“Hi, folks!” said Billy Batson. “As most of you know, Captain Marvel is able to draw upon the abilities and talents of a group of heroic elders from ancient times in order to perform all of his good deeds. His old foe Ibac gained his terrible powers from another group of ancient bad guys. Well, the whole Marvel Family sure found out that that there were plenty of other cultures with super-beings of their own out there who could grant such gifts for good or evil when they faced… the Riddle of the Ragnarok Rogues! It all started far away from Earth in another dimension called Asgard…”
The home of the Norse gods and goddesses rested across a gleaming rainbow bridge called Bifrost. These amazing beings lived within their golden city and amused themselves as best they could. They played games of chance. They tested and teased each other with riddles and runes. They fought grand mock combats. However, after doing these same things for eons, some began to grow a bit discontented, and one in particular decided to play upon those feelings for his own evil purposes.
Odin, the grim-yet-paternal king of the Norse gods, sat upon his throne and brooded, ignoring the best efforts of his wife Frigga to placate him. He shooed away his pet ravens, and he almost kicked his twin wolves in his ire.
“Tis a fine thing for beings like us!” he said. “We sit in idleness, forgotten by all those who once looked to us for the very source of life itself! Our former worshippers do not even honor us by name or deed. They never write or call! Bah!”
A powerful figure that skulked in the few shadows that filled the huge mead halls of Asgard came forward. He was obviously half-giant, as shown by his size and his look of hungry cunning.
“Brother Odin, it pains me to see you in such a state! Why, ’tis naught but base ingratitude! Yon mortals do not care for us anymore, since modern champions have taken our place. We are not needed, since they rest secure under the watchful eye of heroes like Captain Marvel!”
Odin stared at Loki and nodded sadly. “Aye! Captain Marvel is known as the world’s mightiest mortal! The media bards sing of him and say not our names!” he said with a sigh.
Loki’s eyes gleamed as he glanced around the hall. He saw other gods and goddesses listening as they passed the mead horns. “Tis so! I suppose there is no place for us on Midgard or Earth anymore! After all, Captain Marvel is the son of the magic thunder and lightning!”
“I am the god of Thunder! No one else may claim my birthright!” cried a burly figure in furs of brown and red.
“Oh, Donar, forgive me! I did not see you there!” said a chastened Loki.
Donar stepped forward and bellowed in anger. “Nay! I heard your words! Is it so? Dost this Marvel dare usurp my power?” he demanded.
Loki clucked with his tongue in dismay. “I fear it is so. Bold Donar, the Marvel Family ride upon the storms you once ruled!”
“What of it?” said Odin. “The Norns have always said that there is a time for all beings, and ours is long since passed!”
“And yet…!” began Loki. “Perhaps such would not be the case if that red-and-gold-clad warrior was bested in battle dire!”
Tyr the war god waved his one hand in eager anticipation. “If the mortal must face one of us, then let me teach him the folly of hubris when confronting war himself!”
“Nay!” said Odin. “‘Twould be wrong to pit any Asgardian god against a mortal. Be he mighty or not, he is mortal. There would be no honor or glory in such an act!”
“True,” said Loki. “Tis like you to see more clearly than any of us! But what if there was a way in which we could still best him fairly? Come closer, and I shall tell you my plan.”
He began to speak in hushed tones as other Asgardians came near to the roaring fireside, and much like a spider spinning a web, Loki the Trickster explained his tangled plan.
Back on Earth, an unsuspecting Billy Batson was enjoying himself by watching a video with his girlfriend, Cissie Sommerly. He was a slight, bright-eyed young man in a red and yellow shirt. She was a petite but perky girl with light red hair in a demure blue skirt and sweater.
They sat in a luxurious screening room in the mansion of her neighbor Sterling Morris, the president of Station WHIZ and Amalgamated Broadcasting. The elegant Morris was Billy’s friend and employer. He had a paternal interest in the pair and enjoyed giving the young couple the chance to benefit from his wealth.
Billy munched popcorn and turned to Cissie as the film ended. “You know, that flubber stuff reminds me of the time Doc Quartz accidentally made all of that expanding Jell-O!” he said.
Cissie laughed and said, “I couldn’t look at the stuff for a week after we tried to eat it all before it took over the city! (*) Seriously, though, didn’t the film make you think of anything else?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The World’s Mightiest Dessert,” Shazam! #11 (March, 1974).]
Billy nodded and said, “Well, Fred McMurray’s scientist was as absent-minded as our old pal, Professor Edgewise.”
Cissie feigned annoyance and shook her head.
Billy frowned and said, “I’ve got it! Fred looked a bit like Captain Marvel!”
“No, silly!” said Cissie. “I just mean the romance between the scientist and Nancy Olson was so sweet and romantic! Wouldn’t you like to settle down like that someday? A woman can smooth away all the rough edges of life in a boarding house!”
Billy blushed furiously and said, “Holy moley! Cissie, Ma and Pa Potter run a swell place! Of course, I know you don’t mean anything against them. You know, we should really ask them over here sometime. I’m sure Mr. Morris would be proud to show them his place!”
Cissie smiled and leaned over to kiss Billy, who smiled and said, “I was rambling a bit, wasn’t I?”
She nodded and said, “Just considerably.”
Before they could follow up on their romantic moment, Sterling Morris himself rushed inside the room. He wore a white tennis outfit and was clearly upset about something.
“Bad set, Mr. Morris?” asked Cissie.
Shaking his head, he said, “I’m afraid it is something worse than my tennis elbow acting up! Kids, there’s a strange costumed figure in the middle of the city. He claims that he is here to restore the Asgardian gods to their rightful place as rulers of humanity! He also demands a meeting with Captain Marvel!”
“Holy moley!” cried Billy. “I guess I’d better try to find him! Cissie, it’s been great, but I have to run.”
Cissie nodded and said, “Call me, Billy.”
“I sure will!” he yelled as he started out of the room, and he heard Mr. Morris gently steering his pretty neighbor away from the front of the house.
“Well, Cissie, let me walk you home,” said the older man. “I’d like to pay my respects to your folks!”
Billy smiled and ran out of the huge house. When he reached a hidden corner, he looked skyward and said, “Shazam!”
Ever since the day long before when the ancient wizard Shazam had granted the virtuous Billy Batson the power to transform into the superhuman hero Captain Marvel merely by speaking his name, magic lightning and thunder had heralded the astonishing change. Thus, as Billy said his magic word, thunder boomed, lightning flashed, and the young broadcaster became the world’s mightiest mortal known as Captain Marvel.
Wearing his customary red and gold costume, he flew toward the city with the speed of Mercury at his command. He waved to a group of children who were shouting excited greetings to the hero as he drew closer to the ground.
Soon, Captain Marvel reached Binder Boulevard, where he saw an impressive figure. A man with a shaggy blond mane of hair and a beard stood in the middle of the street, refusing to allow traffic to pass. He wore a furry brown cape and a silvery helmet. His arms were bare and powerfully muscled.
“A modern-day Viking!” said Captain Marvel. “I guess I’ve seen stranger things in my time!”
The Viking warrior scowled and raised his head to stare at Captain Marvel as he landed.
“I believe you wanted to see me,” said Captain Marvel. “Let’s take this little chat out of the public transportation lanes!”
“Nay!” said the Viking. “I wouldst vanquish thee before the gaping eyes of your followers! I would prove the superiority of mine own right arm!”
“Now look, mister!” began Captain Marvel. But before he could finish his statement, a long-handled hammer struck him.
The world’s mightiest mortal crashed through a nearby bus station bench, and he jumped back to his feet, only to receive a second sweeping blow from the hammer-carrying Viking.
Captain Marvel reeled backward, and then, as the Viking raised his weapon a third time, the hero gripped the other man’s arm in his own hand and blocked the weapon. “You’re nothing more than a schoolyard bully seeking to look tough in front of the other kids!” he said. “Well, that kind of recklessness can harm innocent people, and I won’t allow that!”
Slugging the Viking, he followed up on the impact by grabbing his cape and flying skyward with the startled warrior in tow.
Down below, among the crowd of onlookers, stood a dapper tiger in a stylish green suit and hat. His name was Mr. Tawny, and he was a good friend to Captain Marvel. He had just arrived, and as he noticed the crowd and the slowly moving traffic, he turned to a familiar face.
“Doc Quartz? What’s going on? I missed my bus and am rather late getting to town,” said Tawky Tawny to the pharmacist with the pointed nose and white beard.
Doc Quartz blinked in surprise and said, “Oh, it’s just Captain Marvel fighting a super-powerful Viking warrior!”
Mr.Tawny nodded in understanding and patted the old man on the arm reassuringly. “Oh, is that all? I see. Well, have a good day!” He turned to walk away, and after a second or two he stopped in his tracks and gasped. “My goodness!” he said. “A super-powered Viking! Sounds like something from the funnies!”
Above the bewildered talking tiger and the other citizens of the large city, Captain Marvel wrestled with the warrior, who apparently could run on air, if not fly altogether.
“By the bristling beard of Heimdall! You do fight well!” said the Viking.
“We don’t need to fight,” said Captain Marvel. “What do you want?”
“My name is Bothfyd,” said the other man. “Much as you partake of the gifts of Solomon, Hercules, and the rest of the elders whose first initials combine to spell Shazam, so do I possess the attributes of mine own elders!”
“Your name comes from Norse figures!” said Captain Marvel. “Balder, Odin, et cetera!”
Bothfyd nodded and said, “Tis so! Balder, Odin, Tyr, Hermod, Frey, Ymir, and Donar are my patrons! I have come here to demonstrate that just as I am superior to you, so are they superior to any other being!”
“Hold it!” said Captain Marvel. “That’s just foolish! I’m not going to brawl with you over something like that!”
“Nay?” said Bothfyd. “But you will fight to preserve your very life!” He tried to strike Captain Marvel, but was seconds too slow. However, his secondary attack was far more successful.
As he moved, his entire body began to glow like a living sun. He blinded Captain Marvel and took advantage of the tactic to connect with two more blows.
Holy moley! I can’t see a thing! Got to be the power of Frey the sun god! mused the Captain.
Lowering his head, Captain Marvel charged forward. He brought down the bigger man and wrestled with him on top of the nearest skyscraper. “I don’t need to see you in order to hit you!” he said. “You reek of ale!”
Bothfyd kicked out at him and managed to drive him backward. “Aye! Tis natural that a warrior-born would celebrate his upcoming battle with a refreshing beverage!” said Bothfyd.
Captain Marvel blinked rapidly and slowly regained his vision. The blindness was merely a momentary effect. He soon saw well enough to plan a new ploy of his own. “Since you want to fight, then I’ll give you a fight!” he vowed.
Spinning around, he created enough of a whirlwind to carry Bothfyd into the air. As he caught him off-balance, he punched him twice and tackled him again like a flying battering ram.
“Let’s see how well you fight without that hammer!” continued the Captain. “For a guy with super-strength, you certainly seem to cling to it awfully tightly!” He knocked the hammer out of Bothfyd’s hand and blocked his efforts to regain the fallen weapon.
Bothfyd frowned and struggled to get past Captain Marvel, but he could not reach the hammer. The Viking cried out in anger. “Craven one!” he said. “You wouldst deprive me of mine weapon!”
Captain Marvel smiled and said, “That was the general idea! You see, unlike some heroes I know, you seem to be able to say the acronymic name of your sponsors. That made me think that some other source enables you to keep their gifts!”
Bothfyd gasped as his whole body began to shrink, and he turned into a rather meek-looking blond man. “Gulp! Without the hammer, I turn back to plain old Donny Barr!” he whined. “I’m a real descendant of Vikings, and Loki appeared to me to offer me power and a chance to be more than just a dull insurance man!”
“Good old Solomon,” said Captain Marvel. “His wisdom never fails!” He started to lead the smaller man down from the rooftop when a weird cackle rang out from thin air.
“It’s Loki!” said Barr.
Captain Marvel shrugged and said, “Actually, it seemed kind of manic to me!” He frowned as he saw a phantom image of the Norse villain appear over the city.
“Tis done! By tricking my brother and his fellows into investing their power into yon mortal vessel, I was able to break through certain safeguards that time had worn as well!” cried Loki. “Now, in spite of their best efforts, Ragnarok shall fall!”
“Not if I can help it!” vowed Captain Marvel.
“How can you?” asked Barr. “How can anyone stop the preordained end of the world?”