An interview with Jackson Bostwick
By Amanda By Night
For many of us growing up in the 70s, Jackson Bostwick was our first superhero. Jackson portrayed Capt. Marvel on the Saturday morning children's show Shazam! He only appeared in a few minutes of each episode but his gentle eyes and friendly demeanor left a lasting impression on us. A talented actor with an impressive resume, Jackson's career lived on past his days as a crime-fighter but he's never forgotten those bittersweet days at Filmation (he was wrongly released from the show during the second season). Jackson plans on telling the full story about living life as the 'Big Red Cheese' in his forthcoming book Myth, Magic and a Mortal. But now, only armed with a sharp memory and a strong wit, he's consented to giving Pretty Scary readers a glimpse into the world of the much-loved superhero... When Capt. Marvel was originally created in the 40's, he drew a lot of comparisons to Superman. Did you make a conscious effort to make him unique from Superman?
Captain Marvel outsold Superman in the comics of the Golden Age. This is one of the main factors in DC suing Fawcett for the infringement on their superhero. Captain Marvel is the "World's Mightiest Mortal" -- Superman, an alien from another planet.
"Supe" never crossed my mind while I was playing the "Big Red Cheese." My main concern was to give the kids a hero to look up to and not to preach to them, plus sharing with them in the fun I had when I was reading the comics and listening to the radio as a kid (Captain Marvel, The Lone Ranger, and Tarzan were my childhood heroes). Shazam! was a pretty innovative show. It suggested that problems could be solved through nonviolent methods (with its morality messages). Do you think that kids were picking up on this and exercising value over violence?
From the many fan mail (and E-mail) responses I have received over the years from men and women who later went into law enforcement and the military because of the values they acquired and attributed to the good Captain and the show and because they wanted to continue the good fight over evil and injustice... yes, most definitely, the kids were listening.
Any good anecdotes about the late Les Tremayne?
Les was a solid and well-prepared actor who contributed a lot to the success of the show.
Do you have a favorite episode?
All the shows from the first year with Bob Chenault as the producer were a pleasure to work on. Most of the plots from different episodes tend to get fuzzy with time, however, but the action sequences still ring some bells. I did enjoy the episode where I hung almost four hundred feet in the air from the landing strut of a helicopter; that certainly tends to stick in one's memory. Saving a cameraman from sliding to his death (for real) on a conveyor into a rock crusher while filming in San Pedro is also among my top ten favorites -- though, I imagine it would be numero uno for the cameraman involved.
ADo you know why Filmation opted to make Shazam! live action instead of animated? Was it difficult creating a fantasy atmosphere with the budget the show had been given? Shazam! was one of four live-action shows introduced by CBS in the fall of 1974. The network wanted to experiment with this as an alternative to cartoons. Also, the language and bias police (read academia world and censorship whackos) were beginning to flex their obtrusive muscles during this period. We were never allowed to throw a punch or show a kid with any bodily injury.
Yes, the budget was low and we did our best to make it exciting, but the scripts could have definitely been jazzed up with more of the Golden Age fantasies and still remained within the monies allowed.
A major oversight, I feel, was in the creation of the Mr. Mentor character; a character that was added in order to keep the young juvenile, Billy, from traveling the highways and byways unchaperoned. (Billy was somewhat younger and did quite well on his own in the Golden Age comics, but now we were emerging into a different era and mindset; one not quite as innocent as the mores of the thirties and forties.) The Mentor character, in the spirit of the comics, should have been the spirit of Shazam, the old wizard. This would have served the same purpose of the protective guardian and would have been far more magical
for the kids. (The "force" certainly worked quite adequately for the young Skywalker, thank you very much.)
You left Shazam! under a cloud of controversy, could you elaborate on that?
In a word -- STUPID! It's fully documented along with explicit photos in my forthcoming book, "Myth, Magic, and a Mortal."
Briefly, however, I was fired by Filmation's two Executive Producers on account of their imagining I was demanding more money and holding the entire production hostage by not reporting to the set one morning when, in fact, I was at the doctor's office having my eye examined from an injury I had incurred doing a stunt the previous day (the nurse, at my request, had called the studio that morning and informed them of my whereabouts. They said they never received the message. Hah!). (I have the entire incident on film. Clips from it are in the book.) We won an arbitration through the Screen Actors Guild on this precedent setting case and I was paid for all the shows I was set to perform in plus residuals.
Again -- STUPID!
What kind of projects have you been up to lately?
In the fall of 2005 I will be directing and acting in an action film from a script that I wrote and that is based on true incidences in the 1890s that occurred in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area of East Tennessee.
The first episode of Shazam! titled "The Joy Riders" is going to be available on the 3rd season Wonder Woman DVD boxed set. Do you know if there are any plans to release the first season on DVD?
Of any release plans, I have no idea.
The 3rd Wonder Woman set is currently out and The Joyriders is, indeed,
included. However, they, for some reason, have decided to leave off the tag at the end of the show where Captain Marvel flies back and talks to the kids. BIG MISTAKE! This is like leaving the, "Who was that masked man?" and the, "Hi-yo, Silver! Away!" ending out of The Lone Ranger series. It'll just make those copies that have the tag much more sought after and collectible, not to mention more complete.
Did you get to keep the costume?
I have one of the three original costumes that I used on the show.
Tell me about your upcoming book "Myth, Magic and a Mortal"...
Among other things, it's about the filming and some of the behind the scene shenanigans (both fun and hurtful) that went on during my run as the "Good Captain." It's quite revealing and a great read loaded with never before seen photos -- including actual sequential shots take from the 8 mm footage of my injury.
There's an ongoing rumor about a Shazam! movie. Who would you like to see play Capt. Marvel?
An unknown, or at least a relative unknown who looks like a superhero in the classical sense. No stars -- PLEASE. You can visit Jackson Bostwick's cool Shazam site at www.jacksonbostwick.com