One of the comics that I am most looking forward to this coming year is the new SHAZAM: THE MONSTER SOCIETY of EVIL by Jeff Smith. Jeff has been keeping a running journal about his process over on his BLOG/Web site. I’ve been a HUGE Jeff Smith fan since I first discovered BONE #3 in a small comic shop in Lynchburg, Virginia back…. jeez…. it must be about 17 years or so ago. I had never seen anything quite like BONE– or Smith’s work. It was revelatory, in a way… to see someone with such a fluid, fun animation style creating a fantasy comic that featured a simple cartoon character like BONE in a lush mystical setting. Anyone asking me for my list of the best comics of all time to represent the medium to the world would see BONE listed near the top. Jeff Smith’s abilities and the sensibilities in his work truly thrill, astound and amaze me… and when I heard that he was planning on working on a mini series that features CAPTAIN MARVEL, I was absolutely ecstatic. I can’t think of anyone more perfect to bring the lyrical and magical qualities to the character than Jeff Smith… and to counteract the apparent attempts by Judd Winick to ruin the character. It might be an edict from on high at DC… but it seems to me that Winick has been on a crusade to bring CAPTAIN MARVEL into the already busting-at-the-seams crowd of ‘grim and gritty’ characters populating the long-underwear set. Why anyone would want to gut the charm of a character and cast like that of the ‘Big Red Cheese’ is beyond me.

Which is why I see Jeff Smith as a hero on this matter.

And one of the things that thrills me the most about Smith’s take on the book is his reviving of TAWKY TAWNY. This quote from Smith’s blog rings so perfectly to me:

“Talky Tawny is one of those characters that causes people to roll their eyes. A talking tiger? And I admit he was handled pretty goofy in the 40s, but Captain Marvel’s powers are more mythological than most – – derived from ancient gods and sages – – so wandering spirits and talking animals don’t feel out of place to me. Gods and talking animals are part of our oldest storytelling traditions.”

The things that have always attracted me to CAPTAIN MARVEL and his world is the fact that he’s so different from SUPERMAN. His powers are derived from magic. His rogues gallery is populated by so many odd and humorous characters that it just makes me smile when I see them; DR. SIVANA and MR. MIND (the talking worm) among them… they’re all just so wonderfully odd and fun. And CAP’S buddy TALKY TAWNY was right there with them as a personal favorite. Sure, he was silly… but that’s one of the things that’s so appealing to me about CAP. The brightness and goofiness that stands in stark contrast to everything else comics is offering these days. That’s why even though Smith is tweaking TAWNY into an actual tiger instead of an anthropomorphic ‘tiger man’ … that’s OK. He’s bringing drama and gravitas to TAWNY… but still keeping that mystical quality that infuses CAPTAIN MARVEL as well as his own work.

So a public ‘THANK YOU’ to Jeff Smith for reminding me once again that comics can be fun AS WELL as dramatic. SHAZAM…!

This is Entry 330.


Comments are closed.