DC Comics has canceled the scheduled hardcover collection Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil Deluxe Edition over content concerns. The news was first revealed today via retailer Ryan Higgins' Twitter account.
The hardcover would have collected the entire 24-chapter 1940’s Golden Age serial introducing Mr. Mind, a genius two-inch worm who joins with the Monster Society of Evil to destroy Captain Marvel. The collection was slated to include essays by Fawcett Comics expert P.C. Hamerlinck and comics historian Michael Uslan.
While the arc is considered a touchstone in comic book history, both from a writing and artistic perspective, it is also a product of its time and, as such, comes with some cultural baggage. The content DC is most likely concerned about involves racist caricatures and dialogue.
The comics cast a group of Asian characters -- replete with slanted eyes and thick-rimmed glasses -- as members of the Monster Society of Evil and adherents of the “Tokyo Torture Temple.” Another panel shows a Black person depicted in a racist fashion, speaking in intensely problematic vernacular.
While the historically-minded will no doubt be disappointed in DC’s decision to can the collection, it’s reasonable to argue that such arcs containing controversial material have no business being lavishly reproduced today. The cancellation also comes just as Warner Bros. is ramping up marketing for its upcoming film Shazam!