The Usual Suspects #40
Welcome back for another edition of The Usual Suspects. This week I wanted to look at the O.G. Captain Marvel, little old Billy Batson, Shazam. I will be honest the whole Captain Marvel/Shazam thing has always confused me. Mostly because I always knew him as Shazam.
I mean, the DC comic that came out in 1973 was called Shazam. I know there was a whole legal thing about Marvel owning the rights to titling a comic Captain Marvel, but DC still wanted to call him Captain Marvel since he was the original, yada-yada. Honestly when I was a kid, I stopped listening every time someone tried explaining it to me that Shazam is the magic word and not his name and…rock of ages…something about a wizard… and I just drifted off because I didn’t care all that much.
So that hasn’t changed all that much today. I get it. I don’t really need to know he whole story. But for the sake of this article I did a little bit of homework for you guys.
So, he was originally called Captain Marvel. He was a big deal. He was bigger than Supes back in the 40’s. Honestly, it was a great concept. A kid gains super powers by speaking the magic word “SHAZAM” (acronym of: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury). Who doesn’t love acronyms?
As you may know, CM became so popular that he spawned an expanded roster of characters giving us Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. and some crazy Marvel Bunny or something. Big Red was also the very first comic book adaptation, having been given a serialized 12 part adventure on film.
Like I said, Big Red was a big deal. By the mid 40’s he was the most popular superhero in comics, selling 1.4 million copies an issue. Yes, 1.4 million. Insane right? But even though there were millions of copies of these comics, good luck finding them today. Crazy to think that at some point it may be hard to find a copy of Jim Lee’s X-Men #1.
Now behind the scenes of all of this, DC had a lawsuit filed for copyright infringement against Fawcett, who published Captain Marvel. It took 12 years, but DC eventually won, and Fawcett stopped publishing Captain Marvel around 1953. It’s crazy to think that DC won, because it was based on the notion that they invented the idea of a super strong guy with a cape. It is what it is.
So Fawcett folded up shop and that was that for the comics. Then in the 60’s Marvel created their own Captain Marvel and trademarked the name. DC would eventually rent the publishing rights to the Fawcett characters in the early 70’s but the Marvel copyright made things a bit dicey. So DC named the comic Shazam even though the character was named Captain Marvel, but they didn’t own that name, nor did they own the character as it was some sort of per-use fee to use those Fawcett characters, so DC used them sparingly for years. Whew.
Now Fawcett still owned their creations, so they were free to shop them around in other media despite having already leased the publishing rights to DC. So somewhere in the mid 70’s there was even a Shazam TV show. It ran from 1974 to 1976 on the CBS Saturday morning lineup. The show was basically the same premise as the original comic as Billy Batson would become a super hero by saying the magic word, Shazam. The show was obviously updated for modern (70’s) times and was successful enough to last 3 seasons. Check it out.
And this wasn’t the only show Shazam had either. Later in the early 80’s NBC also had an animated series that they aired as part of the Kids Super Power Hour. I’d liked to say that I really remember this but, honestly I would’ve only been like 4 years old. And had I seen this, I most definitely would have remembered it. Go check it out on YouTube because the GIF without the sound doesn’t do it justice at all.
Anyway, DC did eventually buy those Fawcett characters outright in the 80’s. After a couple attempts at publishing Captain Marvel comics under some variation of The whatever of Shazam in the title, DC eventually just leaned into it and just decided to call him Shazam outright. This was in 2011 when they reintroduced him again, this time in the New 52.
So now we can call him Shazam and call her Captain Marvel and everyone is happy. I find it really weird that both of them will be in theaters concurrently having been released within a month of each other. But hey, this is all good for those of us who just love comics and movies and could care less about all the publishing drama. We can just enjoy living in a time where we can see both of these tent pole features up on the big screen.
But if you want to see Shazam on TV you can always see him on Fox with Jamie Foxx playing the…wait that’s what that show’s about? Naming a song before a computer? But how do you know it won’t cheat? But why would anyone want to…whatever. Disregard. Go see Shazam.
So with that said…let’s get on with it.
Origin/1st appearance of Captain Marvel,
1st appearance Sivana
Well, this one can be a little confusing because it’s #2, but also somehow #1? It’s pretty confusing, so I am not even going to try and explain it. Somethings about 2 differently named ashcans, and Captain Thunder, and it all changed when it got to print. But Whiz #2 was the first published issue and the 1st appearance of Captain Marvel.
Now this book is from 1940, so it is an absolute real deal impossible to find Mega Key. This is not a book you will see at your LCS or can just find tons of copies on eBay. Even the crappiest copies trade in the thousands. You gotta be a high roller to play this game, if you know what I’m saying.
Active Listings: Can only find reprints of this one on eBay. This book is from 1940 so, I am not surprised there isn’t a whole gaggle of them on the market. That said, the only real copy I could find was one that MCS has that is a CBCS 0.3 up for $15,700. This book is coverless and missing some page pieces. I honestly didn’t know they had 0.3’s but if you want a piece of history, even one as chewed up as this, it’ll cost you.
Market Analysis: Big fat goose egg on the recent raw sales for this bad boy. However, there were a few CGC sales worth mentioning. Top sale was a CGC 7.0 for $12,361 back in August. So based on that, even with the hype of the upcoming movie, perhaps MCS is reaching a bit for over $15k for that 0.3. That’s some crazy surge pricing. But spend your money how you want.
Other than that sale, there were a couple mid to low grade sales in the $6k range. Honestly If I paid $6k for a 1.5 in January, I’m be more than a little miffed that a 5.5 would’ve only cost me just another $700 a month later.
Origin and 1st appearance of Mary Marvel
Let’s be honest, no one is buying this book because it’s the first Marvel Family. Sorry Freddy, but we all know folks want this book for Mary Marvel. No disrespect to the 1st appearance of the Marvel Family, but I’m pretty sure the driving force behind this books key issue status is for Billy’s twin sister.
Yes, before Star Wars, this was the original surprise twin sister. Ok, I have no evidence to back that up as it being this first. I really shouldn’t make outrageous claims, but I can say with certainty that it was at the very least before Star Wars.
Anyway, the original back story was that the Batson twins were orphaned when their parents died in a car accident. Then there’s something about the nurse substituting another baby girl for Mary who suddenly died and Billy was sent to an orphanage. This is some serious dark soap opera stuff going on here, and this seems awfully familiar to one of the plot twists in The Crimes of Grindelwald. Or am I just crazy?
Captain Marvel, bigger than Superman and inspiring Star Wars and Harry Potter. What’s next?
Anyway, after some craziness about quiz bowl broadcasts, deathbed confessions, kidnapping, and matching broken lockets, the Marvel boys find Mary and she joins the squad.
Active Listings: Another one from the 40’s so there’s only 4 copies available for this book at present. Top listing is a CGC 7.5 for $12,250. That’s quite a bump from the last sale in that grade for $2k way back in 2015. Though 4 years is a lot of time for appreciation. Curious to see where that one goes as the closest recent comp would be a 6.5 that sold for $5,200 back in August. But now we have movie hype and good reviews driving prices up, up and away.
Oops. Wrong big caped flying guy. Sue me DC. But outside that compact car priced slab, you could either go for a CGC 5.5 Green label for about $3k or go raw beater copy for $905. But hey if you want a coverless incomplete slab to accompany your $15k MCS purchase of Whiz #2, then you are in luck as MCS can also add this little beauty for only $455 more. That’s a good deal.
Market Analysis: Most of the recent action on this book is in the mid to low grade slabs in the $3-$4k range. That kinda cash covered anything CGC 3.5-5.0 the last few months. A raw could run you close to $1k depending on condition.
Mary Marvel Cover
I have to credit Jon Z from Tales From the Flipside and his Instagram posts for this one. I had no idea about this cover. Is it a Shazam key? No, not really but it is just a really nice Mary Marvel cover. And she is Shazam adjacent.
Plus, just look at it. It looks to me like Adam Hughes inspiration for the legendary LOSH 23 Supergirl cover.
Maybe not exactly the same mirror images, but close enough for me. In any event, I like it and wish I had it.
Now might be a good time to mention that this version of Mary Marvel was technically wiped from existence with Crisis on Infinite Earths back in 1986. I believe the new 52 version is no longer his long lost twin sister, but just a girl named Mary Broomfield. One of his foster siblings. So I’m pretty sure little Mary is in the new Shazam movie as are the rest of his New 52 foster siblings.
This is what I was getting at in yesterday’s Dollar Bin Digging when mentioning the 1st Shazam Family appearance in Justice League #21. Considering the movie seems based on that iteration of the character, it’s a good bet they are heading in this direction.
Active Listings: None.
Market Analysis: Very, very little movement on this book as it is near impossible to find. Only two tracked graded sales over the summer in the $1400 range for a CGC 7.5 and a CGC 6.0. Looking for one? Ask Jon Z where he got his.
Origin and 1st appearance of Black Adam
It’s weird to think that this was Black Adam’s 1st and only appearance for decades. I mean, I always think of him as the quintessential Shazam villain. But here he was in 1945, as a one off villain that was presented as an Egyptian precursor to Shazam.
Once DC took over publishing Captain Marvel in the 70’s, they brought back Black Adam in Shazam #28. In this book Dr. Sivana uses some resurrection machine to bring back Teth Adam. In this version of the character Black Adam gets his powers from another acronym: Shu (stamina), Hershef (strength), Amon (power), Zehuti (Thoth) (wisdom), Anpu (speed), and Menthu (courage).
Considering Dr. Sivana is the main villain in the Shazam movie, I wonder if he will somehow lead in or eventually be used to resurrect Black Adam as he did here in the comics. I like Mark Strong as a villain, and hope he isn’t just a one off bad guy that is quickly dispatched and never heard from again.
As much as I am looking forward to seeing this movie, I am really amped to eventually see Black Adam. Mostly because I am a big fan of The Rock. Duane Johnson is just a likable dude. I enjoyed most of his movies from The Rundown, to Walking Tall, to Gridiron Gang, to even Skyscraper. It wasn’t awful. One-legged Die Hard in China, what's not to like?
But seeing him playing an overpowered superhero that can do fantastical things, that isn’t in the Fast and the Furious universe, is a dream. Granted I am totally seeing Hobbs and Shaw regardless of how ridiculous it looks. It feel like a spiritual successor for the new millennium’s Tango and Cash.
Anyway, like I said I have been waiting for Johnson to suit up as Black Adam for years now. I bought into all the rumors from him being the villain in the Suicide Squad sequel, or the Man of Steel sequel, to now hoping for the Shazam sequel. I really feel he just needs to be the villain. Not sure how interesting a Black Adam stand-alone film would be. But then again, I like most of what The Rock does, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt. Plus I love all of this fan art.
Active Listings: We are still in the 1940’s so these are still not easy to find. However this book currently has 7 listings. Top dog up is a CGC 5.5 up for $8,888. Drop grade to a 4.5 and it’ll run you $5k. Tick down a bit to a 3.0 and it’s still $4,500. Half a grade less could save you a grand.
If you want to take a chance on a decent looking low grade raw, that’ll run you $1,600.
Market Analysis: A bit more movement on this one over recent years as folks have been spec-ing on Black Adam for a while now. Top recent sale was nearly $16k for a CGC 8.0 back in November. A 7.5 also sold last month for over $10k.
Bargain hunters still paid at least $1,500 for either a CGC 1.0 or the raw copy average.
1st Captain Marvel in DC
Here is where DC took the reins of Captain Marvel but had to publish under the Shazam Title for the 1st time. DC just puts the 30 year beef between these two characters to rest by slapping the both front and center of this book.
Conceptually, did captain marvel take the idea of a super powered man in a cape from Superman? Sure, but that is really the only similarity between the 2 apart from the black hair. Could you imagine if a lawsuit like this was brought up today? Nothing would get done. Plus Marvel would have some troubles.
That said, Captain Marvel had a few stops and starts with DC. Even this run seemed to be published a bit sporadically with only 35 issues released over a 5 year span. They tried miniseries, maxi series, and specials, etc. Even their longest running title, Power of Shazam only lasted 51 issues.
Given that Billy Batson is just as old as Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne, and Action Comics and Detective Comics both reached 1,000 issues, that’s a bit disconcerting. Hopefully his current series lasts a while longer. This week did have a pretty sweet Jim Lee cover. They keep these coming, I will keep buying.
Active Listings: Too many copies to get an accurate guess. A quick eBay search yields over 1400 results but I’m not weeding through that. I love you guys, but that’s just too much.
As far as highlight listings go, there is a PGX 9.9 up for $9,500. I honestly couldn’t tell you what that equates to. I can tell you that a CGC 9.9 exists and sold for $9,900 back in May of 2016. So do with that what you will. The market is looking for upwards of $4,500 for a 9.8 even though recent sales have been closer to the $1k range. Do what you like but tread carefully when buying at the high point of the hype.
Market Analysis: As I noted the most recent 9.8 sale was for about $900 which is pretty close to the 3 month and 12 month averages. Tons of copies of this book and with 155 in the census, a 9.8 isn’t that hard to come by.
Lots of sales in all grades recently as everyone is getting hyped for the movie. Reviews have been good and it looks like a fun flick. Could see more in the future so prices may remain where they are for a while.
Alex Ross Cover
Nothing really special about this book in terms of story, appearances, or key events. It’s just an Awesome Alex Ross cover. And it’s a tough to find 2nd Print.
Active Listings: Not an easy book to find. Only 3 copies up and all graded. A pair of CGC 9.8s up for $250 or $300. While a CGC 9.6 will run you $200.
Market Analysis: Copies disappear pretty quickly, especially Raws which easily move in the $60 range. CGC 9.8’s have been selling in that $250ish bracket, so current listings are on par with recent history.
Only 43 Total in the census, so not a whole lot of inventory out there to choose from. If you like it, now might be the time to move and scoop up one of the 33 9.8’s while you can.
Ok that’s it for this week. Granted this is a very old character, so most of these books are from the 1940’s. I realize that isn’t playground most of us play in, so I’m gonna throw out a few more recent random books in Last Call.
The Power of Shazam