Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Golden Bookshelf:

Shazam from the 40s to the 70s

In this week’s column, writer Rob Salkowitz reviews a captivating compendium of Captain Marvel comics from days of yore.

Welcome to the Golden Bookshelf!

As a child of the seventies, my first inkling that comics had a history and a beginning was in the pages of The Great Comic-Book Heroes, by Jules Feiffer. For the first time, stories from the 1930s and 1940s were collected between hard-covers and printed on heavy white paper. I even got my copy at the library, where they kept the Real Books! From that great collection, and Feiffer’s rapturous introductory essay, not only was a lifelong love of Golden Age comics born, but also a delight in reading comics as actual books that you could put on the shelf, rather than flimsy pamphlets that you bagged, boarded and tucked away in a box.

Fortunately, since the early 1970s, the much-loved stories and art from the Golden Age have been available to new generations of readers in affordable reprint editions, ranging from some of the early self-published efforts of fans and scholars to the deluxe, full-color DC Archive Editions. These books allow readers to experience the innocence, energy, and history of the Golden Age without risking damage to fragile (and valuable!) originals. They also often provide editorial insights along with superior color and paper quality. Some of the collections have even themselves become collectable! The Golden Bookshelf is ComicBase’s guide to the world of hardcover and TPB reprint editions, from the latest and greatest to the obscure, hard-to-find treasures from decades past.

Shazam! From the 40s to the 70s

E. Nelson Bridwell, editor
C.C. Beck, Otto Binder, Mac Raboy and others, art and story

Captain Marvel and his family were among the most popular Golden Age superheroes, occasionally surpassing even Superman in total sales. A lawsuit by DC put Captain Marvel and his publisher, Fawcett, on ice in the early 1950s, but DC brought the character back into print in Shazam! in the 1970s. This meaty volume containing mostly stories from the strip’s heyday in the 1940s was released in 1977, perhaps to capitalize on the popularity of the then-current TV series.

Shazam! from the 40s to the 70s showcases the storytelling genius of writer Otto Binder and artist C.C. Beck, as well as a few Captain Marvel, Jr. stories drawn by the great Mac Raboy, one of the finest draftsmen of the 1940s. The origin of Captain Marvel, from Whiz Comics #2 (1940) is reprinted in full color. Thereafter, in black and white, we are treated to the origins of Captain Marvel, Jr. and Mary Marvel, the introduction of memorable villains Mr. Mind, King Kull, Black Adam and Captain Nazi (all of whom were subsequently incorporated into mainstream DC continuity), several Marvel Family team-ups, and a story that many people consider one of the highlights of the entire Golden Age, “Captain Marvel Battles the Plot Against the Universe” from 1948. A few perfunctory entries from the sub-par 1970s series are tacked on at the back.

DC Comics editor and historian E. Nelson Bridwell wrote the introduction and provides a bibliography of Marvel Family appearances current through 1977. A companion to the earlier Superman from the 30s to the 70s and Batman from the 30s to the 70s collections that DC released in 1971, Shazam! is by far the most difficult of the three to find. It is known to exist only in hardcover with color dust-jacket. Copies in solid condition often fetch $100 or more.

Shazam! From the 40s to the 70s

Harmony Books, NY (a division of Crown Books)
©DC Comics

Publication Year: 1977
Cover Price: $10.00
ISBN #0-517-531275

Hardcover w/dust jacket, 352 p.
b/w with color tip-ins

Rob Salkowitz is a Seattle-based writer and authority on all manner of aging newsprint. You can e-mail your comments and queries to Rob at Use "ComicBase" as the subject line.

The Golden Bookshelf Archives