Roy Thomas co-created Carol Danvers. But there was more than one Captain Marvel movie out this year. And, courtesy of his manager John Cimino, we got to hear Roy Thomas' take on the other movie… Shazam! Roy writes,
I had a horrible experience the other night, after an enjoyable day signing comics at the Phoenix Fan Fusion Comic Con and chatting with my next-table neighbor (and longtime colleague) Denny O'Neil. Namely, I snatched a chance to go catch a film I'd been wanting to see for some time. For weeks, since it's been released. For decades, since I first encountered him back in 1945, at a time when I couldn't yet read.
Yes, I went to see the "Shazam!" movie.
I had really wanted to like it. Okay, so I knew it was gonna be tricky to catch the right flavor, the more so since, over the years, the super-hero that Billy Batson turns into when he shouts his magic word had slowly been bereft of many of the things that had made him, from '45 through the end of his first-run adventures in '53, one of my favorite comicbook characters, and whose shadow had only grown larger in my mind over the years. First he lost the ability to use his name as the title of his own magazine, so that the 1940s-1953 Fawcett title CAPTAIN MARVEL ADVENTURES was basically revived in 1973 as SHAZAM! Then others began to write and draw his adventures a lot more seriously than Bill Parker, Otto Binder, and William Woolfolk had back in the Golden Age–talented guys like Alan Weiss and Don Newton. Then I myself (first in SECRET ORIGINS, then in SHAZAM! THE NEW BEGINNING) had for the first time treated Billy B. and Captain M. as if they were the same person, with the same brain, rather than (as they had always been previously) two separate entities who shared the same memories but not the same intellect, since Billy was a kid and Cap officially possessed the wisdom of Solomon… even if he didn't always seem adept at using it. And Jerry Ordway had utilized that concept well, far as I recall from the issues I saw, in the POWER OF SHAZAM series in the 90s. And recently, though I hadn't ever read these stories, he understandably became no longer Captain Marvel but now Shazam himself, with each of his costume details altered ever so slightly, doubtless as much for trademarking purposes as anything else.
So, with this evolution, to which I myself had contributed back in the '80s, you'd think I'd have been ready for "SHAZAM! THE MOVIE."
But I wasn't.
I'd read, or at least skimmed, what mostly seemed basically favorable reviews, some if not all of which referred to it as a fun movie, a light-hearted romp of a super-hero movie that stood in stark contrast especially to the grim fare of the up-till-recently DC Cinematic Universe.
Those critics clearly saw a different movie from the one that my wife Dann, my buddy/agent John Cimino, and I saw at that late show in Phoenix last Friday night.
Oh, I liked a few things about it. The kids, as actors, were fine… in fact, I've no complaint at all with any of the actors, not even the one who played the apparently nameless super-hero Shazam (as opposed to the wizard Shazam, whose acting chops I wasn't that wild about, I'll admit). Freddy Freeman was entertaining, as was Billy when he was on-screen. Sivana is played by Mark Strong, an accomplished actor. But I hated almost everything about the approach.
I hated the actor Zach Levi (not his talent, but the physical look and his actions) who played Shazam the super-hero. I know he had a tough row to hoe, but I never felt he rose to herodom, was ever more than a kid in a grown-up body. That might be what was intended, but it wasn't anything I wanted to see.
I hated the physicality of Sivana. I felt and feel he should be a wizened little guy, for all his scientific skill. Okay, so if he wanted to gain himself a super-hero, invulnerable bod, that's fine by me… I did that myself in one story in which Sivana became a muscular guy in a green version of Captain Marvel's costume… but he seemed too physical from the get-go.
I hate the idea of a whole squadron of kids-grown-up super-heroes at the end, as if the Fawcett Marvel Family had been combined with a divergent version of the Lieutenant Marvels. I mean, the sequence was reasonable well done, I guess… I just despised the whole idea.
But most of all, I hated the way that the "fun movie" aspect was combined, in violent wretches, with a fairly grisly approach to the Seven Sins (a.k.a. the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man), who bit off heads and threw people to their deaths out windows, etc., etc. etc. No, I wasn't scared… just offended by the shifting, lurching tone of the movie. Hopefully, I won't ever have to see it again, as I do most all of the Marvel movies and some of the DC movies (loved "Wonder Woman" and, while fairly lukewarm to it, I halfway look forward to watching "Aquaman" again).
So, someone is sure to ask… what did I think of the grotesque version of Mr. Mind in one of the end-credits sequences? Well, actually, I had no problem with a more "realistic" alien worm… perhaps because, in never-published pages of the last SHAZAM! series on which I worked, my wife Dann and I had posited (and the artist penciled) a Mr. Mind who looked very much like the one at the end of the new movie. Well, actually, I think the movie version made more visual concessions to the version that C.C. Beck created in the early '40s. I'll admit, no matter what I thought of this SHAZAM! movie, I'll go back to see the sequel, if it has Mr. Mind in it.
If not? Well, maybe I'll just line up and go see AVENGERS: ENDGAME again instead.