The Confusing History and Mistaken Identities of Captain Marvel

Art by Ed McGuinness

Art by Ed McGuinness

As the final credits of Avengers Infinity War finally rolled, [*year old spoiler ahead] I sat tight hoping it's post-credits scene would at least give a hint as to how we'd get closure on half the Marvel Cinematic Universe dissipating into confetti. As it turned out, Nick Fury also dissipated into said confetti in that scene, but not before he could send a distress signal on a beeper-esque device that seemed to respond back with a gold, red, and blue star logo.
At that moment, the middle-aged stranger sitting to my right leaned over and asked "are we supposed to know what that was?". I said "Yeah, that's a nod to Captain Marvel, the other Marvel movie that'll tie-in before the next Avengers.".
He paused, looked back at me and although what his mouth said next was "Naw... that's an old DC character." the look on his face said "you don't know what you're talking about, jackass".
Then he got up and left.

Smash cut to a year later, Brie Larson has brought in over a billion dollars at the box office, starring in MARVEL Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL - so who's the jackass now, Mitch?! (everyone I've ever met named Mitch has been an A-hole, so I just assume his name was Mitch.)

As Marvel's Captain Marvel twiddles her thumbs waiting to help take on Thanos in “Avengers: Endgame” toward the end of this month, today, DC’s Shazam (aka "The Hero Formerly Known as Captain Marvel")'s movie releases in theaters for a shot at his own Silver Screen glory.

However wrong Mitch was in April of 2018, there was a point in time where his response would've been a far more valid one, and that's exactly what I aim to clarify for you today.

This is the original Captain Marvel (Fawcett Publications, later DC Comics):

Art by C.C. Beck

Art by C.C. Beck

He was born in the pages of Fawcett Publications’ Whiz Comics in 1939, created by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck. A Wizard named Shazam gave orphan Billy Batson the ability to change into a super-powered adult possessing the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and speed of Mercury all just by invoking the Wizard’s name- "S.H.A.Z.A.M. !".

This is Superman (DC Comics):

Art by Wayne Boring

Art by Wayne Boring

I don't need to explain big blue... though Captain Marvel’s beefy, raven-haired, squinty-eyed resemblance to the Man of Steel (who debuted earlier the same year and was the very basis for the word “Superhero”) would go on to play a big part in shaping the future of The Captain.

This is (Marvel Comics' first incarnation of) Captain Marvel:

Art by Gene Colan

Art by Gene Colan

After DC instigated a decade long legal battle claiming the original Captain Marvel was but a shameless rip-off of Superman, an eventual settlement guaranteed there would be no new adventures published for the original Captain Marvel (though his previously existing adventures were reprinted in the UK).
Fawcett Publications moved on to non-comic pursuits and in the process failed to keep an active US trademark on the name. This left room for Marvel to debut their own Captain Marvel in 1967 in an effort to capitalize on the availability and existing brand associated with the name. Though with Marvel’s version, the character name was where the similarities ended. This hero was an alien named “Mar-vell”, with a completely different origin from Fawcett's original.

This is Ms. Marvel (Marvel Comics):

Art by Frank Cho

Art by Frank Cho

Originally a secondary character in Marvel's first Captain Marvel title, Ms. Marvel’s civilian identity was that of the very same Carol Danvers who would go on to become the more famous of Marvel’s Marvels and eventually take the new and improved mantle of Captain Marvel in present day continuity. The Ms. Marvel mantle was eventually adopted by others, the heroine’s current secret identity being teenager Kamala Khan.

This is (Marvel's current) Captain Marvel:

Art by Ed McGuinness

Art by Ed McGuinness

This lady may look familiar - since 2011, Carol Danvers has been THE Captain Marvel; joining the Avengers in comics and now on the big screen, her origins and powers tie-in to Marvel’s male Captain Marvel of the 60’s; these days she is often cited as the most powerful woman in the Marvel Universe.

This is Kara Danvers/ Supergirl (DC Comics):

Art by Emanuela Lupacchino

Art by Emanuela Lupacchino

Other than the similarity of their aliases, this powerful blonde superheroine has nothing to do with Captain Marvel, but “Kara Danvers” further proves that cross-brand naming gymnastics are not uncommon in an industry where many writers and artists have worked for both Marvel and DC in their careers.
Just ask another pair of blatant “name dopplegangers” DC's Deathstroke (Slade Wilson) or Marvel's Deadpool (Wade Wilson).

This is Shazam (DC Comics):

Art by Gary Frank

Art by Gary Frank

In 2011, when DC rebooted their universe newly dubbed "The New 52", DC's Captain Marvel was officially reborn as Shazam. Ever since DC had first acquired the original Captain Marvel in 1972 (ironic given that they'd attempted to sue him out of existence 30 years prior), the comics he’d starred in had always been titled “Shazam”. As it turned out, most people just thought that was his name anyway.

Art by C.C. Beck

Art by C.C. Beck

Given that the character also flaunted the name of their rival company, the change admittedly made sense on many levels.
Not too much changed along with the name, though in The New 52's slight reworking of his origin, The Wizard previously know as Shazam simply became known as "The Wizard", and the same magic word Billy Batson had always used to spark his transformation was now also the name of his hero form. In a nice nod to the original Captain Marvel’s origins, until the “New 52“ reboot, Shazam/Cap's homebase in DC Universe had always been Fawcett City, named after the publishing company that first created him.

This is Kazaam:

kazaam.jpeg

Kazaam is a Genie portrayed by Shaq in a 1996 family movie. He should also have nothing to do with this, but his name frequently comes up alongside Shazam simply because they sound the same; and if comic book nerdery is not top of mind for you, your brain will lie to you.
He was NOT based on a comicbook character.
Buuuuuuut........

This is Steel (DC Comics):

men of steel_small.jpg

Also portrayed by Shaq in a 1997 family movie, Steel definitely has nothing to do with any of this except that I’m a smartass and he is based on a DC comics character. Also, at some point DC’s (at the time) Captain Marvel and Steel have appeared in the same storyline and I didn't want to be the only one burdened with not being able to un-know that odd piece of "six degrees of Shaq" trivia.

So there you have it, I hope that clears some things up; Shaq Faqts free of charge. The waters have been a little less muddy after DC's namechange to Shazam, but I honestly miss the days I could tell someone's comic nerd street cred by if they mistakenly thought DC's Captain Marvel was actually named Shazam.
Nowadays those people are technically right… though I'd be willing to bet Mitch is not up to date on the subject.

Posters.jpg

Go see “Earth’s Mightiest Mortal” this weekend, and if you haven’t already, “Earth’s Mightiest HERO“‘s movie was not bad either.

Posted on April 5, 2019 .