Times Past, 1953
The New Kid
Part 1 of The Replacement
When fifteen-year-old Martin Martine lets his curiosity get the best of him and follows a shadowy figure into a mysterious underground cavern, he has no idea that he will be asked to become the mighty Shiva, temporary replacement for his greatest hero, Captain Marvel! But will the new kid live up to the wizard Shazam’s expectations?
Martin Martine wandered the halls of his new school after having switched in mid-year from a school across town on the other side of Fawcett City. Now, after his first day as the new kid, he was trying to learn where all of his classes were after hours, when no one else was around.
Seeing a shadow ahead in the hall, he wondered who it was. The janitor was at the other end of the building, and the teachers had left almost as soon as the students.
Maybe, he thought, it was a member of the basketball team; they had practice in the gym downstairs. Martin’s interest was aroused as the shadow seemed to be waiting on him to approach. When he drew closer, the shadow moved ahead at the same slow pace that Martin was walking himself.
As Martin continued to slowly follow this shadowy, elusive person, whom he could tell by its shape was wearing a wide-brimmed hat, he noticed that they seemed to be heading to the basement. What could be there to interest anyone? he asked himself.
Curiosity led Martin onward as he was astonished to see that his quarry had vanished through a brick wall. Martin paused, unsure of how to proceed. This was all very strange, but curiosity overwhelmed any sense of trepidation he might feel.
Martin approached the wall and felt its rough surface. A moment later he was rewarded by a sudden feeling of sliding and falling at the same time, until he came to an abrupt stop.
Looking around, Martin was shocked to find himself in a subway tunnel, which had a dreamy, unreal quality to it that made him think he might have fallen asleep. As he was wondering how this had all come about, a black train quietly pulled into the station and halted smoothly by the platform Martin was standing on. The doors slid open with a hiss.
Since he had gone this far, Martin decided to board the train. But after he was aboard, and the train sped off, he realized that he seemed to be the only rider. What’s going on? he thought, too excited by the adventure to realize he could be in danger. It’s almost as if this thing was waiting for me, and only me.
After only a few moments of riding through a darkened subway tunnel, the train came to a halt, and the doors slid open. Martin stepped out of the train, only to find himself no longer in a subway station at all, but in an immense cavern. Seven statues stood in a row on one side of the cave.
“The seven deadly sins?” Martin mused as he walked pass the statues, recalling what the nuns had taught him at his old school.
Martin continued to walk until he stepped into a large cavern beyond the statues. There a large, empty throne rested beside a brazier and an unlit torch on the wall.
Compelled to do so as if it was the most natural thing to do, the boy produced a match from his pocket and scraped it against the wall, then used it to light the torch and then the brazier. Smoke began to swirl out from the three-legged thing, almost choking him.
And then, to Martin’s utter astonishment, an old man suddenly appeared by the throne, a long white beard hanging from his chin. “Hello, Martin,” the said the man, who was semi-transparent like a ghost.
“What is this all about?” asked Martin Martine. “Who are you? Why do you live in a cave under the school?”
“I am the wizard… Shazam!” said the old man, a crack of thunder rumbling as if from far away as he spoke his name. “I hoped you would come, my boy, because I need your assistance. I want you to replace my heir for a time until he can return.”
“I don’t understand,” said Martin.
“My heir is Captain Marvel,” said Shazam, and Martin’s eyes lit up with recognition. “He has been placed into an orbit along with most of his friends and enemies by Dr. Sivana. (*) It will be some years before they return… and unfortunately, they cannot return before their time is up. Others will try to fill the vacuum left behind. That’s why I need you, Martin. I need you to replace the Marvels until they are fated to return to this world.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The World’s Wickedest Plan,” Shazam! #1 (February, 1973).]
“You’re a nut!” Martine finally said to the spirit. “Captain Marvel is an adult with muscles and can fly and stuff. I’m just a kid.”
“The Captain is just a kid, too,” said the wizard, the glimmer of a smile seen on his semi-transparent face. “Will you lend me your aid, Martin?”
“To be like the Marvel Family?” said Martin, shrugging. “Who wouldn’t?”
“It’s a lot of responsibility,” said Shazam.
“I’m fifteen,” said Martin confidently. “I can handle it.”
“Then come with me,” said Shazam, leading the way into another room. There, a sign had been set up with names on it. Martine read the strange names and the brief description beside each. The first letter of each name was in bold type, as if making up part of an acronym.
“These are the deities who will be lending their abilities to you while you are helping me,” Shazam said. “These elders represent aspects that you will need to carry out your duties.”
“You’re kidding me,” said Martin. “I can’t even pronounce the word written to the side.”
“Go ahead and try,” said the wizard with a smile.
“B’vee… uh… bee-vis-sog,” said Martin.
At that moment, shimmering blue rain suddenly began to fall up from the ground of the cavern, causing Martin to exclaim in surprise and delight. As it swirled and wrapped around him, it changed his body as it went.
Where a boy had once stood was now a creature almost seven feet tall, with light blue skin and four arms. A third eye opened on his forehead as his suddenly red hair stood straight up like a bonfire. He wore a chain-mail tunic and armlets of gold.
“I am Shiva!” said the transformed boy, suddenly aware of much more than he had ever known before. “Thank you for this chance, sir.”
As the new hero took to the air and flew off down the tunnel and out to the open air to test out his brand-new powers, the wizard sat on his throne for a moment. He had needed to help the people until his adopted son came home from space. He hoped that he had created a hero worthy of the name Marvel and not another spectacular failure like Teth-Adam. He had his doubts, but he knew he had to have a certain amount of faith in his agent, just as he had had in Billy Batson the first day he had spoken with him.