Shazam!

Tagged: TV

US juvenile tv series (1974-1976). Filmation Associates for CBS television. Directors included Hollingsworth Morse, Chuck Menville, Henry J Lange Jr and Robert Chenault. Writers included character creator C C Beck, Donald F Glut, Marianne Means and Olga Simms. Cast includes Jackson Bostwick, John Davey, Michael Gray and Les Tremayne. 28 30-minute episodes. Colour.

In this live-action series Billy Batson (Gray) is a teenager with the ability to become Captain Marvel (Bostwick, later Davey) by exclaiming SHAZAM! As in the Comics original, this power is granted by the Immortals: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Apollo and Mercury. Batson is guided and taught by Mentor (Tremayne), possibly a former possessor of the powers. They travel about the US in a Winnebago mobile camping van, helping young people and righting wrongs. Marvel's abilities are similar to Superman's – almost unlimited physical strength, invulnerability, ability to fly, and so on – though with supernatural rather than an sf rationale. Thanks to a current campaign against violence on American Television, he faces no superpowered opponents, and generally defeats his enemies with a minimum of physical violence. When Bostwick left the series after episode 17, reportedly over a pay dispute, he was replaced by Davey as Captain Marvel.

Special effects were poor since the budget was low, perhaps another reason why Marvel encountered no costumed Villains; much stock footage was used. Nevertheless the series was popular, and is said to have convinced DC Comics to go ahead with the first Christopher Reeve Superman film, Superman (1978). Shazam! was a companion to Isis (1975-1976; vt The Secrets of Isis); the two protagonists crossed over several times from one series to the other. [GFi]

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