Archive for October, 2009

Where does a dream go when you wake?

The DC Comics “Captain Marvel” was always about pre-teen wish fulfilment.  As I understand it, 12ish Billy Batson, on uttering the magic word “Shazam”  would instantly transform into an adult superhero with all the attributes of Superman apart from a Kryptonite allergy.  Known either affectionately or disparagingly depending on your superhero allegiance as the “Big Red Cheese”, Cap was all mum and apple pie and goodness.  While in the 50’s and 60’s Supes and Bats attracted a cheesy co-pantheon of supporting acts (eg: Supergirl, Krypto the Superdog, Streaky the supercat and a caped horse I can’t for the life of me remember the name of and am not inclined to Google),  Cap had a whole Marvel family who transformed in a similar fashion along with some strange pets and hangers-on.  They were all squeaky clean, of course.

Mark Waid put a new spin on Cap in “Kingdom Come” by making him a pawn of the evil Luthor; a grown-up, naive Batson who has grown into the body of the Captain but has been brainwashed to be scared to utter his magic word, and who, when he does, is utterly conflicted.

But the best Captain Marvel Image, I think, is the most adult depiction by Frank Miller in “the Dark Knight Returns” when an ageing Marvel in his attempts to rescue threatened people from collapsing buildings finds himself mortally hurt.  He is urged by a wonderfully Hellenic Wonder Woman to speak his magic word  and become an unhurt Batson. He then reveals that he and Billy “switched places” when the word was spoken, and were not in fact the same person.   Batson, it seems, died long ago but presumably spoke his word as he died so Captain Marvel has continued on alone. “Where did you go?” (when Billy spoke his word),  she asks.

“where’s a wish go? Where’s a dream go when you wake up and can’t remember it?    ….  nowhere.”, he replies.

It’s a poignant scene as he says the word for the last time.

It’s the inspiration for a short story I want to write one day.  Not too many clues, but it has to do with the nature of consciousness.  Watch this space.