Bit late to the whole “Shazam” name-change thing.

§ June 5th, 2015 § Filed under retailing, this week's comics § 6 Comments

A couple of questions popped up in the comments to my last post:

From Thelonious_Nick:

“Here’s something I’ve long wondered: Why are so many variant covers so much more awesome than the regular covers for that issue? If the company really wants to sell more comics, shouldn’t they make the variant cover into the actual cover, and make the boring one the variant?”

I’ve wondered about that myself once or twice over the course of this here weblog — on one occasion wondering why some Star Trek comic decided to use the amazing Gorn photo cover for the limited variant instead of slapping that sucker on the regular edition and selling a ton of copies. The answer is almost certainly aimed at enticing retailers into ordering more copies, which for some publishers may be a safer bet than hoping enough readers will be attracted by the better cover. A retailer orders a certain number of a book, sees a cool-looking variant cover that s/he could get for the shop if orders were raised just a smidgen to a particular sales plateau, and bumps orders up accordingly.

Same goes for those comics that have five, six, a dozen different covers, that are all equally available for order by retailers. They’re not necessarily there in the hopes that customers will buy one of each cover (though that does happen, of course). They’re there to get higher initial order numbers from retailers. Instead of ordering 10 copies of one available cover of Mistress Bikini-Armor #1, a retailer might instead order two each of all six variants for Mistress Bikini-Armor #1, just to make sure there’s enough available of each variant to meet theoretical demand. It’s not much of a bump, probably, but in this marketplace every little bit helps.

From d:

“So how did Convergence and its various tie-ins sell, now that it’s all over? How do you think it will compare with Secret Wars?”

Overall, it did…okay, I think. Some tie-ins did especially well (like the Shazam! one) and some just didn’t do anything for me (many of the Justice League-related titles sold far less than expected). The actual Convergence series itself actually sold very well, surprisingly for a weekly series. In the end, maybe a shorter main series and fewer tie-ins while not putting everything else on hold may have been preferable, but I didn’t seem to experience any kind of decline in revenue while the event proceeded (despite some sky-is-falling scaremongering by certain online gossips).

Compared to Secret Wars, Convergence seemed to lack some measure of cohesion and direction, beyond “here are a bunch of cities from parallel Earths crammed together on one planet, and they have to fight each other to see who survives.” The upshot of the series is that it…undoes Crisis on Infinite Earths which had already been undone, I think, or otherwise just ignored, and, well…maybe if the series had been a more focused 4-part mini instead of a bloated repeating-the-points 9-parter, we might have been better off. In addition, I think Marvel managed to push Secret Wars as something Marvel fans had to read, explicitly tied to the Marvel Universe’s overall continuity, whereas Convergence never really felt like more than “here’s something you might want to read for a couple of months, we hope.” However, I do appreciate that the creators of the series managed to trick DC fans into reading what was essentially a Warlord comic for an issue.

Speaking of Shazam, as I was just a couple of paragraphs back (go ahead, check, I’ll wait) here’s one thing I had noted on the Twitterers the other day:


I’d love to see more only slightly-tangentially related to the wider DC Universe Captain Marvel adventures like in Convergence and Multiversity (and both series showed how the Shazam Family can play nice with other superhero milieus without losing the ol’ Shazam charm), instead of seeing the Big Red Cheese squeezed into the grittier ‘n’ darker comics where he never quite fits in. I know the temptation is to contrast Cap’s innocence with the “real world” of the regular DCU (like in this week’s Justice League, where Cap is distraught at having seen a dead body for the first time…hey, kids, comics!) but it would be nice to have him star in, and be the hero of, his own series, instead of the odd-man-out that he almost always is everywhere else.

I suspect once the always-forthcoming Shazam movie finally does come, and if it’s successful, it’ll establish which tone the comics will follow. Probably more “New 52” and less “C.C. Beck,” if I were to hazard a guess.

And yeah, I keep calling him “Cap” or “Captain Marvel,” the name he retains in the retro-style Convergence and Multiversity comics, but as since been discarded in favor of being called “Shazam!” for ease-of-licensing-and-market-exploitation-that-doesn’t-conflict-with-Marvel-Comics purposes. I mean, I can understand why DC would want that change, and it looks like they wrote around the old Marvel Family issue of characters who can’t say their own names without switching back to normal humans. But “Shazam” as a name just by itself seems nonsensical…”hey man, why are you called ‘Shazam’?” “Well, it’s the magic word I use to turn into a superhero! The ‘S’ is for ‘Solomon,’ the ‘H’ is for Herc…hey, where are you going?” Personally, I would have gone with “Captain Shazam,” so at least you could still call the character “Cap” or “The Captain” and retain some connection to the Captain Marvel of old. That wouldn’t be any more ridiculous a name than, say, “Batman.” But nobody asked me. Nobody ever asks me. (sigh)

• • •

In completely unrelated news, I was convinced to read the new Airboy #1 from Image that came out this week, in which creators James Robinson and Greg Hinkle tell a story of themselves trying to come up with an angle on an Airboy reboot. SPOILERS AHEAD: Horrible things are done over the course of the story, with drink, drugs, sex, and more drugs, while the creators, Robinson especially, uncomfortably assess their comic-creating careers. It’s probably the last thing you’d expect in an Airboy comic, and probably some 80-year-old somewhere is really pissed off that this was done in a comic named after his favorite comic book character, but it really is a compelling read. And, if you’ve read ahead to solicitations for future issues, you already know that by the end of the comic, somehow Airboy himself appears to Robinson and Hinkle, disgusted by their debauchery.

And what that reminded me of was this comic:


Airboy and Mr. Monster (1987), another comic where an apparent apparition of Airboy appears to help a comic creator through a time of trouble. In this case, it’s the fictional Everett Coleman, whose failed career and torment by some of the evil characters he’s drawn over the years eventually leads to other characters he’s drawn coming his assistance…including Airboy. Now, Airboy is just one of an army of characters who pop up in this book, making the implied team-up of the characters in the title only just technically correct. It’s still amusing that Airboy, of all characters, has now been used twice in these mildly similar fashions.

6 Responses to “Bit late to the whole “Shazam” name-change thing.”

  • caleb says:

    Hey, I wondered about why they didn’t call Captain Marvel “Captain Shazam” as well…! I think I was reading FLASHPOINT again (don’t judge me!) and that guy was called Captain Thunder, right? Then, if he was Captain Shazam, they could just call him Captain or Cap as you say, and we can all just pretend he’s Captain Marvel if we want to.

    Like when Aquaman was having problems with his hand, if they woulda just had him put a glove over it, we wouldn’t have to fret over whether it was a robot hand or magic water hand or normal hand.

    …But on the subject of swamp monsters, what are the chances of Heap appearance in Airboy, you think…?

  • Noah says:

    They don’t seem to have any plans to use the awesome name, and only kinda awesome character of Mr. Majestic. That would be a suitably goofy old style name for Captan Marvel that I think people might like. I know I would.

  • Andrew says:

    Caleb, Captain Thunder goes all the way back to the original Fawcett Flash Comics #1 ashcan, both names which had to change in the journey to Whiz #2.

    Given that Captain Terry Thunder of the British Army presumably lost his trademark protection decades ago, I’ve long said DC should reclaim the name.

  • Brad says:

    Andrew, Roy Thomas wrote/published Captain Thunder & Blue Bolt for a while. (The books are being re-offered electronically.) He might still have copyright.

  • Andrew says:

    Brad, I was unaware of that Captain Thunder and Blue Bolt series. Looks kind of neat!

    Even when it’s properly registered, trademark protection is a use-it-or-lose-it proposition. The timing of the Thomas series suggests a reason as to why the Ordway Power of Shazam might not have been able to use the CT name.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Shazam”

    They could just call him Captain Cheese!