By Hervé St-Louis
August 28, 2003 - 13:19
DC Direct Black Adam castoff of Captain Marvel was one of the few figures liked, while the original cast continues to be hated by to this day. DC Direct released the first Captain Marvel action figure as a two pack with a Billy Batson action figure with limited articulation. This set continues to gather dust in many stores, while the new Black Adam repaint and the improved Captain Marvel fare much better.
Captain Marvel and Black Adam are both recipient of the power of Shazam, which was granted to them by the magician named Shazam. Black Adam was Shazam's representative in ancient Egypt. Captain Marvel is the current representative. Both champions are endowed with powers taken from several Egyptian, Greek and Roman gods. When they say the word "Shazam", they are granted their powers.
Captain Marvel is a very popular hero whose main accomplishment was selling more comic books than Superman during the 1940s and 1950s. This led DC Comics to sue the publishers of Captain Marvel using a copyright infringement argument. DC Comics argued that the Captain was a copy from Superman. What they had in common was that they were both black-haired strong man based on the same concept.
That concept, the strong super human that stands above humanity was handled differently. Superman was an outsider from another world. Captain Marvel, however, was a normal human boy, Billy Batson, granted a wish that could transform him into a strong adult. Nevertheless, Captain Marvel's publishers, Fawcett, settled out of court and gave away their rights to the character to DC Comics.
The character languished for decades in nowhere land DC Comics until the Crisis, when he was fully reinstated in the regular universe, with the rest of his cast and other Fawcett characters bought by DC Comics. Black Adam was one of them. He was an early nemesis of the Captain. His story has no changed much. He was an old champion punished by Shazam because of his rogue attitude.
Black Adam the Rogue is again at the center of everybody attention as a frequent member and rogue of the Justice Society of America where Captain Marvel also joined. There has been Captain Marvel action figures in the past, including the first version which both Black Adam and the new figure are based on. However, I do not recall there ever being Black Adam action figures.
Black Adam and Captain Marvel's likeness is based on their modern appearances. Gone is the cartoony facial features used in the previous DC Direct Captain Marvel figure. Instead we have comic book realistic faces. In the case of Black Adam, his comic book costume is skin tight spandex. He does not wear a shirt like Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel's sash is not like the first version. It lacks the hanging strip.
The main reason the first version of this mould did badly was the legs of the characters. They are thin and cartoony. The reason the repaints fared better, is because the head's sculpts were drastically improved. Black Adam as a stunning face that captures both the inner villainy of the character and his nobility. Captain Marvel's head is boyish. Unlike the head of the first release, he doesn't look down.
The characters' chest are strong and large. Their arms are thick and blocky. Their fists are closed. The lightning logo on the characters' chest are engraved. These figures would be acceptable to most collectors, if they weren't ruined by their spaghetti legs.
The paint job on the figures is excellent. There are no smudges and the small details, like the stitch marks on the character's boots are painted properly. The character's face have a toning in their lips and wrinkles. The only detail the designers overlooked was that they did not paint the shirt button on Black Adam. The areas of the figures covered with paint are also polished.
The character's scale is perfect. They are six-inches tall. They will fit any arrangements. They look good next to Alan Scott, Jay Garrick and other JSA figures. They also look good next to modern and Silver Age Justice League figures like the modern Superman, the Silver Age Batman, Blue Beetle and Guy Gardner. They are not the highest figures, especially with DC Direct continuing increase of size on new figures.
Black Adam and Captain Marvel are very stable, even if their legs are thin. Their sole are flat and the distance between their feet increases their balance. If you have any problem with them, it is easy to adjust their knees and hips. Although they stand very well, I'd suggest taking them away from unstable figures such as Starfire or the modern Superman. A rarity With DC Direct are the double peg holes in the soles.
Each figure has nine points of articulations at the neck, the shoulders, the elbows, the hips and the knees. They do not have ball jointed-shoulders. They would have benefited from writs and waist articulations.
I like the plastic used on Black Adam and Captain Marvel. It is not the usual rubbery stock that DC Direct uses on other figures. This type of plastic is more resistant and will not bend during the summer heat waves.
Black Adam comes with the scarab necklace linked with his powers and where he was trapped for thousands of years. It is beautifully detailed and coloured. Captain Marvel comes with a hard plastic cape that fits his left shoulder loosely.
The figures come in blister packs with a lightning theme behind them.
The figures go for the usual single pack DC Direct figure. If you want a Captain Marvel figure, it is cheaper to buy this one, rather than the expensive two pack with the Billy Batson figure. It's a good thing that DC Direct did not release Captain Marvel and Black Adam a two pack. Of course, the price of DC Direct figures is high, compared to the price of other figures. Price will vary since DC Direct has no set rate.
These guys are widely available. Although popular with core fans and JSA collectors, other collectors are weary of the figures' legs. Captain Marvel is known to several people, even though the Shazam name that's used by DC Comics when marketing the character confuses many people. Black Adam is not as known. Since his sculpt is identical to Captain Marvel, save for his head, many people will not buy him.
Many Captain Marvel fans already had bought the first release and many not be interested in purchasing a repaint of the same character. Fortunately, Captain Marvel can expect two other figures from DC Direct. A new figure based on the Alex Ross design of the character in the comic book series Kingdom Come is coming in the fall. However, that figure is not articulated and it's too large (read fat).
DC Direct is releasing another Captain Marvel action figure in its First Appearance wave. This figure will be based on the original 1940s CC Beck design from the 1940s. From pictures viewed elsewhere, the figure seems decent enough and not too cartoony. It may fit well with other DC Direct figures. There are also several Captain Marvel figures available from Hasbro. There is no word yet on an improved Black Adam.
Update February 6 2005:
Black Adam has sold out from Diamond Comics, the exclusive distributor of this action figure. Justice League figures of Black Adam and Captain Marvel based on Alex Ross' work are coming. A new Captain Marvel figure is included in the Superman/Batman Public Enemy set. The figures are based on Ed McGuinness' art.