Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Shazam

Shazam is a comic book character created by Bill Parker and C. C. Beck for Fawcett Comics. He is an ancient wizard (Whiz Comics #2 gives his age as 3,000 years) who gives young Billy Batson the power to transform into the superhero Captain Marvel. Because DC Comics has billed Captain Marvel's adventures under the name Shazam! since 1973, the superhero is often mistakenly referred to by his mentor's name. Shazam informs Billy that he has been using his powers for many centuries to fight the forces of evil, but that he is now old and not long for this world. He therefore passes along part of his power to Billy, who shouts his name — "SHAZAM!" — to transform into Captain Marvel. Although Shazam is killed—as prophesied—by a giant granite block falling upon him, Billy/Marvel can summon the ghost of Shazam for guidance by lighting a special brazier (a torch like apparatus) in Shazam's lair, the Rock of Eternity. More superheroes soon joined Marvel in carrying on the legacy of Shazam, including Marvel Family members Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel, Jr. and the Lieutenant Marvels. Also to be considered is the "Black Marvel family", currently consisting of Black Adam, Isis, and Osiris. When Billy first meets him, Shazam tells Billy that his name is an acronym for six Greco-Roman deities and heroes, and Judeo-Christian prophets. These deities empower him with certain attributes:

* The wisdom of Solomon;
* The strength of Hercules;
* The stamina of Atlas;
* The power of Zeus;
* The courage of Achilles; and
* The speed of Mercury.

In a story written by E. Nelson Bridwell for World's Finest Comics #262 (cover date April/May 1980) Shazam's origins are further explored. This gave him a back-story in which he was a young shepherd who becomes the Champion, one of the world's first superheroes in ancient Canaan over 5,000 years ago, by speaking the magic word "VLAREM!". Vlarem (an anagram of "Marvel") represented the following fictional gods who granted him power:
V for the strength of Voldar The Champion has incredible amounts of super strength, and is able to easily bend steel, punch through walls and lift massive objects.
L for the wisdom of Lumian As the Champion, Shazam has instant access to a vast amount of scholarly knowledge.
A for the speed of Arel By channeling Arel's speed, the Champion can fly and move at great speeds.
R for the power of Ribalvei Ribalvei's power, besides fueling the magic thunderbolt that transformed the Champion, also enhances the Champion's other physical and mental abilities, provides physical invulnerability and grants magic resistance against most magic spells and attacks as well as allowing for interdimensional travel.
E for the courage of Elbiam Like wisdom, this aspect is primarily psychological and gives the Champion superhuman amounts of inner strength on which to draw.
M for the stamina of Marzosh Using Marzosh's endurance, the Champion can withstand and survive most types of extreme physical assaults. Additionally, he does not need to eat, sleep, or breathe and can survive unaided in space when in his Champion form.

Shazam! was a half-hour live-action television program produced by Filmation (the animation studio's first such program), based upon DC Comics' superhero Captain Marvel. The show ran from 1974 to 1977 on CBS; from 1975 to 1977 it was known as The Shazam!/Isis Hour, and included The Secrets of Isis, about an Ancient Egyptian superheroine resurrected in the body of a schoolteacher, as the second half of the hour. Shazam! was brought back for reruns in 1980. Actor Michael Gray starred as young Billy Batson, while Captain Marvel was played first by Jackson Bostwick, and later by John Davey. (Actress Joanna Cameron appeared as Isis, and her alter-ego Andrea Thomas, on three episodes of Shazam!, and Davey likewise appeared as Captain Marvel in three episodes of Isis) Today it is considered to be one of the prime examples of camp.

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