|Bowie was born, post atomic age, into a world of crashed saucers and alien visitation, much like Superman's origin (1938). The unprovable details of Roswell do not interest me as much as the dates in relation to Bowie and the symbolism to Superman. This essay discusses the Superman-David Bowie-Apolloniac analogy against the Captain Marvel (Jr.) -Elvis Presley-Dionysian.
David Bowie was born in the year of the Roswell crash. 1947. The actual UFO crash happened on July 5th, 1947 and Bowie was born seven months earlier on January 8th, which happened to be Elvis' 12th birthday which Elvis celebrated in Tupelo. Elvis would not spend his first full year in Memphis until he was fourteen, the age at which Bowie would have his left eye shattered, creating dualistic halves.
1947 was also the 77th anniversary of the NETTLETON METEORITE crash near Tupelo. The meteorite is displayed in Tupelo halfway between Elvis birthplace and the Hardware store where He bought his first guitar (see GOSPELVIS). Elvis, according to Vernon Presley, was born on a 'blue light' which has been described as a blue streak that passed across the early morning sky at the exact moment of Elvis' birth. A halo was said to have formed around the moon. Elvis was born under something akin to cosmic timing as was Jesus who was also heralded with a bright star during Capricorn.
I am interested in the fact that Bowie is born in the year of our most famous flying saucer crash. This, in it's most American pop culture sense, is the mythos of Superman. The 'man' who fell to Earth from a dying world in a rocket ship and must adopt a dual identity to understand and survive. Superman's home planet Krypton is shattered much like Bowie's left eye.
TUPELO VS KRYPTON, MEMPHIS VS METROPOLIS
I have a Captain Marvel Jr. comic from 1947, the year of Bowie's 'crash-birth'. My, my, how Elvis would live up to his imagination by having costumes and hairstyles to resemble the C.C. Beck/Otto Binder Fawcett publications hero. In the same year that Fawcett would be put out of business by DC (National) over copyright issues thereby silencing Billy Batson from his radio microphone, 18 year old Elvis Presley stepped to the mic and recorded his first song "My Happiness." Elvis had no choice but to stop reading about his favorite heroes since the court ruled Fawcett (Captain Marvel) had gotten their ideas from DC (Superman).
This might be true in the sense that everything descends from something else. But the origin of the powers that inform Captain Marvel are mytho-ancient and the powers that inform Superman are cosmic-natural. As different as night and day, mysticism and science, Elvis and Bowie. In the origin of Captain Marvel, Billy Batson travels under the city in a (dionysian) subway car, meets the old wizard Shazam who is empowered by greek gods and is warned of the SEVEN deadly sins. Billy says SHAZAM and is struck by lightning from a cloud that obscures the sun. Clark Kent is empowered by the (apolloniac) sun and works at the Daily Planet.
Captain Marvel gets his powers from the sky, ala the Greek gods! When he speaks a word that is given to him ("Shazam!") He is struck by the lightning bolt, a favorite symbol of Gods, Nazis and Rockstars everywhere! Elvis would go a step further, beyond the literal hairstyle and blue costuming of Captain Marvel, Jr. and use the lightning bolt symbol as his "Taking Care of Business" icon. Bowie would adorn his stage with lightning bolts and paint one across his face as "Aladdin Sane" (Bowie in America is "a lad insane").
Bowie sings a song called SUPERMEN on the Hunky Dory LP though this has a more direct correlation to World War 2 occult mysticism than four color American pulp. If Elvis's had any subconscious southern superiority, he might have related to Bowie's character study in "homo superior" , though finding it perhaps a bit 'queer'. Still, both would wear capes, brandish lightning, and dye hair along Halloween themes; black and orange, respectively. Both have pre-fame jobs involving electricty; apprentice-electrician for Bowie, and Elvis drove the Crown Electric Truck. Both record for RCA, a "radio corporation" (Billy Batson is a news jockey on the radio). Bowie writes "Golden Years" for Elvis and both men were born during the Golden Age of (American) Comics: (1935 - 1950.
BLUE MOON BOYS VS. THE SPIDERS FROM MARS
On the seventh anniversary of the Roswell crash; July 5th, 1954, Elvis and future Blue Moon boys Scottie and Bill record "That's All Right", which lays claim to being the first rock and roll song of all time, the other contenders being "Rocket 88" (also recorded at Sun) and Billy Haley and the Comet's "Shake Rattle & Roll". Rocket's and Comet's indeed. Things that crash like generations caught up in artifical segregation to appease a market.
As suggested by the song title "Five Years" on "ZIggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars", by 1977, Bowie releases "Heroes" and Elvis dies. According to the PBS history of Glam, Bowie would close the chapter on glam with this recording. Elvis would reach new heights in death. For sheer coincidence it is fun to add up Elvis' death date (8-16-1977) and get the number 2001, which Elvis used as his concert opener ("Thus Spake Zarathrustra") and it was the Kubrick movie (written first by Arthur C. Clarke as a novella) with an astronaut named 'Bowman' - that, in part, inspired Bowie to reach for the stars.
Imagine a hippie-fied David Jones entering the movie theatre to see "2001, A Space Odyssey" and re-emerging out the exit door at movie's end now transmogrified into Ziggy Stardust. The movie is the monolith which evolves trend follower into trend setter. Is Bowie the first hippie to cut his hair? At least on the Euro-side.
The alien that crashes to Earth during the supposed Roswell crash in Bowie birth year is also the starchild that evolves at the end of 2001 . Astronaut Bowman is in cryogenic suspension for 18 months and then evolves into .... something else. It is curious to note that Bowie was Ziggy Stardust for 18 months and then became .... something else. Elvis recorded at Sun Studio and was under the guidance of Sam Phillips for 18 months and then became ... something else.
||(Additional differences between Superman and Captain Marvel)
Though Superman defends our Earth, he could live anywhere in our solar system as long as our Sun empowered him. When this planet is a charred husk, Superman can just go somewhere else, like a believer ascending to Heaven. A chunk of his own planet Krypton renders him mortal, as if the bowels of his Mother-world would soon reclaim him.
In contrast, Captain Marvel seeks the Wizard, seeks the internal Earth to renew his faith-based power.
Superman is 'new mythology'. He is 'post-Pulp' man. He is a new icon based on dime novel heroes that predated his 1938 comic book premiere. Those heroes thrived in the 'funny pages' and serialization. Those Pulp heroes were updated gods. Doc Savage make more sense to us than Zeus, but "Robo Cop or Tomb Raider" makes more access to a newer generation than Doc Savage every did. (and Ron Ely played Doc Savage and Tarzan ... just as Jonathan Rhys-Meyer played separately both Bowie and Elvis, respectively.
Captain Marvel owes everything he is to the Old Gods, the Gods of Greece. He even pays them homage by speaking parts of their names when he shouts "Shazam!". This is his prayer or yantra. The lightning bolt is a gift reconfirming his faith. Captain Marvel works on a belief system.
Both heroes behave the same in public, rushing to aid the those in need of help but they approach it differently. Superman must run and hide for a moment if there is there is to be a literal change. Billy Batson shouts his faith in public and is struck down by lightning, seemingly destroyed yet reborn like all good martyrs, a captain in a Warhol Holy War.
All Gods are dead but Superman! Yet ALL the gods live in Captain Marvel. If Superman is kin to Apollo with his sky/sun worship then he is the ultimate western 'man'. Note however, that Apollo is missing from the List of Gods that make up the name "Shazam": The two 'A''s are taken by Achilles and Atlas!
Superman's power is constant because the sun is constant. Billy Batson's power is half-light/half-darkness, waiting somewhere deep inside him to call it forth. This has its disadvantages. When Billy is bound and gagged the yantra (the spoken) is not possible but Billy can still move and think. When Superman is faced with his weakness; a chunk of old krypton, a piece of forbidden past, his desecrated holy land, he is a dying mortal, unable to think.
Also, the name 'Batson' implies night imagery and subterranean origins. Clark Kent owes his name to previous aforementioned sky-cult characters: CLARK Savage and KENT Allard; (Doc Savage tanned by the sun, The Shadow CAST by the sun.) The sun creates the 'day' in "Daily Planet" as the planet revolves around the sun. Batson works as a news DJ in the non-visceral (spoken word) world of radio.
Ironically, Captain Marvels greatest sin was being second. His skin tight garb, though more military than Superman would soon lose it lines that made it more formal, more Pulp as in the tradition of Captain Midnight, or G-8 or early Sandman. The Pulp characters more formal garb lost it's 'rough edges' thanks to the generational shift of the comic book which soon left it's heroes wearing 'long underwear'.
The Pulps could not sue Superman, he was in the 'family' even if he didn't really look like them - and what did not kill him made him stronger.
For Phillipe Jose Farmer