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Capes On the Couch - Where Comics Get Counseling

Mar 22, 2023

A bit late, but we finally bring the thunder down and examine Billy Batson/Captain Marvel/Shazam! And for some reason, Matchbox 20 factors in. It makes sense in context, trust us…

  • Intro
    • Apologies for delay on episode
    • Belated 5th anniversary celebration!

  • Background (2:20)
    • Shazam/Captain Marvel, Billy Batson, created by Bill Parker and CC Beck in Whiz Comics #2 (Feb. 1940)
    • Originally designed as six superheroes, each with the power of a mythical figure, they were combined into one hero as Captain Marvel
    • Billy Batson is a 12 year old orphan who can transform into a superhero called Captain Marvel by speaking the word SHAZAM, an acronym of the six immortal elders/gods who gave him his power: Solomon (wisdom), Hercules (strength), Atlas (stamina), Zeus (power), Achilles (courage), and Mercury (speed)
    • Later issues introduced members of the extended Marvel family, who shared Billy’s powers - Captain Marvel Jr. (Freddy Freeman), Mary Marvel (Billy’s twin sister Mary), and others, as well as his nemeses Black Adam, Doctor Sivana, Mister Mind, and more
    • In the 1940s, Captain Marvel was more popular than Superman, and at one point was selling over a million copies per issue
    • In 1941, the precursor to DC Comics (National Comics) sued Fawcett Comics for copyright infringement, claiming Captain Marvel was too similar to Superman - although losing the initial claim, DC won an appeal, and in 1953 Fawcett settled monetarily with DC, because by this point the Captain Marvel books weren’t selling nearly as well, agreeing to cease publication
    • In 1967 Marvel Comics created their own character named Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell), and secured the trademark
    • In 1972, DC Comics licensed the characters from Fawcett, but was unable to name the book Captain Marvel due to Marvel’s trademark - the characters could retain their names, however, so the new book was called Shazam!
    • The 1970s saw the Marvel family established on Earth-S in the DC multiverse, with occasional crossovers, until Crisis, where they were fully integrated into the streamlined DC New Earth
    • 1994 - The Power of Shazam! retconned his backstory - his parents were archaeologists killed by their associate Theo Adam, who steals a magic scarab - Theo becomes Black Adam, who realizes who Billy is after determining he looks just like his father
    • Played a critical role in Kingdom Come, where he famously squares off against Superman
    • Joined the JSA in the early 2000s to keep Black Adam in check
    • In the New 52, he was officially renamed Shazam, since the book couldn’t be called Captain Marvel anyway, and the Marvel family was renamed the Shazam family - all the children were other foster kids alongside Billy, who retained his youthful nature but was more cynical than previously written
    • New series coming in June written by Mark Waid

  • Issues - more than you think you are (13:02)
    • Shazam picks a child to be the world’s greatest hero - heavy burden on such young shoulders
    • No parents to help him with this burden - so he created his own found family
    • Serves as functional avatar of six gods across various pantheons (23:15)

  • Break (28:44)
    • Plugs for Hops Geek, Frigay the 13th, and Phillip Kennedy Johnson

  • Treatment (30:55)
    • In-universe - sessions with Billy & Shazam, and then compare notes
    • Out of universe - foster kid (36:38)

  • Skit (44:18)
    • DOC: Hello Shazam, I’m Dr. Issues.
    • BILLY: Oh please, just call me Billy.
    • DOC: Hi, Billy! Wassup. Hi five! 
    • BILLY: Ok, you’re trying too hard.
    • DOC: What? 
    • BILLY: I can tell you think I’m cool, but Just call me Billy…and you can put your hand down.
    • DOC: Crash and burn. *muttering* Nice one, doc. *normal voice* So Billy, what can I do for you? 
    • BILLY: Are you the one that writes prescriptions and stuff? I don’t really need that.
    • DOC: Yes…but I don’t tend to write many for kids unless it’s absolutely necessary. Are you having trouble with school? 
    • BILLY: No.
    • DOC: At home? 
    • BILLY: Nope.
    • DOC: With friends? 
    • BILLY: It’s complicated. 
    • DOC: Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere. So what’s going on with your friends? 
    • BILLY: Not much.
    • DOC:*pause* Sooooo…it’s not a problem, really? 
    • BILLY: Not anything you can do about it.
    • DOC:Try me. 
    • BILLY: Can you make them younger?
    • DOC:No. 
    • BILLY: Can you make them understand me?
    • DOC:Ummm…not directly 
    • BILLY: See? Waste of time.
    • DOC:Hold it! I’m not giving up yet. 
    • BILLY: Cool.
    • DOC:*pause, desperate* Uhhhhh…what games do you like? 
    • BILLY: Not any you’d care about.
    • DOC:Whoa dude. I’m used to being shut out but you’re a ninja at cutting people off. 
    • BILLY: It’s a gift, I guess.
    • DOC:Really? What other gifts you got? I don’t get to hang around aliens or gods or any of that stuff, so I know I’m *clearly sarcastic* OUT OF MY LEAGUE HAHAHA
    • BILLY: *pause* What is wrong with you?
    • DOC:*run-on* An intense level of sarcasm that acts as a veneer to cover plenty of deep caring for the world at large even when I want to be left alone. And you? 
    • BILLY: Same. whoa…WHOA…nobody says that. No DOCTOR says that.
    • DOC:No doctor admits it, you mean. I’m probably not supposed to say it like that. But honesty in myself helps me sleep at night even when nothing else goes my way. I try to match the room. If I can’t ,I just shut down. 
    • BILLY: TMI my man.
    • DOC:Is it? I’m filling time. Usually I’ll stay silent for a whole session, but that’s no fun. I’m trying something different. There must be something about you. I don’t open up to just anyone, so you must have some sort of connection even if you don’t admit it. But then again, there’s this theory that 
    • BILLY: *interrupting* Do you ever shut up?
    • DOC:Always.
    • BILLY: *awkward silence* What, you want me to talk now?
    • DOC:You don’t have to. 
    • BILLY: *more awkward silence* So we’re really going to sit here forever until I say something?
    • DOC:No, just until the end of the session….or you do the thing. 
    • BILLY: What thing?
    • DOC:You know the thing. 
    • BILLY: No
    • DOC:Come on, do the thing! Say it! Please? 
    • BILLY: Are you just a fanboy?
    • DOC:Not really. I just wonder if you’re different when you say it. I bet you are 
    • BILLY: No.
    • DOC:I’ll make the session free 
    • BILLY: No
    • DOC:I’ll make the next session free 
    • BILLY: I don’t want another session
    • DOC:I’ll cancel the next session 
    • BILLY: Fine. SHA-wait, I could just no-show the next session
    • DOC:I have a cancellation fee 
    • BILLY: I don’t care! You’re just trying to use me like everyone else.
    • DOC:*hurt* Ouch. Look. I’m bad at jokes like this, and it’s obvious I’m throwing a lot of stuff at the wall to see what sticks. First I tried to treat you like a typical patient, but that was selling you short. Then I tried to relate to you with something that you admit hit you personally, and you didn’t go for it. Then I tried flattery, and you felt insulted. I don’t know what works for you, but this ain’t it. If you want somebody else to see you, fine. But I’m not giving up. Somebody can help if you have things to talk through. 
    • BILLY: Why would you talk to someone that doesn’t want to talk to you?
    • DOC:Have you ever had to deal with somebody that didn’t want to deal with you? 
    • BILLY: Yeah.
    • DOC:And you did it anyway? 
    • BILLY: Yeah.
    • DOC:Why? 
    • BILLY: That’s different. I’m trying to save people.
    • DOC:So am I, in a much different way. I can’t do it the way you do. But I don’t give up on lost causes. 
    • BILLY: You sound like some people I know.
    • DOC:Is that a good thing? 
    • BILLY: Knowing them, yeah. But they keep getting in more and more trouble, and they keep fighting, and then they talk about it all the time. What if I don’t want to do that? What If I want to have fun? Or quit? Or hang out? I want to do what I want. They want me to be like Superman or Batman 
    • DOC:Then find a way to do it with your own style. Who cares if it’s not just like them? Don’t be a copy. 
    • BILLY: Nobody told me that before. 
    • DOC:*sarcastic clapping* Hooray, I did something. Yaaaay. Is there anything else? 
    • BILLY: You’re still strange, you know that? 
    • DOC:Not for copyright purposes 
    • BILLY: What?
    • DOC:Nothing. Now, for giving you one talking point 
    • BILLY: *interrupting* fine SHAZAM! *sound effects* See? No big deal, I’m still Billy. 
    • DOC:*sobbing* 
    • BILLY: Are you crying?
    • BILLY: Most people just ask for an autograph.

  • Ending (50:43)
    • Recommended reading: The Power of Shazam!
    • Next episodes: The Penguin, Arcade, Jonah Hex
    • Plugs for social & GonnaGeek Network

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