World Comic Book Review

A Deep Six’d Publication

21st January 2022

An Ongoing Redefinition: Justice League The Darkseid War: Shazam #1

An Ongoing Redefinition: Justice League - The Darkseid War: Shazam #1

Litigation between National Comics (the predecessor to DC Comics) and Fawcett Comics lasted for 12 years. The dispute was concerned with an allegation of copyright infringement by Fawcett of National’s intellectual property rights: that Captain Marvel was too similar to Superman. In 1951, the US Court of Appeal agreed. The cape, the super-strength, the power of flight: in contemporary times these attributes are so commonplace that they are regarded as archetypical elements of the classic superhero.

By 1980 DC Comics had acquired the intellectual property rights to Captain Marvel. Indeed the character was extremely similar to Superman and was not especially commercially successful. Trying to distinguish the two characters from each other in stories was a challenge for writers. In one amusing panel in a 2002 story featuring both characters, the villainous Despero cracks together the skulls of Superman and Captain Marvel. Amidst the violence, the faces, general physiology, and powers were identical, and only the costumes were different.

Now, in 2016, it seems DC Comics have decided to address this. Shazam, as the character has been called since 2011 (thereby avoiding the longstanding issue with Marvel Comics over the use by both publishers of the name “Captain Marvel”), has been disconnected from a mystic link to six Roman gods and Greek heroes of antiquity. Instead, the character draws new abilities from six fictional gods, one of which appears to be Martian. As a result, the character is no longer fast or capable of flight, and instead is immensely stronger than before and projects flame.

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The Ectopathologist

Doctor Strange #1 [review]
(Marvel Comics, December 2015)
Writer: Jason Aaron
(Review by DG Stewart, 10 December 2015)

Many years ago, The Comics Journal published a critique of Marv Wolfman’s work on Adventures of Superman. The critique noted that Wolfman’s characterisation of Superman was off-kilter: Superman was prone to bursts of anger and was an easily manipulated pawn of the evil Vandal Savage. It would be as odd, noted the reviewer, as Doctor Strange being portrayed as street-wise and jive-talking.

In this iteration of the title, Doctor Strange still has his original 1950s moustache but otherwise has been “transmogrified” (Doctor Strange’s term) from a stodgy, slightly inaccessible character into the vehicle for a fun read. One night argue that this character transition has been happening for some time (notably as a foil to Deadpool’s zaniness), but this version has gone beyond “droll” to “quirky”. The initial battle with the “monastic tribe of ultra-dimensional soul-eaters” leads to the title character:

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Karkak #1 (review) – “Break a leg”

Karnak #1
Marvel Comics, December 2015
Writer: Warren Ellis

Review by DG Stewart, 3 December 2015

Acclaimed British comic book writer (and occasional novelist) Warren Ellis has a knack for writing droll curmudgeons. These characters are usually male (but not always), socially ill-adjusted, confrontational to the point of being violent, and clever. When Mr Ellis writes comic books featuring teams of characters, often multiple members of the cast exhibit these traits.

Mr Ellis is most commercially successful when he writes superhero comics. There is some irony to this as Mr Ellis has for many, many years expressed his dislike of the genre. A contemporary of Mr Ellis, comics writer Grant Morrison, has lamented the distaste Mr Ellis exhibits for the subject matter with the annotation that Mr Ellis is the paramount writer in that field. That is high praise from Mr Morrison, who is no slouch when it comes to raw creativity. But perhaps it is more accurate to say that Mr Ellis simply has a winning formula.

Mr Ellis is presently writing a new series called “Karnak” for Marvel Comics. This is an obscure character from a super-powered group called The Inhumans. This package of characters was created in 1965, and is slated to appear in a film in 2019. Marvel Comics have publicly stated that Mr Ellis was engaged to write the series given his track record in revitalising other Marvel Comics assets. It is a natural assumption that the work Mr Ellis does here is likely to shape the character in preparation for the motion picture. In that regard, Mr Ellis does two jobs: write the comic, and engage in pre-production character treatment specifically relating to the motion picture.

Mr Ellis has turned to his usual bag of tricks. First, he has removed the costume from the character (a good thing: the costume would not have been misplaced on a Seaworld-themed striptease performer). Mr Ellis has rarely called upon the archetypical costume conventions of the superhero genre: capes and masks are reserved for his parodies only.

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About the Death of Many Cats

“Scarlet Witch #1” Marvel Comics, December 2, 2015 Writer: James Robinson “Scarlet Witch #1” is part of Marvel Comic’s All-New, All-Different (ANAD) rebranding campaign. The proposition is that the role and visual identities of established superheroes are taken over by other characters. There is a palpable sense of invigoration attached to the process, and especially … Read more