SHAZAM! Supermaven Walt Grogan brings color to a gallery of offbeat, groovy images…


It’s that marvelous time of year when we get to celebrate Captain Marvel’s co-creator and guiding hand, C.C. Beck’s birthday! Beck was born 113 years ago on June 8, 1910, in Zumbrota, Minnesota. As an adult, he joined the Fawcett Publications’ art staff where he created illustrations for many of the Fawcett magazines including Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang and Smokehouse Monthly.

In 1939, he was charged, along with writer Bill Parker, to launch Fawcett into the burgeoning superhero comics field with a character that would rival National Comics’ premier titan, Superman. And thus was born the World’s Mightiest Mortal, Captain Marvel — a character so well-regarded that he eventually outsold the Man of Steel’s comics and, for a time, became the country’s most popular superhero.

In Beck’s later years, he remained prolific and often created sketches and one-sheeters of the Big Red Cheese — many of which can be found online. I’ve taken 13 of these and colored them up and sometimes added some titles and captions to help celebrate the Crusty Curmudgeon’s special day!

After my buddy, fellow fan colorist Rich Seetoo, colored the cover of the Flash Comics ashcan (generally regarded as Captain Marvel’s first appearance — he was known as Captain Thunder then — he suggested that I color the Thrill Comics version. I’ve always loved this C.C. Beck image, especially considering how impossible it would be for anyone to chain the World’s Mightiest Mortal to a wall! And I really dig that lightning bolt shooting through the Thrill logo:

This next one, a DC Comics house ad for Shazam!, is my all-time favorite piece of artwork. The excitement I felt when I first saw this back in 1972 is nearly indescribable. Here, I wanted to give Beck’s art a bit of a modern coloring feel:

This shot of Cap always makes me laugh! It’s like he’s checking out his own guns! I guess that’s what Billy would do after transforming into the Big Red Cheese:

Beck drew this for the Houston Comicon. It’s amazing what he was able to do with minimal line work. I repurposed this piece into an Independence Day flyer:

Beck generally hated modern-day comics art and what he considered over-rendering. His artwork was deceptively simple and there was no place to hide mistakes. This piece was used as the cover of the fanzine Inside Comics #4 (Winter 1974-75) but it seemed fitting to transform it into a relaunched Marvel Family #90 — the issue after the last Fawcett Marvel publication:

In Beck’s obituary in The Comics Journal #133 (December 1989), the Big Red Cheese’s co-creator perfectly summed up Captain Marvel: “Whimsy, fantasy, humor made CM stories different from others. He was seldom dull, deadly, and boringly serious.”

Beck loved to draw himself into panels with his creation:

Here’s another instance of Beck breaking the fourth wall and taking part in the story:

Never let it be said that Beck didn’t roll with the times. Here, in an illo for Phoenix Con 1972, he added mutton chops to the Big Red Cheese. I’ve given the piece a story title and balloon suited to the period.

I love Beck’s behind-the-scenes strips and his mildly sarcastic humor. Here, he includes co-creator, Bill Parker, as well as ol’ Fawcett himself, Captain Billy, in the Sivana role:

This is a fabulous piece of Captain Marvel flying with a giant pencil. I’ve added some text that imagines it was Beck’s pencil — the one that he used to create the Big Red Cheese:

I’ve always liked this Beck piece from the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #10, but if you check out the original (which is easily found online) a couple of the Fawcett heroes had some interesting coloring, so I decided to strip the color and make it more accurate. I was nearly finished with the re-coloring when a funny thing happened — I turned the original colors back on, and my colors and the originals meshed together! Both sets of colors worked really well together and the piece looked nicely super-saturated!

There’s always been some speculation about what happens when Billy Batson says the magic word, “Shazam!” Does he get swapped with another being named Captain Marvel or does Billy change into an adult version of himself with superpowers? Here, from the horse’s mouth, is the answer — both in strip form and from the fanzine Fawcett Collectors of America #45 (Spring 1989).

Hopefully, that controversy is finally laid to rest!


— DC’s 1984 CAPTAIN THUNDER: Dig the Great CAPTAIN MARVEL Who Never Was. Click here.

— 13 MIGHTY MOMENTS in the 50-Year History of SHAZAM! at DC Comics. Click here.

A 10-year-old Walt Grogan fell in love with the Big Red Cheese thanks to essays written by Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson in the paperback edition of All in Color for a Dime, released in 1970 and bought for him by his father off a paperback spinner rack in a liquor store on the South Side of Chicago. Walt runs The Marvel Family Web Facebook page devoted to all incarnations of the Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel and blogs about Captain Marvel at shazamshistorama.com.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Wonderful! And somewhere in the late 1960s I was at a barbershop and stumbled across Beck’s “Fatman the Human Flying Saucer!” Great fun!

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  2. Happy birthday to the late C.C. Beck. And thanks, Walt, for your vintage-style colors over these Captain Marvel pieces.

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  3. My problem with how they handle Captain Marvel in the recent movies is having him more like Tom Hanks in “BIG”. I always figured the power of the Gods made Marvel mature in mind as well as body. I love the classic Captain! For that matter, I always saw Billy as being very mature for his age.

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  4. In that THRILL COMICS cover, Cap looks remarkably like his live action serial counterpart Tom Tyler.

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  5. Great work as always Walt! I especially like Beck’s take on “modern” comic artists. Imagine what he would have thought of Image!

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