Comic Legends: How Jerry Ordway's Power of Shazam Was Cut Too Short

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the seven hundred and twenty-seventh 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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Jerry Ordway's Power of Shazam run was planned to reach #50



Jerry Ordway famously rebooted the Marvel Family in his 1994 graphic novel (that he wrote and drew), Power of Shazam!

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This led to an ongoing series that was written by Ordway and drawn by Peter Krause and Mike Manley, who were a heck of a team together. However, Ordway, of course, was a heck of an artist himself. So with Power of Shazam! #42, when Krause left the series, Ordway took over as writer/artist on the book.

Oddly enough, even though Ordway took over as writer/artist with #42, which you would think would be a really big deal, the series only lasted another six issues (counting a special DC One Million tie-in in the final issue)....

Reader Gage wrote in to ask, "[R]e-reading the 90’s Power of Shazam! series, the final few issues seem disjointed. Jerry Ordway was the writer for the whole series, which I remember being a bit of a hit initially for DC at the time. But, right after long-running artist Peter Krause departed the series, Ordway took over penciling the series and the book got a new vertical teaser-title on the cover. The book felt like it was building towards a celebratory 50th issue, but the series ended with 47. In some of the issues from 42-47, it feels like elements were edited out, with characters talking about things that happen off panel. This is very noticeable between 45 and 46, where it feels like there might have been a different issue that was cut from the series. So, what happened? Was it just the specter of cancellation that necessitated the changes or was something else going on?"

I asked Jerry about it and he explained:

Brian, I did have to cut stuff, and speed other stuff along! When Peter Krause left the book as penciller, after issue #41’s storyline, DC kind of wanted me to do some other stuff, specifically a Kingdom series, if my memory is right. I know they pitched that to me to draw, but I figured if I was going to draw a monthly, I would take on art chores for Shazam, and hopefully get that book to issue #50, and beyond. I made it known to others I worked with that Spider-Man #50 was the first Spidey comic I bought, and I just thought that number meant a book was a success.It meant something to me anyhow. So that was my goal. I got a little push-back from higher-ups at DC, though our sales were decent, mid-level, about 40 thousand copies a month. I got a contract for 12 issues, and planned out a story that raised the stakes for Billy Batson, putting him into the hospital after a car accident when Freddie Freeman gets his driver’s license. I started the Black Adam story thread that would allow him to become a Namor, or Dr Doom -like character, who would have a sort of diplomatic immunity, but I needed to resolve his murder charges for killing the Batsons. Geoff Johns continued that idea in JSA a few years later, which I was happy to see.

I wrote and drew the first couple of Shazams, issues 42, 43, and while sales bumped up a few thousand copies, DC saw it as a losing effort, and started asking if I could wrap the storyline up by issue #46.

I was really bummed, and I asked if I could have until issue #50, to fulfill my little goal. They said no, wrap it up earlier. I was going to get 48 issues, but one issue had to tie into DC One Million, showing future Shazam. So I wrapped my storyline in issue #47, which was kind of #48 if you count the One Million issue. I wrote, drew and colored the last one myself.

Jerry also noted that he "had planned for King Kull to take over the Rock of Eternity in the issue #50 storyline, but it never got to happen."

It's a real shame that it never happened, Jerry, it sounded like it would have been a great story! Power of Shazam! was such a good series.

Thanks for the question, Gage, and thanks for the great information!

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

1. Was An Episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation Never Filmed Because it Featured Two Gay Crew Members on the Enterprise?

2. Was ABC’s 1960 Election Day Coverage So Bad That Their Most Famous Newsman Quit the Network?

3. Were Tater Tots Invented As a Way to Deal With Factory Waste?

4. Did Pat Boone’s Recording of “Tutti Frutti” Result in the Song Being “Sanitized”?

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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