More DCNU news: Watchmen prequels, Captain Marvel now known as “Shazam”

DC announced this week some more news related to the continuing linewide reboot, which is still having sales success: all the top 10 selling comics for January were DC titles, including Superman and Aquaman… yep, the Sea King outsold the entire Marvel line of books. Anyway, the news items include: a series of “Watchmen” prequels; and Captain Marvel’s being renamed “Shazam.”

For the former, DC for some reason thinks there’s a market for a series of books about the various characters/events that lead up to the classic “Watchmen” story. While prequels are popular these days, the writers on board are quite reputable (Len Wein, Darwyn Cooke, etc.), and “Watchmen” is a perennially selling graphic novel, I’m not convinced going back to the “well” again will work out (ignoring Alan Moore, who’s long disowned DC, and vice versa). I suspect it’ll meet the fate of “The Kingdom,” the various prequels made for seminal 90s storyline “Kingdom Come”: a few that were OK, but mostly forgettable, while the original stays the same as always. That, and since the Watchmen characters were based on the Charlton Comics line of superheroes (who DC now owns), I’d think a “world-building” effort would be more productive being used on the Blue Beetle, etc. An article by Corrina Lawson sums up all this nicely. Still, if even Forbes (or a blogger for Forbes, anyway) finds this a bad idea, good luck with going the “Star Wars prequel” route, DC.

As for the Captain Marvel renaming, the reasoning seems driven by corporate reasons more than storytelling ones: Marvel’s had the trademark to their own “Captain Marvel” for decades, thus any DC efforts using the “real” Cap are usually marketed under the name “Shazam!” Despite that this seems to have worked well enough for years (various “Shazam” comic series, the 70s TV show, etc.), DC’s apparently decided that they’d rather have the character’s name fit the marketing name, and thus he’ll be renamed “Shazam” as of his upcoming backup series, “Curse of Shazam!” (“Curse”?!).

For me, he’ll always be Captain Marvel; “Shazam” is the name of the wizard that grants Billy Batson his ability to become Cap (by saying the magic word, “Shazam”). There’s also the oddity that they’re giving him Captain Marvel Junior’s problem: that he can’t tell anyone his own name, since that’s his magic word. Speaking of Junior (and Mary), what about their names? Will they be “Mary Shazam” and “Shazam Junior?” Would Uncle Marvel also be “Uncle Shazam” (on the remote chance he shows up, which given the DCNU’s tone I doubt)? As for “the public thinks they’re named Shazam,” maybe some of them think that, but Billy’s always been called “Captain Marvel” in-story in his modern media appearances. Also, despite owning the trademark, Marvel’s own Captain Marvel isn’t as familiar to the general public. It also feels like the same “tail wagging the dog” mentality that led to Aquaman’s current reboot incorporating his “what a loser” labeling from popular culture (while I guess it didn’t hurt Aquaman’s sales any, it still feels off putting to me…).

Then again, I’m not sure if any of this matters, since (in my opinion) DC is mainly concerned about Black Adam out of the old Fawcett Comics characters. As an “evil Superman who’s sometimes an anti-hero,” Adam probably is more appealing to DC than the Marvel Family itself (or other Marvel Family villains like Dr. Sivana and Mister Mind), and fits in with some of their grimmer storytelling (such as “Infinite Crisis”). (Also a reason I figure the Marvels aren’t on their own Earth in this new reboot, despite that Superman being in the same reality is one problem with DC’s treatment of the Marvels…) Thus, as long as Adam is readily available, I figure Billy and company could be named “the Osmonds” for all DC cares.

Still, outside of the mainstream DC(N)U, the Marvels have been treated much better: guest appearances in “Justice League Unlimited” and “Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” plus their own Johnny DC title for several years, “Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam” (and a “Monster Society of Evil” miniseries).

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