Since I keep talking about the mistakes we already know about when it comes to The Rock’s take on Black Adam, I decided this week’s Saturday Night Showcase would show you how to do it right. First, we need to briefly discuss The Kid Super Power Hour With Shazam!.
Airing on NBC in the 1981-1982 TV season The Kid Super Power Hour was split into two shows. Shazam! of course was one but as the second segment, following Hero High. Before My Hero Academia or even Sky High this is the first time I saw a show about a school that trained future superheroes. The comedy and the whole hour would also feature live-action skits with the main cast in front of an all-kid studio audience in addition to their animated misadventures at the titular Hero High. The characters even had a few crossovers with the Shazam! cast on both segments. However, that’s not what we’re here to go over.
This would be Filmation’s second Shazam! series, the first being the three season live-action series on CBS that crossed over with previous Saturday Night Showcase entry The Secrets Of Isis. However, the animated series was closer to the DC Comics and the original Fawcett Publishing concept. Instead of traveling in an RV with some dude named Mentor while talking to animated versions of the famous and mythological figures that make up the acronym S.H.A.Z.A.M., Billy Batson stays home with his sister Mary Batson, their friend Freddy Freeman, lovable Uncle Dudley, and the talking tiger Mr. Tawny. When trouble strikes, Billy becomes Captain Marvel, Mary becomes Mary Marvel (not even trying on that name, were we Fawcett?), and Freddy Freeman makes the mistake of naming himself after his hero which is also his magic word because he got his powers from Captain Marvel. (Long story.) If they need a mentor they summon the ghost of the Wizard who gave Billy and Mary their powers.
The episode I’ve chosen, tied to recent discussions, is “Black Adam Returns”. You can guess what happens in the episode. The story, written by Dennis O’Flaherty, adapts The Marvel Family #1 “The Mighty Marvels Join Forces”, originally written by Otto Bender. However, in this show they had already been joining forces for a while now as a superhero team family. (Imagine if the Fantastic Four got along.) Plus the length of the comic story would come up short in the episode so they throw in an odd bit where Adam is a henpecked husband, his hypnotising Mary into his slave bride (maybe that’s where DiDio’s crew got the evil Mary Marvel obsession?) despite her being at best in college, and adding an extra vilain death because as I’ve gone over before Filmation wasn’t afraid to kill characters off in a kids show just because it was a rare occurrence. They even killed a kid once in an anti-drug story.
There are differences from the actual comic story. The princess and staff were show-only unless they referenced an obscure story I’m not aware of. (Though DC would make a corrupt version of Isis to make his new bride.) Black Adam in the story didn’t kidnap Mary Marvel and was just out for revenge on the Wizard Shazam. In the comic it was Uncle Dudley that tricked Black Adam into saying the magic word (which is also the wizard’s name) and nobody flew into space (not counting Black Adam escaping his prison at the end of the universe).
Otherwise events play out as seen in the comic. Adam’s first appearance is in the middle of traffic, he turns to dust because he resumes his proper age, and Black Adam’s origin all came from that story. Interesting that Filmation used the dead Adam story from the Fawcett comics when they did reuse Captain Marvel’s usual foes (Dr. Silvana shows up a few times if memory serves, as does Mr. Mind and a few show-original threats, including the Hero High crossover) when DC Comics reincarnated him thanks to Silvana as an opposite number for the World’s Mightiest Mortal. With the Marvel Family unable to use magic on their own this gave Black Adam an advantage, the same one The Rock wants to have over Superman.
I’m sorry this version only had the one season. It and Hero High were both fun for me as a kid (Filmation’s comedy wasn’t as good as their action shows–best left to the occasional comic relief moment than a full story) and this plus the CBS show is why I knew Billy Batson turned into Captain Marvel, not Shazam. It also didn’t need all the extra kids Geoff Johns threw in for diversity. The Marvel Family isn’t supposed to be the Power Rangers. Heck, break out Captain Thunder, DC’s weird attempt at using Captain Marvel in the main DC universe without taking him out of Earth-S, instead of using his magic word as his name. Show me which hero is named Justice League or the Teen Titan. At any rate, both Captain Shazam and Black Adam have appeared in animated form in other DC shows and movies but as the first time both heroes are in live-action, not putting them against each other is a mistake. I guess Warner Brothers and Dwayne Johnson learned nothing about squandering first-time opportunities from Batman V. Superman or Justice League. Yeah, I’m still not convinced we’re on the right path yet with the Discovery Networks merger, especially on the comics end.