Superhero Origins: Shazam's Captain Marvel

As Earth’s mightiest mortal and champion of justice, this hero was first introduced as Billy Batson, an orphaned paperboy working the night shift by the subway station. In that first issue, Billy was approached by a shadowy figure and beckoned into the subway where a magical train took him to a secret cave. There, he met an old egyptian wizard who entrusted him with magical powers and the task of defending the Earth, all he had to do was call out the name "Shazam!" Join WatchMojo.com as we explore the comic book origins of Billy Batson, otherwise known as Captain Marvel.
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Superhero Origins: Shazam's Captain Marvel

Shazam! Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be exploring the comic book origins of Billy Batson, otherwise known as Captain Marvel.

As with most comic book characters, there are often re-imaginings and different versions to a character’s past. We have chosen to primarily follow the storyline that unfolded in 1940’s Whiz Comics #2, and was expanded upon in 1942’s Captain Marvel Adventures #18 and 1945’s The Marvel Family #1.

Earth’s mightiest mortal and champion of justice, this hero was first introduced as Billy, an orphaned paperboy working the night shift by the subway station. In that first issue, Billy was approached by a shadowy figure and beckoned into the subway where, a magical train arrived and transported him to a secret cave. There, Billy entered its passageway alone and discovered a hall filled with statues showcasing the seven deadly sins, as well as an old man sitting upon a marble throne.

Welcoming Billy by name, he introduced himself as the powerful wizard Shazam, explaining that he has fought evil for the last 3000 years, and that his name is an acronym for Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury, as he possessed their respective gifts of wisdom, strength, stamina, power, courage and speed.

The wizard likewise explained that he has been watching Billy since birth, witnessing both the death of his parents and his wicked uncle stealing his inheritance. He had chosen Billy as the one to carry on his quest of fighting injustice and cruelty due to his pure heart.

Bestowing his powers on the boy, Billy would only need to say “Shazam” in order to transform into the grown up superhuman champion “Captain Marvel”, clad with a lightening emblem, red outfit and cape. Following this, a granite block hanging over the wizards throne snapped and crushed the wizard, while Billy was magically transported back to the subway entrance.

The next day while selling papers, Billy overheard a conversation by the henchman of a mad scientist who had made the front page for threatening to destroy the US’s Radio system. Tracking them to the nearby Skytower Apartments, Billy decided to contact the head of the radio company to inform him of his discovery. The executive offered Billy a job if he could prove what he was saying was true.

Unable to sneak past the building’s security, Billy decided to scale a neighboring building and use his newfound powers to make a mighty leap to the villain’s secret laboratory, crashing through the window to smash their radio silencer machine and apprehended the criminals. However, the mad scientist wasn’t there, as he had been giving orders to his henchmen through a television screen. Frustrated, Captain Marvel threatened the doctor with prison and death.


Afterwards, Billy called over the Radio director and explained what had happened, save for the bit about Captain Marvel. Congratulated, he was made a news reporter.

In the years that followed, Billy was mentored by the ghost of Shazam, and likewise bestowed his powers on his crippled friend Freddy Freeman and his newfound sister Mary, together becoming The Marvel Family.

Billy’s origins were also expanded, adding the ret-con that his parents had been killed by “Black Adam”, the first hero created by Shazam that became corrupted by evil and banished to outer space for several millennia.

A superhero that once overtook Superman in popularity, Captain Marvel quickly received his own live action film serial in 1941, before a copyright infringement claim over his many similarities to Superman caused his series to fold in 1953. Ironically, by 1972 DC Comics decided to license the character, before outright buying him in 1991. However, they were forced to rename his new comic books and animated series “Shazam!” due to the rise of Marvel comics and their own character of the same name, further preventing him from reaching mass appeal.

Today, fans continue to enjoy Captain marvel’s thrilling tales and many DC crossovers, lovingly referring to him as “The Big Red Cheese”, a lighter version of Superman.
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