Plans to reprint the 1940s story Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil has been scrapped due to some issues with the stories content. The cause for concern is most likely the depiction of racial and ethnic stereotypes common to the period.
“After careful consideration, DC announces that the Shazam!: The Monster Society fo Evil Deluxe Edition HC (JUL180783) is cancelled due to concerns over its contents,” DC wrote in an email to retailers. “This title will not be resolicited.”
Newsarama tracked some history of the story, stating the comic has been out of print since the 1980s and several people in the loop said there was racial content that became the source of corporate hedging.
“The black characters are depicted in a very stereotypical manner, which was sadly typical of the time, and so were the Japanese characters – which, again, was typical in WWII,” Bone creator Jeff Smith, who wrote a similarly titled Shazam! story, said in 2010. “I don’t see why they don’t reprint it. I hope they do reprint it, and say, ‘This is what was done at the time, and it’s pretty bad, but it’s also part of the story.’”
Image Comics co-founder Erik Larsen is a Golden Age comic aficionado, and he had something to say about the scrapped project on Twitter.
“I think at this point–DC is trying to dodge a bullet because of the Shazam! movie. They don’t want the negative publicity associated with the racist Fawcett Captain Marvel material,” Larsen reasoned.
There is a practical reason for DC to brave the controversy anyway, he noted, the story is one of very few that conforms to the demands of today’s market.
“The Monster Society of Evil is a big, attractive, irresistible carrot to DC because it’s a long, multi-part story which includes all of Captain Marvel’s major foes up to that point, including the ONLY Golden Age appearance of Mr. Mind,” Larsen explained. “Most Fawcett Captain Marvel stories are relatively short. Few are multi-part stories and almost none are continued from one issue to another. There were a couple serials but the Monster Society of Evil was the only really long one (25 8-12 page chapters).”
Warner Bros. faced a similar controversy a few years ago when reissuing classic Tom & Jerry cartoons in which African-American characters were depicted in a stereotypical light. Within Shazam! itself, this isn’t the first time that the new visions of today’s society flummoxed DC’s classic content. Isis, the female counterpart of Black Adam, had her superhero name removed on Legends of Tomorrow due to her name being that of a terrorist group. Guess many people forgot about ancient Egyptian gods or fell asleep in history class.
However, much to the chagrin of haters everywhere of the story, it’s readily available for free on the internet due to its public-domain copyright status.