The Trials of Shazam!

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The Trials of Shazam!
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
FormatLimited series
Publication dateOctober 2006 – May 2008
No. of issues12
Main character(s)Captain Marvel
Shazam
Captain Marvel Jr.
Creative team
Written byJudd Winick
Artist(s)Howard Porter
Mauro Cascioli
Collected editions
Vol 1 (1-6)ISBN 978-1401213312
Vol 2 (7-12)ISBN 978-1401218294
Complete seriesISBN 978-1401292294

The Trials of Shazam! is a comic book published by DC Comics from 2006 to 2008. The twelve-issue limited series, written by Judd Winick and illustrated by Howard Porter and Mauro Cascioli, was later reprinted in three paperback collections. The story was an attempt to update Captain Marvel for a modern audience. It received mixed reviews from critics and the changes to the franchise were reverted shortly after it concluded.

Development[edit]

In the years leading up to the release of The Trials of Shazam, DC Comics promoted their Captain Marvel character in other comic titles to generate reader interest.[1] The story of the limited series follows plot elements introduced in Infinite Crisis (2005),[2] Day of Vengeance (2005), and the one-shot Brave New World (2006).[3] Writer Judd Winick conceived the story to update the character, who was largely unchanged since his creation in the 1940s and was seen by many people as a low-quality copy of Superman; the updates included changing the character's focus from regular crimes to magical ones, removing some of the sillier elements and putting Captain Marvel Jr. in the leading role.[3]

The art was initially done by Howard Porter, who was using a digital painting approach for the first time in his professional work.[4] This technique meant he did not have assistance from an inker or colorist, and he was having trouble meeting his deadlines for publication. The fifth issue was delayed from February 2007 to March, and issue seven was also a month late. These troubles were compounded when he suffered a severe thumb injury on his drawing hand which required an orthopedic cast and permanently limited his feeling.[5] Porter was replaced by Mauro Cascioli with the tenth issue, cover dated January 2008, three months after issue nine.[6] The final issues were released bi-monthly.

The first issue sold an estimated 50,500 copies.[7] By the final issue, sales had fallen by about half.[8] DC reprinted the first six issues in a paperback collection in June 2007. The remaining issues were collected in a second volume released in July 2008. All twelve issues were reprinted in a single volume in 2019. If the series had been successful, there were plans for an ongoing monthly series.[1] Instead, Winick's changes to the franchise were short-lived, being undone by a 2009 story line in JSA.[9][10]

Plot[edit]

During Infinite Crisis, the wizard Shazam was destroyed by the Spectre, who had declared a war on magic.[11] When the Rock of Eternity was destroyed, Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel lost their powers.[12] Captain Marvel assumes Shazam's role as caretaker of the Rock of Eternity using the name Marvel.[13] Marvel drafts the now-powerless Freddy Freeman to undergo a quest to prove himself worthy of replacing Captain Marvel. Each of the six gods who contributed their powers — Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury — present Freddy with a challenge. If he completes one successfully, he is granted that god's particular power. If he completes all six tasks, he will take on the name Shazam. Zareb Babak, a demoted necromancer, serves as Freddy's guide during his trials. At the same time, a dark organization known as the Council of Merlin is backing its own candidate, a Creole sorceress named Sabina. If she wins the trials, she will earn the power of Shazam instead.

Freddy and Sabina compete equally in many of the trials, eventually becoming equal in power as each earn the various powers of the gods. When Sabina kills Atlas before his trial is completed, Zareb is forced to convince Apollo to take his place among the Shazam collective of gods. The competition culminates in a large battle. Freddy, Marvel, and the Justice League battling Sabina and an army of demons summoned by the sorcerer Merlin. When he is willing to sacrifice himself, Freddy proves himself worthy Zeus' power and Zareb reveals himself to be Zeus in disguise. Freddy says the magic word "Shazam" and gains the full powers of Shazam.

Reception[edit]

The comic book series received mixed reviews from critics, averaging 6.7 out of 10 according to review aggregator Comic Book Roundup.[14] Both Comic Book Resources and Comics Bulletin criticized Winick's dialogue and narrative pace.[4][15][16] Porter's artwork was criticized by Comic Book Resources for "plainly [...] a work in progress",[4] while Comics Bulletin felt it was nice but inappropriate for an action story.[16] Cascioli was seen as an improvement, but not enough of one to save the disappointing story.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Johncox, Jeff (March 29, 2007). "Full Judd Winick interview". Norman Transcript. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  2. ^ Cronin, Brian (April 11, 2019). "We Almost Had 'Say My Name - Shazam!' From Alex Ross and Geoff Johns". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Tramountanas, George A. (August 2, 2006). "R.I.P The Big Red Cheese: Winick Talks "The Trials of Shazam!"". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Cronin, Brian (August 30, 2006). "The Trials of Shazam #1 - Packaging Can Be Important". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  5. ^ Rogers, Vaneta (October 2, 2008). "Off the DL: The Return of Howard Porter". Newsarama. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  6. ^ Judd Winick (w), Mauro Cascioli (a). The Trials of Shazam! 10 (January 2008), New York, New York: DC Comics
  7. ^ Miller, John Jackson. "Comichron: August 2006 Comic Book Sales to Comics Shops". Comichron. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  8. ^ Miller, John Jackson. "Comichron: April 2008 Comic Book Sales to Comics Shops". Comichron. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  9. ^ Mozzocco, J. Caleb (January 30, 2012). "DC'S Captain Marvel Officially Changing His Name to the Non-Trademark Infringing 'Shazam'". Comics Alliance. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  10. ^ Mozzocco, J. Caleb (March 21, 2012). "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Captain Marvel, But Were Afraid to Google". Comics Alliance. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  11. ^ Day of Vengeance #6 (November 2005)
  12. ^ Brave New World #1 (August 2006)
  13. ^ Trials of Shazam! #2 (November 2006)
  14. ^ "The Trials of Shazam! Comic Series Reviews". Comic Book Roundup. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  15. ^ a b Callahan, Timothy (April 3, 2008). "The Trials of Shazam! #12". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  16. ^ a b Tate, Caryn A. (September 14, 2006). "Trials of Shazam #1". Comics Bulletin. Retrieved April 23, 2019.