April 23, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Characters Case File #380: Isis

Sometimes, comics pick up characters from other media, but usually they have some direct connection to another character. In the case of Isis, well...it's complicated.

It’s not that uncommon for characters that become important and recognizable parts of a superhero’s mythos and supporting cast to first appear somewhere else.  Jimmy Olson was originally a character on a Superman radio show.  Alfred Pennyworth’s first appearance was as a more comic relief butler in a Batman movie serial.  And of course Harley Quinn got her start on Batman the Animated Series.

Isis has a slightly more complicated backstory since she wasn’t originally a supporting character to someone else.

See, Isis wasn’t a supporting character but a hero in her own right as part of The Shazam/Isis Hour.  Produced by Filmation, this was a live action series where Billy Batson would go around fighting evils as Captain Marvel (at the time, his name was not Shazam) and learn lessons, and then in the other half hour, titled The Secrets of Isis, high school science teacher Andrea Thomas, as played by actress Joanna Cameron, would gain superpowers by saying “I am Isis!” and then doing more or less the same thing as Captain Marvel.  As Isis, Andrea had the standard superhero powers plus some mental powers that she could use, often by chanting some rhyme suggesting a magic spell of some kind.

She may have also had a pet raven.

At the time, DC had more or less acquired the rights to the old Fawcett Comics characters (I am not sure and it’s complicated), so there was a tie-in book connected to this version of the character.  But really, she started on TV, and despite having some similarities to how Billy Batson’s powers worked, she wasn’t really connected to Captain Marvel aside from the fact that they had the same show, and I’m not sure if the two ever met each other during that time.

Regardless, she was arguably more of a Filmation character, such that Filmation did bring her back first as part of a superhero team from a show called The Freedom Force.  This one was animated with the voice provided by actress Diane Pershing, who would later voice Poison Ivy for the DCAU.

OK, but that’s the TV character.  Despite a short appearance in the comics in a tie-in book and the occasional appearance as a goddess in various DC books, this is a comic book feature, so what happened?  Well, she did eventually become a character in DC books, connecting her as a love interest to the antihero version of Captain Marvel, namely Black Adam.  In the 52 weekly mini-series, Isis returned as a young Egyptian woman named Adrianna Tomaz.  A refugee, Intergang tried giving her as a gift to Black Adam.  It did not work well for Intergang, but Black Adam was impressed by her lack of fear and ability to tell him when he was wrong.  Like Billy Batson, Black Adam learned how to share his power, and she became Isis, his eventual wife.  She also had a brother who became, essentially, Black Adam Jr. under the name Osiris.

But since Black Adam is an antihero, having him happy and working with a woman with powers like his, other powers over nature, and a kind and loving disposition won’t do, so when it turned out Osiris talking crocodile friend Sobek was actually some sort of incarnation of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, both Isis and Osiris lost their lives in the resulting fight.  Granted, this is comics, so she could come back, but there was a tendency for the stories to have her come back not-quite-right, often corrupted by outside powers or even under the control of Felix Faust.  She and Black Adam were eventually reduced to statues by the wizard Shazam until such time as they could be fixed or something.

There was an attempt to bring her back for the New 52, but it doesn’t look it got very far.

So, that’s it for Isis, right?  I mean, given some real world terrorist organizations, it makes sense that DC might not be so inclined to pull her out as much as they used to.  But that isn’t quite the case.  Lois Lane became Isis for an episode of Smallville with help from a magical amulet, another call-back to the original show.  DC”s Legends of Tomorrow had a variation of Isis in the form of a character named Zari Tomax, played by Tala Ashe.  That character was at some points a slacker hacker from the future or a ditsy social influencer, also from the future, and always with powers from a wind totem.  If it sounds a little screwy that she could be two very different versions of the same character, keep in mind that Legends of Tomorrow was A) something of a comedy and B) based around time travel, and I could probably explain more about how that all worked, but I’m still a little miffed the show was just canceled after introducing Donald Faison as Booster Gold.

Oh, and since Dwayne Johnson will be playing Black Adam in a movie that will come out…eventually, it looks like if not Isis then at least Adrianna Tomaz will be a character there as played by actress Sarah Shahi.

I think the point is…Isis gets around.