Captain Marvel (DC Comics)

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See DC Comics * List of DC Comics characters *Shazam Captain Marvel Store *Shazam Wallpaper *Shazam Gallery

Captain Marvel with TV super heroine Isis
Captain Marvel with TV super heroine Isis
Shazam 70's Saturday morning TV show
Shazam 70's Saturday morning TV show

Contents

Facts and Stats

According to DC Comics' Who's Who '85

  • Height:6'4" as Bill Batson 5'6"
  • Weight: 212 lbs as Billy 125 lbs
  • Character_name: Captain Marvel
  • Eyes: Blue


  • Full name: William Joseph "Billy" Batson
  • Publisher:Fawcett Comics (1939–1953)
    DC Comics (1972–present)
  • Debut:Whiz Comics #2 (February 1940)
  • Alliances:Marvel Family
    Justice League
    Justice Society of America
  • Powers:Magically bestowed aspects of various mythological figures which include: vast super-strength, speed and stamina, physical and magical invulnerability, flight, fearlessness, vast wisdom and enhanced mental perception, control over and emission of magic lightning and vast untapped magical powers.

Summary

Captain Marvel is a comic book superhero, originally published by Fawcett Comics and later by DC Comics. Created in 1939 by artist C. C. Beck and writer Bill Parker, the character first appeared in Whiz Comics #2 (February 1940). With a premise that taps adolescent fantasy, Captain Marvel is the alter ego of Billy Batson, a youth who works as a radio news reporter and was chosen to be a champion of good by the wizard Shazam. Whenever Billy speaks the wizard's name, he is instantly struck by a magic lightning bolt that transforms him into an adult superhero empowered with the abilities of six mythical figures. Several friends and family members, most notably Marvel Family cohorts Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr, can share Billy's power and become "Marvels" themselves.

Hailed as "The World's Mightiest Mortal" in his adventures, Captain Marvel was nicknamed "The Big Red Cheese" by archvillain Doctor Sivana, an epithet later adopted by Captain Marvel's fans. Based on sales, Captain Marvel was the most popular superhero of the 1940s, as his Captain Marvel Adventures comic book series sold more copies than Superman and other competing superhero books during the mid-1940s. Excerpt: "I’ve always felt that it was this origin story and concept that made Captain Marvel instantly popular, to the point that it was outselling every comic on the stands for several years throughout the '40s."} Captain Marvel was also the first comic book superhero to be adapted to film, in 1941 (The Adventures of Captain Marvel).

Fawcett ceased publishing Captain Marvel-related comics in 1953, due in part to a copyright infringement suit from DC Comics alleging that Captain Marvel was an illegal infringement of Superman. In 1972, DC licensed the Marvel Family characters and returned them to publication, acquiring all rights to the characters by 1991. DC has since integrated Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family into their DC Universe, and have attempted to revive the property several times. However, Captain Marvel has not regained widespread appeal with new generations, although a 1970s Shazam! live-action television series featuring the character was popular.

Because Marvel Comics trademarked their Captain Marvel comic book during the interim between the original Captain Marvel's Fawcett years and DC years, DC Comics is unable to promote and market their Captain Marvel/Marvel Family properties under that name. Since 1972, DC has instead used the trademark Shazam! as the title of their comic books and thus the name under which they market and promote the character. Consequently, Captain Marvel himself is sometimes erroneously referred to as Shazam.

Publication history

Development and inspirations

Flash Comics ashcan edition featuring Captain Marvel as "Captain Thunder", cover art by C. C. Beck.
Flash Comics ashcan edition featuring Captain Marvel as "Captain Thunder", cover art by C. C. Beck.

After the success of National Comics' new superhero characters Superman and Batman, Fawcett Publications decided in 1939 to start its own comics division. Fawcett recruited writer Bill Parker to create several hero characters for the first title in their line, tentatively titled Flash Comics. Besides penning stories featuring Ibis the Invincible, Spy Smasher, Golden Arrow, Lance O'Casey, Scoop Smith and Dan Dare for the new book, Parker also wrote a story about a team of six superheroes, each possessing a special power granted to them by a mythological figure. Fawcett Comics' executive director Ralph Daigh decided it would be best to combine the team of six into one hero who would embody all six powers. Parker responded by creating a character he called "Captain Thunder."Staff artist Clarence Charles "C. C." Beck was recruited to design and illustrate Parker's story, rendering it in a direct, somewhat cartoony style that became his trademark.

The first issue of the comic book, printed as both Flash Comics #1 and Thrill Comics #1, had a low-print run in the fall of 1939 as an ashcan copy created for advertising purposes. Shortly after its printing, however, Fawcett found it could not trademark "Captain Thunder," "Flash Comics," or "Thrill Comics," because all three names were already in use. Consequently, the book was renamed Whiz Comics, and Fawcett artist Pete Costanza suggested changing Captain Thunder's name to "Captain Marvelous," which the editors shortened to "Captain Marvel." The word balloons in the story were re-lettered to label the hero of the main story as "Captain Marvel." Whiz Comics #2, dated February 1940, was published in late 1939. Since it was the first of that title to actually be published, the issue is sometimes referred to as Whiz Comics #1, despite the issue number printed on it.

Inspirations for Captain Marvel came from a number of sources. His visual appearance was modeled after that of Fred MacMurray, a popular American actor of the period. C. C. Beck's later versions of the character would resemble other American actors, including Cary Grant and Jack Oakie. Fawcett Publications' founder, Wilford H. Fawcett, was nicknamed "Captain Billy," which inspired the name "Billy Batson" and Marvel's title as well. Fawcett's earliest magazine was titled Captain Billy's Whiz Bang, which inspired the title Whiz Comics. In addition, Fawcett adapted several of the elements that had made Superman, the first popular comic book superhero, popular (super strength and speed, science-fiction stories, a mild mannered reporter alter ego), and incorporated them into Captain Marvel. Fawcett's circulation director Roscoe Kent Fawcett recalled telling the staff, "give me a Superman, only have his other identity be a 10 or 12-year-old boy rather than a man."

Whiz Comics #2 (February 1940), the first appearance of Captain Marvel. Cover art by C. C. Beck.
Whiz Comics #2 (February 1940), the first appearance of Captain Marvel. Cover art by C. C. Beck.

As a result, Captain Marvel was given a twelve-year-old boy named Billy Batson as an alter ego. In the origin story printed in Whiz Comics #2, Billy, a homeless newsboy, is lead by a mysterious stranger to a secret subway tunnel. An odd subway car with no visible driver takes them to the lair of the wizard Shazam, who grants Billy the power to become the adult superhero Captain Marvel. In order to transform into Captain Marvel, Billy must speak the wizard's name, an acronym for the six various legendary figures who had agreed to grant aspects of themselves to a willing subject: the wisdom of Solomon; the strength of Hercules; the stamina of Atlas; the power of Zeus; the courage of Achilles; and the speed of Mercury. Speaking the word produces a bolt of magic lightning which transforms Billy into Captain Marvel; speaking the word again reverses the transformation with another bolt of lightning.

Captain Marvel wore a bright red costume, inspired by both military uniforms and ancient Egyptian and Persian costumes as depicted in popular operas, with gold trim and a lightning bolt insignia on the chest. The body suit originally included a buttoned lapel, but was changed to a one-piece skintight suit within a year at the insistence of the editors (the current DC costume of the character has the lapel restored to it). The costume also included a white-collared cape trimmed with gold flower symbols, usually asymmetrically thrown over the left shoulder and held around his neck by a gold cord. The cape came from the ceremonial cape worn by the British nobility, photographs of which appeared in newspapers in the 1930s.

In addition to introducing the main character and his alter ego, Captain Marvel's first adventure in Whiz Comics #2 also introduced his archenemy, the evil Doctor Sivana, and found Billy Batson talking his way into a job as an on-air radio reporter. Captain Marvel was an instant success, with Whiz Comics #2 selling over 500,000 copies. Excerpt: "By the middle of the decade, Captain Marvel had received a self-titled comic book, Captain Marvel's Adventures (sic), which had a circulation that reached 1.3 million copies per month. Captain Marvel's circulation numbers exceeded National's Superman title and the rivalry between the companies led National to sue Fawcett for plagiarism." By 1941, he had his own solo series, Captain Marvel Adventures, while continuing to appear in Whiz Comics as well. He also made periodic appearances in other Fawcett books, including Master Comics.

Fawcett years: the Marvel Family, allies, and enemies

Detail from The Marvel Family #2 (June 1946), cover art by C. C. Beck. From left to right: Captain Marvel; Lt. "Fat" Marvel; Captain Marvel Jr; Lt. "Tall" Marvel; Lt. "Hillbilly" Marvel; and Mary Marvel. Uncle Marvel can be seen seated at the piano in the background.
Detail from The Marvel Family #2 (June 1946), cover art by C. C. Beck. From left to right: Captain Marvel; Lt. "Fat" Marvel; Captain Marvel Jr; Lt. "Tall" Marvel; Lt. "Hillbilly" Marvel; and Mary Marvel. Uncle Marvel can be seen seated at the piano in the background.

Through his adventures, Captain Marvel soon gained a host of enemies. His most frequent foe was Doctor Sivana, a mad scientist who was determined to rule the world, yet was thwarted by Captain Marvel at every turn. Marvel's other villains included Adolf Hitler's champion Captain Nazi, an older Egyptian renegade Marvel called Black Adam, an evil magic-powered brute named Ibac, and an artificially intelligent nuclear-powered robot called Mister Atom. The most notorious Captain Marvel villains, however, were the nefarious Mister Mind and his Monster Society of Evil, which recruited several of Marvel's previous adversaries. The "Monster Society of Evil" story arc ran as a twenty-five chapter serial in Captain Marvel Adventures #22–46 (March 1943 – May 1945), with Mister Mind eventually revealed to be a highly intelligent yet tiny worm from another planet.

In the early 1940s, Captain Marvel also gained allies in the Marvel Family, a collective of superheroes with powers and/or costumes similar to Captain Marvel's. (By comparison, Superman spin-off character Superboy first appeared in 1944, while Supergirl first appeared in 1959). Whiz Comics #21 (September 1941) marked the debut of the Lieutenant Marvels, the alter egos of three other boys (all also named Billy Batson) who found that, by saying "Shazam!" in unison, they too could become Marvels. In Whiz Comics #25 (December 1941), a friend named Freddy Freeman, mortally wounded by an attack from Captain Nazi, was given the power to become teenage boy superhero Captain Marvel, Jr. A year later in Captain Marvel Adventures #18 (December 1942), Billy and Freddy met Billy's long-lost twin sister Mary Bromfield, who discovered she could, by saying the magic word "Shazam," become teenage superheroine Mary Marvel.

Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel, Jr. were featured as a team in a new comic series entitled The Marvel Family. This was published alongside the other Captain Marvel-related titles, which now included Wow Comics featuring Mary, Master Comics featuring Junior, and both Mary Marvel Comics and Captain Marvel, Jr. Comics. Non-super-powered Marvels such as the "lovable con artist" Uncle Marvel and his niece, Freckles Marvel, also sometimes joined the other Marvels on their adventures. A funny animal character, Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, was created in 1942 and later given a spin-off series of his own.

The members of the Marvel Family often teamed up with the other Fawcett superheroes, who included Ibis the Invincible, Bulletman and Bulletgirl, Spy Smasher, Minute-Man, and Mr Scarlet and Pinky. Among the many artists and writers who worked on the Marvel Family stories alongside C. C. Beck and main writer Otto Binder were Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Mac Raboy, Pete Costanza, Kurt Schaffenberger, and Marc Swayze.

Copyright infringement lawsuit and cancellation

see also National Comics Publications v Fawcett Publications

Through much of the Golden age of comic books, Captain Marvel proved to be the most popular superhero character of the medium with his comics outselling all others, including those featuring Superman. In fact, Captain Marvel Adventures sold fourteen million copies in 1944, excerpt:"In 1944, the best-selling comic book title (Captain Marvel Adventures) sold more than fourteen million copies for the year." and was at one point being published weekly with a circulation of 1.3 million copies an issue (proclaimed on the cover of issue #19 as being the "Largest Circulation of Any Comic Magazine"). Part of the reason for this popularity included the inherent wish-fulfillment appeal of the character to children, as well as the humorous and surreal quality of the stories. Billy Batson typically narrated each Captain Marvel story, speaking directly to his reading audience from his WHIZ radio microphone, relating each story from the perspective of a young boy.

Detective Comics (later known as National Comics Publications, National Periodical Publications, and today known as DC Comics) sued Fawcett Comics for copyright infringement in 1941, alleging that Captain Marvel was based on their character Superman. After seven years of litigation, the National Comics Publications v Fawcett Publications case went to trials court in 1948. Although the judge presiding over the case decided that Captain Marvel was an infringement, DC was found to be negligent in copyrighting several of their Superman daily newspaper strips, and it was decided that National had abandoned the Superman copyright. Detailed summary of the cases and rulings related to National Comics Publications v. Fawcett Publishing. As a result, the initial verdict, delivered in 1951, was decided in Fawcett's favor.

National appealed this decision, and Judge Learned Hand declared in 1952 that National's Superman copyright was in fact valid. Judge Hand did not find that the character of Captain Marvel itself was an infringement, but rather that specific stories or super feats could be infringements, and that the truth of this would have to be determined in a re-trial of the case. The judge therefore sent the matter back to the lower court for final determination.

Instead of retrying the case, however, Fawcett decided to settle with National out of court. The National lawsuit was not the only problem Fawcett faced in regards to Captain Marvel. While Captain Marvel Adventures had been the top-selling comic series during World War II, it suffered declining sales every year after 1945 and by 1949 it was selling only half its wartime rate.Wright, p. 57 Fawcett tried to revive the popularity of its assorted Captain Marvel series in the early 1950s by introducing elements of the horror comics trend that gained popularity at the time.Wright, p. 156 Feeling that a decline in the popularity of superhero comics meant that it was no longer worth continuing the fight,Gore, Matthew H. The Origins of Marvelman. Retrieved 17 June 2005. Excerpt: "With avenues of appeal still open but their outcome obvious after the first court ruled for National Periodicals, Fawcett Publications settled out of court in late-1953. Fawcett agreed to cease publication of all Captain Marvel related titles. However, Fawcett's decision to give up the legal battle came when all of the company's superhero titles were reporting greatly diminished sales was no circumstance." Fawcett agreed to never again publish a comic book featuring any of the Captain Marvel-related characters, and to pay National $400,000 in damages. Excerpt: "In 1953, the case was finally settled out of court when Fawcett agreed to quit using the Captain Marvel character(s) and pay DC the sum of $400,000." Fawcett shut down its comics division in the autumn of 1953 and laid off its comic-creating staff. Whiz Comics had ended with issue #146 in June 1952, Captain Marvel Adventures was cancelled with #150 (November 1953), and The Marvel Family ended its run with #89 (January 1954).

Marvelman (and Miracleman)

In the 1950s, a small British publisher, L. Miller and Son, published a number of black and white reprints of American comic books, including the Captain Marvel series. With the outcome of the National v. Fawcett lawsuit, L. Miller and Son found their supply of Captain Marvel material abruptly cut off. They requested the help of a British comic writer, Mick Anglo, who created a thinly disguised version of the superhero called Marvelman. Captain Marvel, Jr. was adapted to create Young Marvelman, while Mary Marvel had her gender changed to create the male Kid Marvelman. The magic word "Shazam!" was replaced with "Kimota", "Atomic" backwards. The new characters took over the numbering of the original Captain Marvel's United Kingdom series with issue number 25.

Marvelman ceased publication in 1963, but was revived in 1982 by writer Alan Moore in the pages of Warrior Magazine. Moore's black and white serialized adventures were reprinted in color by Eclipse Comics under the new title Miracleman beginning in 1985, and continued publication in the United States after Warrior's demise. Within the metatextual storyline of the comic series itself, it was noted that Marvelman's creation was based upon Captain Marvel comics, by both Alan Moore and later Marvelman/Miracleman writer Neil Gaiman.

DC Comics' Shazam! revival

Shazam! #1 (February 1973) was Captain Marvel's first appearance in a DC Comics publication. Art by C. C. Beck, Nick Cardy, and Murphy Anderson.
Shazam! #1 (February 1973) was Captain Marvel's first appearance in a DC Comics publication. Art by C. C. Beck, Nick Cardy, and Murphy Anderson.

When superhero comics became popular again in the mid-1960s in what is now called the Silver Age of comics, Fawcett was unable to revive Captain Marvel because in order to settle the lawsuit it had agreed never to publish the character again. Eventually, they licensed the characters to DC Comics in 1972, and DC began planning a revival. Because Marvel Comics had by this time established its own claim to the use of Captain Marvel as a comic book title, DC published their book under the name Shazam! Since then, that title has become so linked to Captain Marvel that many people have taken to identifying the character as "Shazam" instead of his actual name.

The Shazam! comic series began with issue #1, dated February 1973. It contained both new stories and reprints from the 1940s and 1950s. The first story attempted to explain the Marvel Family's absence by stating that they, Dr. Sivana, Sivana's children, and most of the supporting cast had been accidentally trapped in suspended animation for twenty years until finally breaking free.

Dennis O'Neil was the primary writer of the book; his role was later taken over by writers Elliott S! Maggin and E. Nelson Bridwell. C. C. Beck drew stories for the first ten issues of the book before quitting due to creative differences; Bob Oksner, Fawcett alumnus Kurt Schaffenberger, and Don Newton were among the later artists of the title.

With DC's Multiverse concept in effect during this time, it was stated that the revived Marvel Family and related characters lived within the DC Universe on the parallel world of "Earth-S". While the series began with a great deal of fanfare, the book had a lackluster reception. The creators themselves had misgivings; Beck said, "As an illustrator I could, in the old days, make a good story better by bringing it to life with drawings. But I couldn't bring the new [Captain Marvel] stories to life no matter how hard I tried."Benton, p. 77 Shazam! was canceled with issue #35 (June 1978) and relegated to a back-up position in World's Finest Comics (from #253, October-November 1978, to #282, August 1982, skipping only #271 which featured a full-length origin of the Superman-Batman team story) and Adventure Comics (from #491, September 1982, through #498, April 1983; only #491 and #492 featured original stories however, the rest containing Fawcett era reprint stories). With their 1985 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC fully integrated the characters into the DC Universe.

Captain Marvel in the late 1980s

The first post-Crisis appearance of Captain Marvel was in the 1986 Legends miniseries. In 1987, Captain Marvel appeared as a member of the Justice League in Keith Giffen and J M DeMatteis' relaunch of that title. That same year, he was also given his own miniseries titled Shazam! The New Beginning. With this four-issue miniseries, writers Roy and Dann Thomas and artist Tom Mandrake attempted to re-launch the Captain Marvel mythos and bring the wizard Shazam, Dr. Sivana, Uncle Dudley and Black Adam into the modern DC Universe with an altered origin story.

The most notable change that Thomas, Giffen, and DeMatteis introduced into the Captain Marvel mythos was that the personality of young Billy Batson is retained when he transforms into the Captain. The Golden Age comics, on the other hand, tended to treat Captain Marvel and Billy as two separate personalities. This change would remain for most future uses of the character, as justification for his sunny, Golden-Age personality in the darker modern-day comic book world.

The Power of Shazam!

The Power of Shazam!

DC finally purchased the rights to all of the Fawcett Comics characters in 1991.<ref name="DCbought"/> In 1994, the unpopular revision of the character from the Shazam! The New Beginning was retconned again and given a revised origin in The Power of Shazam!, a painted graphic novel written and illustrated by Jerry Ordway. This story became Captain Marvel's official DC Universe origin story (with his appearances in Legends and Justice League still counting as part of this continuity).

Ordway's story more closely followed Captain Marvel's Fawcett origins, with only slight additions and changes. For example, in this version of the origin, it is Black Adam (in his non-powered form of Theo Adam) who killed Billy Batson's parents. The graphic novel was a critically acclaimed success, leading to a Power of Shazam! ongoing series which ran from 1995 to 1999. That series reintroduced the Marvel Family, and many of their allies and enemies, into the modern-day DC Universe.

Marvel also appeared in Mark Waid and Alex Ross's critically acclaimed miniseries Kingdom Come. Set thirty years in the future, Kingdom Come features a brainwashed Captain Marvel playing a major role in the story as a mind-controlled pawn of an elderly Lex Luthor. In 2000, Captain Marvel starred in an oversized special graphic novel, Shazam! Power of Hope, written by Paul Dini and painted by Alex Ross.

The Trials of Shazam! and beyond

Portion of a panel from The Trials of Shazam! #2 (November 2006) featuring Marvel. Art by Howard Porter.
Portion of a panel from The Trials of Shazam! #2 (November 2006) featuring Marvel. Art by Howard Porter.

Since the cancellation of the Power of Shazam! title in 1999, the Marvel Family have made appearances in a number of other DC comic books. Black Adam became a main character in Geoff Johns and David S Goyer's JSA series, which depicted the latest adventures of the Justice Society of America. Captain Marvel also appeared regularly in JSA in 2003 and 2004. He also appeared in Frank Miller's graphic novel Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, the sequel to Miller's highly-acclaimed graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns.

The Marvel Family played an integral part in DC's 2005/2006 Infinite Crisis crossover, which began DC's efforts to retool the Shazam! franchise. In the Day of Vengeance limited series, which preceded the Infinite Crisis event, the wizard Shazam is killed by the Spectre, and Captain Marvel assumes the wizard's place in the Rock of Eternity. The Marvel Family made a handful of guest appearances in the year-long weekly maxi-series 52, which featured Black Adam as one of its main characters. The Marvel Family also appeared frequently in the 12-issue bimonthly painted limited series Justice by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, and Doug Braithwaite, published from 2005 to 2007.

The Trials of Shazam!, a 12-issue limited series also written by Judd Winick and illustrated by Howard Porter (issues one through eight) and Mauro Cascioli (issues nine through twelve), began publication in August 2006. The series redefines the Shazam mythos, the characters and their place in the DC Universe. Trials of Shazam! features Captain Marvel, now with a white costume and long white hair, taking over the role of the wizard Shazam under the name Marvel, while Freddy Freeman attempts to prove himself worthy to the individual gods so that he can become their new champion and herald under the name Shazam. Currently, Mary Marvel is a featured character in DC's sequel to 52, a weekly series entitled Countdown to Final Crisis.

Other appearances

A four-issue Captain Marvel/Superman limited series, Superman/Shazam: First Thunder, was published between September 2005 and March 2006. The miniseries, written by Judd Winick with art by Josh Middleton, depicted the first meeting between the two heroes.

A second Captain Marvel limited series, Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil, written and illustrated by Jeff Smith (creator of Bone), was published in four 48-page installments between February and July 2007. Smith's Shazam! mini-series, in the works since 2003, is a more traditional take on the character, which updates and re-imagines Captain Marvel's origin. According to Smith, the story is in continuity and takes the place of the character's previously established origins as depicted in the The Power of Shazam! graphic novel.Warmoth, Brian. "The Strategum of Smith". Wizard magazine. Retrieved March 4, 2007. Excerpt: "The Monster Society of Evil goes back to Batson’s early years, and Smith has ensured the book won’t be labeled an alternate history or imaginary tale. 'When I was asked to do it, I was asked to relaunch Captain Marvel, and I have a clause in my contract saying that this is continuity,' Smith states. 'This is continuity. This is not an All-Star version.'" However, this has not been confirmed by any secondary sources.

A new Captain Marvel comic, Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!, is set to debut in early 2008 under DC's Johnny DC youth-oriented imprint. Set to follow the lead of Smith's version, it will be written and drawn by Mike Kunkel.

Powers and abilities

When Billy Batson says the magic word "Shazam" and transformed into Captain Marvel, he was granted the following powers:

S for the wisdom of Solomon As Captain Marvel, Billy has instant access to a vast amount of scholarly knowledge, including most known languages, sciences, and forms of magic. The wisdom of Solomon also provides him with counsel and advice in times of need. In early Captain Marvel stories, Solomon's power also gave Marvel the ability to hypnotize people. (Note that Solomon is the only figure in the list not taken from Greco-Roman mythology.)
H for the strength of Hercules* Hercules' power gives Captain Marvel incredible amounts of super strength; he is able to easily bend steel, punch through walls, and lift massive objects. Marvel's strength is on the same level as Superman.
A for the stamina of Atlas Using Atlas' endurance, Captain Marvel can withstand and survive most types of extreme physical assaults. Additionally, he does not need to eat, sleep, or breathe and can survive unaided in space when in Captain Marvel form.
Z for the power of Zeus Zeus' power, besides fueling the magic thunderbolt that transforms Captain Marvel, also enhances Marvel's other physical and mental abilities, grants magic resistance against all magic spells and attacks. Marvel can use the lightning bolt as a weapon by dodging it and allowing it to strike an opponent or target. The magical lightning has many uses, including creating apparatus, restoring damage done to Marvel, or acting as fuel for magical spells.
A for the Courage of Achilles This aspect gives Captain Marvel the courage of Achilles,the legendary (and invulnerable) Greek hero.
M for the speed of Mercury By channeling Mercury's speed, Captain Marvel can move at greater than supersonic speeds. This also enables him to fly.

In current comics continuity, Marvel has assumed the throne of Shazam at the Rock of Eternity, and now has access to the dead wizard's greatly enhanced magical powers and abilities. However, Marvel is required to remain on the Rock of Eternity, and can only be away from the Rock for twenty-four hours at a time.

Alternate versions

Captain Thunder

In Superman (first series" #276 (June 1974), Superman found himself at odds with Captain Thunder, a superhero displaced from another Earth and another time. Thunder had been tricked by his archenemies in the Monster League of Evil into doing evil, and Thunder therefore was made to do battle with Superman. Captain Thunder, whose name was derived from Captain Marvel's original moniker, was a thinly veiled pastiche of Marvel; down to his similar costume, his young alter ego named "Willie Fawcett", and a magic word ("Thunder!") which was an acronym for seven entities and their respective powers.

At the time of Superman #276, DC had been publishing Shazam! comics for two years, but had kept that universe separate from those of its other publications. The real Captain Marvel would finally meet Superman in Justice League of America #137 two years later.

52

In the final issue of the maxi-series 52 (#52, May 2, 2007) , a new Multiverse is revealed, originally consisting of 52 identical realities. Among the parallel realities shown is one designated Earth-5. As a result of Marvel Family foe Mister Mind "eating" aspects of this reality, it takes on visual aspects similar to the pre-Crisis Earth-S, including the Marvel Family characters. The names of the characters are not mentioned in the panel in which they appear, but a character visually similar to Captain Marvel appears. Based on comments by 52 co-author Grant Morrison, this alternate universe is not the pre-Crisis Earth-S.

Supporting cast

Enemies of Captain Marvel (DC Comics)

Detail from Marvel Family #1 (December 1945), cover art by C. C. Beck. Left to right: Captain Marvel; Captain Marvel Jr.; Mary Marvel; Uncle Marvel; and the wizard Shazam.
Detail from Marvel Family #1 (December 1945), cover art by C. C. Beck. Left to right: Captain Marvel; Captain Marvel Jr.; Mary Marvel; Uncle Marvel; and the wizard Shazam.

Captain Marvel often fights evil as a member of a superhero team known as the Marvel Family, made up of himself and several other heroes: The wizard Shazam who empowers the team, Captain Marvel's sister Mary Marvel and Marvel's protégé Captain Marvel, Jr. Before the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Marvel Family also included part-time members such as Mary's non-powered friend "Uncle" Dudley aka Uncle Marvel, Dudley's non-powered niece Freckles Marvel, a team of proteges (all of whose alter egos are named "Billy Batson") known as the Lieutenant Marvels, and the funny-animal pink rabbit version of Captain Marvel, Hoppy the Marvel Bunny.

Through his adventures, Captain Marvel gained an extensive rogues gallery, the most notable of whom include the evil mad scientist Doctor Sivana (and, pre-Crisis, the Sivana Family), Shazam's corrupted previous champion Black Adam, Adolph Hitler's champion Captain Nazi, and the mind-controlling worm Mister Mind and his Monster Society of Evil. Other Marvel Family foes include the evil robot Mister Atom, the "World's Mightiest Immortal" Oggar, and Ibac and Sabbac, demon-powered supervillains who transform by magic as Captain Marvel does.

The Marvel Family's non-powered allies include Dr. Sivana's good-natured adult offspring Beautia and Magnificus Sivana, Mister "Tawky" Tawny the talking tiger, WHIZ radio president and Billy's employer Sterling Morris, Billy's girlfriend Cissie Sommerly, Billy's school principal Miss Wormwood, and Mary's adoptive parents Nick and Nora Bromfield.

Other media

DVD front cover for The Adventures of Captain Marvel film serial, starring Tom Tyler in the title role.Get the Adventures of Captain Marvel on DVD
DVD front cover for The Adventures of Captain Marvel film serial, starring Tom Tyler in the title role.Get the Adventures of Captain Marvel on DVD

The Adventures of Captain Marvel film serial

Get the Adventures of Captain Marvel on DVD

The first filmed adaptation of Captain Marvel was produced in 1941. The Adventures of Captain Marvel, starring Tom Tyler in the title role and Frank Coglan, Jr. as Billy Batson, was a twelve-part film serial produced by Republic Pictures in 1941. Often ranked among the finest examples of the form, its release made Captain Marvel the first superhero to be depicted in film. Whitey Murphy, a supporting character in the serial, found his way into Fawcett's Captain Marvel stories, and elements of the serial's plot were later worked into DC's The Power of Shazam continuity. The Adventures of Captain Marvel (which, ironically, was originally pitched to National Comics as a Superman film serial) predated Fleischer Studios' Superman cartoons by six months.

Shazam! on Saturday morning and other TV appearances

Over thirty years later, Filmation produced Shazam!, a live-action television show which ran from 1974 to 1977 on CBS. From 1975 until the end of its run, it aired as one-half of The Shazam!/Isis Hour, featuring Filmation's own The Secrets of Isis as a companion program. The Shazam! TV show was a more indirect approach to the character; it told of Billy Batson/Captain Marvel making road trips, instead of flying across the USA to combat evil. Shazam! starred Michael Gray as Billy Batson, with both Jackson Bostwick (season one) and John Davey (seasons two and three) as Captain Marvel. An adapted version of Isis, the heroine of The Secrets of Isis, was introduced into DC Comics in 2006 as Black Adam's wife in the weekly comic book series 52.

Shortly after the Shazam! show ended its network run, Captain Marvel, played by Garrett Craig, appeared as a character in a pair of low-budgeted live action comedy specials, produced by Hanna-Barbera under the name Legends of the Superheroes in 1978. The specials also featured Howard Morris as Doctor Sivana, and Ruth Buzzi as Aunt Minerva, marking the first appearance of those characters in film or television. Filmation revisited the character a few years later for an animated Shazam! cartoon, which ran on NBC from 1981 to 1982 as part of the Kid Superpower Hour with Shazam!. The rest of the Marvel Family joined Captain Marvel on his adventures in this series, which were more similar to his comic-book adventures than the 1970s TV show. Dr. Sivana, Mr. Mind, Black Adam, and other familiar Captain Marvel foes appeared as enemies.

Although Captain Marvel did not appear in Hanna-Barbera's long-running Saturday morning cartoon series Super Friends (which featured many of the other DC superheroes), he did appear in some of the merchandise associated with the show.

Other appearances

Billy Batson has a non-speaking cameo in the episode "Obsession" from the Kids' WB's Superman: The Animated Series. Actors portraying Captain Marvel make "cameo" appearances in both a dream-sequence from an episode of The Drew Carey Show, and in the Beastie Boys' music video for "Alive". In 2005, Captain Marvel guest starred in the June 11, 2005 episode of Cartoon Network's animated series Justice League Unlimited. The episode, entitled "Clash", featured Jerry O'Connell as the voice of Captain Marvel, with Shane Haboucha as Billy Batson. A climactic fight sequence between Captain Marvel and Superman pays homage to the Superman/Captain Marvel battle from Mark Waid and Alex Ross' Kingdom Come mini-series.

Captain Marvel has a cameo appearance in the animated film Justice League: The New Frontier. He is shown during President John F Kennedy's famous speech.

Billy Batson and the Legend of Shazam! motion picture

New Line Cinema began development of a Shazam! live-action feature film in the early 2000s. Formerly based on a screenplay by William Goldman & Bryan Goluboff, the film, to be titled Billy Batson and the Legend of Shazam!, is now being written by John August. Peter Segal (The Longest Yard, 50 First Dates) is attached as director, with Michael Uslan set as producer. The film will be distributed by Warner Bros, and is currently expected to be completed for a 2009 release. Although no casting choices have been made for Captain Marvel or Billy Batson, actor and former wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has agreed to appear in the film as Black Adam.

Cultural impact

Captain Marvel vs. Superman in fiction

Superman and Captain Marvel face off in the 1996 DC limited series Kingdom Come. Art by Alex Ross.
Superman and Captain Marvel face off in the 1996 DC limited series Kingdom Come. Art by Alex Ross.

Captain Marvel's adventures have contributed a number of elements to both comic book culture and pop culture in general. The most notable of these is the regular use of Superman and Captain Marvel as adversaries in Modern Age comic book stories.

The fictional Superman/Captain Marvel rivalry was parodied in "Superduperman," a satirical comic book story by Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood in the fourth issue of Mad (April-May, 1953). In the parody, inspired by the Fawcett/DC legal battles,Wright, p. 146 Superduperman, endowed with muscles on muscles, does battle with Captain Marbles, a Captain Marvel caricature. Marbles' magic word is "SHAZOOM", which stands for Strength, Health, Aptitude, Zeal, Ox—power of, Ox—power of another and Money. In contrast to Captain Marvel's perceived innocence and goodness, Marbles was greedy and money-grubbing.

While publishing its Shazam! revival in the 1970s, DC Comics published a story in Superman #276 (June 1974) featuring a battle between the Man of Steel and a thinly disguised version of Captain Marvel called Captain Thunder, a reference to the character's original name.Superman #276 (first series, June 1974) Two years later, Justice League of America #135-137 featured a story arc which featured the heroes of Earth-1, Earth-2, and Earth-S teaming together against their enemies. It was in this story that Superman and Captain Marvel first met, albeit briefly.

Following this Justice League story, DC followed Mad's cue and often pitted Captain Marvel and Superman against each other for any number of reasons, but usually as an inside joke to the characters' long battles in court; they are otherwise staunch allies. Notable Superman/Captain Marvel battles in DC Comics include All-New Collectors' Edition #C-58 (1979), All-Star Squadron #37 (1984), and Superman #102 (1995). The Superman/Captain Marvel battle depicted in Kingdom Come #4 (1996) served as the climax of that miniseries. The "Clash" episode of the DC-based animated TV series Justice League Unlimited, which included Captain Marvel as a guest character, featured a Superman/Captain Marvel fight as its centerpiece.

Influences upon future comic book characters

Although kid superheroes had generally been neglected before Captain Marvel's introduction, kid sidekicks soon became commonplace shortly after Marvel's success: Robin was paired with Batman in May 1940, and Captain America was introduced with sidekick Bucky in March 1941. The idea of a young boy who transformed into a superhero proved popular enough to inspire a number of superheroes who undergo similar transformations, including Marvel Comics' Darkhawk and Ghost Rider, Malibu Comics' Prime, and animated/action figure superheroes such as Hanna-Barbera's Mighty Mightor and Young Samson, Mattel/Filmation's He-Man, Warner Bros. Animation's Freakazoid, and Cartoon Network's Ben 10. Other heroes, including Marvel Comics' Thor and (for a time) Marvel's version of Captain Marvel, undergo similarly magical transformations from a weak human form to a god-empowered form.

The Image Comics character Mighty Man, created by Erik Larsen and appearing primarily in Larsen's series The Savage Dragon, is an obvious homage to Captain Marvel. Similarities run deep, from MM's initial secret identity being a young boy with an alliterative name ("Bobby Berman") to his lightning bolt chest emblem in his earliest version (a later version used an 8-pointed star similar to Marvel Comics' Captain Marvel logo, stressing again the inspiration for the character), to his greatest foe being a mad scientist named "Dr. Nirvana".

Captain Marvel in popular culture

In pop culture, Billy Batson/Captain Marvel's magic word, "Shazam!", became a popular exclamation from the 1940s on, often used in place of an expletive. The most notable user of the word "Shazam!" in this form was Gomer Pyle, a character from the 1960s sitcom The Andy Griffith Show. Foxxy Cleopatra from the 2002 film Austin Powers in Goldmember is also fond of the word. In another 2002 movie, Spider-Man, the character Peter Parker shouts "Shazam!" while trying to control his powers.

Even more than ten years after the character first disappeared, the superhero was still used for allusions and jokes, in films such as West Side Story, TV shows such as The Monkees, M*A*S*H, and American Dad!, and songs such as "Shazam" (1960) by Duane Eddy. Elvis Presley was a fan of Captain Marvel, Jr. comic books as a child, and later styled his hair to look like Freddy Freeman's and based his stage jumpsuits and TCB lightning logo on Captain Marvel Junior's costume and lightning-bolt insignia. The Academy of Comic Book Arts named its Shazam Award in honor of the character's mythos. The Beatles mentioned Captain Marvel in their song "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" (1968).

Bibliography

Ongoing series

Limited series and graphic novels

Reprint compilations

  • Shazam! From the Forties to the Seventies (1977). Hardcover collection reprinting thirty-seven Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel, Jr., Mary Marvel, and Marvel Family stories from the original Fawcett comics and DC's 1970s Shazam! series. Stories by Bill Parker, Otto Binder, and others; art by C.C. Beck, Marc Swayze, Mac Rayboy, Kurt Shaffenberger, and others. Forward by E. Nelson Bridewell, published by Harmony Books
  • The Monster Society of Evil - Deluxe Limited Collector's Edition (1989). Compiled and designed by Mike Higgs. Reprints the entire The Monster Society of Evil story arc that ran for two years from Captain Marvel Adventures #22-46 (from 1943-1945) where Captain Marvel meets Mister Mind and his Monster Society of Evil. This oversized, slipcased hardcover book was strictly limited to 3,000 numbered copies. Published by American Nostalgia Library, an imprint of Hawk Books Limited.
  • The Shazam! Archives, Volumes 1–4 (1992, 1998, 2002, 2005). Hardcover volumes reprinting Captain Marvel's adventures from his earliest Fawcett appearances in titles such as Whiz Comics, Master Comics, and Captain Marvel Adventures from 1940 to 1942. Stories by Bill Parker, Ed Herron, and others; art by C C Beck, Pete Costanza, Mac Raboy, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, George Tuska, and others.
  • The Shazam! Family Archives, Volume 1 (2006). This spin-off volume features the adventures of Captain Marvel, Jr. from Master Comics # 23-32 and Captain Marvel Jr. #1, as well as the origin of Mary Marvel from Captain Marvel Adventures #18. Stories by various; art by Mac Raboy, Al Carreno, Marc Swayze and C.C. Beck.
  • Shazam! and the Shazam! Family Annual (2002). An 80-page paperback collection reprinting several Golden Age Marvel Family adventures from Captain Marvel Adventures, Captain Marvel, Jr., and The Marvel Family, including the first appearances of Mary Marvel and Black Adam. Stories by Otto Binder; art by C. C. Beck, Pete Costanza, Mac Rayboy, Marc Swayze, Bud Thompson, and Jack Binder.
  • Showcase Presents: Shazam! Vol. 1 (2006). A five hundred page trade paperback featuring black-and-white reprints of stories from the 1970s Shazam! ongoing series. Written by Dennis O'Neill, E. Nelson Bridwell and Elliott Maggin; Art by C.C. Beck, Kurt Schaffenberger, Dave Cockrum, Dick Giordano and others.
  • Shazam! The Greatest Stories Ever Told (2008). A compilation featuring Captain Marvel stories collected from the Fawcett publications Whiz Comics, Captain Marvel Adventures, and The Marvel Family, and from the DC publications Shazam!, DC Comics Presents, Superman, 'L.E.G.I.O.N. '91, The Power of Shazam!, and Adventures in the DC Universe.

References

  • Beck, C. C. and Parker, Bill (February 1940, reprinted March 2000). "Capt. Marvel" Whiz Comics #2. New York: Fawcett Publications (reprint by DC Comics).
  • Beck, C. C. and O'Neil, Denny. (February 1973). "In the Beginning" Shazam! #1. New York: National Periodical Publications.
  • Benton, Mike. (1989). The Comic Book in America: An Illustrated History. Dallas: Taylor.
  • Grogan, Walt. The Marvel Family Web. Retrieved 16 June 2005.
  • Markstei, Donald D. (2000–2004). "Captain Marvel". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Retrieved 16 June 2005.
  • Ordway, Jerry (1994). The Power of Shazam! New York: DC Comics..
  • Thomas, Roy and Mandrake, Tom. Shazam! The New Beginning #1–4. New York: DC Comics.
  • Wright, Bradford W. (2001). Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins.

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