The Power of Shazam! is a 1994 hardcover graphic novel, written and painted by Jerry Ordway for DC Comics. The 96-page story, depicting the revamped origins of former Fawcett Comics superhero Captain Marvel, was followed by an ongoing series, also titled The Power of Shazam!, which ran from 1995 to 1999.
The graphic novel
After a previous retcon by Roy Thomas and Tom Mandrake in 1987 with the Shazam! The New Beginning miniseries, Captain Marvel was again given a revised origin in the 1994 graphic novel The Power of Shazam!. Captain Marvel's origin would also be retold in in Jeff Smith's Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil limited series in 2007, though this origin takes place outside of DC continuity.
As The Power of Shazam! graphic novel opens, ten-year-old Billy Batson's parents, both archeologists, are working in Egypt, excavating the tomb of Ramses II with their associate Theo Adam. Murdering the elder Batsons, Adam also kidnaps their young daughter Mary and steals a scarab necklace once attached to one of the sarcophagi in the tomb. Billy had been left behind at home in Fawcett City because of poor school grades. As in the Fawcett Comics origin story from Whiz Comics #2 (1940), Billy is abandoned by his cruel uncle Ebenezer, and becomes a paperboy to earn a living. One night, Billy meets a dark-clothed stranger outside of a subway tunnel, and follows the stranger onto a magic subway car. The subway car leads Billy to the realm of the Wizard Shazam, who assigns the boy as his successor. By speaking Shazam's name, Billy is struck by a bolt of magic lightning and transformed into Captain Marvel, an adult superhero.
As Captain Marvel, Billy thwarts a plan by Theo Adam and his employer, the rich tycoon Dr. Sivana, to destroy the WHIZ radio building and silence a witness to Adam's murders. Adam's encounters with Marvel, who is the "spitting image of C.C. Batson", along with the clues from the expedition, lead him to realize he is the reincarnation of Teth-Adam, the original heir to the power of Shazam. Upon crossing the Wizard, Teth-Adam was killed and his powers drawn into a scarab, the very same scarab that Adam stole from the tomb after killing the Batsons. Taking the scarab from Sivana's trophy room, Adam says the Wizard's name and is struck by magic lightning, becoming Black Adam.
Adam and Captain Marvel battle each other on the grounds of the Sivana-funded Fawcett World Fair, with Marvel winning the battle by snatching Adam's scarab from him. Marvel takes Adam to the Wizard, who takes Adam's voice and wipes his memory. Billy later learns that the stranger who led Billy to the Wizard was the spirit of his father, and that his sister Mary is still alive. Billy promises, as Captain Marvel, to fight injustice and evil, and also to find his missing sister. Meanwhile, Sivana has lost all of his money and possessions due to the destruction of his properties by Marvel and Adam, and swears revenge on the Captain.
Ordway's graphic novel was a success, winning the Comics Buyer's Guide Fan Award for Favorite Original Graphic Album of 1994, and led to the publication of an ongoing Power of Shazam! series. The series, which began publication in March 1995, reintroduced many of the characters from Fawcett Comics into current DC continuity, including Mary Bromfield/Mary Marvel, Freddy Freeman/Captain Marvel, Jr., Beautia Sivana, Mister Tawky Tawny, Bulletman, Minute-Man, Spy Smasher, Ibis and Taia, and even Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. Villains reincarnated in the series included Ibac, Mister Mind, Mister Atom, Aunt Minerva, and Blaze and Satanus from the Superman titles, who were retconned as the wizard Shazam's illegitimate children.
Mary Marvel was introduced as an adult instead of in her traditional teenage form, and insisted upon sharing the name of "Captain Marvel" with her brother. Captain Marvel, Jr., resenting being called "Junior" all of the time and needing a name he could say without calling down the magic lightning (his magic word being "Captain Marvel"), renamed himself "CM3". Jerry Ordway wrote all of the stories for the series and one annual, and provided painted covers in the style of the graphic novel as well. Peter Krause, Mike Manley, Dick Giordano, and Ordway himself served as the series' main artists.
While the series received good reviews and featured guest artwork from comic book icons such as Curt Swan and Gil Kane, sales for the Golden-Age inspired series slowed as it went on, as darker, more intense comics had become more popular by the 1990s than the Marvel Family's more light-hearted adventures. The book was cancelled with issue number 47 in March 1999 (Issue #1,000,000 was published in November 1998 as part of the DC One Million event, giving the series a total of 48 issues published). One annual issue was published in 1996.
In January 2010, Power of Shazam! had a single issue revival (issue #48), (continuing from the Vol. 2 numbering) tying into DC's Blackest Night event. It involved Black Adam's dead protege Osiris being reanimated as a Black Lantern, and battling his killer, the Apokoliptian crocodile man Sobek. Billy and Mary Batson, powerless after the events of Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #25, appear briefly in the issue.
The Power of Shazam! #33 (Dec. 1997) was among the selected stories reprinted in the 2008 trade paperback Shazam! The Greatest Stories Ever Told, highlighting some of the best Captain Marvel tales published.
- The Power of Shazam! graphic novel won the Comics Buyer's Guide Fan Award for Favorite Original Graphic Album of 1994.
- The 1,000,000 issue of The Power of Shazam! was a part of the DC One Million storyline, which was a top votegetter for the Comics Buyer's Guide Fan Award for Favorite Story for 1999.