Monday, March 4, 2013

Superman Vs. Shazam Trade

Last week I splurged a bit and bought the Superman vs. Shazam trade which came out.

Boy am I glad I did!

There are several stories in the book including a wonderful DC Comics Presents 2-parter which ends with Hoppy the Marvel Bunny punching out King Kull. That is a beloved story from my youth.

But the main story is a reprint from a 1978 treasury comic called (of course) Superman vs. Shazam. I vaguely remember reading this story as a kid, actually borrowing it from a friend. But that means that I hadn't read it in about three decades, so it read as new.

What is amazing for me, something I had completely forgotten, is that while the two title characters slug it out for the majority of the story, Supergirl and Mary Marvel are the real heroes of the book. While the story is pretty wonky and full of holes, there is no denying that Mary and Kara are the stars.

The story, written by Gerry Conway with art by Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano, has a martian sorcerer/scientist Karmang trying to resurrect his people (which he accidentally killed eons ago) through science. But the only way he can get the energy to achieve that goal is to destroy Earth 1 and Earth S. (Sounds surprisingly like H'El's current plot). Karmang recruits (through torture) Black Adam and Quarrmer, the Sand Superman to act as agents. Adam, dressed as Captain Marvel, attacks Superman. The Sand Superman (as Superman) attacks Captain Marvel. And the true heroes are struck with a 'judgment ray' which makes Cap and Superman enraged and hope to kill each other. Meanwhile, devices are placed on the Earths drawing them together.

Get all that?

But let's highlight some Supergirl moments.

First off, when Black Adam first attacks (in disguise) Superman calls on Supergirl for help. Imagine that!!

And Supergirl? She accepts her responsibilities without question or concern. She too is a hero!

What a microcosm of what I would love to see in the DCnU. Supergirl has her own life. But loves her cousin and helps him when needed. She understands she is a hero. Fantastic!

Meanwhile, Mary helps Captain Marvel fight the Superman imposter.

When the action moves to Earth 1, Mary follows. And suddenly Mary and Kara realize that their out of control relatives have been duped, attacked by the imposters. And they also realize that Superman and Captain Marvel aren't in their right mind.

I love the fact that Mary and Kara are the voices of reason here. They don't immediately attack each other, instead talking it out. They are intelligent, figuring out who the imposters are. And they devise a plan.

And I love ... LOVE ... that Quarrmer is here. Sand Superman is one of my favorite little known characters. Heck, it's my avatar here! Even here he is forced into working for Karmang who threatened to destroy Quarrmer's dimension if he didn't help in the scheme. In the end, he helps out Mary and Supergirl.

Of course, at this point, Supergirl and Mary don't realize that Karmang is pulling the strings, so instead they go after the other villains.

Supergirl tracks down Black Adam in Egypt. He is trying to steal the Earth 1 version of the Ibistick from the pyramids. Supergirl quickly turns the tables, grabbing the stick and using it to activate the magic lightning which turns Black Adam back into Teth-Adam.

Nice use of powers and smarts on Supergirl's part (even if it is a weird and easy fight). But I love how strong she is in the last panel!

Apologies for crummy scan.

With the info gleaned from Adam and Quarrmer, Supergirl and Mary take off for Mars to fight Karmang. Since his powers are more magic than technology, Mary takes the lead in the attacks. Meanwhile, Supergirl uses some mental chicanery to trick Karmang into revealing how to defeat him.

And just like that, with the press of a button, Karmang is flung into limbo, Superman and Captain Marvel stop fighting, and two Earths are saved.

So just let me reiterate here.

Superman and Captain Marvel spend the bulk of the story out of their minds and fighting each other. Meanwhile, Supergirl and Mary Marvel fight the bad guys, learn the underlying plot, take the fight to the boss, and save two universes.


In an interesting side plot, Mary is quite smitten with Superman and basically throws herself into his arms. Supergirl decides to show her how foolish it looks by doing the same to Captain Marvel. Embarrassed by the revelation, the group simply laughs.

But look, they part as friends!

So no doubt this is a nutty story. But it is amazing and wonderful that Supergirl and Mary Marvel carry the story and are the real heroes here.

I will add that I love Rich Buckler's Supergirl so I find the art very pleasing here.

But mostly, I love the characterization of Supergirl here as a hero willing to risk it all to save the universe. I love that she is the first person Superman calls when he needs help. And I love that she answers without question.  I can only hope that this sort of characterization returns.


Anonymous said...

This is a GREAT Story that is a complete anomaly in that Supergirl is depicted as being brave resourceful, scary smart and a shrewd judge of character...Basically she saves the universe (with some help from her best new galpal Mary Marvel, these two needed to team up more often!) and generously leaves the heavy lifting to Supes and Billy. Its a bit silly in places but in terms of it's take on Kara, it's a slam dunk and stands in mute contrast to the pathetic dupe currently headlining in "H'El on Earth".


Phantom Stranger said...

Great review, I think it will help push me to buy it off Amazon. I think a regular Supergirl and Mary Marvel team-up book back then would have been a lot of fun.

Gernot said...

I have it on my Amazon Wish List already, and I'll DEFINITELY have to get it sometime over the next year. Thanks for the review. I never read this story way back when, so it WILL be a new story for me! :)

Anonymous said...

I bought the original decades ago, it was oversized (something like 11" x 17"), so all of the panels were large. But it was a good story.
-- DW

Anonymous said...

If this was a contemporary DC story Supergirl would line up with the martian get beaten up by the other heroes, lectured on her miniscule fighting technique and then get jobbed out to Hoppy the Marvel Bunny after proclaiming her love of Karmang.

I mean in some ways "H'El on Earth" is a remake of this story, and one none to friendly to the Maid of Might.
In some ways we had it pretty good in 1979, too bad Kara had to "fly back to her own feature" to be drawn by Don Heck after luxurious art like this...

Michelle said...

So glad you reviewed this! I'd been wondering if it's worth picking up for Kara and Mary, assuming the girls would get short shrift. However it looks like a lot of fun (the art doesn't hurt either).

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

The first story really is a Kara/Mary story and so fans of those two will definitely enjoy it.

I saw the similarities with 'H'El' as well John. Such a different super-family and supergirl involvement in this story as opposed to the current one.

And I love Buckler's take on Supergirl. So that does help!

Dante said...

Great piece Anj.I fondly remember that oddly,among the other comics I've read,mostly because of the chemistry between the great super-cousins and my first formal comicbook introduction of the Marvels.We really need more books like this,superheroes having fun been superheroes,the cousins of the main stars being the actual stars of the book and such.;)

Saranga said...

I must order this in on Saturday :)

Saranga said...

Bought it, read it, really enjoyed it. :)

I have recommended this to my study group for the Gender in Comics course.