The traditional Captain Marvel, painted by Alex Ross
|Publisher||Fawcett Comics (1939-1953)|
DC Comics (1972-present)
|First appearance||Whiz Comics #2 (cover date February 1940 / release date December 1939)|
|Created by||Bill Parker|
C. C. Beck
|Alter ego||William Joseph "Billy" Batson|
|Team affiliations||Justice League|
Justice Society of America
Justice League International
Marvel / Shazam Family
Squadron of Justice
Captain Marvel Jr.
Mister Tawky Tawny
|Notable aliases||Captain Thunder, Marvel|
|Abilities||Wisdom of Solomon
Strength of Hercules
Stamina of Atlas
Power of Zeus
Courage of Achilles
Speed of Mercury
|Captain Marvel Adventures|
|Cover of Captain Marvel Adventures #31 (January 1944). Art by C. C. Beck|
|Series publication information|
Every third Friday
|Publication date||March 1941 - November 1953|
|Number of issues||150|
|Main character(s)||Marvel Family|
|Writer(s)||Otto Binder, William Woolfolk, Ed Herron, Joe Simon|
|Artist(s)||C. C. Beck, Pete Costanza, Jack Kirby|
|Editor(s)||Ed Herron, Wendell Crowley|
Captain Marvel, also known as Shazam , is a fictional superhero appearing in American comics originally published by Fawcett Comics, and currently published by DC Comics. Artist C. C. Beck and writer Bill Parker created the character in 1939. Captain Marvel first appeared in Whiz Comics #2 (cover-dated Feb. 1940), published by Fawcett Comics. He is the alter ego of Billy Batson, a boy who, by speaking the magic word "SHAZAM!" (acronym of six "immortal elders": Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury), can transform himself into a costumed adult with the powers of superhuman strength, speed, flight and other abilities. The character battles an extensive rogues' gallery, primarily archenemies Doctor Sivana, Black Adam, and Mister Mind.
Based on comic book sales, the character was the most popular superhero of the 1940s, outselling even Superman. Fawcett expanded the franchise to include other "Marvels", primarily Marvel Family associates Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr., who can harness powers similar to Billy's. Captain Marvel was also the first comic book superhero to be adapted into film, in a 1941 Republic Pictures serial, Adventures of Captain Marvel, with Tom Tyler as Captain Marvel and Frank Coghlan, Jr. as Billy Batson.
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. In 1972, Fawcett licensed the character rights to DC, which by 1991 acquired all rights to the entire family of characters. DC has since integrated Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family into their DC Universe and has attempted to revive the property several times, with mixed success. Due to trademark conflicts over other characters named "Captain Marvel" owned by Marvel Comics, DC has branded and marketed the character using the trademark Shazam! since his 1972 reintroduction. This led many to assume that "Shazam!" was the character's name. DC renamed the mainline version of the character as "Shazam!" when relaunching its comic book properties in 2011, and his associates became the "Shazam Family".
The character has been featured in two television series adaptations by Filmation: one live-action 1970s series with actors Jackson Bostwick and John Davey portraying the character, and one animated 1980s series. The 2019 New Line Cinema/Warner Bros. film Shazam! is part of the DC Extended Universe, with Zachary Levi portraying the title role and Asher Angel as Billy Batson.
The character was ranked as the 55th-greatest comic book character of all time by Wizard magazine.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.UGO Networks ranked him as one of the top heroes of entertainment, saying, "At his best, Shazam has always been compared to Superman with a sense of crazy, goofy fun."
After the success of National Comics' new superhero characters Superman and Batman, Fawcett Publications started its own comics division in 1939, recruiting staff writer Bill Parker to create several hero characters for the first title in their line, tentatively titled Flash Comics. Besides penning stories featuring his creations 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 superhero in this team possessed 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". 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".
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. Captain Marvel, the comic's lead feature, introduced audiences to Billy Batson, an orphaned 12-year-old boy who, by speaking the name of the ancient wizard Shazam, is struck by a magic lightning bolt and transformed into the adult superhero Captain Marvel. Shazam's name was an acronym derived from the six immortal elders who grant Captain Marvel his superpowers: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury.
In addition to introducing the main character, his alter ego, and his mentor, 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 with station WHIZ. 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, the premiere issue of which was written and drawn by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby. Captain Marvel continued to appear in Whiz Comics, as well as periodic appearances in other Fawcett books, including Master Comics.
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, though comparisons with both Cary Grant and Jack Oakie were made as well.Fawcett Publications' founder, Wilford H. Fawcett, was nicknamed "Captain Billy", which inspired the name "Billy Batson" as well as Marvel's title. Fawcett's earliest magazine was titled Captain Billy's Whiz Bang, which inspired the title Whiz Comics. 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".
Through much of the Golden Age of Comic Books, Captain Marvel proved to be the most popular superhero character of the medium, and his comics outsold all others. Captain Marvel Adventures sold fourteen million copies in 1944, and was at one point being published bi-weekly with a circulation of 1.3 million copies an issue. Several issues of Captain Marvel Adventures included a blurb on their covers proclaiming the series the "Largest Circulation of Any Comic Magazine").
The franchise was expanded to introduce spin-off characters to Captain Marvel between 1941 and 1942.Whiz Comics #21 (1941) introduced the Lieutenant Marvels: three other boys named "Billy Batson" who could also become adult superheroes. Captain Marvel Jr., the alter-ego of disabled newsboy Freddy Freeman, debuted in Whiz Comics #25 (1941). Mary Marvel, alter-ego of Billy's twin sister Mary Batson, first appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures #18 (1942). In contrast to Captain Marvel and the Lieutenants, both Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. remained kids in superhero form, and were given their own eponymous books in addition to appearing as the lead features in Master Comics and Wow Comics, respectively. Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., and Mary Marvel appeared together as a team in another Fawcett publication, The Marvel Family. In addition, there was a funny animal spin-off character, Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, which was created in 1942 for Fawcett's Funny Animals comic book and later given an eponymous series as well.
With Bill Parker having been drafted into World War II, chief writing duties on the Captain Marvel-related comics stories went to Otto Binder by 1942. C.C. Beck remained as lead artist, and he and Binder steered the Captain Marvel stories towards a whimsical tone that emphasized comedy and fantasy elements alongside the superhero action. Other artists associated with the Marvel Family at Fawcett included Pete Costanza, Mac Rayboy, Marc Swayze, and Kurt Schaffenberger. Otto Binder would write over 900 of the approximately 1,790 Captain Marvel-related stories published by Fawcett. Several of Captain Marvel's enduring supporting characters and enemies--including the non-powered Uncle Marvel, Tawky Tawny the talking tiger, and the villains Mister Mind and Black Adam--were created by Binder during the mid-to-late 1940s.
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. After seven years of litigation, the National Comics Publications v. Fawcett Publications case went to trial in 1948. Although the presiding 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 National had abandoned the Superman copyright. As a result, the initial verdict, delivered in 1951, went 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 this would have to be determined in a retrial. He therefore sent the matter back to the lower court for final determination.
Instead of retrying the case, however, Fawcett settled with National out of court. The National lawsuit was not the only problem Fawcett faced in regard 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. Fawcett tried to revive the popularity of its Captain Marvel series in the early 1950s by introducing elements of the horror comics trend that had gained popularity at the time.
Feeling that this decline in the popularity of superhero comics meant that it was no longer worth continuing the fight, Fawcett agreed on August 14, 1953 to permanently cease publication of comics with the Captain Marvel-related characters and to pay National $400,000 in damages. Fawcett shut down its comics division in the autumn of 1953 and fired its comic book staff. Otto Binder and Kurt Schaffenberger ended up at DC, becoming prominent members of the creative team for the Superman-related comics from 1954 through the 1960s. Schaffenberger snuck an unauthorized cameo by Captain Marvel into a story in Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane #42 in 1963.
Whiz Comics had ended with issue #155 in June 1953, Captain Marvel Adventures was canceled with #150 in November 1953, and The Marvel Family ended its run with #89 in January 1954. Hoppy the Marvel Bunny was sold to Charlton Comics, where a few Fawcett-era stories from that strip were reprinted as Hoppy the Magic Bunny, with all references to "Captain Marvel" and "Shazam" removed.
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 the character 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 Warriors demise. Within the metatextual story line of the comic series itself, it was noted that Marvelman's creation was based upon Captain Marvel comics, by both Moore and later Marvelman/Miracleman writer Neil Gaiman. In 2009, Marvel Comics obtained the rights to the original 1950s Marvelman characters and stories, and later purchased the rights to the 1980s version and those reprints in 2013.
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".Marvel Comics subsequently created their own character named Captain Marvel in 1967, and Myron Fass sued Marvel for trademark infringement. Fass accepted a $4,500 settlement from Marvel, and Marvel secured the trademark of the name.
Bill Black attempted to revive Captain Marvel in 1969, but written and drawn in a more realistic Marvel Comics style for his fanzine Paragon Golden Age Greats, Vol. 1, #2. However, on the legal advice of his friend and publishing mentor Martin L. Greim he decided that rather than risk legal trouble with Fawcett Publications to destroy the entire print run except for two copies he saved for his files. Black then rewrote the story using his own newly created hero Captain Paragon.
|No. of issues|
|Created by||Bill Parker |
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 to never publish the character again as part of their 1953 settlement. Looking for new properties to introduce to the DC Comics line, DC publisher Carmine Infantino decided to bring the Captain Marvel property back into print. On June 16, 1972, DC entered into an agreement with Fawcett to license the Captain Marvel and Marvel Family characters. Because Marvel Comics had by this time established Captain Marvel as a comic book trademark for their own character, created and first published in 1967, DC published their book under the name Shazam! 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, starting with Shazam! #15 (December 1974). As all subsequent toys and other merchandise featuring the character have also been required to use the "Shazam!" label with little to no mention of the name "Captain Marvel", the title became so linked to Captain Marvel that many people took to identifying the character as "Shazam" instead of "Captain Marvel".
The Shazam! comic series began with Shazam! #1 (Feb. 1973). It contained both new stories and reprints from the 1940s and 1950s. Dennis O'Neil was the primary writer of the book. His role was later taken over by writers Elliot S. Maggin and E. Nelson Bridwell. C. C. Beck drew stories for the first ten 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. As per DC's agreement with Fawcett, DC paid Fawcett--and after 1977, its successor CBS Publishing--a licensing fee per issue, per page for each of the Fawcett characters who appeared, either in Shazam! or crossovers in other comic series.
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". The Fawcett material was still considered canon, with the Marvel Family's 20-year layoff explained in the comic as time spent in suspended animation due to Doctor Sivana. 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".
Shazam! was heavily rewritten as of issue #34 (April 1978), and Bridwell provided more realistic stories, accompanied by similar art; the first issue was drawn by Alan Weiss and Joe Rubinstein, and thereafter by Don Newton, a longtime fan of the character, 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, with Shazam! represented by mostly Fawcett-era stories (left out of Adventure Comics #500 and the final #503, where two features were doubled up to complete their respective story arcs).
Outside of their regular series and features, the Marvel Family characters also appeared as guest stars in the Justice League of America series, in particular issues #135-137 (vol. 1) for the "Crisis on Earth-S" story arc in 1976.Limited Collectors' Edition #C-58 (April 1978) featured a "Superman vs. Shazam!" story by writer Gerry Conway and artists Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano.
Captain Marvel, and often the Marvel Family, also co-starred with Superman in several issues of DC Comics Presents written by Roy Thomas. Roy Thomas, a veteran comic book writer and editor, had been lured from Marvel Comics to DC in 1981 with the specific contractual obligation that he would become the main writer of Shazam! and the Justice Society of America characters. The Marvels also guest-starred in several issues of All-Star Squadron, a series centered on the Justice Society and the other Earth-2 characters written by Roy Thomas and his wife Dann. As All-Star Squadron was set during World War II, several events of the comic fell concurrent with and referenced the events of the original early-1940s Fawcett stories. With their 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths limited series, DC fully integrated the characters into the DC Universe.
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 the Thomases, 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 traditional depiction used prior to 1986, 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), in which a Neo-Nazi version of Captain Nazi was introduced. At the end of the arc, it was announced that this would lead to a new Shazam! ongoing series. Though New Beginning had sold well and multiple artists were assigned to and worked on the book, it never saw publication due to editorial disputes between DC Comics and Roy Thomas. As a result, Thomas's intended revival of the Marvel Family with a new punk-styled Mary Bromfield/Mary Marvel (aka "Spike") who was not Billy's sister, and an African-American take on Freddy Freeman/Captain Marvel Jr., did not see print. Thomas departed DC in 1989, not long after his removal from the Shazam! project.
Other attempts at reviving Shazam! were initiated over the next three years, including a reboot project by John Byrne, illustrator of Legends and writer/artist on the Superman reboot miniseries The Man of Steel (1986). None of these versions saw print, though Captain Marvel, the Wizard Shazam, and Black Adam did appear in DC's War of the Gods miniseries in 1991. By this time, DC had finally ceased the fee-per-use licensing agreement with CBS Publications and purchased the full rights to Captain Marvel and the other Fawcett Comics characters.
In 1991, Jerry Ordway was given the Shazam! assignment, which he pitched as a painted graphic novel that would lead into a series, rather than starting the series outright. Ordway both wrote and illustrated the graphic novel, titled The Power of Shazam!, which was released in 1994. Power of Shazam! retconned Captain Marvel again and gave him a revised origin, rendering Shazam! The New Beginning and the Action Comics Weekly story apocryphal while Marvel's appearances in Legends and Justice League still counted as part of the continuity.
Ordway's story more closely followed Captain Marvel's Fawcett origins, with only slight additions and changes. The graphic novel was a critically acclaimed success, leading to a Power of Shazam! ongoing series which ran from 1995 to 1999. That series reintroduced the Marvel Family and many of their allies and enemies into the modern-day DC Universe.
Captain Marvel also appeared in Mark Waid and Alex Ross's 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. In 2000, Captain Marvel starred in an oversized special graphic novel, Shazam! Power of Hope, written by Paul Dini and painted by Alex Ross.
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 world's first superhero team, the Justice Society of America, with Captain Marvel also briefly joining the team to keep an eye on his old nemesis. Captain Marvel also 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, which culminated in his death. The Superman/Shazam: First Thunder miniseries, 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. 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. 52 introduced Adam's "Black Marvel Family," which included Adam's 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!, 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 the former Captain Marvel Jr., Freddy Freeman, attempts to prove himself worthy to become Marvel's champion under the name Shazam.
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.
A three-issue arc in Justice Society of America (vol. 3) undid many of the Trials of Shazam! changes. Issues 23 through 25 of Justice Society featured Black Adam and a resurrected Isis defeating Marvel and taking over the Rock of Eternity. Adam and Isis recruit the now-evil Mary Marvel to help them in the ensuing fight against a now-powerless Billy Batson and the Justice Society.
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. 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 (vol. 2) #32 the same year.
In 2011, DC Comics relaunched their entire comic book lineup, creating The New 52 lineup of comics. The revamp began with a seven-issue miniseries, Flashpoint, which features an alternate timeline in which Billy Batson, Mary Batson, and Freddy Freeman are joined by three new kids, Eugene Choi, Pedro Peña, and Darla Dudley, as the "S! H! A! Z! A! M! Family." In this concept, all six kids say "Shazam!" in unison to become an alternate version of Captain Marvel named Captain Thunder. While the continuity would be altered again by the conclusion of the story, creating the "New 52" multiverse, the three new Shazam! kids would be reintroduced for later appearances.
One of these relaunched series, Justice League, began featuring a Shazam! backup story with issue #7 in March 2012. The feature, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank, introduces Billy Batson and his supporting cast into the new DC Universe. As part of the redesign, Captain Marvel received a new costume designed by Frank with a long cloak and hood. Johns noted that the character's place in the world will be "far more rooted in fantasy and magic than it ever was before". The character also was officially renamed "Shazam" at this time. The Shazam! origin story, which included two full issues in Justice League #0 (2012) and #21 (2013), reintroduced Billy Batson/Shazam, the Wizard, Black Adam, Tawny the tiger, and the Shazam Family (Freddy, Mary, Darla, Eugene, and Pedro) to continuity. The Shazam! feature concluded with Justice League #21, preceding DC's crossover storyline "Trinity War" which heavily features the Shazam mythos.
Johns and Frank's reboot was met with both acclaim and criticism, and the renaming of the hero as Shazam brought mixed reactions. Johns noted that the change was made "because that's what everyone thinks his name is anyway," due to the inability to use the "Captain Marvel" moniker on comic book covers and merchandise. In updating Shazam!, Johns and Frank skirted some controversy among long-time fans by introducing Billy Batson as a cynical foster child who comes to appreciate his potential as a hero and the concept of family, rather than starting him from that point as with earlier retellings.
Following his appearances in the "Trinity War" and "Forever Evil" crossover storylines, Shazam appeared as a member of the Justice League from Justice League (vol. 2) #30 through #50 from 2014 through 2016, and also in a one-shot spinoff titled Justice League: The Darkseid War: Shazam (cover-dated January 2016). He also appeared as a supporting character in the Cyborg series as the friend of Victor Stone/Cyborg. New takes on the classic Fawcett versions of Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family appeared in Grant Morrison's 2014 miniseries The Multiversity (which takes place on the parallel world of Earth-5) and in a 2015 spin-off to the Convergence crossover event, Convergence: Shazam! (which takes place on the parallel world of Earth-S).
Following DC's 2016 DC Rebirth soft-relaunch event, the Shazam! characters were largely absent from new DC continuity, though Mary Marvel of Earth-5 appeared in Superman (vol. 4) #14-16 (2016), and Black Adam appeared in Dark Nights: Metal #4-5 (2017) to battle Wonder Woman. In late 2018, with the Shazam! movie in production at New Line Cinema, DC began publishing a new ongoing Shazam! series, written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Dale Eaglesham, Dale Eaglesham, Marco Santucci, and Scott Kolins. The series features an older and wiser Billy Batson and his foster siblings Mary, Freddy, Eugene, Pedro, and Darla exploring their powers as the Shazam Family. As the six kids venture beyond the nexus of the Rock of Eternity to explore the mysterious Seven Magic Realms, Doctor Sivana teams up with Mister Mind and a reluctant Black Adam to form the Monster Society of Evil. The first issue, featuring a manga backup story focused on Mary and her pet rabbit Hoppy by Johns and Shazam! fan Mayo "SEN" Naito, was published on December 5, 2018.
Whiz Comics #2 (Feb. 1940) introduces William Joseph "Billy" Batson, a homeless 12-year-old (later 14-year-old) newsboy who sleeps in the subway station of his home city (originally New York City; later referred to in DC publications as Fawcett City). A mysterious man in a green cloak asks Billy to follow him into the subway station. A magic subway car painted in unusual shapes and colors escorts them to an underground throne room, which is inhabited by a very old man with a long beard and a white robe. As the man in green disappears, the old man on the throne explains to Billy that he is the Wizard Shazam, and has used the powers of "the gods"--Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury, hence the name "Shazam"--to fight evil for over 3,000 years. However, he has now grown too old to continue and is in need of a successor. The wizard explains that Billy was chosen due to his misfortune: he had been thrown out by a greedy uncle who stole his inheritance following the deaths of his parents (later retellings of the origin would also note that Billy was chosen for being "pure of heart"). Ordered by the wizard to speak the name "Shazam," Billy is struck by a sudden bolt of lightning and transformed into a superpowered adult in a red costume with gold trim. The Wizard Shazam declares the new hero "Captain Marvel" and orders him to carry on his work, as a stone block suspended above his throne falls upon him, killing him as prophesied. The wizard would return--in later retellings of the origin story, immediately--as a spirit to serve as a mentor to Billy and Captain Marvel, summoned by lighting a torch on the wall of his lair. As a spirit, the Wizard Shazam lives at the Rock of Eternity, a bicone-shaped rock formation situated at the nexus of time and space. Later retellings of the Captain Marvel origin place Shazam's underground lair within the Rock. Saying the word "Shazam" allows Billy to summon the magic lightning and become Captain Marvel, while Captain Marvel can say the magic word himself to become Billy again.
Captain Marvel's first battle was with the mad scientist Doctor Sivana, who becomes Captain Marvel's arch-enemy. Billy Batson becomes a reporter and host for WHIZ Radio, his career allowing him to travel and investigate criminal activity. An adult daughter of Sivana's, Beautia, becomes an unwitting love interest for the shy Captain Marvel, despite her wavering allegiance to her evil father.
While the majority of Billy's adventures feature him as a solo hero, he also fought evil on a regular basis accompanied by several other kids who share his powers to make up a superhero team called the Marvel Family (later referred to as the Shazam Family due to the issues DC Comics faced over the "Marvel" and "Captain Marvel" trademarks). The first members of the family, introduced in Whiz Comics #21 (Sept. 1941) and used sparingly afterwards, were the Lieutenant Marvels: three other boys from various parts of the United States who are also named "Billy Batson" and discover that, if they all say "Shazam!" in unison, they can become adult superheroes as well.
In Whiz Comics #25 (Dec. 1941), Captain Marvel saves Freddy Freeman, a boy who had been left for dead by the evil Captain Nazi, and does for Freddy what the wizard did for him. By speaking the name "Captain Marvel," Freddy can become the superpowered Captain Marvel Jr. Unlike Billy, Freddy retains his 14-year-old appearance as a superhero.Captain Marvel Adventures #18 (Dec. 1942) introduced Billy and Freddy to Mary Bromfield, a rich girl who turns out to be Billy's long-lost twin sister. By saying the magic word "Shazam," Mary Bromfield becomes Mary Marvel. In the Fawcett and pre-1986 DC stories, Mary remained a teenager as Freddy did in Marvel form; Ordway's 1990s Power of Shazam! series made her superpowered form an adult like Billy's. The Marvel Family also included non-powered honorary members such as Uncle Marvel, an old con man who pretended to be Mary's uncle, and Freckles Marvel, an honorary cousin.
The basic elements of Billy Batson's and Captain Marvel's origin story remained more or less intact through 2012, with minor alterations over the years. Roy & Dann Thomas's 1987 miniseries Shazam! The New Beginning had a 15-year-old Billy being forced to move in with Doctor Sivana, who in this version is the cruel uncle who throws Billy out into the street. Jerry Ordway's 1994 Power of Shazam! graphic novel, which became the character's definite origin through 2011, featured a ten-year-old Billy being chosen as the Wizard Shazam's champion, due to the influence of his archaeologist parents; the mysterious stranger from magic subway car is the ghost of Billy's father in this version. Both the Thomases' and Ordway's retellings of the origin directly tie the need for the Wizard Shazam to draft a younger replacement to the coming re-emergence of Black Adam, the wizard's first champion from the days of ancient Egypt who became evil and was due to escape thousands of years of banishment.
Ordway's origin added the extra element of Black Adam's alter ego/descendant Theo Adam being the murderer of Billy's parents. The subsequent Power of Shazam! ongoing series features Billy, now 14, meeting his long-lost sister Mary and best friend Freddy Freeman and establishing the Marvel Family as in the Fawcett comics. The Marvels' home base of Fawcett City is depicted as a city full of old-fashioned traditions and architecture, later establishing that the Wizard Shazam placed a spell on the city (broken in later issues) that slowed time to a crawl in 1955. This phenomenon was used to explain the Marvel Family's sometimes anachronistic approaches to life and heroism compared to many of their contemporary heroes in the DC Universe.
In 2012, writer and then-DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns revised Billy Batson's origin for DC's New 52 universe, also renaming the character's alter-ego as "Shazam" at this time. In his new origin story, Billy Batson is a moody and troubled 15-year-old foster child living in Philadelphia who has gone through several foster homes. At his newest foster home under Victor and Rosa Vázquez, Billy gains five foster siblings: "den mother" Mary Bromfield, trickster and pick-pocket Freddy Freeman, shy and quiet Pedro Peña, brainy Eugene Choi, and energetic Darla Dudley. When the evil Dr. Sivana unleashes the ancient magical warrior Black Adam from his tomb, the Wizard of the Rock of Eternity--the last of a council of beings who once controlled magic--begins abducting candidates to assess them for the job of being his champion. He dismisses each of them for not being pure of heart.
Eventually, the Wizard summons Billy, who is another unsuitable candidate, but Billy persuades the Wizard that perfectly good people "really don't exist," and that, while he himself tried to be good, the world dragged Billy down to its level. In desperation and seeing the "embers of good" within Billy, 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 adult possessing super-strength, flight, and vast magical powers. The Wizard dies and Shazam is transported back to Earth, where Billy reveals his new secret to Freddy. The two scheme to make money and score beer with Shazam's new powers, but Shazam is instead led to crime scenes where he is needed as a hero. Shazam and Freddy have a falling out when Shazam refuses to change back into Billy, and as soon as Freddy heads back home, Shazam is attacked by Black Adam. Billy is saved only by mending his relationships with Freddy, Mary, Eugene, Pedro, and Darla. When Adam again attacks, unleashing the Seven Deadly Sins on downtown Philadelphia and threatening to kill the other kids, Billy shares his powers with them, who all become magic-powered adult superheroes (except for Darla, who remains a child). Ultimately, Billy goads Adam into saying the magic word and transforming into his human form, at which point he promptly turns to dust. Although he had contemplated running away, Billy decides to stay with his new family, having learned to be a better and more open person.
Commencing the "Trinity War" story line, Billy flies to Black Adam's home nation of Kahndaq to bury Adam's remains. Shazam's entry into the country is interpreted by the locals as illegal US entry into their territory. This leads to run-ins with both the independent Justice League and the US-sponsored Justice League of America (JLA), and a series of events that see the opening of Pandora's Box, a portal to Earth-3 which brings the evil Justice League analogues of the Crime Syndicate to Earth-0. Following the successful defeat of the Crime Syndicate, Shazam is inducted into the League. While still a newcomer to the league, Billy has a number of new adventures while under the mentorship of Cyborg, who becomes one of his best friends.
After a year of living in the Vázquez home, Billy and his foster siblings have taken to having fun fighting crime around Philadelphia as the Shazam Family. While exploring the Rock of Eternity, Eugene finds a formerly sealed-off area of the Rock: an abandoned train station leading to the seven realms of an unexplored world known as the Magic Lands.
While normally having no special abilities in his human persona as Billy Batson, once he says the magic word "Shazam!", he transforms into a full-grown man in peak physical condition endowed with multiple superpowers that rank him amongst the most powerful entities in the DC Universe. Billy is also able to share his powers with others.
Though the link to the specific mythological figures is de-emphasized in some modern-day stories, traditionally the letters in the name Shazam each represent a specific superhuman ability:
|S||for the Wisdom of Solomon||Billy has instant access to a vast amount of scholarly knowledge. He possesses excellent mental acuity and nearly infallible wisdom, including an innate understanding of virtually all known languages and sciences, and has a photographic memory and perfect recall, being able to retain full knowledge of all he experiences with perfect clarity. From this, he can read and decipher any coding, solve long mathematical equations instantaneously, and make intuitive guesses based on limited data, which are almost always correct. He also has a great understanding of divine phenomena in the mortal world, an uncanny awareness of his circumstances akin to clairvoyance that lets him turn disadvantages into advantages, and can provide counselling and advice in times of need. In some stories, this power also gives him the ability to hypnotize people.|
|H||for the Strength of Hercules||The might of Hercules grants superhuman strength comparable to that of the legendary demigod, making him one of DC Comics' strongest characters. He is able to easily bend steel in his bare hands, do the work of several laborers in a fraction of the time, produce powerful shockwaves by clapping his hands, punch through nearly any structure, and lift and toss massive objects. This strength has been compared to that of Superman and other godlike characters. The strength of the Golden Age Captain Marvel was unlimited, and the character was strong enough to move stars and planets.|
|A||for the Stamina of Atlas||Using Atlas' stamina grants near-limitless resilience. He never feels fatigued or tired and as such does not require rest or sleep. His durability lets him withstand most types of extreme physical assaults with little to no harm. Also, any physical harm he does sustain heals in seconds without any discomfort or lingering signs of the harm. He has a supernaturally-endowed metabolism far beyond the normal realm of human physical activities, doesn't require nourishment or even air (although he can partake of them for personal enjoyment), and he can even survive unaided in space. Sustained by the magical energies coursing through his body, Billy's empowered form never ages, making him biologically immortal and he can potentially live forever with no decline in performance so long as he remains in that form, although his normal self will continue to age.|
|Z||for the Power of Zeus||Zeus' power, besides fueling the magic thunderbolt that transforms Captain Marvel/Shazam, also greatly enhances Captain Marvel/Shazam's other physical and mental abilities, including his five senses, 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. It allows him to travel to the Rock of Eternity, thus allowing interdimensional and time travel. The current-continuity version of Shazam is able to use his lightning powers to absorb lightning and electricity, as well as conjure and generate lightning, which he can control for various uses, such as shooting energy bolts and creating electrical force fields.|
|A||for the Courage of Achilles||This aspect is mostly psychological and spiritual in nature. The courage of Achilles confers the mental fortitude of the legendary Greek hero, which gives him superhuman levels of inner strength, willpower, discipline, and resolve from which to draw upon in times of hopelessness. He is constantly supported by a harmonious sense of good will and unflinching courage and he never backs down from a challenge or feels any debilitating amount of fear or despair, even in the face of the most intimidating of opponents. In some stories, it also gives him fighting skills. It also aids the hero's mental fortitude against telepathy, mind control, and other mental attacks. In some stories, being powered by Achilles also provided Billy with the hero's near-invulnerability.|
|M||for the Speed of Mercury||By channeling Mercury's speed, Captain Marvel/Shazam can move at superhuman speeds comparable to the Flash and fly at supersonic speed. He is able to move at sub-light speeds in orbit and, in outer space, he can fly at trans-light speeds, although in older comics he could only leap great distances. The pre-1985 stories also let him travel to the Rock of Eternity by flying faster than the speed of light.|
In classic stories, simply saying the word "Shazam!" transformed Billy into Captain Marvel/Shazam and back again; this extended to accidental utterances, recorded playbacks, and so forth. When Captain Marvel/Shazam shared his powers with his Marvel/Shazam Family teammates, it was depicted as a finite source which would be divided into halves, thirds, or further depending upon how many Marvels were super-powered at one time, and weakening them accordingly.
Captain Marvel/Shazam is not completely invulnerable. In several stories, he is shown to be susceptible to high-powered magic, which can weaken or de-power him, and, in some older stories, to significantly high voltages of lightning or electricity, which would make him revert to Billy Batson form. Despite possessing the courage of Achilles, the Fawcett Captain Marvel (though not Billy Batson) was extremely bashful and shy around attractive women, a weakness some villains came to exploit. Most depictions following the Crisis on Infinite Earths also show his childlike innocence and immaturity to be a significant weakness.
Jerry Ordway's 1990s The Power of Shazam! series also gave Billy the added ability to alter Captain Marvel/Shazam's appearance to his will by visualizing alterations and then saying "Shazam!" Billy uses this ability to disguise himself as his "uncle" to work and cash checks, and to turn his Captain Marvel costume into a spacesuit for a mission in space.
In the late 2000s, when Billy replaced the wizard and took on a white costume and the name of "Marvel", he commanded the various magical abilities once possessed by the wizard. However, he was also required to remain on the Rock of Eternity and could only be away from it for 24 hours at a time.
Since the 2011 reboot, Shazam's powers have been slightly altered. Speaking the magic word "Shazam" does not cause a transformation if Billy does not want it to, and can be used to cast magic spells other than the transformation. He can share his magical powers and bestow unique powers onto members of his family, "family" in this case extending to chosen and foster relations, without weakening himself. Shazam also demonstrates the ability to use magic in as-yet-unexplored ways, on one occasion using it to conjure items.
A significant number of "alternate" depictions of Shazam/Captain Marvel have appeared in DC publications since the 1970s.
In "Make Way for Captain Thunder" from Superman #276 (June 1974), Superman found himself at odds with "Captain Thunder", a superhero displaced from another Earth and another time. Thunder had been magically tricked by his archenemies in the Monster League of Evil into committing evil himself, which led to his doing 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 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.
"Make Way for Captain Thunder" was written by Elliot S! Maggin and illustrated by Curt Swan and Bob Oskner. At the time of its publication, DC had been printing Shazam! comics for 18 months, 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).
In 1983, a proposal for an updated Captain Marvel was submitted to DC by Roy Thomas, Don Newton, and Jerry Ordway. 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 named "Willie Fawcett" (as in the 1974 story), who spoke the magic word "Shazam!" to become Captain Thunder, Earth-One's Mightiest Mortal. This alternate version of the character was never used.
In the alternate universe Elseworlds one-shot comic Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl (1998) by Tom Simmons, Matt Haley and Barbara Kesel, the current Captain Marvel is depicted as a bald African-American man. A flashback to the older Justice Society features the traditional Caucasian Captain Marvel, leading to the conclusion that there were two Captain Marvels.
In the dark alternate future of the Elseworlds comic Superman: Distant Fires (1998) by Howard Chaykin, Gil Kane, Kevin Nowlan, and Matt Hollingsworth, most of humanity has been destroyed in nuclear war. An adult Billy Batson becomes obsessed with Wonder Woman when they become part of a small community of survivors of the holocaust, with most of the surviving superhumans having lost their powers or dealing with altered abilities. When the now-powerless Clark Kent joins their community, starting a relationship with Wonder Woman that includes them having a child together, Batson's resentment of Superman becomes insanity, as he provokes his transformation into Captain Marvel despite use of this power causing damage to Earth.
In the dark alternate future shown in Frank Miller's 2001-2002 comic miniseries The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Captain Marvel is visibly aged, with receding white hair and glasses. Lex Luthor, who has captured Mary Marvel, coerces him into working for him by threatening to kill her. 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. 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.
The 1996 miniseries Kingdom Come, written by Mark Waid with painted art by Alex Ross, depicts a possible future of the DC characters. In this version, Billy Batson is an adult who now matches the appearance of his superhero identity. The human hostility towards superheroes has made him uneasy, and he has not transformed into Captain Marvel for several years. Batson has become the brainwashed servant of Lex Luthor, who uses Mister Mind's mind-controlling worm offspring to keep him 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, believing it is a non-costumed Captain Marvel that serves Luthor.
Events finally cause him to transform 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 due to his ties to both humanity and the superhuman community, he is the only one capable of choosing which one to save--intercepts the bomb and summons his lightning to detonate it while it is still airborne, sacrificing himself to save as many lives as possible, both human and metahuman. The nuclear blast still 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.
In 52 #52 (May 2, 2007), a new Multiverse is revealed, originally consisting of 52 identical realities, one of which is 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, assisting Superman, in the Final Crisis: Superman Beyond miniseries. 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. Following The New 52 Multiverse reboot, Earth-5 remains a Fawcett Comics-inspired setting, and is spotlighted in the comic book The Multiversity: Thunderworld #1 (Feb 2015), a modernized take on the classic Fawcett Captain Marvel stories from writer Grant Morrison and artist Cameron Stewart.
Lee reimagined the original Shazam! premise by having the hero be a mild mannered Interpol agent, Robert Rogers. Teamed with the beautiful, and much tougher, fellow agent, Carla Noral, the two of them are in India searching for the megalomaniac master criminal Gunga Kahn. Rogers is given the ability to transform into a large, winged being by saying the magic word "Shazam!" This version is co-created with Gary Frank, and is based on the Bill Parker-C. C. Beck character.
In a backup story plotted by Michael Uslan, scripted by Lee and Uslan, and drawn by Kano, an orphaned American boy in India at the same time as the adventures of Shazam heroically saves a village from starvation with the help of a local boy named Zubin Navotny. The boy's name is Billy Marvel, and he and Zubin are made honorary captains in the US Peace Corps by an Ambassador named Batson, making the boy "Captain Marvel."
A Captain Marvel miniseries, 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. 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 versions. Dr. Sivana is Attorney General of the United States, and Mister Mind looks more like a snake than a caterpillar.
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 Monster Society of Evil miniseries, it was initially written and drawn by Mike Kunkel, creator of Herobear.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. 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.
A female version of Captain Marvel is shown as a member of an alternate-future Justice League in Justice League: Generation Lost, a 2010 comics maxiseries written by Judd Winick and Keith Giffen. 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).
The 2011 Flashpoint comics miniseries, written by Geoff Johns with art by Andy Kubert, 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. They are: Eugene Choi, who possesses the wisdom of Solomon; Pedro Peña, who possesses the strength of Hercules; Mary Batson, Freddy Freeman and Billy Batson, who possess the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, and the courage of Achilles, respectively; and 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.
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 re-form Captain Thunder, Billy is stabbed by the Amazon Penthesileia and killed.
After the conclusion of the miniseries, the three new children from the Flashpoint timeline--Eugene, Pedro, and Darla--were incorporated into the DC Universe via the Shazam! backup strip in Justice League, appearing as Billy, Mary, and Freddy's foster siblings.
Mazahs is a corrupted alternate-universe version of Shazam, introduced in the 2013-14 Forever Evil DC Comics crossover event series written by Geoff Johns. He is the super-powered alter-ego of Alexander Luthor of Earth-3. In the story, the Crime Syndicate (evil Earth-3 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. Prime Earth's Lex Luthor and his team sneak in to the Justice League Watchtower where the Syndicate has Alexander hostage, and remove the duct tape over his mouth, allowing Alexander to speak the magic word "Mazahs!" and transform into his muscular, highly powerful alter-ego. While Prime Earth's Shazam is known for sharing his powers with others, Mazahs kills other superbeings and takes their powers for his own, as when he kills the Syndicate's speedster Johnny Quick. In the final issue of the series, it is revealed that Earth-3's Wonder Woman analogue, Superwoman, is in a relationship with Alexander and tricked 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 Prime Earth Lex Luthor (having the same voice as Mazahs) manages to call down the lightning, using a lightning-rod that Batman had retrieved to try and use against Johnny Quick based on his planned defense against the Flash, and transform Mazahs into his human form. Sealing Alexander's mouth, Lex stabs him with a knife, killing him.
Superwoman later gives birth to Mazahs's child in Justice League #50, and uses the baby's power-stealing abilities--inherited from his father and by her using his magic word--to remove abilities the members the Prime-Earth Justice League had inherited from their time on Apokolips after the death of Darkseid. The story ends with the orphaned baby having absorbed both the Omega Effect from Lex Luthor as well as the Anti-Life Equation from Justice League associate Steve Trevor, transforming him into a resurrected--yet still infantile--Darkseid.
In the prequel comic to the 2013 video game Injustice: Gods Among Us, Shazam joins Superman's Regime in establishing a new approach to ending crime. Similar to the Golden Age version, this Shazam is suggested to have two personalities: Billy Batson is a separate person from Shazam. In Year One he, like the Flash, is somewhat skeptical of Superman's intentions, as his actions are often immoral. Ultimately, Shazam decides to stay and support the Regime, devoted to its cause. He becomes the object of Harley Quinn's affection, being bound and gagged by her in Year Four. He is freed by Ares to join the Regime in combating the Amazon army and Greek gods, but just when they seem to be winning Zeus strips him of his powers, reverting him to Billy permanently. He, Harley (for trying to help him), and Wonder Woman's mother Hippolyta are sent to the abyss of Tartarus as punishment, though they escape and Billy is left out of the conflict without his powers. Eventually, Zeus is forced to return Billy's power after the Highfather of New Genesis intervenes in the conflict. In Year Five, Shazam's relationship with Harley is complicated when she confronts him about being in the Regime despite their growing tyranny.(See the video games section for the continuation of his story in this universe.)
In the traditional Shazam! stories, 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: empowered by the wizard Shazam. The main core of the Marvel Family were Captain Marvel's sister Mary Marvel, the alter-ego of Billy Batson's twin sister Mary Batson (adopted as Mary Bromfield), and Marvel's protégé, Captain Marvel Jr., who was the alter-ego of Billy and Mary's best friend, the disabled newsboy Freddy Freeman. Before DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths comic book miniseries in 1985, the Marvel Family also included part-time members such as Mary's non-powered friend "Uncle" Dudley (Uncle Marvel) and three other protégés (all of whose alter egos are named "Billy Batson") known as the Lieutenant Marvels. A pink rabbit version of Captain Marvel, Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, appeared in his own stories featuring a funny-animal cast.
In the early Fawcett stories, Billy Batson and Captain Marvel had a sidekick named Steamboat, an African-American valet character who was removed from the comics by 1945 because of protests over racial stereotyping. From 1947 forward, Billy/Marvel's sidekick was Mr. Tawky Tawny, an anthropomorphic talking tiger who works as a museum curator.
The current-continuity version of Shazam has a Shazam Family made up of his five foster siblings, with whom he shares his powers: Mary Bromfield, Freddy Freeman, Pedro Peña, Eugene Choi, and Darla Dudley. The latter three children were introduced in the Flashpoint miniseries as three of the six children sharing the powers of "Captain Thunder", and introduced into regular DC continuity with Justice League #8 in 2012. Tawny was initially depicted as a magically-charged zoo tiger in the Justice League backup stories. In the 2018-present ongoing Shazam! series, a more traditional version of Tawny is a resident of The Wildlands, a magical realm inhabited by anthropomorphic animals.
The Marvel Family's other non-powered allies have traditionally included Dr. Sivana's good-natured adult offspring, Beautia and Magnificus Sivana; WHIZ radio president and Billy's employer Sterling Morris; and Billy's girlfriend Cissie Sommerly. The 1970s Shazam! series also included Sunny Sparkle, the "nicest boy in the world." Jerry Ordway's 1990s Power of Shazam! series also introduced Billy's school principal Miss Wormwood and Mary's adoptive parents Nick and Nora Bromfield. The New 52 reboot of Shazam! introduced the Shazam kids' foster parents, Victor and Rosa Vázquez.
Many of the character's appearances have been collected into several volumes:
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. This production made Captain Marvel the first superhero to be depicted in film. The Adventures of Captain Marvel (for which the man-in-flight effects techniques were originally developed for a Superman film serial that Republic never produced) predated Fleischer Studios' Superman cartoons by six months.
In 1950, Columbia Pictures released the comedy/mystery feature film 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. Fawcett released a tie-in one-shot the same year the movie appeared, Captain Marvel and the Good Humor Man.
Following DC's acquisition of the property, development of a Shazam! feature film began at New Line Cinema in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The project remained in development through New Line's absorption into Warner Bros. Pictures in 2009. In 2014, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson signed on to executive produce and co-star as the villain Black Adam. In early 2017, New Line and Johnson decided to split the Shazam! films into one film for Shazam! (which would instead feature Doctor Sivana as the main villain) and a solo Black Adam film. New Line's Shazam! film was released in 2019 by Warner Bros., and is set within Warners' DC Extended Universe film franchise. Directed by David F. Sandberg and written by Henry Gayden, the film stars Zachary Levi as Shazam!,Mark Strong as Doctor Sivana, Asher Angel as Billy Batson,Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman, and Djimon Hounsou as the Wizard Shazam. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's New 52 Shazam! comic reboot served as the main source of inspiration for the film's plot.Shazam! follows disaffected foster teen Billy as he simultaneously deals with the responsibility of his new power to become Shazam (with Freddy's help as his "manager") and his ongoing search for his birth mother. The film also introduced Billy and Freddy's foster siblings Darla (portrayed by Faithe Herman), Mary (portrayed by Grace Fulton), Eugene (portrayed by Ian Chen), and Pedro (portrayed by Jovan Armand). The other five kids become the Shazam Family at the end of the film to help Shazam battle Doctor Sivana and the Seven Deadly Sins, with Adam Brody as Super Hero Freddy, Meagan Good as Super Hero Darla, Michelle Borth as Super Hero Mary, Ross Butler as Super Hero Eugene, and D. J. Cotrona as Super Hero Pedro.
Produced for $98 million, the film grossed $364 million worldwide. A sequel is in development, with the cast, Sandberg, and Gayden set to return. Dwayne Johnson's Black Adam film is also in development at New Line, with Adam Sztykiel as screenwriter and Jaume Collet-Serra attached to direct. Shazam makes a brief appearance in the 2018 animated feature film Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, adapted from Cartoon Network's Teen Titans Go! animated TV series.
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.
Instead of directly following the lead of the comics, 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 1) and John Davey (seasons 2 and 3) as Captain Marvel. 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 program, which ran on NBC from 1981 to 1982 as part of The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam! accompanied by Hero High. Captain Marvel and Billy Batson were both 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".
In about 1943, a radio serial of Captain Marvel was briefly broadcast (possibly by either Mutual or NBC) initially with Burt Boyar as Billy Batson. According to Boyar's faint memories in a 2011 interview, the show was initially produced in New York but after about a month relocated to Chicago; no further details about the show or transcripts of it survived. Existence of the show was confirmed by historian Jim Harmon via recollections of old-time radio fans who recalled hearing it during original broadcasts, plus locating period program listings.
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 that the DC lawsuit was the syndicates' reason, for fear of becoming parties in the ongoing litigation.
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 superhuman 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", 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. 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, compelling Marvel to battle him at first and subsequently restore Superman's mind with the help of 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, Lex Luthor manipulating events so that Captain Marvel will perceive Superman as being prejudced against Luthor's criminal past and attacking him without provokation or evidence that Luthor has actually done anything wrong. 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.
I've always felt that it was this origin story and concept that made Captain Marvel instantly popular, to the point that it was outselling every comic on the stands for several years throughout the '40s.
By the middle of the decade, Captain Marvel had received a self-titled comic book, Captain Marvel's Adventures [sic], which had a circulation that reached 1.3 million copies per month. Captain Marvel's circulation numbers exceeded National's Superman title and the rivalry between the companies led National to sue Fawcett for plagiarism.
In 1953, the case was finally settled out of court when Fawcett agreed to quit using the Captain Marvel character(s) and pay DC the sum of $400,000.
In 1944, the best-selling comic book title (Captain Marvel Adventures) sold more than fourteen million copies for the year.
With avenues of appeal still open but their outcome obvious after the first court ruled for National Periodicals, Fawcett Publications settled out of court in late 1953. Fawcett agreed to cease publication of all Captain Marvel related titles. However, Fawcett's decision to give up the legal battle came when all of the company's superhero titles were reporting greatly diminished sales was no circumstance.
In 1972, DC acquired the rights to Captain Marvel and in 1973 they launched the series Shazam!, which re-established the Captain Marvel mythos...Responsible for resurrecting the lightning-charged champion, writer Denny O'Neil and original artist C. C. Beck together explained Cap's absence.
What you might not know is that in 1953, Binder and Beck tried out a newspaper comic strip starring Tawny as a solo act, completely without his superheroic pal.
|Whiz Comics series was debuted by Fawcett Comics. See Whiz Comics for more info and the previous timeline.|| Timeline of DC Comics (1940s)
February 1940 (See also: Shazam (wizard), Seven Deadly Enemies of Man and Doctor Sivana)
|The first Ibis the Invincible was debuted by Tad Williams and Phil Winslade. See Ibis the Invincible for more info and next timeline. ->|