Comic Legends: Did Alex Ross Almost Do a Shazam Series Before Marvels?

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the seven hundred and twenty-sixth installment where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the weekly three legends.

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Alex Ross almost did a Shazam series before he did Marvels.



Around 1991 or 1992, Alex Ross was still a relatively unknown comic book artist, but his painted work was so striking that it seemed likely that he would eventually find work. He had a Marvel comic book story that just happened to be part of a series, Open Space, that was canceled before Ross' issue could be released. Ross met writer Kurt Busiek and they began pitching Marvel on some series ideas, including Iron Man (Ross would have done pencils on that instead of painted work - his new design for Iron Man was later used, with permission, during Busiek's run on Iron Man with Sean Chen) and a painted miniseries about the history of Marvel called, appropriately enough, Marvels.

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Obviously, Marvels was eventually approved and it became an iconic series. However, while waiting to get approval on that series, Ross decided to look to see if there was anything at DC that he could pitch that company on him doing. Jerry Ordway was already working on the graphic novel reboot of the Captain Marvel universe called Power of Shazam, but it was a long-gestating project, so Ross decided to do a pitch himself, which he explained to Roy Thomas in Alter Ego #3 from TwoMorrows.

Ross wanted to make sure the series was not a "1990s style" comic book, so it was more of a throwback book (which is precisely the approach Ordway was doing on his series, as well).

Ross did a few design sketches, basing his version of Captain Marvel on Fred MacMurray...

He used Kathy Ireland as the inspiration for Mary Marvel...

and Michael Gray, who played Billy Batson on the Shazam TV series, was the inspiration for Captain Marvel Jr....

Check out Alter Ego #3 for many more sketches from Alex Ross, including his re-designs for Bulletman and Captain Nazi.

Ross was not a fan of Alan Moore's Miracleman (which was a riff on Captain Marvel) and so Ross planned to have Captain Nazi sort of serve the role of Miracleman so that Captain Marvel could show how much better he is than that other version.

However, when it became clear that Ordway's reboot WAS going to happen, Ross dropped the whole thing, as he knew that he wouldn't be allowed to reboot Captain Marvel if Ordway JUST did it and so his miniseries would have to be based on Ordway's reboot and Ross just didn't want to bother.

This, though, was not the last time that Alex Ross almost rebooted Shazam. The next time will be a future Comic Book Legends Revealed!

Thanks to Alter Ego, Roy Thomas and Alex Ross for the information! Check out the Roy Thomas Appreciation Board on Facebook!

Check out some other entertainment and sports legends from Legends Revealed:

1. Were the Facial Features of the Little Mermaid Based on Alyssa Milano?

2. Was a Frank Zappa Instrumental Album Given a Parental Warning Advisory?

3. Was Mr. Potato Head Nearly Just a Cereal Giveaway?

4. Did Bob Dylan Have to Re-Record “Hurricane” Because of Legal Threats?

Check back on Saturday for part 2 of this week's legends!

And remember, if you have a legend that you're curious about, drop me a line at either brianc@cbr.com or cronb01@aol.com!

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