40 years ago, DC Comics launched Shazam!, and welcomed the former Fawcett Comics icon, Captain Marvel, whom they had put out of commission some years earlier with a lawsuit alleging that Fawcett had infringed on DC's copyrights for Superman. Of course, Superman and Captain Marvel would meet a few times before the decade was over, and Shazam! ended its run after 5 years, right around the same time its TV spinoff for CBS ended. Since that time, DC has tinkered with the classic tale of Billy Batson, boy newsreader, and "The Big Red Cheese", but not to the extremes that they have now, in a serial running in the back pages of the current Justice League series.
Geoff Johns' plot carries over a concept introduced in last year's Flashpoint "event", in that Batson spent some time in foster homes before his fateful visit to a subway station and destiny. Now, I cannot say for sure that Billy will still take that walk into the subway terminal, but where I have a problem is with the attitude Johns has given the lad. Belligerent, self-centered, mean-spirited. Kind of the opposite of the Billy we've known for years. The foster home where Billy was placed in the beginning of the story, as I've discovered, has the same group of kids that appeared in Flashpoint, and they happen to be a diverse group, including an African-American girl who has an immediate crush on Billy, only to be sent running in tears when Billy lashes out at her.
I get what Johns is trying to accomplish here, putting some meat behind the original tale, and giving Billy some character depth, but the angry young man attitude doesn't fit Billy, and never really has. The other mistake is titling the serial, "The Curse of Shazam!". Curse? Somehow, I doubt that very seriously.
There is an old expression more commonly associated with Spider-Man: "With great power comes great responsibility". Billy Batson will learn that lesson before this story is over, but the radical reboot of the Captain Marvel/Shazam! mythos is just too much for me to have to deal with. There is another old expression I'd like to apply here. If it isn't broken, don't fix it. In this writer's opinion, Captain Marvel wasn't broken, from a creative standpoint, and the "Marvel Family" is meant to be just Billy, his sister Mary, and their friend, disabled newsboy Freddy Freeman. Why can't they just leave it that way? Again, I get the need for cultural diversity in the 21st century, but why mess with an icon?