Sunday, April 07, 2019

"With One Magic Word" (DC)
DC Comics Presents Annual #3 When: 1984
Why: Roy Thomas, Julius Schwartz, Gil Kane & Joey Cavalieri How: Gil Kane

The Story So Far...
Captain Marvel may've thwarted the wicked designs of Doctor Sivana hundreds of times before -- but this time the mad scientist has a plan to even the playing field!

Years of research have uncovered a way to mesmerize the Wizard Shazam, granting Sivana full license over The Rock of Eternity, and the magics that power Captain Marvel! Thus, he is able to invent a device capable of splitting the mystic lightning that transforms Billy Batson -- siphoning its pantheon of powers for himself!

When the villain threatens to vaporize every major city in the United States unless Captain Marvel faces him -- the trap is sprung! While Captain Marvel unwittingly leaps into action with a brand new set of feeble foibles, his usual sextet of legendary abilities now powers Captain Sivana!!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Captain Marvel 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Dr. Sivana 6 (Genius)
Speed: Captain Marvel 5 (Super-Human)
Stamina: Captain Marvel 6 (Generator)
Agility: Mary Marvel 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Captain Marvel 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Dr. Sivana 4 (Arsenal)
Total: Captain Marvel 30 (Super)

A classic case of super-human brawn against a malevolent mind? Not this time!

Captain Marvel's usual powers have been replaced with some of the most unflattering traits described in myth and legend! He's now burdened with: Solomon's love of luxury, Hercules' bad judgment, Atlas' rebelliousness, Zeus' arrogance, Achilles' wrathfulness, and Mercury's mischievousness. Bad news!

The closest example we have of anything similar is the time Mary Marvel was subverted by the sinister influence of Darkseid and the evil New Gods. This was merely a plot to corrupt her, meaning she was still strong enough to defeat Wonder Woman [Final Crisis #3], and match Supergirl [Final Crisis #6].

In today's battle Captain Marvel has actively been weakened, while Doctor Sivana receives the full benefit of his pantheon's legendary powers: The wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury.

Dr. Thaddeus Bodog Sivana is already a brilliant scientific mind whose acumen was shunned by the science community of his age. He used his incredible inventions to leave the Earth, but returned with a vengeance, developing a particular hatred for "big red cheese" Captain Marvel, and his heroic allies.

We saw Sivana combine magic and science to successfully infiltrate and capture the Marvel Family in Convergence Shazam #1. He wielded a dangerous ray gun against Tawky Tawny, only clearly defeated when the battle with his Monster Society of Evil allies brought the underground lair in on itself.

Captain Marvel emerged triumphant from the rubble in that encounter, but this time it's Sivana will have the strength to escape any such circumstance!

Cap's no stranger to fighting the might that usually empowers him. As a former champion: Black Adam has notoriously used the powers of Shazam for selfish and violent ends. We saw Adam and Marvel come to blows in Hawkman #24, where the tyrannical Adam relied on telepath Brainwave to break the deadlock.

The odds are seemingly stacked against our hero! Sivana has the element of surprise and command of high-level strength and devious brilliance! Still linked to his mighty pantheon, there's hope Captain Marvel might be able to access the virtues that've been stripped of him. If that doesn't happen, it'll take a mighty miracle to stop the self-proclaimed Captain Sivana. Let's see what happened!

The Tape: Captain Marvel Ranking: Captain Marvel (#69)

What Went Down...
Unaware of the events that have already transpired -- Captain Marvel leaps out the Whiz Station broadcast building to confront his threatening arch-nemesis. When he meets the megalomaniacal menace in the skies above Fawcett City, he's introduced to a very unexpected opponent: Captain Sivana!

Unimpressed by the Doctor's new self-appointed title, Captain Marvel stays the course to challenge his foe's show of power head-on!

Captain Sivana is not only willing to accept the challenge, but also more than capable of backing up his boasts! Their fists clash, but it's Sivana who breaks the stalemate, following his blocked two-fisted swing with a stiff jab!

More shocking than Sivana's sudden increase in strength is the pain now aching through Captain Marvel! He wonders if Alas' stamina has begun to fail him, only to have the theory tested with a devastating right hand!

Captain Sivana taunts his foe, swiftly catching up with his hurtling body to deliver a knock-out uppercut! The blow sends Captain Marvel plunging toward the busy streets below as onlookers watch in stunned horror!

Unable to correct his course, Marvel wonders where the speed of Mercury is in his time of need. It soon finds him -- as Sivana uses it to swoop in and prevent his foe's untimely demise! He catches Marvel by the belt with the promise of more punishment to come -- an action witnessed from the street by Mary Batson and Freddy Freeman, aka; Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr!

With his arch-nemesis slung over his shoulder; Captain Sivana sees the Marvel Family duo and sends his hi-tech flying ship on a nosedive toward the populated city. They have no choice but to abandon chase to save the public below!

Meanwhile, Doctor Sivana carries his nemesis on a journey to the one place his friends won't look for him - The Rock of Eternity! Once there, Sivana revels in revealing the unconscious Wizard Shazam and the details of his grand scheme.

Quick to temper with the wrathfulness of Achilles and arrogance of Zeus, Captain Marvel threatens his nemesis - but it's for naught! Sivana effortlessly lifts him off the ground with one hand and takes flight around the rock face!

Spiraling downward they come to The Rock of Eternity's base, where all it takes is a single swipe to carve a hole big enough to imprison a man! Sivana tosses his hapless nemesis in to the makeshift cave -- sending the back of Captain Marvel's head into the rocks with a sickening impact!

Then the villain replaces the rock -- trapping the weakened Marvel inside!

The Hammer...
A convincing win for a dubiously promoted-in-the-field Doctor Sivana -- but by no means the end of the story!

As soon as "Captain Sivana" succeeds in beating and imprisoning the disoriented Captain Marvel -- the Rock of Eternity is set upon by Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr! A Marvel Family melee to be revisited in a future featured fight.

It should be noted, there are several skirmishes throughout the entirety of this action-packed issue! DC Comics Presents Annual #3 is well known for Sivana's theft of Captain Marvel's powers, but it's also one of a handful of crossovers between the then-separate Earth-One and Earth-S. That means a meeting between "Earth's Mightiest Mortal" and "The Man of Steel" Superman!

We've looked at the storied rivalry between Captain Marvel and Superman in a handful of battles taken from: Action Comics Annual #4, Kingdom Come #4, Superman/Batman #4, and Superman #216.

Similarities between the iconic pair -- who were the subject of real-world litigation and countless fan debates -- makes it a great match-up! That said, I've got to admit to feeling some serious fatigue for heroes fighting heroes. It's become so common place it's passé, coupled with a glorification of villains that's contributing to the increasing sense that nothing in comics really matters.

In 1984's DC Comics Presents Annual #3, fans are still treated to a clash between the Power of SHAZAM and Superman. It's just through the more palatable prism of Superman fighting a powered-up Doctor Sivana.

I really enjoy the inventive way the "SHAZAM" acronym is subverted for this story. It's slightly trixy to have the mystic lightning bolt split so easily, but if you give them that one conceit, it's worth it for the effortless mining of classic myth.

We know Captain Marvel draws strength from ancient legends. It makes sense that Sivana would draw from stories that didn't always show the heroes and gods in such positive light -- while taking their real power for himself.

Sometimes it's easy to be dismissive of villains who fulfill a direct reflection and counterpart role to a hero, but this is an example of their value. We get to explore the inevitable fantasy of one hero's power against another, but aren't required to shatter a sense of verisimilitude through clumsy justifications for a misunderstanding, or similar cliché. Better still, subtle differences in a villain's personality offer a slightly new perspective, removing the restraints necessary of hero-on-hero violence. Sivana is already brilliant -- what happens when he adds the wisdom of Solomon and the strength of Hercules to his cruelty?

As I've explored in other recent entries, I prefer a Captain Marvel who remains relatively unchanged by time. As Superman drifts through changing attitudes and styles, it can only be to the benefit of Captain Marvel to hold true to warm, simple values that inform an increasingly unique personality, as time goes on.

As SHAZAM! reaches worldwide release in theatres this week, I find myself drained of enthusiasm for a project that should've been a layup. An underlying mean-spirit, and direction away from things that make its characters unique, belie a defiantly amusing and good-natured DCEU entry. It won't succumb to being completely generic, and in today's super-hero movie slate that's usually enough. It's never-the-less disappointing to see it aim so low.

Fans who haven't read DC Comics Presents Annual #3 may be familiar with its premise thanks to an adaptation for the Batman: Brave and the Bold animated series. I not only think it was a great episode of one of the greatest DC Comics cartoons of all time! I would also suggest their earnest take on Captain Marvel (and Billy Batson) stands as one of the best in recent memory!

If you do want to read today's featured issue in your hands you might have to do some digging. At the time of this writing, collected editions are getting scarce, but you will find the relevant issue collected in the Amazon links embedded here [to the right].

Follow links throughout this post or just dive into the Secret Archive to discover more from the worlds of DC Comics and beyond! Every featured fight is a window to something new! You can also get links to battles inspired by the topics of the day by following Secret Wars on Infinite Earths on Twitter and Facebook! Be sure to hit those share options!

Winner: Doctor Sivana
#339 (+222) Doctor Sivana
#75 (-6) Captain Marvel
#42 (--) Captain Marvel Jr [+1 assist]
#110 (--) Mary Marvel [+1 assist]

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