ACW #624 – Shazam!

Action Comics Weekly #624 (Shazam!)
“My Week in Valhalla, Chapter 2”
Writers – Roy & Dann Thomas
Pencils – Rick Stasi
Inks – Rick Magyar
Letters – Jean Simek
Colors – Nansi Hoolahan
Editor – Mike Gold

So, last night I found myself sitting in front of the television. Outside of a few shows (usually the same ones I’ve seen dozens of times), I don’t watch a whole lot these days… but, last night I figured I might as well check out some of the streaming services we pay for every month.

Well, I stumbled into Amazon Prime, and was shocked (bamboozled, even) to learn that they have… Supermarket Sweep!  I was floored.  Couldn’t imagine A) Why a streaming service would carry that show? and B) Who in their right mind would watch it?  Well… for the answer to that second question, look no further than your humble host.

Suddenly, I was transported back to the dawning of the 1990’s.  I thought about how much fun this show was… ya know, during the three or so minutes people are actually “racing down the aisles” and not solving word jumbles to see if a mass of letters actually says NABISCO or TRISCUIT.  Then, ho boy… the host.  David friggin’ Ruprecht comes charging to the front of the “store”…

Who in the heck dressed this guy?  I mean… uh… part of me really wants that sweater, and would probably wear it unironically… but, holy smokes… if we zoomed in on that pattern, it’d be like the opening to Saved by the Bell.  Ya know, the more I look at it… the more I want it.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one who feels that way…

David Ruprecht’s sweater collection is coveted by many an otherwise normal individual.  Anyhoo, I sat through an entire episode, and… as always, the team who had earned the most “sweep seconds” during the boring question-and-answer segments won the game.  They even won the $5,000 grand prize and celebrated with all of the folks they’d beaten during the end-credits… which included…

Ed… Flesh?  Well, at least now we know who skinned all the clowns it took to make Ruprecht’s sweater!

I decided to stick it out, and check out a second episode… not so much for the actual “Sweep” action… but, more to see what ol’ David was wearing.  Lemme tell ya, homeboi didn’t disappoint:

Yikes… and Gadzooks… so that’s what happened to Great-Nana’s tablecloth!  I’m gonna try and watch more Supermarket Sweep in the next few weeks… and so, you might see a “David Ruprecht Fashion Watch” section show up here every now and again.  Heck, we might even be able to include the contestants (warning: you might want to dim your screens for this).

Well, thanks for coming everybod… err… oh yeah!  Wait a minute!  We’re here to talk about Captain Marvel today, ain’t we?  Well… let’s get right to it!

We open with Billy Batson arriving at… sigh… Aryan Acres.  I probably don’t need to explain the “gimmick” of this campground, but the jist of the story is: Billy has taken the place of Duane McCullers, the brother of that girl who chucked the lamp through the television set last week… and the son of the fella who Captain Marvel accidentally “killed”.  Anyhoo, our boy is greeted by a motley crew of Neo-Nazis and some Neo-Nazi-hopefuls.  I mean, this one kid is wearing an “Adolf Hitler European Tour” t-shirt.  Ay yai yai.

The Neos immediately slip into their archetypal roles… we’ve got an overbearing “camp counselor”, a just-following-orders “youth leader”, a bully, and a kid who we can immediately tell has a good heart… and is only there because he has to be.  The good-hearted kid, who we’ll call Sam… because that’s his name, escorts Billy to their cabin.  Along the way, they pass the “Main Building”… and find out that it’s completely off-limits to campers.

Arriving at their cabin, Billy takes in the sights of some pretty over-the-top propaganda posters they’ve got hanging up.  Sam goes on and on talking about all the fun they’ll have… but our boy is lost in thought, reflecting on the actual purpose of his “vacation”.

We get a page of training montage, where Billy learns to fire a gun (at pictures of prominent Jewish and Black leaders, naturally), he sits in on sermons about the coming “White Revolt”.  He also wrestles, and learns how to stab a dummy?  Okay.  Anyhoo, we jump all the way to the final night of camp, and Billy-as-Duane checks in with his bunk-mate, Sam… who is really struggling with some second-thoughts.  Sam tells him he’s not buying all of the racist ideology being spouted… and he’s got a sneaking suspicion that “Duane” feels the same way.  Billy stammers for a moment, nearly blowing his cover, before affirming that… he’s all-in on the teachings of Aryan Acres.

We learn that something big is gonna be going down in San Francisco in the next few days… to which “Duane” wonders aloud how they’re going to get around the “Captain Marvel Problem”.  Sam reveals that he’d heard through the grapevine that the Sons of Valhalla have thought of that… and are currently working on something to that effect in the main building.  That night, Billy sneaks out of his cabin and climbs atop the main building… which, conveniently has a pretty big skylight.  Boy, I hope he doesn’t accidentally fall through!

He (and we) looks on as Steve Rogers is injected with a Super-Soldier Ser… err, well… some blonde dude is injected with something.  Suddenly, this 98 lb. weakling explodes into a mass of muscle!  An aura around him reads “Hero of the Reich”… okay, okay… no it doesn’t.

Just then… Billy, sigh, falls through the skylight… and right into the arms of the brand-new… sigh… “Captain Nazi”.

Here’s the thing about this story.  It’s over-the-top to the point where I can’t take it seriously… but it’s not so over-the-top that I can start to find it funny.  Know what I mean?

I feel like this is all supposed to be taken “straight”… as though there’d actually be a campground called “Aryan Acres” with anti-Semitic and anti-Black sentiment on their banner.  Maybe I’m just naive… but this seems a little too outrageous.  You’d think that maybe this place might be raided by the authorities, no?  Especially considering one of the “Sons of Valhalla” had a widely-publicized (and fatal) run-in with Captain Marvel.

The assortment of characters we meet here are your standard fare.  Slipping immediately into archetypes, we’ll never have to question their motivations… they just are “what they are”… with nil in the way of subtlety.  I mean, from the moment we meet Sam, we can tell he’s going to wind up being one of two things… an ally, or a victim.

The Captain Nazi reveal… well, it works… the original Captain Nazi was a Captain Marvel villain, so why not?  If we look at the DC Wikia for this fella, it looks like this take on him was a one-and-done for this Showcase story… which is (for some reason) relegated as having taken place on Earth-85.  Ya see, Earth-85 is numbered as such because that’s the year Crisis on Infinite Earths happened… and it’s kind of a repository for all of those “problematic” post-Crisis debuts that DC eventually decided didn’t really fit.  So, like a lot of Hawkman stuff… also, the Milligan/Bachalo Shade the Changing Man… that Catwoman story we covered a few months back, and, the Roy/Dann Thomas Shazam!.  Here’s a snip of their list:

So, yeah… this was “something”.  Still not digging it all that much.  I feel it’s walking the line between “straight” and “satire” just a bit too well, if that makes any sense.  As it won’t commit to being either, it sorta fails at both.  Ya follow?

I’ll leave you today with that Billy Batson Training Montage:

Tomorrow: Tony’s Story

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