Captain Marvel (DC Comics)

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"Shazam!" redirects here. For other uses, see Shazam.
Shazam (Captain Marvel)
The traditional Captain Marvel, painted by Alex Ross.
Publication information
Publisher Fawcett Comics (1939–1953)
DC Comics (1972–present)
First appearance Whiz Comics #2 (February 1940)
Created by C. C. Beck
Bill Parker
In-story information
Alter ego William Joseph "Billy" Batson
Team affiliations Marvel Family
Justice League
Justice Society of America
Squadron of Justice
Partnerships Mary Batson
Superman (Clark Kent)
Notable aliases Captain Thunder, Marvel, Black Billy, Masked Superman
Abilities

Magical lightning bestows:

  • Superhuman strength, speed, stamina and courage
  • Physical and magical near-invulnerability
  • Flight
  • Genius-level intellect
  • Control over and emission of magic lightning as weapon or for casting spells

Captain Marvel, also known as Shazam, is a fictional superhero who appears in American comic books published by DC Comics. He is the alter ego of Billy Batson, a boy who, by speaking the magic word "Shazam", can transform himself into a costumed man with the power of six mythological figures (Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury, hence the word "Shazam").

Created in 1939 by artist C. C. Beck and writer Bill Parker, Captain Marvel first appeared in Whiz Comics #2 (February 1940), published by Fawcett Comics. Based on book sales, Captain Marvel was the most popular superhero of the 1940s, outselling even Superman,[1][2] and Fawcett expanded the franchise to include other "Marvels", primarily Marvel Family associates Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel, Jr., who can share Billy's powers. Captain Marvel was also the first comic book superhero to be adapted into film, in a 1941 Republic Pictures serial titled Adventures of Captain Marvel.

Fawcett ceased publishing Captain Marvel-related comics in 1953, partly because of a copyright infringement suit from DC Comics, alleging that Captain Marvel was a copy of Superman.[3] In 1972, DC licensed the Marvel Family characters from Fawcett 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 with mixed success. Due to trademark conflicts over another character named "Captain Marvel" owned by Marvel Comics since 1967,[4] DC Comics renamed their character "Shazam" after relaunching their comic book line in 2011.[5]

Captain Marvel was ranked as the 55th greatest comic book character of all time by Wizard magazine.[6] IGN also ranked Captain Marvel as the 50th greatest comic book hero of all time, stating that the character will always be an enduring reminder of a simpler time.[7] UGO Networks ranked him as one of the top heroes of entertainment, saying, "At his best, Shazam has always been Superman with a sense of crazy, goofy fun".[8]

Publication history[edit]

Development and inspirations[edit]

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

After the success of National Comics' new superhero characters Superman and Batman, Fawcett Publications started its own comics division in 1939, recruiting 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".[9] Staff artist Charles Clarence "C. C." Beck was recruited to design and illustrate Parker's story, rendering it in a direct, somewhat cartoony style that became his trademark. "When Bill Parker and I went to work on Fawcett’s first comic book in late 1939, we both saw how poorly written and illustrated the superhero comic books were," Beck told an interviewer. "We decided to give our reader a real comic book, drawn in comic-strip style and telling an imaginative story, based not on the hackneyed formulas of the pulp magazine, but going back to the old folk-tales and myths of classic times".[10]

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 and trademark 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 (cover-dated Feb. 1940) was published in late 1939.

Inspiration[edit]

Inspiration 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,[11] though comparisons to both Cary Grant and Jack Oakie were made, as well.[12] Fawcett Publications' founder, Wilford H. Fawcett, was nicknamed "Captain Billy," which inspired the name "Billy Batson" and Marvel's title, as well.[13] Fawcett's earliest magazine was titled Captain Billy's Whiz Bang, which inspired the title Whiz Comics.[14] In addition, Fawcett took several of the elements that had made Superman the first popular comic book superhero (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".[15]

Alter ego[edit]

Whiz Comics #22 (Oct. 1941), featuring Captain Marvel and his young alter-ego, Billy Batson. Art by C.C. Beck

As a result, Captain Marvel was given a 12-year-old boy named Billy Batson as his alter ego. In the story of his origin printed in Whiz Comics #2, Billy, a homeless newsboy, is led by a mysterious stranger to a secret subway tunnel. An odd subway car with no visible driver takes them to an underground tunnel with seven statues depicting the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man (Pride, Envy, Greed, Hatred, Selfishness, Laziness and Injustice): the lair of the wizard Shazam. The wizard shows that he has observed the hardship of Billy's life, and grants him the power to become the adult superhero Captain Marvel, just before a stone suspended above Shazam's head crushes him. His ghost says he will give advice when a brazier is lighted.

In order to transform into Captain Marvel, Billy must speak the wizard's name, an acronym for the six legendary figures who 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 with gold trim and a yellow lightning bolt insignia on the chest. The body suit originally included a partial bib front, but was changed to a one-piece skintight suit within a year. In 1994, the DC Comics version of the costume had the partial bib restored. 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 was inspired by the ceremonial cape worn by the British nobility,[16] photographs of which appeared in newspapers in the 1930s.

Introduction[edit]

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.[2] By 1941, he had his own solo series, Captain Marvel Adventures, while he continued to appear in Whiz Comics, as well as periodic appearances in other Fawcett books, including Master Comics.

Fawcett years: The Marvel enemies, family, and allies[edit]

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. He had two non-evil children, the beautiful Beautia, who loved Captain Marvel, and the superstrong Magnificus. Sivana's evil children, Georgia and Sivana, Jr., who were later introduced to the comics, resembled their father both physically and mentally.

Marvel's other villains included Adolf Hitler's champion Captain Nazi, and older Egyptian renegade Marvel named Black Adam (whose sole Golden Age appearance was in Marvel Family #1), an evil magic-powered brute named Ibac, who gained powers from historical villains, 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 25-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.

The Monster Society was the first criminal group in comics with members from past stories. Among the group's members were Sivana, Ibac, and Captain Nazi, along with new foes including Herkimer the crocodile man and a multi-headed Hydra. Even Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo were members, along with other Nazis. The Society tried many plans, such as trying to use Captain Nazi to steal magic fortune-telling pearls, using a film to intimidate the world, and even trying to use a giant cannon to blow holes in countries. Mr. Mind was eventually executed in the electric chair for 186,744 murders at the end of the arc, but would be reintroduced decades later in DC Comics' Shazam! #2.

Marvel Family[edit]

In the early 1940s, Captain Marvel 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 of Captain Marvel's named Freddy Freeman, mortally wounded by an attack from Captain Nazi, was given the power to become teenage boy superhero Captain Marvel, Jr., with a distinctive gold-on-blue version of the Marvel costume. 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 the teenaged superheroine Mary Marvel, although the pre-Crisis Mary Marvel got her power from "goddesses".

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.

Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, and Captain Marvel, Jr., were featured as a team in a new comic series entitled The Marvel Family, 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 spin-off, Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, was created in 1942 for Fawcett's Funny Animals comics, and was later given a series of his own.

Allies[edit]

As with other superheroes, Captain Marvel had a number of non-powered friends and associates, as well, including Mr. Morris, Billy's employer at WHIZ radio; Joan Jameson, Billy's secretary (and one of the few people to know his secret identity); Beautia Sivana, Dr. Sivana's good-natured adult daughter, who had a crush on Captain Marvel and only periodically joined forces with her father (and usually by force); and Dexter Knox, an intelligent young scientist who was a friend of Billy's friends. The most prolific of Captain Marvel's supporting characters at Fawcett was Mister Tawky Tawny, an anthropomorphic tiger who had been fed a serum that allowed him to learn to speak and stand upright.[17]

The members of the Marvel Family often teamed up with the other Fawcett superheroes, including 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[edit]

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,[18] and was at one point being published bi-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").[2] 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 both Fawcett Comics and Republic Pictures for copyright infringement in 1941, alleging that Captain Marvel was based on their character Superman.[19] 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.[20] 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.[20]

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.[21] 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.[22]

Feeling that this decline in the popularity of superhero comics meant that it was no longer worth continuing the fight,[23] Fawcett agreed to permanently cease publication of comics with the Captain Marvel-related characters, and to pay National $400,000 in damages.[3] Fawcett shut down its comics division in the autumn of 1953 and laid off its comic-creating staff. Whiz Comics had ended with issue #155 in June 1953, Captain Marvel Adventures was canceled with #150 (November 1953), and The Marvel Family ended its run with #89 (January 1954).

Marvelman (and Miracleman)[edit]

Main article: Marvelman

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" ("Atomik" spelled 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. Beginning in 1985, Moore's black-and-white serialized adventures were reprinted in color by Eclipse Comics under the new title Miracleman (as Marvel Comics objected to the use of "Marvel" in the title), 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. In 2009, Marvel Comics obtained the rights to the original 1950s Marvelman characters and stories.[24]

In 1966, M. F. Enterprises produced their own Captain Marvel: an android superhero from another planet whose main characteristic was the ability to split his body into several parts, each of which could move on its own. He triggered the separation by shouting "Split!" and reassembled himself by shouting "Xam!" He had a young human ward named Billy Baxton. This short-lived Captain Marvel was credited in the comic as being "based on a character created by Carl Burgos".[25]

DC Comics' Shazam! revival[edit]

When superhero comics became popular again in the mid-1960s in what is now called the "Silver Age of Comic Books," Fawcett was unable to revive Captain Marvel, having agreed never to publish the character again (as part of settlement of the lawsuit). Carmine Infantino, publisher of DC Comics, licensed the characters from Fawcett in 1972, and DC began planning a revival. Because Marvel Comics had by this time established Captain Marvel as a comic book trademark for their own character, DC was forced to publish their book under the name Shazam!.[4] Infantino attempted to give the Shazam! book the subtitle The Original Captain Marvel, but a cease and desist letter from Marvel Comics forced them to change the subtitle to The World's Mightiest Mortal.[26] As all subsequent toys and other merchandise featuring the character was also required to use the "Shazam!" label with little to no mention of the name "Captain Marvel", the title has become so linked to Captain Marvel that many people took to identifying the character as "Shazam" instead of "Captain Marvel".[5]

The Shazam! comic series began with Shazam #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 20 years when the Sivanas attempted to put the Marvels into suspended animation. They finally broke free when the Suspendium globe moved towards the Sun.

Dennis O'Neil was the primary writer of the book.[27] His role was later taken over by writers Elliot S. Maggin and E. Nelson Bridwell. C. C. Beck drew stories for the first 10 issues of the book before quitting due to creative differences. Bob Oksner and Fawcett alumnus Kurt Schaffenberger were among the later artists of the title.

With DC's Multiverse concept in effect during this time, 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".[28]

Shazam! was heavily rewritten as of issue #34 (April 1978), with Bridwell providing more realistic stories, accompanied by similar art, the first issue by Alan Weiss and Joe Rubinstein, and thereafter by Don Newton, a longtime fan of the character,[29] and Schaffenberger. Nevertheless, the next issue was the last one, though the feature was kept alive in a back-up position in the Dollar Comics formatted run of 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). Schaffenberger left the feature after #259, and the inking credit subsequently varied.

When World's Finest Comics reverted to the standard 36 pages, leftover Shazam! material saw publication in Adventure Comics (#491–492, September–October 1982). The remaining 11 issues of that run contained reprints, Shazam! represented by mostly Fawcett-era stories (left out of an all Legion of Super-Heroes #500, and the final #503, where two features were doubled up to complete their respective story arcs). All-New Collectors' Edition #C-58 (April 1978) featured a "Superman vs. Shazam!" story by writer Gerry Conway and artists Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano.[30][31] With their 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths limited series, DC fully integrated the characters into the DC Universe. Prior to Crisis, the characters appeared a few times as guest stars in the Justice League of America series (vol. 1).

Captain Marvel in the late 1980s[edit]

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's and J. M. DeMatteis' relaunch of that title. That same year (spinning-off from Legends), he was 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. 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, instead of the Golden Age depiction, which tended to treat Captain Marvel and Billy as two separate personalities.

This revised version of Captain Marvel also appeared in one story-arc featured in the short-lived anthology Action Comics Weekly #623–626 (October 25, 1988 – November 15, 1988). At the end of the arc, it was announced that this would lead to a new Shazam! ongoing series, which failed to materialize.

The Power of Shazam![edit]

Main article: The Power of Shazam!

DC finally purchased the rights to all of the Fawcett Comics characters in 1991.[citation needed] In 1994, because of the unpopular revision of the character from 1987's Shazam: The New Beginning miniseries, Captain Marvel 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, and the "mysterious stranger" who leads Billy to the subway tunnel with statues of the Sins, and the wizard Shazam is revealed to be the ghost of his father. The graphic novel was a critically acclaimed success, leading to a Power of Shazam! ongoing series which ran from 1995 to 1999.[32] 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' critically acclaimed 1996 alternate universe Elseworlds Kingdom Come miniseries. Set 20 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. Because he is one of the most powerful beings on Earth, his mere presence unnerves many of those around him and, brainwashed, he even sets out to cause what could lead to the end of the world. However, Marvel ultimately sacrifices himself as an act of redemption and, as a figure of martyrdom, becomes the symbol of a new world order.

In 2000, Captain Marvel starred in an oversized special graphic novel, Shazam! Power of Hope, written by Paul Dini and painted by Alex Ross.

Early-mid-2000s: JSA, 52, and more[edit]

Since the cancellation of the Power of Shazam! title in 1999, the Marvel Family has 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 appeared regularly in JSA in 2003 and 2004, and 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 Superman/Shazam: First Thunder mini-series, written by Judd Winick with art by Josh Middleton, and published between September 2005 and March 2006, depicted the first post-Crisis meeting between Superman and Captain Marvel.

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 miniseries, 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, which is rebuilt by the Shadowpact, although he has trouble with the Sins imprisoned there when he hears their voices. 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 and introduced Adam's "Black Marvel Family," consisting of Adam himself, his wife Isis, her brother Osiris, and Sobek. The series chronicled Adam's attempts to reform after falling in love with Isis, only to launch the DC universe into World War III after she and Osiris are killed. The Marvel Family appeared frequently in the 12-issue bimonthly painted Justice maxi-series by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, and Doug Braithwaite, published from 2005 to 2007.

The Trials of Shazam![edit]

The Trials of Shazam!, a 12-issue maxi-series written by Judd Winick and illustrated by Howard Porter for the first eight issues, and by Mauro Cascioli for the remaining four, was published from 2006 to 2008. The series redefined the Shazam! property with a stronger focus on magic and mysticism. Trials of Shazam! featured Captain Marvel, now with a white costume and long white hair, taking over the role of the wizard Shazam under the name Marvel, while Captain Marvel, Jr., and Mary Marvel lose their powers. A powerless Freddy Freeman is drafted to prove himself worthy to each of the six gods represented by the "Shazam" acronym so that he can become their new champion and herald under the name Shazam. However, a witch named Sabina attempts to take the power herself.

In the pages of the 2007–2008 Countdown to Final Crisis limited series, Black Adam gives the powerless Mary Batson his powers, turning her into a more aggressive super-powered figure, less upstanding than the old Mary Marvel. By the end of the series, as well as in DC's 2008–2009 Final Crisis limited series, the now black-costumed Mary Marvel, possessed by the evil New God Desaad, becomes a villainess, joining forces with Superman villain Darkseid and fighting both Supergirl and Freddy Freeman/Shazam, who turns her back using his lightning.

A three-issue arc in Justice Society of America (vol. 3) undid much of the Trials of Shazam! changes. Issues 23 through 25 of Justice Society featured Black Adam and a resurrected Isis taking over the Rock of Eternity and robbing Billy Batson of his Marvel powers. Billy calls the Justice Society to intervene, while Adam and Isis enlist the evil Mary Marvel to turn Billy into an evil Marvel as well. By the end of the story arc, Adam realizes that Isis and the evil Batson siblings are out of control, and gives up his power to resurrect the wizard Shazam. The angry wizard promptly takes back his powers from the others, threatening to also deal with Freddy Freeman/Shazam, who is absent from the story.

Billy and Mary Batson made a brief appearance during DC's 2009–2010 Blackest Night saga in a one-shot special, The Power of Shazam! #48. The siblings watch the rampage of the once-dead Osiris, now revived as an undead Black Lantern, on the Internet from their apartment.[33] In 2011, DC published a one-shot Shazam! story written by Eric Wallace, in which the still-powerless Billy and Mary help Freddy/Shazam in a battle with the demoness Blaze. Freddy would eventually have his powers stolen by Osiris in Titans #32 the same year.[34]

The New 52 relaunch[edit]

Alternate cover for Justice League (Vol. 2) #0. Clockwise from bottom/front: Shazam!, Eugene Choi, Darla Dudley, Pedro Peña, Freddy Freeman, Mary Batson, Tawny, Black Adam, and Doctor Sivana. Art by Ivan Reis.

In 2011, DC Comics relaunched their entire comic book lineup, creating The New 52 series. One of these relaunched series, Justice League, began featuring a Shazam! backup story with issue #7 in March 2012.[35] The feature, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank, introduces Billy Batson and his supporting cast into the new DC Universe.[36] As part of the redesign, Captain Marvel received a new costume designed by Frank with a long cloak and hood.[37] Johns noted that the character's place in the world will be "far more rooted in fantasy and magic than it ever was before".[38] The character also was officially renamed "Shazam".[5] The Shazam! origin story concluded in Justice League #21 (2013), a full-length Shazam! issue, preceding a DC's crossover "Trinity War" storyline which heavily features the Shazam mythos.

In his revised origin, Billy Batson is an arrogant and troubled 15-year-old foster child living in Philadelphia who has gone through several foster homes.[39] At his newest foster home, he gains five foster siblings, including new versions of Mary Batson and Freddy Freeman.[40] When the evil Dr. Sivana unleashes the ancient magical warrior Black Adam from his tomb,[41] the Wizard of the Rock of Eternity – the last of a council of beings who once controlled magic – begins abducting new candidates to assess them for the job of being his champion. He dismisses them all for not being pure of heart.[42][43]

Eventually, the Wizard summons Billy, who is another unsuitable candidate, but Billy persuades the Wizard that perfectly good people "really don't exist". In desperation, the dying Wizard passes on his powers and teaches Billy they can be accessed through the magic word "Shazam" when spoken with good intentions. After saying the magic word, Billy is struck by a bolt of lightning which transforms him into Shazam, a super-powered being possessing super-strength and flight. The Wizard dies and transports Shazam back to Earth, where Billy reveals his new secret to Freddy. The two scheme to make money with Shazam's new powers, until Shazam is attacked by Black Adam.[42] After learning of Black Adam's troubled origin, Billy attempts and fails to reason with Adam,[44] and is only saved by sharing his powers with his foster siblings, who all become magic-powered adult superheroes.[45] Ultimately, Billy goads Adam into saying the magic word and transforming into his human form, at which time he promptly turns to dust.[45]

Commencing the "Trinity War" storyline, Billy flies to Black Adam's home nation of Khandaq to bury Adam's remains. Shazam's entry into the country is interpreted by the locals as illegal US entry into their territory, following a similar international incident with Superman and Wonder Woman several weeks previously. Both the independent Justice League and the US-sponsored Justice League of America (JLA) arrive in Khandaq to take control of the situation. Shazam is taken into US custody by the JLA, alongside the Justice League, after Superman inadvertently kills Doctor Light.[46][47] Shazam travels with the Justice League to the Justice League Dark for further investigation of Light's death, and the sorcerer John Constantine briefly steals Shazam's abilities, fearing what a child will do with them.[48] Shazam later tries to open Pandora's Box, a device which opens the doorway to Earth-3, and is infected with evil. His costume changes, giving him the visual appearance of Black Adam for a time.[49] Following the successful defeat of Earth-Three's Crime Syndicate by Lex Luthor, Shazam is inducted into the League in Justice League #30.[50]

Powers and abilities[edit]

When Billy Batson says the magic word "Shazam!" and transforms into Shazam/Captain Marvel, he is granted the following powers:

S for the Wisdom of Solomon As Shazam/Captain Marvel, Billy has instant access to a vast amount of scholarly knowledge, including most known languages and sciences. He has exceptional photographic recall and mental acuity, allowing him to read and decipher hieroglyphs, recall everything he has ever learned, and solve long mathematical equations. He also has a great understanding of divine phenomena in the mortal world. The wisdom of Solomon 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.
H for the Strength of Hercules Hercules' power grants Shazam/Captain Marvel immense superhuman strength, making him one of DC Comics' strongest characters. He is able to easily bend steel, punch through walls, and lift massive objects (including whole continents, such as South America). In the comics, this strength has evolved to be roughly equal to that of Superman.[51]
A for the Stamina of Atlas Using Atlas' stamina, Shazam/Captain Marvel can withstand and survive most types of extreme physical assaults, and heal from them. Additionally, he does not need to eat, sleep, or breathe, and can survive unaided in space when in Captain Marvel form. In some stories, the stamina of Atlas makes Captain Marvel nearly invulnerable.[citation needed]
Z for the Power of Zeus Zeus' power, besides fueling the magic thunderbolt that transforms Shazam/Captain Marvel, also enhances Marvel's other physical and mental abilities, and grants him resistance against all magic spells and attacks. The hero can use the lightning bolt as a weapon by dodging it and allowing it to strike an opponent or other target. The magic lightning has several uses, such as creating apparatus, restoring damage done to the hero, and providing fuel for magic spells. The current-continuity version of Shazam is able to personally generate and control lightning for various uses.
A for the Courage of Achilles This aspect gives Shazam/Captain Marvel the courage and bravery of Achilles and, in one story, it is claimed to give him fighting skills.[52] In the Trials of Shazam! mini-series, this was changed temporarily to Achilles' near invulnerability. It also aids the hero's mental fortitude against most mental attacks.
M for the Speed of Mercury By channeling Mercury's speed, Shazam/Captain Marvel can move at superhuman speeds and fly, although in older comics he could only leap great distances and even out run Superman. This also gives Marvel the ability to fly to the Rock of Eternity by traveling faster than the speed of light.

Repeating the word "Shazam!" transforms Shazam/Captain Marvel back into Billy.[53] Shazam/Captain Marvel also shares his powers with his Shazam Family/Marvel Family teammates; some stories depict the Sahzam power as a finite source which would be divided in half or into thirds, depending upon how many Marvels were in active super-powered form at one time, weakening them accordingly.[54]

As he was transformed by magic lightning, Shazam/Captain Marvel is shown in several stories to be susceptible to both high-powered magic,[55] which can weaken or de-power him,[55] and to significantly high voltages of electricity, which can revert him back to Billy Batson form.[56] Likewise, regular lightning strikes could transform Billy to Captain Marvel.[57] The modern version of Captain Marvel is also vulnerable in that he possesses the immature personality of a teenager.[58]

The white-clad "Marvel" version of the character from The Trials of Shazam! also commands the various magical abilities once owned by the wizard Shazam. However, Marvel is required to remain on the Rock of Eternity and can only be away from the Rock for 24 hours at a time[59]

In The New 52, Shazam's powers are altered slightly. The word "Shazam" does not cause a transformation if Billy does not want it to; he is able to use and manipulate magical lightning much more readily from his fingertips; and is able to use his magic in as-yet-unexplored ways, demonstrating on one occasion the power to conjure items.[60]

Other versions[edit]

A significant number of "alternate" depictions of Shazam/Captain Marvel have appeared in DC publications since the 1970s.

Captain Thunder (1974)[edit]

In Superman #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 by a magic spell, 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" (a reference to the publisher of the original Captain Marvel stories, Fawcett Comics), and a magic word ("Thunder!"), which was an acronym for seven entities and their respective powers. He got his power from rubbing a magic belt buckle with a thunder symbol on it and saying "Thunder". His powers came from Tornado (power), Hare (speed), Uncas (bravery), Nature (wisdom), Diamond (toughness), Eagle (flight), and Ram (tenacity). Superman held him while he used his wisdom to escape the effects of the spell.

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 (although he met Lex Luthor in Shazam! #15, November/December 1974).

Captain Thunder (1982)[edit]

In the early 1980s, a proposal for an updated Captain Marvel was submitted to DC by Roy Thomas, Don Newton, and Jerry Ordway.[citation needed] This version of the character, to be an inhabitant of DC's main Earth-One universe, rather than the Fawcett-based Earth-S universe, would have featured an African-American version of Billy Batson, who spoke the magic word "Shazam!" to become Captain Thunder, Earth-One's Mightiest Mortal.[citation needed] This alternate version of the character was never used.

Captain Thunder (2011): Flashpoint[edit]

The 2011 Flashpoint miniseries featured an alternate timeline accidentally created by the Flash, who then helped the heroes of this timeline to restore history. One of those heroes is Captain Thunder – an alternative version of Captain Marvel who has six alter-egos, rather than one, and a scarred face as the result of a fight with Wonder Woman, who in this timeline is a villain.

The six children – (collectively known as "S.H.A.Z.A.M") – each possess one of the six attributes of the power of Shazam and must say the magic word together to become Captain Thunder. The six children consist of an Asian-American boy named Eugene Choi, who possesses the wisdom of Solomon; an overweight Latino boy named Pedro Peña, who possesses the strength of Hercules; Mary Batson, who possesses the stamina of Atlas; Freddy Freeman, who possesses the power of Zeus; Billy Batson, who possesses the courage of Achilles; and an African-American girl named Darla Dudley who possesses the speed of Mercury. Pedro's pet tiger Tawny also transforms into a more powerful version of himself via the magic lightning, in a similar manner to He-Man's pet Battle Cat.[61]

The six children later transform into Captain Thunder to help Flash and his allies stop the war between Aquaman's Atlantean army and Wonder Woman's Amazonian forces. Captain Thunder briefly fights Wonder Woman to a draw before being transformed back into the six children by Flash's accomplice Enchantress, who is revealed to be a traitor. Before the kids can reform Captain Thunder again, Billy is stabbed by the Amazon Penthesileia and killed.[62]

After the conclusion of the Flashpoint miniseries, the three new children from the Flashpoint timeline – Eugene, Pedro, and Darla – are incorporated into the DC Universe via the Shazam backup strip in Justice League, appearing as Billy, Mary, and Freddy's foster siblings.

Elseworld's Finest[edit]

In the alternate universe Elseworlds book Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl (1998), Captain Marvel is depicted as a bald African American man.

The Dark Knight Strikes Again[edit]

In the dark alternate future shown in The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Captain Marvel is visibly aged, with receding white hair and glasses. He is being blackmailed by Lex Luthor into working for him, to prevent Luthor from killing the captured Mary Marvel. During an alien attack on Metropolis, Marvel is trapped underneath a collapsing building with no way out, and admits that Billy Batson – here, clearly defined as a separate person from Marvel, rather than simply transforming into him – died eight years ago of unspecified health problems. As a result, when he next speaks his word, he will cease to exist like any dream that no longer has anyone to remember it. His last words to Wonder Woman are to give everyone his best, noting that it was nice existing, before he calls down his lightning and destroys himself.

Kingdom Come[edit]

The graphic novel Kingdom Come depicts a possible future of the DC characters. In this version, Billy Batson is grown up, but the human hostility towards superheroes has made him uneasy, and he has not transformed into Captain Marvel for several years. Instead, he becomes a brainwashed servant of Lex Luthor, who uses Mister Mind's offspring to keep Batson in check and bend him to his will. Nevertheless, Batson's potential as a being powerful enough to rival Superman causes many others to react in fear and unease when he mingles with them, unsure whether it is Batson (whose adult appearance is identical to his Captain Marvel form) or Marvel that serves Luthor.

Events finally cause him to change back into Captain Marvel, and he unleashes a force that could destroy the world. When the authorities try to stop it by dropping a nuclear bomb, Captain Marvel - spurred by Superman telling him that he is the only one capable of making the choice due to his ties to both humanity and the superhuman community - triggers his lightning to sacrifice himself and destroy the bomb while it is still airborne. The bomb's fallout kills a large number of heroes, but does cool the war-like attitudes of the survivors. Superman uses Marvel's cape as the symbol of a new world order in which humans and superhumans will now live in harmony.

52 and Earth-5[edit]

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 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 Earth-5 Captain Marvel and Billy Batson appeared in the Final Crisis: Superman Beyond miniseries, assisting Superman.[63] The miniseries established that these versions of Captain Marvel and Billy are two separate beings, and that Billy is a reporter for WHIZ Media, rather than a radio broadcaster. The Earth-5 Captain Marvel reappeared in Final Crisis #7, along with an army of Supermen from across the Multiverse to prevent its destruction by Darkseid.[64]

Justice League: Generation Lost[edit]

A female version of Captain Marvel is shown as a member of an alternate-future Justice League in Justice League: Generation Lost. Little is revealed about her, other than the fact that her civilian name is Sahar Shazeen, and she is shown wielding a pair of swords during battle. She and her teammates are ultimately killed by an army of Omni Mind And Community (OMACs).[65]

Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil[edit]

A second Captain Marvel mini-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! miniseries, in the works since 2003, is a more traditional take on the character, which updates and reimagines Captain Marvel's origin.[66] Smith's story features a younger-looking Billy Batson and Captain Marvel as separate personalities, as they were in the pre-1985 stories, and features a prepubescent Mary Marvel as Captain Marvel's sidekick, instead of the traditional teen-aged or adult version. Dr. Sivana is Attorney General of the United States, and Mister Mind looks more like a snake than a caterpillar.

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam![edit]

An all-ages Captain Marvel comic, Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!, debuted in July 2008 under DC's Johnny DC youth-oriented imprint, and was published monthly through December 2010. Following the lead and continuity of Smith's version, it was initially written and drawn by Mike Kunkel, creator of Herobear.[67] Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani, of Tiny Titans, took over as writers with issue #5, with Byron Vaughns as main artist until issue #13, when Mike Norton assumed his place for the remainder of the series.[68] Kunkel's version returns to the modern concept of having Captain Marvel retain Billy's personality, and also introduces new versions of Black Adam (whose alter ego, Theo Adam, is a child like Billy Batson in this version), King Kull, the Arson Fiend, and Freddy Freeman/Captain Marvel, Jr.

Mazahs[edit]

In the 2013–14 Forever Evil crossover event series, the Alexander Luthor of Earth-3 is revealed as Mazahs, the Earth-3 version of Shazam.[69] In the story, the Crime Syndicate (analogues of the Justice League) have brought Alexander Luthor, their prisoner, with them to the Prime Earth where the Justice League and other heroes reside. Lex Luthor and his team sneak in to the Justice League Watchtower where the Syndicate has Alexander hostage, and remove the duct tape holding his mouth closed. As soon as this is done, Alexander speaks the word, 'Mazahs', transforming himself into the muscular, highly powerful being Mazahs, and killing the Syndicate's speedster Johnny Quick.[70] In the final issue of the series, it is revealed that Wonder Woman analogue Superwoman is in a relationship with Alexander and is responsible for tricking her teammates into bringing him with them. She also reveals she is carrying his child, who is prophesied to bring an end to the world. Exploiting his ability to use the powers of those he has killed, Mazahs easily takes down both the Syndicate and Luthor's team, but the original Lex Luthor (having the same voice as Mazahs) manages to call down the lightning and transform Mazahs into his human form. Sealing Alexander's mouth, Lex stabs him with a knife, killing him.[71]

Supporting cast[edit]

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 miniseries, the Marvel Family also included part-time members such as Mary's non-powered friend "Uncle" Dudley (Uncle Marvel), Dudley's non-powered niece Freckles Marvel, a team of protégés (all of whose alter egos are named "Billy Batson") known as the Lieutenant Marvels, and the pink rabbit version of Captain Marvel, Hoppy the Marvel Bunny.

Over the course of his adventures, Captain Marvel has 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, who has powers from Egyptian gods; Adolf 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, a god with magical powers, a former pupil of Shazam with cloven hooves, and a member of the Pantheon, who was banished for an attempted rebellion; and Ibac and Sabbac, demon-powered supervillains who transform by speaking magic words made up of beings who give them power, in a manner similar to Captain Marvel.

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.

The New 52 version of Shazam has five foster siblings, with whom he can share his powers at will: Mary Batson, Freddy Freeman, Pedro Peña, Eugene Choi, and Darla Dudley. Shazam can also share his powers with Tawny, a tiger at the local city zoo whom he considers family.[45]

Collected editions[edit]

Many of the character's appearances have been collected into several volumes:

  • Shazam! From the Forties to the Seventies (1977, Harmony Books, ISBN 0-517-53127-5). Hardcover collection reprinting 37 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. Introduction by E. Nelson Bridwell.
  • The Monster Society of Evil: Deluxe Limited Collector's Edition (1989, American Nostalgia Library, ISBN 0-948248-07-6). Compiled and designed by Mike Higgs. Reprints the entire "Monster Society of Evil" story arc that ran for two years in Captain Marvel Adventures #22–46 (1943–1945), in which Captain Marvel meets Mister Mind and his Monster Society of Evil. This oversized, slipcased hardcover book was strictly limited to 3,000 numbered copies.
  • The Shazam! Archives, Volumes 1–4 (1992, ISBN 1-56389-053-4; 1998, ISBN 1-56389-521-8; 2002, ISBN 1-56389-832-2; 2005, ISBN 1-4012-0160-1). 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, ISBN 1-4012-0779-0). 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 writers; art by Mac Raboy, Al Carreno, Marc Swayze, and C.C. Beck.
  • Shazam! and the Shazam Family! Annual No. 1 (2002). An 80-Page Giant-style, squarebound paperback collection reprinting several Golden Age Marvel Family adventures from Captain Marvel Adventures #18 (December 1942), Captain Marvel, Jr. #12 (October 1943), and The Marvel Family #1 (December 1945) and #10 (April 1947), 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! Volume 1 (2006, ISBN 1-4012-1089-9). A 500-page trade paperback featuring black-and-white reprints of stories from the 1970s Shazam! ongoing series, collecting only the new material that was published (and not the Golden Age reprints) in issues #1–33. Written by Dennis O'Neill, E. Nelson Bridwell, and Elliott Maggin; art by C.C. Beck, Kurt Schaffenberger, Dave Cockrum, Dick Giordano, and others.
  • The Trials of Shazam!, Volumes 1 –2 (2007, ISBN 1-4012-1331-6; 2008, ISBN 1-4012-1829-6). Volume 1 reprints Trials of Shazam! #1-6 and short story from DCU Brave New World #1. Volume 2 reprints #7-12.
  • Shazam! The Greatest Stories Ever Told (2008, ISBN 1-4012-1674-9). A compilation featuring Captain Marvel stories collected from the Fawcett publications Whiz Comics #2; Captain Marvel Adventures #1, 137, 148; The Marvel Family #21, 85; and the DC publications Shazam! #1, 14; DC Comics Presents Annual #3; Superman #276; L.E.G.I.O.N. '91 #31; The Power of Shazam! #33; and Adventures in the DC Universe #15.
  • Superman vs. Shazam! (2013, ISBN 1-4012-3821-1). A compilation featuring past team-ups between The Man of Steel and the World’s Mightiest Mortal in this collection also featuring Mr. Mxyzptlk, Mr. Mind, Captain Nazi, Black Adam and more. Collects All-New Collector’s Edition C-58, DC Comics Presents #33-34 and 49, and DC Comics Presents Annual #3.
  • Shazam! Vol. 1 (2013, ISBN 978-1401242442). Compiles the revised New 52 origins of Billy Batson and Shazam from backup features originally printed in Justice League Vol. 2 #0, 7–11, 14–16, 18–21. Story by Geoff Johns, art by Gary Frank.

In other media[edit]

Live-action films[edit]

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

The first filmed adaptation of Captain Marvel was produced in 1941. Adventures of Captain Marvel, starring Tom Tyler in the title role and Frank Coghlan, Jr. as Billy Batson, was a 12-part film serial produced by Republic Pictures in 1941. This production made Captain Marvel the first superhero to be depicted in film. The Adventures of Captain Marvel (the man-in-flight effects techniques for which, ironically, were originally developed for a Superman film serial that Republic never produced)[72] predated Fleischer Studios' Superman cartoons by six months.[72]

In 1950, Columbia Pictures released the comedy/mystery The Good Humor Man with Jack Carson, Lola Albright, and George Reeves. The storyline has Carson as an ice cream vendor who also belongs to a home-grown Captain Marvel Club with some of the kids in the neighborhood.[73] Fawcett released a tie-in one-shot the same year the movie appeared, Captain Marvel and the Good Humor Man.[74]

New Line Cinema began development of a Shazam! live-action feature film in the early 2000s, with multiple screenplay drafts by William Goldman, the team of Alec Sokolow & Joel Cohen, Bryan Goluboff, and John August. Peter Segal[75] was attached as director and former wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was in talks to appear as Black Adam.[76] New Line Cinema was absorbed into Warner Bros. during the course of pre-production.

Following the success of Warner's film noir-inspired Batman film The Dark Knight and the commercial failure of its lighter, family-friendly Speed Racer during the summer of 2008, August departed from the project after being forced to make the film's script more in line with The Dark Knight's serious tone.[77][78] In the summer of 2009, it was announced that Bill Birch and JSA/52 co-author Geoff Johns were assigned to write the screenplay, while Segal remained attached as director.[79] In August 2010, Los Angeles Times columnist Geoff Boucher reported that discussions had begun to possibly cancel the theatrical Shazam! movie and do a live-action series for prime time network television instead;[80] by December 2013, Segal reported that the film wouldn't be happening.[81]

However on April 28, 2014, The Wall Street Journal revealed an upcoming slate of Warner Bros. films based on DC Comics properties, including a Shazam! film planned for release in May 2016.[82][83][84] Dwayne Johnson confirmed the project and his attachment on August 20, 2014, [85] officially announcing his casting as Black Adam on September 3, 2014.[86] Shazam!, still a New Line Cinema production being released through Warner Bros.,[87] is being executive produced by Toby Emmerich and screenwriter Darren Lenke of Jack the Giant Slayer and Turbo, has been hired to write the script.[87] Emmerich told Entertainment Weekly in an interview that the film will have a tone unto itself separate from the concurrent Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice film: with a sense of fun and humor, but with real stakes and an anti-hero version of Black Adam.[88]

Direct-to-video animated films[edit]

Captain Marvel's first appearance in Warner Bros. Animation's line of DC animated universe direct-to-video films was a brief cameo in 2008's Justice League: The New Frontier. The character had a more substantial role in the 2009 animated film Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, based on a Superman/Batman comic book arc in which Marvel battles Superman under orders from United States president Lex Luthor. Captain Marvel was voiced by Corey Burton. An uncredited Rachael MacFarlane voiced Billy Batson.

Captain Marvel appears in an animated short film entitled Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam (released on the DC Showcase Original Shorts Collection DVD compilation as part of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies) with Jerry O'Connell reprising his role as Captain Marvel and Billy Batson voiced by Zach Callison.[89][90][91]

Captain Thunder and the S.H.A.Z.A.M. kids appear in the animated movie adaptation of Flashpoint, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, with Pedro Peña & Billy Batson voiced by Candi Milo & Jennifer Hale, and Captain Thunder voiced by Steven Blum.

In 2014, the character -now renamed Shazam - appeared in the animated film Justice League: War, voiced by Sean Astin and Zach Callison reprising his role as Billy Batson. Shazam will appear in the animated film Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, with Sean Astin reprising his role.

Radio[edit]

Around 1943 a radio serial of Captain Marvel was briefly broadcast (possible by either Mutual or NBC) initially with Burt Boyar as Billy Batson. Boyar's faint memories in a 2011 interview was while the show was initially produced in New York it relocated after a month to Chicago; no further details about the show or transcriptions of it survived. Existence of the show was confirmed by historian Jim Harmon via recollections of old time radio fans who recalled hearing it when it aired plus period program listings.[92]

Television[edit]

Captain Marvel first came to television in 1974. 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.

Jackson Bostwick as Captain Marvel on CBS' Shazam! Saturday morning TV series.

Instead of directly following the lead of the comic, the Shazam! TV show took a more indirect approach to the character: Billy Batson/Captain Marvel, accompanied by an older man known simply as Mentor (Les Tremayne), traveled in a motor home across the US, interacting with people in different towns in which they stopped to save the citizens from some form of danger or to help them combat some form of evil. With the wizard Shazam absent from this series, Billy received his powers and counsel directly from the six "immortal elders" represented in the "Shazam" name, who were depicted via animation: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. Shazam! starred Michael Gray as Billy Batson, with both Jackson Bostwick (Season One) and John Davey (Seasons Two and Three) as Captain Marvel.[93] 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-budget, live-action comedy specials, produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions under the name Legends of the Superheroes in 1979. 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. Although Captain Marvel did not appear in Hanna-Barbera's long-running concurrent 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.

Filmation revisited the character three years later for an animated Shazam! cartoon, which ran on NBC from 1981 to 1982 as part of The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam! with Captain Marvel voiced by Burr Middleton. 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.

Captain Marvel and/or Billy Batson made brief "cameo" appearances in two 1990s TV series. Billy has a non-speaking cameo in the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Obsession", while live actors portraying Captain Marvel make "cameo" appearances in both a dream-sequence within an episode of The Drew Carey Show, and in the Beastie Boys' music video for "Alive".

Captain Marvel battles Superman in the "Clash" episode of Cartoon Network's Justice League Unlimited.

Captain Marvel's first formal appearance in a DC animated universe series, the name given to the animated DC Comics spin-off productions produced by Bruce Timm and/or Paul Dini, was as the main guest star character of the Justice League Unlimited episode "Clash", originally aired in 2005 on Cartoon Network. Captain Marvel was voiced by Jerry O'Connell and Billy Batson voiced by Shane Haboucha. In this episode, Captain Marvel joins the Justice League, but his positive opinions about supervillain Lex Luthor's apparent reform create a heavy strain on his relationship with Superman. This tension eventually leads to an all-out battle between Marvel and Superman, which destroys Luthor's newest creation, Lexor City. Marvel loses the battle to Superman. Although Marvel is eventually proven to have been right all along, he is still understandably hurt by Superman's actions, and resigns from the Justice League in disgust, despite Superman's efforts to apologize, unaware that he was unwittingly a pawn in a plot by Luthor and Amanda Waller to damage Superman's image.

Four years later, Captain Marvel made seven appearances in Cartoon Network's Batman: The Brave and the Bold series, with Captain Marvel voiced by Jeff Bennett and Billy Batson voiced by Tara Strong.[94] After first appearing in the opening teaser to the episode "Death Race to Oblivion!", Marvel appeared in two episodes dedicated to his world during the show's second season. "The Power of Shazam!" featured Captain Marvel/Billy Batson alongside the Sivana Family, Black Adam, the wizard Shazam, Aunt Minerva, and Mary Batson, while "The Malicious Mr. Mind" featured the Marvel Family, Sivana, Mr. Mind, and the Monster Society of Evil. Captain Marvel also appears in the two-episode Season Two storyline "The Siege of Starro!", and the third season episodes "Night of the Batmen!" and "Crisis: 22,300 Miles Above Earth!"

Captain Marvel also appears as a recurring character in the ongoing DC Comics-based Cartoon Network series Young Justice with Captain Marvel voiced by Rob Lowe[95] and later by Chad Lowe, while Billy Batson is voiced by Robert Ochoa. Depicted as a member of the Justice League, Marvel is introduced as the team's new "den mother" in the episode "Alpha Male" after Red Tornado's disappearance. At various times, he sometimes joins the teenage heroes of Young Justice on their missions. In the series, Marvel often tries to treat the Team as peers (most of them actually being older than him), but since nobody knows his actual age, both the Team and the League see him as just another adult. In the episode, "Misplaced," Klarion the Witch Boy magically cleaves the world into two – one for adults and one for children. Captain Marvel's dual identity allows him to travel between the worlds and help both teams with a plot to stop the threat, revealing his secret identity in the process, leading to debate in the episode "Agendas" whether he should be removed from the League for not disclosing that he was really a 10-year-old boy. In "Cornered," Billy Batson fights Despero at age 15 before turning into Captain Marvel.

In the popular TV series American Dad, Steve Smith (one of the main characters) wears a Shazam T-Shirt, a direct reference to Captain Marvel.

A collection of D.C Nation short star Captain Marvel, with Tara Strong reprising her role as Billy Batson and David Kaye voicing Captian Marvel.

Video games[edit]

Captain Marvel made his first official video game appearance as a playable character in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe,played by Stephan Scalabrino and voiced by Kevin Delaney, for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 game consoles. In the story, Captain Marvel is among several DC superheroes teleported to the Mortal Kombat video game universe when the two universes merge, and characters from each franchise are forced to do battle.

Captain Marvel also appears as a "jump-in" hero character in the Wii/Nintendo DS adaptations of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, voiced by Jeff Bennett.

Captain Marvel appears in the MMORPG DC Universe Online, in Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, available on PS3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Nintendo Wii, and Nintendo Wii U, voiced by Travis Willingham,[96] and as a playable character in Infinite Crisis.[97]

As Shazam, the hero appears as a playable fighter[98] in Injustice: Gods Among Us, voiced by Joey Naber. In the beginning, Shazam is seen fighting Black Adam. The alternate Shazam initially fights for Superman's oppressive regime, and even saves Superman's life, but eventually publicly challenges Superman's motives and is executed. Yet his death is not in vain, as it causes the alternate Flash to defect to the insurgency with critical information. In the Arcade Mode, Shazam's ending has the Justice League members that fought the regime get possessed by an alien force. Shazam must rally the Marvel Family to defeat them. Shazam! will reappear in Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, where he will be able to change into his alter ego (Billy Batson) and back at will. This time, Shazam! will instantly be on the console versions without downloadable content.

Comic strips[edit]

In 1943, C.C. Beck and writer Rod Reed prepared seven sample installments of a comic strip, but syndicates expressed no interest in it. Reed suspected the DC lawsuit was the reason syndicates wouldn't take on the property, for fear of becoming parties in the ongoing litigation.[99]

Cultural impact[edit]

Captain Marvel vs. Superman in fiction[edit]

Superman and Captain Marvel face off in the 1996 Kingdom Come miniseries. 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 contribution is the regular use of Superman and Captain Marvel as adversaries in Modern Age comic book stories. The two are often portrayed as equally matched and, while Marvel does not possess Superman's heat vision, x-ray vision or breath powers, the magic-based nature of his own powers are a weakness for Superman.

The National Comics/Fawcett Comics rivalry was parodied in "Superduperman",[100] a satirical comic book story by Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood in the fourth issue of Mad (April/May 1953). 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 is greedy and money-grubbing, and a master criminal. Superduperman defeats Marbles by tricking him into hitting himself.

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. He apparently battles against a Monster League, who cast a spell to make him evil, but Superman helps him break free.[101] Two years later, Justice League of America #135–137 presented a story arc which featured the heroes of Earth-1, Earth-2, and Earth-S teaming together against their enemies. It is in this story that Superman and Captain Marvel first meet, albeit briefly. King Kull has caused Superman to go mad using red kryptonite, meaning he and Marvel battle, but Marvel restores his mind to normal with lightning.

In Shazam! #30 (1977), Dr. Sivana creates several steel creatures to destroy Pittsburgh's steel mills, after getting the idea from reading an issue of Action Comics. He finally creates a Superman robot made of a super-steel to destroy Captain Marvel. They both hit each other at the same moment, and the robot is destroyed.

Notable later Superman/Captain Marvel battles in DC Comics include All-New Collectors' Edition #C-58 (1978), All-Star Squadron #36–37 (1984), and Superman vol. 2, #102 (1995). The Superman/Captain Marvel battle depicted in Kingdom Come #4 (1996) serves as the climax of that miniseries, with Marvel having been brainwashed by Lex Luthor and Mister Mind to turn against the other heroes. The "Clash" episode of the DC-based animated TV series Justice League Unlimited, which includes Captain Marvel as a guest character, features a Superman/Captain Marvel fight as its centerpiece. By contrast, the depiction of the pair's first meeting in the Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder miniseries establishes them as firm friends and allies to the point of Superman volunteering to be Billy's mentor when he learns the boy's true age.[102]

Captain Marvel in popular culture[edit]

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 and later Gomer Pyle USMC. In the 1961 movie West Side Story, Baby John says that Captain Marvel doesn't need to use guns. Foxxy Cleopatra in the 2002 film Austin Powers in Goldmember is also fond of the word.

Captain Marvel is mentioned in a verse of the 1968 song "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" by The Beatles in the line: “So Captain Marvel zapped him right between the eyes”. This marks the only occasion in which a comic book character is mentioned in a Beatles song. In a scene of the movie A Hard Day's Night, Paul McCartney shouts the word "Shazam!"

In the 2002 film adaptation of Spider-Man, Peter Parker tries a variety of catchphrases/magic words – among them "Shazam!" – in an attempt to activate his new-found web shooting abilities. For many years, Phoenix Suns play-by-play announcer Al McCoy has said "Shazam!" when a Phoenix Sun player makes a three-point field goal, and has acknowledged that it came from Captain Marvel comics.

The Academy of Comic Book Arts named its Shazam Award in honor of the character.

Former Manchester United and England National Football Team captain Bryan Robson earned the nickname "Captain Marvel" from supporters for his stellar performances on the pitch.

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Beck, C.C., Bill Parker (w). "Capt. Marvel" Whiz Comics 2 (February 1940, reprinted March 2000), Fawcett Publications (reprint by DC Comics)
  • Beck, C.C., Denny O'Neil (w). "In the Beginning" Shazam! 1 (February 1973), National Periodical Publications
  • Ordway, Jerry (1994). The Power of Shazam!. New York: DC Comics. ISBN 1-56389-153-0. 
  • Thomas, Roy, Tom Mandrake (w). Shazam! The New Beginning 1–4 (January–April 1987), DC Comics
  • Kidd, Chip; Geoff Spear (2010). Shazam!: The Golden Age of the World's Mightiest Mortal. New York: Abrams ComicArts. ISBN 0-8109-9596-4. 

External links[edit]

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