Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The God of Thunder Clouts a Kind of Castro

A weak, vulnerable person is transformed by magic lightning into a caped, Herculean hero who can fly.
Um, could you narrow that down a little more? That could be anybody.
In his second adventure (Journey Into Mystery 84, Sept. 1962), the Mighty Thor exploited his built-in Captain Marvel motif by having Dr. Don Blake trapped before a firing squad, unable to reach the walking stick that would change him into the thunder god. This echoed the many times in which Billy Batson, Mary Batson or Freddy Freeman ended up bound and gagged and unable to utter the villain-vanquishing word “Shazam!”
Having fought off an alien invasion in his first outing, the thunder god flexes his considerable muscles against a modern army this time out. The story is full of those multi-panel feats of staggering strength that Jack Kirby was so good at delivering.
The tale continues the commie-bashing featured in Marvel’s brief superhero revival in 1954, but this time the heavy has a heavy resemblance to Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro, who’d only been in power three years. Because DC’s superhero titles usually backed away from real-world politics, Stan Lee instinctively went in the other direction, toward giving Marvel’s characters additional verisimilitude by grounding them in a more recognizable world.

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