REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED "SHAZAM" 4-PACK
It's somewhat amazing to me, although I'm certainly not complaining, that the Justice League Unlimited series of action figures is continuing, both through Target and through special sets available only on MattyCollector.Com, such as this one.
I mean, the show's been off the air for several years, although it was recently compiled into one huge DVD set that included both the initial Justice League series as well as its far more populated Justice League Unlimited successor. And yet -- the toys continue. Hey, I don't have a problem with this whatsoever, but it does surprise me.
Mattel recently offered, through its MattyCollector.Com Web site, a special set of four figures based on what we might well call the "Shazam" family. And here's where I'm going to have to get into a little nomenclature explanation before I even give any sort of background on the characters or their respective figures.
Technically, the main character in the "Shazam!" storyline is known as Captain Marvel. "Shazam!" is the magic word he uses to change from young Billy Batson into Captain Marvel, the World's Mightiest Mortal. Shazam is also the name of the wizard which granted Batson (among others) this ability.
Here's where we hit something of a legal fiasco. Marvel Comics also has had characters called Captain Marvel, and the first one came along BEFORE DC Comics really started doing anything with THEIR Captain Marvel, which had initially belonged to Fawcett Comics all the way back in the 1940's.
Technically, while there was no problem with DC Comics calling the character Captain Marvel, any use of the character's name on legal, copyrighted material as far as titles were concerned, DID present some problems. So, DC Comics had to revert to the use of the magic word instead. Marvel Comics had no claims to the word "Shazam!", so when DC Comics brought him back, the title of his comic book was "Shazam!", with a note underneath that the comic book featured the "original" Captain Marvel.
And any comic that's come along since then has tended to use "Shazam" as its title to one degree or another, even though the lead character is referred to as Captain Marvel throughout.
It's been the same with the toys, dating all the way back to 1973, when Mego came out with a figure of the character for their World's Greatest Super-Heroes line. That figure was legally named "Shazam!", even though it was Captain Marvel. Kenner's Super-Powers line did the same thing in the 1980's. And Mattel's own DC Universe Classics line and DC Universe Infinite Heroes line did it, as well, although unlike the other character names, they were careful to put "Shazam!" in quote marks, as I have been typing it here, indicative that this is the phrase that the character speaks to become Captain Marvel.
Any longtime follower of the comics is going to know who this really is, of course.
Now, with this four-pack of figures, we have a couple of further dilemmas. Dilemma #1 is pretty much on its own. The set includes a Mary Marvel figure. But, apparently, DC Comics can't call much of ANYthing "Marvel" -- which I suppose is understandable -- so the figure is officially labeled "Mary Batson", which is Mary Marvel's real name, as she is Billy Batson's sister.
Dilemma #2 is a little stranger. While of course, Captain Marvel's package refers to him as "Shazam!", quote marks and all, this set also includes a figure of Shazam himself! How do we work this one out? Well, Shazam is simply referred to as "The Wizard", without even the benefit of any trademark or copyright symbols after his name (which is probably just as well, since there is a character in Marvel Comics, a villain known as the Wizard).
The only character in the entire assortment who manages to escape these legal entanglement is Black Adam.
So -- as far as anyone's Legal Department is concerned, these four figures are known as "Shazam!", Mary Batson, The Wizard, and Black Adam. However, those of us who collect and recognize these figures know who they really are, so for the purposes of this review, I shall be referring to them by their real names of, respectively, Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, Shazam, and -- well, Black Adam.
CAPTAIN MARVEL - Created in 1939 by artist C. C. Beck and writer Bill Parker, the character first appeared in Whiz Comics #2 (February 1940). Captain Marvel is the alter ego of Billy Batson, a youth who works as a radio news reporter and was chosen to be a champion of good by the wizard Shazam. Whenever Billy speaks the wizard's name, he is instantly struck by a magic lightning bolt that transforms him into an adult superhero empowered with the abilities of six legendary figures.
Specifically, Captain Marvel is able to call upon 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. One of those times where I wonder if the abbreviation or the explanation came first, and how long it took to come up with the explanation.
Hailed as "The World's Mightiest Mortal" in his adventures, Captain Marvel was nicknamed "The Big Red Cheese" by arch-villain Doctor Sivana, an epithet later adopted by Captain Marvel's fans. Based on sales, Captain Marvel was the most popular superhero of the 1940s, as his Captain Marvel Adventures comic book series sold more copies than Superman and other competing superhero books during the mid-1940s.
Fawcett ceased publishing Captain Marvel-related comics in 1953, due in part to a copyright infringement suit from DC Comics alleging that Captain Marvel was an illegal infringement of Superman. In 1972, DC licensed the Marvel Family characters and returned them to publication, acquiring all rights to the characters by 1991. DC has since integrated Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family into their DC Universe.
Cap has never quite regained the popularity that he had in the 1940's. Although he enjoyed several seasons of a live-action Saturday morning series in the mid-1970's, and is sometimes regarded as a "fourth" to the DC "Trinity" comprised of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, his various comic book titles have never entirely caught on quite as well.
When he was first introduced into the DC Universe, the original Multiverse was still in effect, and Captain Marvel and his friends and enemies were part of an alternate universe known as "Earth-S". The first meeting between Superman and Captain Marvel was cut short when Cap used his magic lightning to help Superman overcome a spell that had been placed on him, but he was transformed back to Billy Batson in the process.
Captain Marvel has since been a member of both the Justice League and the Justice Society. Among other notable appearances: The Superman/Shazam: First Thunder mini-series, published between September 2005 and March 2006, depicted the first post-Crisis meeting between Superman and Captain Marvel. The meeting proves to be amicable, with Superman noting that he is impressed to have an ally who may have similar powers to himself, but who is also far more resistant to the kind of magic attacks that he is vulnerable to. However, he is disturbed when he learns that the Captain is actually a child and agrees to Shazam's suggestion that he mentor the boy.
A second Captain Marvel mini-series, Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil, written and illustrated by Jeff Smith, was published in four 48-page installments between February and July 2007. Smith's story features Billy Batson and Captain Marvel as separate personalities, as they were in the pre-1985 stories, and features a very young Mary Marvel as Captain Marvel's sidekick.
An all-ages Captain Marvel comic, Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!, debuted in July 2008 under DC's Johnny DC youth-oriented imprint and is published bi-monthly. It arguably does not take place in the DC Universe proper.
Within the DC Universe, a twelve-issue series entitled "The Trials of Shazam" followed on the heels of the Infinite Crisis, and in my opinion pretty well botched everything up by having Captain Marvel take the place of the missing wizard Shazam, and Captain Marvel Junior, Freddy Freeman, becoming the new Cap, although he actually took the name Shazam. Much of this mess was undone recently in the pages of the Justice Society.
In the story, Marvel is ambushed by Black Adam and Isis, who are intent on taking over the Rock of Eternity. Isis robs Marvel of his powers and banishes a powerless Billy Batson back to Fawcett City, where he contacts the Justice Society for help. The Justice Society fights Black Adam and Isis. With the help of the Justice Society's Flash and the spirit of C.C Batson (Mary and Billy's father), the dead wizard Shazam's soul is retrieved from an underworld realm known as the Rock of Finality, and Adam gives up his powers to resurrect him. Shazam promptly takes his powers back from the other three Black Marvels, turns Adam and Isis into stone statues, and banishes Billy and Mary from the Rock of Eternity, promising also to deal with Freddy Freeman in like manner. That character is appearing in the paces of a Justice League mini-series, so we'll see what happens.
Frankly, given the mess the Trials made of things, it may well be time for that drastic a reboot.
As far as Justice League Unlimited is concerned, Captain Marvel made only one appearance in the entire series. He was basically duped by Lex Luthor into fighting Superman. At the end of the episode, in light of having been so thoroughly duped, the level of property damage he and Superman had caused, and the fact that at the time, the Justice League was under some suspicion themselves, Captain Marvel, who had been somewhat affiliated with the league, said that he didn't want anything further to do with them. He never appeared in the series again, unfortunately.
So, how's the figure? Excellent. I was really hoping that somewhere along the way, we'd get a figure of Captain Marvel for this line.
The headsculpt is excellent. Cap has a slightly naive but nevertheless heroic expression on his face, rather thick eyebrows, typical for the character, and the appropriately slicked-back hair.
The body use, for the most part, the same "male hero" body molds that many of the JLU figures use, but it does have distinctive boots, in keeping with Captain Marvel's "cuffed" boots.
The uniform is, of course, red, with metallic gold trim, including the lightning bolt emblem on the front, presented very large.
And of course there is the cape. Cap has a fairly short and rather decorative white cape, with a collar and a rope across the front. The cape has been duplicated very nicely here, and is placed over one shoulder. However, it doesn't have an especially adverse effect on articulation.
Granted, JLU figures have never been known for being the height of articulation. However, Cap is fully poseable at the head, arms, and legs, like most of the other figures in the line. He really is a superbly made figure, and a wonderful addition to the overall JLU collection.
MARY MARVEL - Here's a character that's been put through the wringer in recent years, including being turned evil as a result of acquiring some of Black Adam's power, before being depowered in the Justice Society story. I'm not even going to get into that mess, but I'll recount her classic and some of her modern background to that point, with a little help from WikiPedia:
Created by Otto Binder and Marc Swayze, Mary Marvel first appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures #18 in (December 1942).
Mary Marvel was one of the first female spin-offs of a major male superhero, and predates the introduction of Superman's female cousin Supergirl (also created by Otto Binder) by more than a decade.
Mary Marvel was introduced into Fawcett Comics' Marvel Family franchise a year after a young male counterpart, Captain Marvel Jr., made his debut. Artist Marc Swayze based Mary Marvel's design and personality upon American actress Judy Garland. Mary was introduced in Captain Marvel Adventures #18 as Mary Bromfield, a girl who discovers she is the long lost sister of Captain Marvel's alter ego Billy Batson.
Soon after her introduction, Mary Marvel headlined Wow Comics, and by 1945 had her own Mary Marvel book. She also appeared in The Marvel Family book with Captain Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr.
Just before the Marvel Family's adventures ceased publication in 1953, Mary Marvel's costume and appearance were altered: the neckline of her blouse was lowered slightly, her hair was shortened, and she now wore yellow slippers instead of the customary Marvel Family yellow boots.
In 1972, DC Comics licensed the rights to the Marvels, and revived them in a new comic series called Shazam!. Mary, Cap, and Junior appeared in both new stories and reprints of their classic stories. After the 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries, Captain Marvel's origin was rebooted in the Shazam: The New Beginning miniseries in 1987. The Marvel Family was written out of the Shazam! mythos, and neither Mary Batson nor Mary Marvel appeared in DC Comics for several years.
Mary Batson was reintroduced in The Power of Shazam! graphic novel by Jerry Ordway in 1994. An ongoing series followed in the next year, and Mary Marvel was introduced into the modern DC Universe with a new origin story in Power of Shazam! #4.
When calling upon her powers, Mary is transformed into an adult resembling her late mother (in the same way that Billy resembles his father when in Marvel form). Mary shares the title of Captain Marvel with her brother. Various characters in the series distinguish the two by gender when addressing them, addressing Mary as "the lady Captain Marvel".
At first, Mary's costume was the same as her original one. However, beginning with Power of Shazam! #28, Mary donned a white costume to distinguish herself from her brother. After the Power of Shazam! series ended in 1999, Mary's superpowered alter ego was officially rechristened "Mary Marvel."
As to her modern backstory, Mary Marvel's current DC origin was presented within the pages of the Power of Shazam! graphic novel and ongoing series, written by Jerry Ordway.
Prominent archaeologists C.C. and Marilyn Batson are assigned by the Sivana expedition on an excursion to Egypt. They take along their young daughter Mary, but are forced to leave their son Billy in America. The elder Batsons are killed by their associate Theo Adam, who then kidnaps Mary. Upon Theo Adam's return to the United States, Adam's sister, a maid named Sarah Primm, takes Mary into her care. Primm arranges for her childless employers, Nick and Nora Bromfield, to illegally adopt Mary.
Meanwhile, Billy, eventually finding himself on the streets, is given the power to become Captain Marvel. He learns that Mary is still alive, but after four years of searching, neither he nor his benefactor, the wizard Shazam, can find the girl. The only thing Billy has to remember Mary by is her favorite toy, a "Tawky Tawny" doll, which was shipped to America with the Batsons' possessions.
As a young teenager, Mary enters a regional spelling bee held in Fawcett City and emceed by Billy, who works as an on-air reporter for WHIZ radio. After saving Mary from kidnappers twice as Captain Marvel, Billy notices how much Mary Bromfield reminds him of Mary Batson, and has an undercover cop named retrieve the girl's forged adoption record.
Learning that Mary is indeed his sister, Billy tries to figure out a way to let Mary know he is her brother. The old "Tawky Tawny" doll suddenly transforms into a full-sized tiger and comes to life, instructing Billy to take it to Mary.
Captain Marvel arrives at the Bromfield estate and changes back to Billy Batson to deliver the papers, but is immediately kidnapped by the thugs who helped Primm forge Mary's adoption records. Mary, not having seen Billy, takes the package and opens it, discovering the adoption records and the Tawky Tawny doll. Once again, the doll comes to life, and instructs the bewildered girl to say the magic word "Shazam" and save her brother. Mary complies, and is transformed by a bolt of magic lightning into a superpowered doppelganger of her deceased mother. She saves Billy, who transforms into Captain Marvel to help Mary defeat the thugs.
Mary Marvel never appeared in the Justice League Unlimited series, but that hasn't stopped a number of other characters from turning up in the action figure line, and I'm certainly not going to complain.
So, how's the figure? Absolutely outstanding. The headsculpt is superb, very nicely designed and detailed. She looks exactly as you would expect her to if she were in the series. The figure has long brown hair, a separately-molded piece attached to her head, and very nicely made.
The figure, as best as I can tell, is entirely unique. Mary wears a skirt, very nicely detailed with a sash-like belt, and she has the same cuffed boots as her brother. These are not molds that have turned up previously in the JLU line. She also has a small cape which rests partially over her left shoulder.
Mary's costume is red, which pleases me. I never much cared for the white one. It has gold trim, including the lightning bolt. The leg articulation is somewhat hindered by the skirt, but as I've said, I don't think anyone buys these figures for the articulation. They almost border on collectible maquettes these days.
Mary also comes with a display base. This is a standard accessory for any female figure in the JLU line. Some of them don't have the best balance in the world.
Overall, this figure of Mary (Batson) Marvel is really outstanding. Now let's consider...
BLACK ADAM - Black Adam was created in 1945 by Otto Binder & C. C. Beck for Fawcett Comics. Originally created as a one-shot villain for Fawcett Comics' Marvel Family team of superheroes, Black Adam was revived as a recurring supervillain after DC Comics began publishing Captain Marvel/Marvel Family stories under the title Shazam! in the 1970s. As originally depicted, Black Adam was a corrupted ancient Egyptian predecessor of Captain Marvel, who found his way to modern times to challenge the hero and his Marvel Family associates.
In more recent years, Adam has been redefined by DC writers Jerry Ordway, Geoff Johns, and David S. Goyer as a corrupted antihero attempting to clear his name. Featured roles in comic books series such as JSA, Villains United, Infinite Crisis, and 52 have elevated the character to a level of prominence in DC Comics.
The original Fawcett Comics version of Black Adam, which appeared only once during the original Fawcett run of Captain Marvel comics, is an ancient Egyptian prince named "Teth-Adam", who is chosen by the wizard Shazam to be his successor.
Black Adam is reintroduced, post-Crisis, to the DC Universe in The Power of Shazam! graphic novel by Jerry Ordway in 1994. In that story and the subsequent Power of Shazam! ongoing series, Adam is a deadly and evil adversary for Captain Marvel.
In this revised origin, Teth-Adam is the son of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II, and impresses one of the high priests, the wizard Shazam, with his good deeds. The wizard gives Teth-Adam the power to become the superhero Mighty-Adam by speaking the name "Shazam".
Mighty Adam serves as Egypt's champion for many centuries, but becomes corrupted by the charms of a mysterious woman, revealed to be Shazam's evil daughter Blaze in disguise. The bewitched Adam is convinced that he and his mistress should rule Egypt, so he kills the Pharaoh and appoints himself ruler. Shazam learns of this treachery and strips Adam of his powers, encasing them in a mystical scarab necklace.
Thousands of years later, during the late 20th century, an unscrupulous archaeological aide named Theo Adam finds himself assigned to the Malcom Expedition, financed by the Sivana Foundation to excavate the tomb of Ramesses II. Adam uncovers Khem-Adam's tomb in a secret passageway, and leads his superiors, C.C. Batson and his wife Marilyn, to the discovery. Upon first sight of Khem-Adam's scarab, Theo Adam becomes obsessed with the artifact, and kills both Batsons in order to steal it.
Escaping Egypt, Theo Adam soon made his way back to America. When Theo Adam first encounters Captain Marvel, he notes both Marvel's identical appearance to C.C. Batson and the lightning-bolt insignia on Marvel's chest that ha d also decorated Khem-Adam's tomb. Adam therefore has a revelation, and realizes that he is a reincarnation of Khem-Adam. Grasping his stolen scarab, Adam speaks Shazam's name and is transformed into the superpowered Black Adam.
Although Adam appears during the Power of Shazam! ongoing series' first year of publication as a villain, towards the end of the series' run, Adam returns and announces that Black Adam and Theo Adam are separate personalities. Black Adam stands trial again for the murders of the Batsons, and is acquitted when it is revealed that his fingerprints do not match those of Theo Adam's.
The reformed Black Adam is still vulnerable to his murderous host's influence, and he attacks the Justice Society of America under Theo Adam's control in JSA #6. In subsequent issues, Adam joins supervillain Johnny Sorrow's Injustice Society after Sorrow removes a malignant brain tumor from Adam's brain. Adam soon betrays Sorrow, and he and the JSA defeat the Injustice Society. Claiming to be free of Theo's evil influence again, a repentant Black Adam requests membership in the Justice Society, and is granted a probationary membership in JSA #21 . During his tenure in JSA, writers Geoff Johns and David S. Goyer redefined Adam's personality and background, focusing on the character's old-fashioned and militant ideals of justice, and his officious and strongly opinionated attitude. Despite this, he has stated on many occasions that he respects the Justice Society, particularly members such as Jay Garrick.
Johns and Goyer also slightly altered Adam's origin. The hero now hails from the fictional North African nation of Kahndaq, not Egypt, although he serves for the Egyptian prince Khufu. The character of Blaze is completely removed from the origin story, and Adam's rage is described as having resulted from the conquering of Kahndaq at the hands of a magically powered supervillain named Ahk-ton, who is working with the notorious DC immortal Vandal Savage.
Later, Adam would be one of the primary individuals behind Alexander Luthor's Secret Society of Super-Villains, but it is generally viewed that Adam is pretty much on his own side in this, seeking to protect his home country from the coming battle.
During the "52" event, Adam meets and falls in love with a woman whom he empowers to become the hero Isis. Ultimately, however, Isis is killed in battle. Seething with fury, Adam flies to the neighboring nation of Bialya, where one of her killers has taken refuge. Adam slaughters everyone within Bialya - the government, the army, and the citizens - while hunting for the murderer, whom he defeats in battle, then tortures him into revealing the whereabouts of its masters.
Intent on revenge, Black Adam flies to Oolong Island, hideout of a coalition of evil scientists who created the so-called Four Horsemen who had committed the deed. However, the scientists subdue him and he suffers weeks of torture at the hands of Dr. Sivana.
The Justice Society assaults the island, freeing Adam. It is revealed that Chang Tzu had built the Horsemen under orders of China. Adam refuses to be taken into custody and once more flies off, seeking revenge for the death of his family.
Enraged to the point of madness, Black Adam launches a week-long attack against the heroes of the world, referred to afterwards as "World War III". Tearing across the globe, Adam attacks and defeats dozens of superheroes who attempt to stop him, among them the Marvel Family, the Global Guardians, the Doom Patrol, and the Teen Titans.
Adam eventually arrives in China, causing massive civilian casualties and billions of dollars in property damage when various superhumans get in his way. He attacks China, continuing the destruction until the decimated Great Ten team of Chinese superheroes allows the Justice Society and a coalition of dozens of other American metahumans onto Chinese soil. Captain Marvel, though unable to take away Black Adam's powers, works with a group of mystics to work a spell which allows him to summon his magic lightning and use it to transform Adam instead of himself.
Using his abilities as the new guardian of the Rock of Eternity, Marvel also changes Adam's magic word from "Shazam" to a word he keeps secret to prevent him from ever changing back. Despite his defeat, Teth-Adam escapes and sets upon a quest to have his love Isis resurrected. This takes place in a self-titled mini-series, where he also learns that his new "magic word" is one of Billy Batson's favorite treats at a local soda shoppe -- specifically, "Chocolate Egg Cream", something Adam would have been unlikely to have guessed on his own.
Currently, Black Adam is a statue in the Rock of Eternity, thanks to the same actions on the part of the wizard Shazam that deprived Billy and Mary of their powers.
I've always sort of liked Black Adam. He is the absolute opposite of Captain Marvel, something few other heroes have. The Joker is not the direct opposite of Batman. Lex Luthor is not the direct opposite of Superman. And he's one of those guys that you sort of hope manages to overcome his own evil, even if this has had rather variable results.
By the way, the explanation for his "Shazam" is different than Captain Marvel's. Given his original Egyptian background, in Black Adam's case, it stands for the stamina of Shu, the swiftness of Heru, the strength of Amon, the wisdom of Zehuti, the power of Aron, and the courage of Mehen..
As with Mary Marvel, Black Adam never appeared in the Justice League Unlimited series.
The figure is excellent. A superb headsculpt in the animated style of this increasingly well-known character, although the hairline might be a little too receding. He definitely looks menacing, though, with an angry scowl and deepset eyes. He even has pointed ears, something that Adam has been portrayed with fairly consistently in recent years, even though there's no particular explanation for them.
The skin tone is slightly darker, in keeping with his place of origin in the world, and to a degree, his portrayal in the comics, although this has tended to vary somewhat. Interestingly, the DC Infinite Heroes figure of Black Adam uses a standard Caucasian skin tone. I haven't seen the DC Universe Classics version in person as yet. But it works for the character.
As one might expect with a name like "Black Adam", his costume is black. It's otherwise identical to Captain Marvel's including the gold trim, lightning symbol, and cuffed boots. This is another reason I've been fond of Black Adam. He's not only Captain Marvel's opposite number -- he even looks it!
One slightly unusual thing, however -- Black Adam has a cape. It's a black reproduction of Captain Marvel's own. Black Adam does not often wear a cape. Now, he does wear one occasionally. When he briefly ruled his homeland of Kahndaq, he would sometimes wear a black cape otherwise identical to Cap's own for ceremonial purposes. And, yeah, okay, it makes him look a little more regal. But I don't recall that he ever wore it in battle. I could be wrong about that.
As with Cap, and most JLU figures, Black Adam is poseable at the head, arms, and legs.
Finally, let's consider the wizard who caused all of this...
SHAZAM - You know, whenever I see this guy, for some reason, I picture his voice being done by Roscoe Lee Browne. Browne also did the voice of the wizard Merklynn in the 1987 animated series VISIONARIES, based on a sadly short-lived Hasbro action figure line from that year. Believe you me, there's a serious resemblance between Merklynn and Shazam. If Shazam had ever appeared in the Justice League animated series, I think it would've been funny if they'd gotten Browne to voice him, and I wonder how many people would've gotten the joke.
According to WikiPedia: 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.
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 on him, Billy/Marvel can summon the ghost of Shazam for guidance by lighting a special torch-like apparatus in Shazam's lair, the Rock of Eternity.
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 backstory 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.
The Champion later creates the Rock of Eternity from two large rock formations — one from Heaven and one from Hell — to hold the "Three Faces of Evil", a dragon-like demon, captive. Many centuries later, the Champion, now going by the name of Shazam, feels the need to pass along his powers to a successor. He selects the pharaoh's son Teth-Adam to receive the power to become the superpowered Mighty Adam (later Black Adam) by speaking the word "SHAZAM!"
Millennia later, the wizard resurfaces as an aide on the 1940 Malcolm Expedition, one of many archaeological expeditions into the tombs and pyramids of ancient Egypt. The sarcophagi of Ibis the Invincible and his mate Princess Taia are uncovered and brought to the United States. Shazam keeps an eye on the sarcophagi and, once they are on display at the Fawcett City Museum, uses ancient spells to resurrect Ibis. Ibis then joins Bulletman, Spy Smasher, Minute-Man, and others to fight evil during the World War II era. In 1955, a thug knocks Shazam across the head with a crowbar and causes him to lose his memory.
A clueless Shazam wanders around Fawcett for the next forty years until C.C. Batson, a young man Shazam had met on the Malcolm Expedition, recognizes the old man and brings him to the museum to restore his memory. Shazam feels that he has truly found his successor in the upstanding Batson, but before he can act on this, a possessed Theo Adam murders Batson and his wife Marilyn. He therefore decides to enlist C.C. Batson's young son, Billy, as the successor to his power.
In Superman (vol. 2) #216, Shazam calls upon the Spectre to free Superman from being controlled by the demon Eclipso. This action breaks a covenant between Eclipso and the Spectre, and sets Eclipso permanently at odds with the wizard. Possessing the body of Jean Loring, the Atom's ex-wife, Eclipso corrupts the confused Spectre into joining forces with her, and begins a war against all magic-powered beings in the DC Universe.
Because of his previous action, Shazam is one of the duo's primary targets. In the Day of Vengeance mini-series, Shazam enlists Captain Marvel to keep the Spectre at bay, while the wizard gathers all of his power to battle him. With the assistance of the newly formed Shadowpact, a band of magic-based heroes, Captain Marvel fights the Spectre nearly to a standstill, but the Spectre escapes and makes his way to the Rock of Eternity to confront Shazam directly.
While Shazam is preparing for his bout with the Spectre, he is confronted by Mordru, who has just escaped the Rock of Eternity. Mordru and the wizard fight for a short time while The Spectre begans to approach. Mordru, more concerned with escaping and staying out of the Spectre's way, leaves a slightly wounded and tired Shazam to fight the Spectre, who is already more powerful than him at full power. The Spectre overpowers the wizard, absorbs his magics, and kills him. As a result, the Rock of Eternity disintegrates above Gotham City into "a billion pieces" and explodes, sending a depowered Billy Batson falling into the city. In Infinite Crisis #1, Billy finds he is still able to transform into the Captain before he strikes the ground by saying the wizard's name as usual.
A year after the events of Infinite Crisis, the The Trials of Shazam! mini-series features Captain Marvel, now with a white costume and long white hair, taking over the role of the wizard Shazam under the name Marvel while a powerless Freddy Freeman attempts to prove himself worthy to take on the powers of Shazam.
Some time after this, Black Adam and his resurrected bride Isis wrest control of the Rock of Eternity from Marvel, turning him back into Billy Batson at the same time. The spirit of Billy and Mary's father recruit Jay Garrick to go on a mission to the Rock of Finality, where Shazam's spirit, sealed in stone, resides. Jay brings Shazam to Earth, where Black Adam is convinced to give back his powers to restore Shazam, so that the greatly corrupted Isis can be saved.
The restored wizard removes the powers from Isis and the Marvels, and turns Teth-Adam and Adrianna to stone. Shazam tells Billy and Mary that they failed him, and that their access to his power is cut off. Shazam also mentions Freddy, stating that his magic comes from elsewhere, and that he too will be dealt with.
And none to soon in my opinion. Hopefully Shazam will calm down after a while and set things right with the Batsons again.
So, how's the figure? It's an excellent animated style likeness of the character, and is an entirely unique figure. Shazam doesn't go around in the usual superhero spandex. He's an elderly looking individual, wearing a long robe. The headsculpt us superb, looking elderly and quite stern, with a long flowing white beard and long white hair. No one's likely to mistake him for Santa Claus, however. He's wearing a pale blue robe, and the one bit of trim on it is the lightning bolt symbol in gold, imprinted on one end of the sculpted belt he wears.
Articulation? Well -- there isn't much of it. Shazam can turn a little bit at the head, but the hair and bears are a fair impediment. He can move his arms. That's about it. Technically, the figure doesn't HAVE legs. But as I've been saying, this "Fan Collection" branch of the Justice League line (and it's marked as such right on the package) is designed more for collecting than for play.
All four figures, it should be noted, are individually carded, and have short and rather carefully worded (for the sake of the legal department, no doubt) backstories on the backs of their respective cards. Interestingly, I think some of the illustrated artwork on the back of their cards is taken directly from the design sheets for these figures! That's pretty cool.
So what's my final word here? Hey, this is a cool set. I'm delighted to see the Justice League Unlimited line continue, and I'm delighted to see this much of the Marvel Family become a part of it.
The set is a MattyCollector.Com exclusive, and I have no idea if it will still be available when you read this review, but it's certainly worth a look. And of course, there's always the "secondary market".
But however you might acquire it, the JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED 4-pack of the "SHAZAM!" FAMILY definitely has my highest recommendation!