In another unique pairing from DC's Convergence event, Captain Marvel and his "Shazam"-yelling friends are going to be fighting the Victorian-era characters from Gotham by Gaslight.
Convergence: Shazam is being written by Jeff Parker, who's best known to DC fans for his work on Aquaman and Batman '66. The writer is creating the two-issue story with artists Evan Shaner , whose unique art style (paired with Jordie Bellaire's colors) give the book the classic look often associated with the Marvel family.
Once the most popular comic book in America in the 1940's, Captain Marvel Adventures told the story of a homeless 12-year-old named Billy Batson who, when he uttered the magic word "Shazam," would turn into the invincible hero known as Captain Marvel. The title eventually added more superhero kids to its roster — known as the "Marvel family" — including Batson's twin sister Mary and their friend Freddie Freeman.
That childlike quality should be quite a contrast in to the darker, Batman-centered world of Gotham by Gaslight when the two worlds collide in Convergence. Published in the late '80s, Gotham by Gaslight took place 100 years earlier — in the gritty yet steampunk-like streets of 1889 Gotham City, where Batman lurks in the gas lamp-lit streets.
With a Shazam film tentatively scheduled for April 2019 (although Dwayne Johnson implied it might come sooner), the character will be getting more attention from fans soon. And he's been getting quite a bit of attention already — playing a role in the rebooted version of the Justice League, as well as starring in Grant Morrison's The Multiversity: Thunderworld Adventures, part of his current epic series exploring DC's Multiverse.
Of course, those are only two of the many version of Captain Marvel that have exited at DC Comics. Over the 70-plus years since the character debuted, a lot has changed — most notably another character called Captain Marvel showing up at competitor Marvel (and even getting a feature film soon).
As a result, when DC rebooted its universe in 2011, it soon after revamped the Marvel family as well, dropping the Marvel reference and calling the character by the name "Shazam" instead.
So which version of the character is starring in the two-issue Convergence: Shazam story? Will he be called "Shazam" or "Captain Marvel?" And what happens when they meet the Victorian-era characters from Gotham by Gaslight? Newsarama talked with Parker to find out more.
Newsarama: Jeff, is your story starring the Captain Marvel characters connected with the world we saw in Grant Morrison's Multiversity?
Jeff Parker: It’s essentially the same version of the Marvel Family, though it doesn’t connect directly to Thunderworld. I really enjoyed that by the way.
Nrama: It was a fun issue.
Parker: Morrison and [artist Cameron] Stewart aced it.
Nrama: OK, so what appeals to you as a writer about the Marvel family characters?
Parker: It’s really their whole world — all the supporting characters, all the villains, the kinds of adventures they have.
Nrama: Knowing that there's going to be a film starring this character, what do you think his appeal is to the general public?
Parker: He’s maybe the best example of adolescent wish fulfillment. You handle that right and everybody can relate to it.
We all want to transform into someone with more ability and power.
Nrama: There have been a lot of versions of these characters over the years. How would you describe the Marvel family characters we get to meet in your issues?
Parker: Classic. Very optimistic. You see a lot of Billy, Mary and Freddy pursuing a mystery and they’re clearly good friends who have done this kind of thing a lot.
Nrama: You're also working with some Gotham by Gaslight characters. Which ones and why them?
Parker: I had a bit of a choice for which scenarios could crash up against each other, and that one seemed ripe for visuals. Plus it let Shaner and Bellaire do a Mignola-esque cover.
Nrama: Were you a fan of the Batman in Gotham by Gaslight?
Parker: Oh yeah. Yet another time and place Batman works well in.
Nrama: There's something fun about these two worlds in particular coming against each other. There's quite a difference between the Shazam characters and the Gotham by Gaslight characters. How are you and Evan highlighting those differences?
Parker: The Marvels are very bright and simple in design, the Gaslight characters dark and more steampunk — it kind of takes care of itself. That kind of contrast is the sort of thing Jordie Bellaire really excels at.
Of course I can’t think of any color design she isn’t good at.
Nrama: As these two worlds battle, what's at risk?
Survival! I try to keep it fun but there’s no escaping that the underlying stakes are very final. Everybody doesn’t make it out of this.
Nrama: OK, but give us some background here. These characters have all been living under domes. What's the status of the Gotham by Gaslight world as the Marvel characters encounter it?
Parker: It’s been spending the past year getting ready — under direction of Batman — for all out war. So it’s not as quiet as it was in the original story.
Nrama: Evan Shaner has such a classic looking art style. What is he bringing to these issues?
There’s a lot of artists who could do a bang-up job on this and you would accept it just fine, but when you see Evan drawing the characters it’s so profound, you say “that's it!”
I can’t stop looking at it all. It’s such a perfect story for him. I absolutely could not wait to see how he’d draw Tawky Tawny!
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans about the Convergence: Shazam issues?
Parker: I got to write Captain Marvel! I don’t think I shouted that at the beginning like I should have.