Mar-Vell? Shazam? Carol Danvers? WHO IS OUR CAPTAIN?
There have been many, many, MANY characters who have adopted the name Captain Marvel, both under Marvel and DC, and with “Captain Marvel” hitting the big screen this Friday, followed by “Shazam” April 5th, we figured some clarity was in order. On our YouTube channel, we’re doing a detailed breakdown of the history of Captain Marvel to unpack the story of the name and the characters who have used it, but if you’re interested in a shorter and quicker recap, here are the 5 crucial facts!
1: The First Captain Marvel
The first Captain Marvel, created by writer Bill Parker and artist C.C Beck, debuted in Fawcett Publications’ “Whiz Comics” #2 way back in 1939, not long after Superman’s debut in “Action Comics” #1. The story followed Billy Batson, a 10-year-old orphan, who was brought to the lair of Shazam, a powerful and ancient wizard. Shazam gifted him Solomon’s wisdom, Hercules’s strength, Atlas’s stamina, Zeus’s power, Achilles’ courage, and Mercury’s speed, transforming him into Captain Marvel, a character that outsold his greatest rival Superman throughout the Golden Age of Comics.
2: Fawcett Comics VS National Comics: Marvel’s Hybernation
Captain Marvel was owned and published by Fawcett Comics and they were a rival of National Comics, i.e. the National Comics who changed their name to DC Comics in 1977 – yup, THAT DC Comics! Well, National filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Fawcett, arguing that Captain Marvel was a blatant ripoff of Superman and that lead to a twelve-year court battle that eventually settled in 1953. The popularity of superheroes had been in decline, so Fawcett agreed to cease publication of Captain Marvel and all related characters immediately after the publication of “The Marvel Family” #89, folding their comic book line altogether; a key moment in comic book history.
3: Mar-Vell & Shazam
In 1972, the Silver Age was upon us and superhero books were back and more popular than ever. DC decided to license Captain Marvel from Fawcett, but there was a problem… a big problem: another company had swooped in and picked up the copyright on the name. That company? None other than Marvel Comics. Hey, the name fit after all. Without going too deep into Stan Lee and Gene Colan’s Captain Marvel (check out the video for more details), DC realized they couldn’t use his name…in the title! So DC went with “Shazam”, even if he was referred to as “Captain Marvel” by other characters in the actual story.
4: Carol Danvers
When the DC universe was rebooted yet again in 2011, Captain Marvel was officially renamed “Shazam” just to cut down on the confusion. Over at Marvel, Mar-Vell had many adventures before tragically dying of cancer in 1982. They kept the name in use by having it taken-up by a succession of characters (Monica Rambeau, Genis-Vell and Phyla-Vell), with Carol Danvers eventually taking on the mantle and title in 2012. We’re about to find out what that looks like on the big screen!
5: Blame It On the Copyright Law
The strange saga of the Captain Marvel name is a prime example of copyright law eclipsing creativity and shaping what we see on comics shelves each week. It’s one of the most interesting and confusing oddities in the history of comic books, one that both publishers acknowledged when the two characters briefly crossed paths in 2004’s “JLA/Avengers” crossover event. It looks like the strange rivalry rages on, as both “Captain Marvel” and “Shazam” are being released just one month apart from each other.
If you’re interested in knowing more about this crazy convoluted Captain Marvel back story, check out the video below!