel title Shazam!, which it remains to the present day. Marvel's Captain Marvel has never been a very financially or critically successful venture, but in order to keep the rights to the series name, Marvel has to keep at least sporadically publishing Captain Marvel material. Now if that doesn't make you want to read the series, I don't know what will.

I knew the tangled history of Captain Marvel before reading these first 10 issues, and I honestly didn't expect too much of it. I found that the stories were generally better written than I expected, and Mer-Vell as a character was more compelling than I thought he'd be. What you need to understand, however, is that I thought Captain Marvel would be a giant turd. What it actually is is a fair-to-middling super-powered alien series.

Captain Marvel is a Kree (one of the major alien races in the Marvel Universe) warrior who decides to protect the earth after being sent on a fact-finding mission by the powers that be in the Kree empire. The major problem with the series is that you can feel it grasping for straws almost from the beginning. No Marvel hero has undergone more changes than Captain Marvel. His continuity is probably the most befuddling in the entire universe. The character has been revamped several times, but has never been a big draw. His main purpose seems to be keeping DC from being able to publish Shazam! under the title of Captain Marvel.

The most compelling part of the series for me was the fact that Mar-Vell has a working relationship with Carol Danvers, who eventually becomes the infinitely more compelling Ms. Marvel. I enjoyed this series more than I expected, but a whole lot less than some of the others I've read. That said, he's better than Aquaman. Here are the current First 10 Standings:

  1. Batman
  2. Amazing Spider-Man
  3. Fantastic Four
  4. Booster Gold
  5. The Punisher
  6. Golden Age Green Lantern
  7. The Avengers
  8. Captain America
  9. Golden Age Captain America
  10. Golden Age Blue Beetle
  11. Captain Marvel (Marvel Comics)
  12. Aquaman

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