Captain Marvel (DC Comics)

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Cartoons

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel, from the interior of The Trials of Shazam! #1 (2006). Art by Howard Porter.

Publisher Fawcett Comics (1939–1953)
DC Comics (1972–present)
First appearance Whiz Comics # 2
(1940, historical)
The Power of Shazam! graphic novel (1994, canon)
Created by C.C. Beck
Bill Parker
Alter ego William Joseph "Billy" Batson
Affiliations Marvel Family
Justice League
Justice Society of America
Notable aliases Marvel
Captain Thunder
Abilities Magically bestowed aspects of various mythological figures which include vast super-strength, speed and stamina, physical and magical invulnerability, flight, fearlessness, vast wisdom, enhanced mental perception, control over and emission of magic lightning and vast untapped magical powers

Captain Marvel is a comic book superhero, originally published by Fawcett Comics and now owned 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 into 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 mythological 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.

Captain Marvel was hailed as "The World's Mightiest Mortal" in his adventures (and nicknamed "The Big Red Cheese" by archvillain Doctor Sivana, an epithet adopted by fans as a nickname for their hero). In addition, based on sales, he was the most popular superhero of the 1940s, since the Captain Marvel Adventures comic book series sold more copies than Superman and other competing superhero books during the mid-1940s . Captain Marvel was also the first superhero to be adapted into 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.

DC licensed the Marvel Family characters and returned them to publication in 1972. The company would eventually acquire all rights to the characters by 1991. They have since integrated Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family into the " DC Universe", and have attempted a few revivals. Despite their efforts, Captain Marvel has not regained widespread appeal with new generations, although a 1970s Shazam! live action television series featuring the character was very popular. Hoping to reverse this trend, DC Comics is currently publishing a twelve-issue limited series, The Trials of Shazam!, which significantly alters Captain Marvel's established characterization, with the character (now called "Marvel") taking over the wizard Shazam's role as mentor of Freddy Freeman, the former Captain Marvel, Jr.

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".

Character history

Development and inspirations

After the success of National Comics' new superhero characters Superman and Batman, Fawcett Publications decided in 1939 to start its own comics division. They recruited writer Bill Parker to create several hero characters for the first title in Fawcett's line, then to be called 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, and 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, 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 they 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 subsequently re-lettered to label the hero of the main story of the book as "Captain Marvel". Whiz Comics #2 was published in late 1939 and dated February 1940. 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 probably inspired the title Whiz Comics. In addition, Fawcett adapted several of the elements that had made Superman 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."

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, presumably to differentiate from Superman's outfit). 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.

Whiz Comics #2: origin story

Captain Marvel's origin story finds the homeless and orphaned Billy Batson making a meager living selling newspapers near an old subway station, sleeping in the doorway of the station. Billy had been living with his uncle after the deaths of his parents, but the cruel old man threw the boy out into the streets and stole his inheritance. While selling papers one rainy night, a dark-clothed stranger comes to the boy, and asks him to follow him down into the subway station. There, a strange subway train with no visible driver appears, this carries the pair to the secret lair of the wizard Shazam. There, the ancient wizard reveals that he has selected Billy to be his champion to fight for good as the "strongest and mightiest man in the world — Captain Marvel!"

To that end, Shazam orders the boy to speak his name, which was actually 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.

Billy complies and is immediately struck by a magic lightning bolt, which turns him into Captain Marvel, an adult superhero. He then learns that he only has to speak the word again to instantly change back into Billy. With that, Shazam is immediately killed by a large granite block that falls from above his throne, and Billy vows to fulfill his bestowed role. Whenever he needed advice, Billy could light a brazier near Shazam's throne, which would summon the wizard's ghost.

Marvel's first call to duty was saving the world from the evil mad scientist Dr. Thaddeus Bodog Sivana, who threatened to silence radio forever unless he was paid a large sum of money. Resuming his regular form, Billy tells WHIZ radio mogul Sterling Morris that he can stop the Radio Silencer and Sivana; a disbelieving Morris offers Billy a job on the air if he can do so.

Finding the crooks' hideout, Billy transforms into Captain Marvel, destroys Sivana's radio silencing machine, and apprehends his henchmen. Sivana escapes, however, setting the stage for a long line of future confrontations. Marvel transforms back into Billy, who presents the captured criminals and destroyed Radio Silencer to Sterling Morris. True to his word, Sterling Morris makes Billy an on-air news reporter for WHIZ radio.

Captain Marvel was an instant success, with Whiz Comics #2 selling over 500,000 copies . 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

Through his adventures, he soon gained a host of enemies, including 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" storyline ran as two-year story-arc 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 similar powers and/or costumes 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 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 & Jack Kirby, Mac Raboy, Pete Costanza, Kurt Shaffenberger, and Marc Swayze.

Captain Marvel vs. Superman

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 , 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.

Due to the similarity of Captain Marvel to Superman, National Comics Publications (now DC Comics) sued Fawcett Comics for copyright infringement of intellectual property in 1941. After seven years of litigation, the National Comics Publications v. Fawcett Publications case went to trials court in 1948. The initial 1951 verdict was decided in Fawcett's favour. Although the judge 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 DC had abandoned the Superman copyright . DC appealed this decision, and Judge Learned Hand declared in 1952 that DC'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, sending the matter back to the lower court for final determination. .

Accordingly, Judge Hand's decision stated that National had not specifically proven which particular aspects of the Superman character (and plots) had been infringed. He stated that in retrying the case again in the lower court such specific allegations would need to be maintained. Fawcett decided to settle with DC out of court instead of retrying the case (one they were not certain they would again win, even with the enhanced evidentiary record of specific comic panels, incidents and other distinguishing features of the two characters - Superman and Captain Marvel). Feeling that a decline in the popularity of superhero comics meant that it was no longer worth continuing the fight . Fawcett shut down its comics division in the autumn of 1953, laid off its comic-creating staff, and paid DC $400,000 in damages . Whiz Comics had ended with issue #146 in June 1952; Captain Marvel Adventures folded with #150 (November 1953), and The Marvel Family ended its run with #89 (January 1954).

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. In 1954, the lawsuit abruptly cut off their supply of Captain Marvel material. They requested the help of a British comic writer, Mick Anglo, who created a British copy of the superhero called Marvelman. Marvelman ceased publication in 1963, but was revived in 1982 and retitled Miracleman in 1985.

The Shazam! revival

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 some readers have taken to identifying the character as "Shazam" instead of his actual name.

The Shazam! comic series began with issue #1 in 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, the Sivanas, and most of their supporting cast had been accidentally trapped in suspended animation for 20 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 he quit because of differences with DC Comics; Kurt Shaffenberger and Don Newton were among the later artists of the title.

With DC's Multiverse in effect during this time, it was stated that the revived Marvel Family and related characters lived on the parallel world of "Earth-S". While the series began with a great deal of fanfare, the book had a lackluster reception. Shazam! was cancelled with issue #35 (June 1978) and relegated to a back-up position in World's Finest Comics (from #254 in November 1979 to #282 in August 1982) and Adventure Comics (from #491 in September 1982 to #498 in April 1983). With their 1985 miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC fully integrated the characters into the mainstream DC superhero setting.

Justice League and Shazam! The New Beginning

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. That same year, he was also given his own miniseries, Shazam! The New Beginning. With the 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. In this miniseries, both Sivana and Dudley were Billy Batson's real uncles, who fought over the custody for the boy after his parents were killed (by Sivana) in a car accident. Black Adam is also present in the story as Sivana's partner in crime.

The most notable change that Thomas and Justice League writers Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis introduced into the Captain Marvel mythos was that the personality of young Billy Batson is retained when he transforms into the Captain. The classic-era comics tended to treat Captain Marvel and Billy as two separate personalities. This change would remain for all future uses of the character, as justification for his sunny, Golden-Age personality in the darker modern-day comic book world. (Captain Marvel's Justice League teammate Guy Gardner often jokingly referred to the innocent, pure-hearted Captain as "Captain Whitebread"). Another notable change in this version was the relocation of the Shazam characters from Fawcett City to San Francisco.

The Power of Shazam!

DC finally purchased the rights to all of the Fawcett Comics characters in 1991. In 1994, Captain Marvel was retconned again and given a revised origin in The Power of Shazam!, a painted graphic novel by Jerry Ordway. This version of Marvel's origin, now considered his official DCU origin story, more closely followed his Fawcett origins, with only slight additions and changes.

In this version of the story, it is Black Adam who kills Billy Batson's parents (as his reincarnated non-powered form of Theo Adam) while the Batsons and Adam are excavating an ancient tomb in Egypt. He also kidnaps Billy's sister Mary, who ends up missing.

The wizard Shazam is made aware of all of these events, and (just as in the Fawcett origin) has Billy brought before him by the dark-clothed stranger, and grants the boy the power to become Captain Marvel. As Captain Marvel, Billy takes on the form of his late father, which is how Theo Adam guesses his identity, has a revelation about the power of Shazam, and becomes Black Adam using a scarab he stole from the tomb. After subduing Black Adam and his employer, the rich tycoon Dr. Sivana, Billy swears to find his sister as Captain Marvel.

The graphic novel was a critically acclaimed success, leading to a Power of Shazam! ongoing series which ran from 1995 to 1999. The series reintroduced the Marvel Family and many of their allies and enemies into the modern-day DC Universe. It also added the Republic movie serial The Adventures of Captain Marvel to its continuity. This was done by having the Billy Batson of the serial become the modern Billy Batson's grandfather. The Golden Scorpion device from the serial even played a role at the end of the comic book series.

During the publication of the series, the Marvel Family also appeared in Mark Waid and Alex Ross's critically acclaimed miniseries Kingdom Come, with a brainwashed Captain Marvel playing a major role in the story as a mind-controlled pawn of an elderly Lex Luthor. The climax centered heavily on a battle between Marvel and Superman, during which Marvel had the upper hand due to his magical abilities (such as being able to strike Superman with his "Shazam" lightning bolt). Captain Marvel also starred in an oversized special graphic novel, Shazam!: Power of Hope, in 1999, written by Paul Dini and painted by Alex Ross.

JSA membership (2003–2004)

Since 1999, the characters have made appearances in a number of other comic book series. A typical use for Captain Marvel guest appearances in current comics is as a backup for Superman when a flight-enabled, super-strong being is needed, especially in situations where Superman's special weaknesses, such as Kryptonite or magic (which Captain Marvel does not share), are involved.

In 2003, Captain Marvel became a member of the revived Justice Society of America and was featured prominently in that series alongside his nemesis Black Adam. Captain Marvel had originally joined the team to keep an eye on Adam, who had joined the JSA claiming to have reformed. Black Adam eventually left the JSA to instigate a takeover of his home country of Kahndaq; he had a fondess for the country, and wished to see the totalitarian regime done away in what he saw as justice. Captain Marvel remained with the team.

During his tenure in the JSA, Marvel dated Courtney Whitmore, also known as Stargirl, which put him in an unusual position: while he could legally date Courtney as Billy Batson, it looked very strange for the grown-up Captain Marvel to be with the teenaged Stargirl. The Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick, another JSA member, confronted Marvel about the issue, but instead of telling Garrick and the team the truth about his age, Marvel chose to follow the Wisdom of Solomon and leave the team and Courtney.

Day of Vengeance and Infinite Crisis

The Marvel Family played an integral part in DC Comics' 2005/2006 Infinite Crisis crossover, which gave DC the opportunity to begin a retooling of the Shazam! franchise. The climax of the Day of Vengeance limited series printed during the crossover saw the Spectre engage in a cosmic-level battle with the wizard Shazam. At the conclusion of this battle, Shazam was obliterated, and the Rock of Eternity burst apart into Earth's dimension, freeing scores of ancient majicks and evils that had been captured eons ago back into the DC Universe.

In a later Day of Vengeance one-shot special, Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family then helped Zatanna and several other beings to capture the Seven Deadly Sins and rebuild the Rock of Eternity. Captain Marvel was then required to take over Shazam's role as caretaker of the Rock. Marvel was later shown fulfilling this role in Week 12 of the weekly limited comic series 52, although teetering on the brink of sanity, constantly talking back to the Seven Sins around him. In this issue, Marvel was shown helping Black Adam grant Adrianna Tomaz the powers of the goddess Isis.

The Trials of Shazam! and other series

DC Comics published a four-issue Captain Marvel/Superman limited series, Superman/Shazam: First Thunder, 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.

Winick is continuing with the Marvel Family in a second limited series, running 12 issues, that started August 30, 2006, called The Trials of Shazam!, illustrated by Howard Porter. Trials of Shazam!, a significant revision of the Shazam! mythos, is intended to re-imagine the characters and their roles in the DC Universe. It 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 a powerless Freddy Freeman attempts to prove himself worthy to take on the powers of Shazam.

A second Captain Marvel miniseries, Shazam! Monster Society of Evil, is due for publication in 2007 and is being written and illustrated by Jeff Smith (creator of Bone). Smith's Shazam! miniseries, in the works since 2003, is a more traditional take on the character. The classic versions of Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family also appear in the bimonthly painted miniseries Justice by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, and Doug Braithwaite.


Captain Marvel is usually depicted as pure-hearted and unwaveringly upstanding. At one point, he was described by Grant Morrison as the " Sir Percival of superheroes", or a representation of what kids think their dad should be — a "big, nice, noble guy without much sexuality about him". Like the classic depiction of Aquaman or Superman, Marvel is usually an amiable, friendly person. Since he is still a youth, it is harder for him to become corrupted (thus the wizard's reasoning for not choosing another adult like Black Adam as his champion). In the 1995 Underworld Unleashed miniseries, Captain Marvel's soul is coveted by the demon prince Neron, but Marvel's soul is so pure that Neron is unable to possess it.

However, despite his wisdom, Captain Marvel is also depicted as somewhat immature. Since Billy is only a teenager, he tends to take many things for granted and is usually nervous about interacting with other superheroes, making him seem like a case of arrested development to other heroes who are unaware of his true form.

Powers and abilities

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

S for the wisdom of Solomon As Captain Marvel, Billy has instant access to a vast amount of scholarly knowledge. The wisdom of Solomon also gives Marvel clairvoyance and provides him with counsel and advice in times of need. In early Captain Marvel stories, he also had knowledge of all languages and sciences, ancient and modern, and could hypnotize people as well, through this power.
H for the strength of Hercules * Dubbed "The World's Mightiest Mortal," Captain Marvel has incredible amounts of super strength, and is able to easily bend steel, punch through walls, and lift massive objects. Marvel's strength is enough that he has fought beings such as Superman or Wonder Woman to a standstill.
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, provides physical invulnerability and grants magic resistance against most magic spells and attacks, as well as allowing for interdimensional travel. 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 Like the wisdom, this aspect is primarily psychological, and gives Marvel superhuman amounts of inner strength on which to draw.
M for the speed of Mercury By channeling Mercury's speed, Captain Marvel can fly and move at great speeds.

Additionally, Captain Marvel's senses are acutely sharpened, though not to the extent of Superman's. With Judd Winick's Trials of Shazam! series, Marvel has also gained the ability to wield magic and cast spells.

Supporting cast

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 Dr. 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, Shazam's demon offspring Blaze and Satanus, 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.

Cultural influence

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 has its origins 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, 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.

Prior to reviving Captain Marvel in the 1970s, DC Comics, in its flagship Superman comic (issue #276, June 1974), published a story featuring a battle between the Man of Steel and a thinly disguised version of Captain Marvel called Captain Thunder (whether this was intentional to honour the character's early original name is unknown). This was a sort of test run to allow DC to gauge how readers might receive the return of the original character. After encouraging sales figures led to the official revival, they 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), Superman #102 (1995), the final issue of the Kingdom Come miniseries (1996) and, most recently, Superman #216 (2005). The "Clash" episode of Justice League Unlimited, which included Captain Marvel as a guest character, featured a Superman/Captain Marvel fight as its centerpiece.

Captain Marvel was the first major comic book hero to have a young alter ego. Although kid superheroes had generally been neglected before 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, 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. Television's Freakazoid and, for a time, the Marvel Comics version of Captain Marvel (issue 17 on). Other heroes, including Marvel Comics' Thor and DC's The Enchantress, 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 greatest foe being a mad scientist named "Dr. Nirvana".

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 ( Jim Nabors) from the 1960s sitcom The Andy Griffith Show. Another catchphrase popularized by Captain Marvel was his trademark exclamation, " Holy Moley!"

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 " The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" (1968) by The Beatles and "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 honour of the character's mythos.

A grown-up, pot-bellied Billy Batson and a still-virile Captain Marvel appeared in one of Jules Feiffer's "Feiffer" comic strips (reprinted in Jules Feiffer, Feiffer's Marriage Manual, Random House, 1967). Leonard Cohen mentions Captain Marvel in his poem "A Migrating Dialogue" (Selected Poems, 1956-68, McClelland & Stewart, 1968) Stan Getz, along with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Airto Moreira, recorded a song entitled "Captain Marvel" (written by Chick Corea) which appeared on their album of the same name.

Additional reading

  • The Shazam! Archives, Volumes 1–4 (1992, 1998, 2002, 2005). Reprints 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 Rayboy, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, George Tuska, and others. ( ISBN 1-56389-053-4, vol. 1; ISBN 1-56389-521-8, vol. 2; ISBN 1-56389-832-2, vol. 3; ISBN 1-4012-0160-1, vol. 4)
  • Shazam! and the Shazam Family! Annual #1 (2002). Reprints Mary Marvel's origin from Captain Marvel Adventures #18 (1942), Black Adam's origin from Marvel Family #1 (1945), and stories from Captain Marvel, Jr. #12 (1943) and The Marvel Family #10 (1946). Stories by Otto Binder; art by C.C. Beck, Pete Costanza, Mac Rayboy, Marc Swayze, Bud Thompson, and Jack Binder.
  • All in Colour for a Dime (1970), edited by Richard A. Lupoff and Don Thompson. A collection of essays on Golden Age superhero comics, including an essay on Captain Marvel by Roy Thomas. ( ISBN 0-87341-498-5)
  • The Power of Shazam! (1994), written and painted by Jerry Ordway. A graphic novel depicting Captain Marvel's current DC Universe origin story. ( ISBN 1-56389-153-0, paperback)
  • Kingdom Come (1996), written by Mark Waid, painted by Alex Ross. A painted epic, in which Superman has temporarily retired, giving way to a new breed of reckless, morally ambiguous superheroes. Superman attempts to bring order to the superheroes' operations, but his efforts are matched by Lex Luthor, who has a brainwashed Captain Marvel on hand to challenge Superman. The story was novelized by Elliot S! Maggin. ( ISBN 1-56389-330-4)
  • JSA: Savage Times (2004). Trade paperback reprinting stories from JSA #38–45 (2002–2003), which feature Captain Marvel meeting Black Adam during Adam's tenure as Mighty Adam in ancient Egypt. Stories by Geoff Johns & David Goyer; art by Leonard Kirk, Patrick Gleason, Keith Champagne, and Christian Alamay. ( ISBN 1-4012-0253-5)
  • Day of Vengeance (2005). Trade paperback reprinting the Day of Vengeance miniseries and a three-issue Superman/Captain Marvel crossover. Stories by Bill Willingham and Judd Winick, art by Justiniano, Walden Wong, and others ( ISBN 1-4012-0840-1)
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