[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Directed By: Joaquim Dos Santos
Written By: Michael Jelenic, Steve Niles, Greg Weisman, Joe R. Landsdale
Starring: George Newbern, Jerry O’Connell, Ach Callison, Arnold Vosloo, James Garner, Gary Cole, Alyssa Milano, Rob Paulsen, Neal McDonough, Malcolm McDowell, Grey DeLisle, Thomas Jane, Linda Hamilton, Michelle Trachtenberg
Original Release Date: November 9, 2010
Chosen by the wizard, Shazam to be the world’s protector, young Billy Batson becomes the World’s Mightiest Mortal. Battling alongside Superman against the nefarious Black Adam, Billy quickly discovers the challenge that all Superheroes ultimately face – is he fighting for justice? – in this brand-new extra length short. Four more DC Comics Super Heroes – Jonah Hex, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and the Spectre – face challenges of their own in this All-New Collection.
In 2010, DC started adding an original short as a bonus feature with each animated movie release. They gave this series of shorts a name, DC Showcase, named after the comic book in which a number of classic DC Silver Age heroes debuted. Unfortunately, this feature didn’t last long – only three shorts. However, they later decided to release them in a collection, along with a new short featuring Superman and Captain Marvel.
The feature was a great idea in that it allowed DC to feature characters beyond the ones that appeared in the full movies, which were mostly Superman, Batman, and Justice League features. It could be used to introduce viewers to more DC characters. I should point out that the Green Arrow short predates the Arrow TV series.
All of the shorts are extended versions of the original releases, and the Superman/Shazam! story was brand new, so this is definitely worth the purchase, even if you do own all the original releases.
I particularly like the Spectre short. It is presented in the style of a seventies or eighties cop show, even down to the fashions, hairstyles, and soundtrack. I also like the references to classic horror movies, especially The Exorcist and Christine. The specific references add to the feel of that era without sacrificing any of the horror.
Also, I am pleased that Captain Marvel is referred to as his own name in his team-up with Superman. Of course, this release pre-dates DC’s decision to change the character’s name to Shazam! Hopefully the current rumours about DC returning the Big Red Cheese to his original name will turn out to be true.
Also, the Showcase intro on each short, showing a comic shop which moves towards a spinner rack containing the current hero’s book, is a bit amusing. I doubt any real life comic shop would stock only DC titles, and I can guarantee you that no shop would put valuable golden and silver age books on the shelves loose instead of properly being bagged and boarded. But it makes a fun and exciting image to get you in the mood for the story it precedes.
The marketing on this release tends to make this look like less of a collection, and rather a Superman/Shazam! feature with some shorts added as bonus features. It seems to be most commonly referred to as “Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam” than as the “DC Showcase Original Shorts Collection” – even DC’s web site and the disc cover itself give this impression.
Now, I think this is a great short, and it’s undoubtedly the star of the collection, but this seems to downplay the other shorts too much. They definitely deserve to have a share of the spotlight along with the new short. They could have some more detail about them or at least the characters shown on the box art.
This collection is a mixed bag in that it contains a wide variety of stories: superhero, western, and horror, but they are uniformly well written and acted. Each seems an issue of a DC comic come to life, and also provides a great sample of the wider DC Universe to new viewers.