Happy September to you all and thanks for stopping bye Comical-Musings. There are a lot of people who believe that kids are a lost audience for comic books. The fan boys that used to buy them are now fan men and require adult themes to continue their purchasing habits. Nudity, profanity, and violence have been permeating mainstream comic books and therefore, maybe it isn’t a safe place for kids. Maybe the industry that was formed by and built for children is no longer a safe haven for their creativity to flourish. However, there are some creators that don’t share those feelings. Jeff Smith is one of those creators.
Shazam! Monster Society of Evil is a re-telling of a silver age Shazam story, but with Jeff at the helm. We get a somewhat juvenile plot with funny dialogue, crazy concepts, and wonderful art. Jeff Smith has a simple style to the way that he draws that is very accessible cartooning. Take Billy Batson for instance:
He looks like at least three kids I know. Characterized and drawn as an everyman, which is how it should be so that it makes it all the more impressive when by uttering the magic word “Shazam!” Billy is transformed into the mighty hero of the same name…and Jeff Smith can certainly draw an impressive Shazam!
Shazam has always been a cool character to me for a couple of reasons. The first is that he is a little kid who shares bodies and powers with a righteous force of nature. Shazam is REALLY strong and that is a lot of power to entrust to a kid, but Billy is pure in motivation and deed. The second is that since he is magical, he can beat up Superman and it has happened before. My favorite moment of the Superman/Batman series was a battle that featured the two titular characters fighting Shazam and Hawkman. Ed McGuinness made it rain art magic on the pages of issue number four. Here is the animated version of what transpired:
‘Nough said. The third reason is that I always used to use his Heroclix character in the briefly popular tabletop game. Hypersonic speed was a premium power and Shazam was my man. I have many personal memories of kind of winning (I rarely outright win anything) and the only way that it was possible was Shazam. So needless to say, Shazam and myself, we have a history together.
When I began to read The Monster Society of Evil, I admit that although it sounds as if I was slanted positively towards it, it was different altogether. I had heard VERY bad things about this series. The folks that were in my comics social circle didn’t last past issue two. I found it to be quite the opposite.
I really enjoyed the light adventure that The Monster Society of Evil provided. It was like eating cheez-its, very light and fun reading with a side of cute for good measure. There was no serious drama and unlike many mainstream comic books the fact that Billy Batson is homeless is even handled lightly. The monsters were more goofy than terrifying. The hero was pure and righteous. The visuals are a little on the childish side of things, but they are done beautifully in an eye-catching way that is appealing to all ages. As I read this comic, I felt that it would make a successful animated property in the popular Bruce Timm, Warner Brothers franchise. Chris Arrant, from Ifanboy.com was just publishing an article at the time that I was writing this one about the exact same thing which you can read here.
If you sit down expecting a four course meal when reading Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil, you will go away a little bit hungry. It’s more of an amuse bouche. The light-hearted fun and non-chalant way that everything is handled brings you back to the golden days of comics where nobody died, bad guys got spanked by Superman, and the world was ultimately a good place. It was well worth the read if light entertainment is what you are looking for. You can purchase the series that we discussed in a deluxe hardcover edition on Instocktrades for only $18.59.
~ Scott Deaux ~