It was a packed room for the Saturday morning panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego as executive editor of Abrams ComicArts Charles Kochman introduced his two guests, author and producer of the upcoming “Shazam” film Michael Uslan and noted graphic designer Chip Kidd, author of the new book “Shazam! The Golden Age of the World’s Mightiest Mortal.”
After reminding fans that it was the 70th anniversary of the Captain Marvel character, Kochman passed the microphone over to Michael Uslan so the famed producer of “The Dark Knight” could share just how much of a fan he is of The World’s Mightiest Mortal.
“My world changed in the 2nd grade. I found out Otto Binder [co-creator of Captain Marvel] lived in New Jersey,” said Uslan. The 8 year-old sent the writer a letter asking for an interview, telling him, “I’m 13, but I’m a professional writer for a fanzine.” The writer ended up spending 12 hours with the young Uslan. “He told me everything!” A friendship formed between the two, with Uslan eventually being introduced to C.C. Beck, the other co-creator of Captain Marvel, and many other comic creators.
Uslan next discussed some of the legal history of the character, mentioning that DC committed a crime by “getting Captain Marvel to disappear in lawsuits” out of fear. “Captain Marvel was the only character to outsell Superman at the time,” Uslan informed the audience. Stan Lee then realized the trademark on the name had lapsed and picked it up for Marvel Comics. Later in the 1970s, DC Comics’ sales were falling and they needed to mix things up, so they went to Fawcett and offered to publish the Captain Marvel character under the new title of “Shazam.”
Before passing the stage over to Chip Kidd, Kochman said that for the thirteen years “Captain Marvel” was published before the lawsuit, “they had the best products.”
Chip Kidd introduced himself as a true fan collector, proving so by showing a slide of himself as a child in 1974 wearing a homemade Captain Marvel costume. He first fell in love with the character because of the television show at the time, but quickly discovered the comics and became a lifelong fan.
He mentioned to the audience that he had done a book called “Batman Collected,” and always wanted to do one for Captain Marvel. He soon met Harry Matetsky in New York, a collector who had almost every piece of merchandise and collectible ever based on the character. Kidd spent a week with the fan, cataloging everything; there were race cars, smaller versions of classic comics, watches, ads, patches, foreign movie serial posters, decoders, dolls and more.
Discussing slides of various merchandise and original art, Kidd revealed that at one point Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnot were writing and drawing both “Captain Marvel” and “Captain America” at the same time, until they eventually decided to stick with the “Captain America” character after three issues.
When a slide of an old black and white Captain Marvel movie serial was shown, Uslan shared with the crowd some of the odder moments from the serial such as Cap throwing criminals off a roof or using a machine gun to mow down a group of bad guys rushing towards him.
Before the panel moved along to fan questions, Kochman made sure to mention that the book will be 246 pages, out October 2010 and that “there’s stuff [in the book] that die hard fans don’t know.”
Asked if Black Adam originally appeared in the Golden Age or not, the panelists said yes, in “Marvel Family #1.” As chance would have it, writer Mark Waid was in the audience and stood up to elaborate further on the answer. “Me and Geoff [Johns] talked about it,” back when Johns originally planned to use the character. “Geoff asked what Golden Age stuff he should look at, but there was only ever that one story featuring the character. That’s how great a character he is!”
Asked where in the pre-production process the movie was, Uslan could only say, “Stay tuned,” but Kochman added that if the book does well, then Warner Brothers would presumably be quicker to get the movie out.
The controversial “Monster Society of Evil” collection is still on a publishing hiatus. Waid once again offered his perspective, confirming it wasn’t solicited anymore, but that it will be eventually.
The last interesting bit of information revealed was that the costume from the original Captain Marvel movie serial had a cameo in the Richard Donner directed “Superman” movie. It was worn by one of the Kryptonians accosting Jor-El at the beginning of the film.
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