With DC’s new Shazam! Series, artist Dale Eaglesham has returned to working with superstar writer Geoff Johns to redefine one of DC’s high profile franchises. And according to Eaglesham, readers will get something “completely different” with Shazam! #2.
Eaglesham previously worked with Johns to define a new Justice Society of America book in 2006, although the veteran artist has also built his resumé on several other high-profile books at DC, Marvel, and Dark Horse.
The new title, which launched earlier this month, is the first monthly ongoing title for the character in more than a decade, and it comes as Warner Bros. Pictures is set to release a new Shazam! movie in April 2019, starring Zachary Levi and Mark Strong.
Once the star of the most popular superhero comic book in America, Shazam was formerly known as “Captain Marvel” but began being identified as “Shazam” several years ago to avoid confusion with (and a legal battle over) the Captain Marvel that was created much later at Marvel. (“Shazam” is the word that young Billy Batson says to turn into a powerful, adult superhero.)
The new Shazam! series spins out of a series of back-up stories that Johns and artist Gary Frank created during the "New 52" to re-introduce the character and his extended cast.
Now the character has his own series, Newsarama talked to Eaglesham about what he calls the “immense scope” of the series, how the settings have informed his style, and what readers can expect from Shazam!
Newsarama: Dale, after you were first approached to draw Shazam! with Geoff, what process did you go through to figure out your visual approach? Did you do research? Any stories in particular that have really informed your approach?
Dale Eaglesham: Geoff and Gary Frank had already set a tone for the book in a previous series and I wanted to preserve that tone going into this one. That tone was real, gritty and human and somewhat dark.
After reading the original Shazam series, I noted the stark difference between the two, as the original was far more tongue-in-cheek and light-hearted in content. I want to bridge the two and find a balance that permeates the whole book, not just mundane reality vs the wonders of the Rock of Eternity (there is danger there as well).
My research spanned circus wagons, Christmas trees, ancient libraries, theme parks, trains, gritty neighborhoods, snowflakes, illusions, vintage magician posters, old books, worms, roller coasters, mazes and mages. What is emerging is a mix of old and new, the unexpected and a very rich human tapestry.
Nrama: How would you describe the overall style of the book? And does it compare to anything you’ve done before, or have you tweaked your style for this book in particular?
Eaglesham: The setting is very important to the series, as it is the gritty, mundane backdrop that makes the magic so much more vital. The Vasquez home is a lower middle class home that makes do with less than others, a reality that is unfortunately affecting many these days. To that end, I am going for a more “careworn," “Norman Rockwell” look to the art.
Typically, the story itself will influence my stylistic directions, so the final art destination is still undetermined. I see an approach very similar to what Geoff and I did on JSA, a warm, traditional style but streamlined so that it can still project an energized sense of fun.
Nrama: Who are some of your favorite characters to draw for the Shazam! book?
Eaglesham: The kids: Billy, Freddy, Mary, Darla, Eugene, and Pedro. To draw them, you need to toss the mantle of adult to the floor and remember what the world looked like to a kid.
I’ve always injected a playfulness to my art, so I didn’t find the shift all that hard. It has already been tremendous fun slipping into that kid mode to draw them and their reactions to things. As a child, my mother would wake us up at midnight to open our gifts, and my dad always dressed as Santa. There was Santa, down at the end of the hall, the tree all lit up, putting the last of the presents under the tree as we stared in total wonderment.
It’s something I will be forever grateful for, as it instilled in me that sense of wonder that I can draw on now and pass on through this book through these characters as they experience the Rock of Eternity.
Nrama: What’s the biggest challenge about drawing thischaracter, his settings and his cast? Anything you can describe about how you overcame those challenges?
Eaglesham: The biggest challenge is remembering that while Shazam may look like an adult, he is actually kid and will act like one. Any iconic superhero stylings you’ve developed over the years get thrown right out the window. They don’t work. They won’t act like that. They will do all kinds of things that will fly in the face of that.
Shattering the iconic superhero mold will be some fun, let me tell you.
Nrama: How’s it been getting back together with Geoff for a project like this?
Eaglesham: It’s like I just crawled out of the desert into an oasis. I never forgot how amazing working with him on JSA was and nothing has changed.
As a writer, he’s as dynamic and far-seeing as ever. This project in particular has an immense scope to it and contains just about everything on my bucket list of stories I’d like to do.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about Shazam?
Eaglesham: The vista of adventure that Shazam! presents is breathtaking. Issue #1 is a reintroduction of some familiar faces and places but it ends there. Step across the threshold in issue #2 please, and prepare yourself for something completely different.