The other day at the BoroughCon offices (also known as the law offices of Port and Sava), George Sava was showing Preeti Dawane the opening sequence of the 1970s children’s show “Captain Marvel.” With the snarkiness of someone born in the 1980s Preeti let George know just how cheesy the show looked. Undeterred, George told her that as a kid, he thought being able to yell “Shazam” and turn into an adult superhero was cool. How many six-year-olds ran around with a towel tied around their neck yelling “Shazam”? Probably quite a few. In fact, before DC sued Captain Marvel out of publication in the 1950s, the Big Red Cheese regularly outsold Superman.
When comics were in their childhood, children were the main consumers of it. So, it made sense for Fawcett Comics to have a child magically transform into an adult superhero. After all, comics represent the ultimate wish fulfillment.
However, it is now 77 years since Superman burst onto the scene and comic producers and readers are graying. Wish fulfillment remains, but the wishes have changed.
Enter Mark Waid and Tom Peyer with Captain Kid, published by Aftershock Comics. Waid, a youthful 54 (born the same year as me) is one of the great figures in modern comics. He has done it all: Superman, Batman, Flash, Justice League, Archie, Captain America, Deadpool, X-Men and Spider-Man, to name just a few. Peyer has had just as prolific career in his 62 years, to include working on Superman, Spider-Man, the Punisher and the Simpsons.
These two wise titans are just the men to bring Captain Kid to life. The story opens with Chris celebrating his 45th birthday at his favorite watering hole. Arthritic, short of breath and barely hanging onto his job at a dying newspaper, Chris has reached the midway point in his life. With only 4 wishes, he almost fails to blow out the candle: another year of hanging out in the bar, the health of his father, keeping his job, and “tell me what to do.” As bartender Maya notes: “He’s falling apart.”
Chris, however, has a secret. Recently, he found that he could transform himself into a teenaged superhero. Boys wish to become men, and men wish to become boys.
And then things get complicated. He meets a super-powered woman, Helea, who dresses and acts like it’s the 1980s. She asks him “Why do you waste precious time in that deteriorating body, when there’s a better one?” Based upon the set up, it looks like this will be the central question Chris must confront. He can turn the clock back, physically, but will he want to do it permanently?
This is a question Chris can’t answer, except that maybe with all the problems and disappointments, it still is his life. People and situations tie us to our present, it makes it difficult to move forward, but by the same token, it would also make it difficult to move back. As the teenaged Captain Kid, Chris would have to give up his life, and at least now he’s not ready to do so.
Helea informs Chris that there is a conspiracy called the Mysterious Serpent which consists of “a thousand twisted souls that would dominate billions.” The clock is running out and they only have until 1986 to stop them. Chris smiles because it’s 2016 and he’s convinced Helea is a nutcase.
Waid and Peyer hit all the comic book hero check blocks in this fun introduction to Chris, a hero for us middle-aged guys. These two veterans are clearly aware that Captain Kid could devolve into a one-joke comic and are careful to hit action, humor and bittersweet drama in the proper combinations to avoid that pitfall. They have produced a fun and witty twist on Captain Marvel, and I’m sure that this title will fly.