This is a story about three comic book companies. Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and Fawcett Comics which doesn't exist no more. A long long time ago (1938), in a galaxy exactly like this one, DC came out with a superhero called Superman. Superman was good. Very very good. So good in fact, that everybody wanted to make carbon copies of him. Within a couple years, there were literally hundreds of superheroes based loosely on old Supes. One little known guy was Wonder Man who was published by Fawcett Comics but he only lasted one issue, because DC threatened legal action since it was so uncannily like Supes as to be practically the same comic book. Issue two never saw the light of day. Remember the name Wonder Man. That comes up again briefly a bit later.

Not to be outdone, Fawcett went back to the drawing board. The result in 1939 was SHAZAM! Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel wasn't anything like Superman. Now granted, they could both fly. They both had super strength. However! Superman had a Red S on his chest over a yellow background. Captain Marvel had a yellow lightning bolt on his chest over a red background. Superman was red and yellow and blue. Captain Marvel was red and yellow and white. Superman said "up, up and away!" Captain Marvel said, "Shazam!" During World War Two Captain Marvel expressed a strong anti-Nazi and anti-Japaneze sentiment, while at the same time Superman expressed a strong anti-Nazi and anti-Japaneze sentiment. Superman had incredible wisdom, strength, stamina, power, courage and speed, while Captain Marvel on the other hand had Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury which gave him incredible wisdom, strength, stamina, power, courage and speed. Superman hailed from the imaginary city of Metropolis, while Captain Marvel lived in the imaginary Fawcett City. Superman had powers above and beyond those of mortal man, while Captain Marvel was the world's mightiest mortal. Captain Marvel had stylized artwork while Superman had ..stylized artwork. Superman's alter-ego was Clark Kent who was a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet. Captain Marvel's alter-ego was the mild-mannered Billy Batson, who couldn't hold down a job. Captain Marvel had the Marvel Family with Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., Uncle Marvel, and Hoppy the Marvel Bunny while Superman had just Supergirl, Superboy and Krypto the superdog. See the difference?

Me either. Still, from 1939 to 1953 these guys fought one another month after month on newsstands all across America. For awhile, The Big Red Cheese even outsold Supes. Despite their success, in 1953 Fawcett bit the big one, and DC survived. Probably because DC was still suing Fawcett for everything it was worth. Meanwhile, there was this other comic book company that was elbowing its way through all the other comic book companies that by this time were dropping like flies because of the Comics Code Authority. It's name? You guessed it: MARVEL Funny coincidence, that, eh?

Marvel Comics came out with their own Captain Marvel. Only they called him Captain Mar-Vell in a vain attempt to avoid copyright litigations. Captain Mar-Vell was nothing like Fawcett's Captain Marvel or Superman. Captain Mar-Vell didn't have a cape. He was blonde. He spent all of his time out in space with the Kree and while Superman still hadn't kissed Lois Lane and Captain Marvel was still little Billy Batson who hung out with talking tigers and thought girls had cooties, Captain Mar-Vell was getting it on with the luscious and stacked Una. Still, DC and Marvel went to court because by this time, DC had bought the rights to Fawcett's Captain Marvel and wanted to publish new stories. This brings us up to about the year 1972. DC was able to publish new stories, but had to publish them under the comic book title Shazam! because technically Marvel Comics held the rights to the Captain Marvel name as a comic book title.

By the way, remember Wonder Man? Well, Marvel attempted to produce a character named Wonder Man but he wore a jacket and had thick shades and was a Hollywood type. Nothing like anybody, really. He crashed and burned though cuz he just flat sucked. Throughout this time period, other comic book companies had also attempted to steal Superman's thunder, in several ways. Many of these superheroes were so alike it was just flat absurd. In fact as an inside joke, at one point Superman went up against a character named Captain Thunder who was almost just like Captain Marvel but not really. Boy that probably ticked somebody off. Superman has had many people trying to knock him off his title of King of the Hill, but we're talking about Captain Marvel here.

By 1976, Captain Marvel and Superman finally did meet in the comic book title Justice League of America, and in the courts, DC met Marvel, with yet another court order. Marvel Comics was forced to kill off their Captain Marvel, or suffer further legal litigation. They attempted to bring Captain Marvel back in the middle 1980s as a woman, but that didn't work too well either.

By 1987, DC started publishing Captain Marvel comic books under the name Captain Marvel. So that's how DC owns Captain Marvel, and Marvel owns squat. I hear Marvel Comics has come out with yet another incarnation of Captain Marvel, but had to rename him Genis. Ouch. That's gotta hurt.

Oh, one more thing. In the years from 1987 to today, DC has successfully accomplished in retelling the origin and chronicles of Captain Marvel, to accomodate for the modern-day, and they have successfully completely removed any chance of this character ever being remotely interesting or redeemable in the future. So the moral of this story is, if someone tries to steal your thunder, get a bunch of lawyers to sue them into debt, wait until their company has been destroyed in the courts, buy up the rights to what was causing you such turmoil in the first place, and completely and effectively ruin the original source of your personal torment.

Excuse me while I go throw up.

There have been no fewer than five heroes who have gone by the moniker Captain Mavel.

The first and most famous of the heroes called Captain Marvel was published by Fawcett Comics and first appeared in Whiz Comics #2in February 1940. Captain Marvel was created by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck.

Captain Marvel was in fact Billy Batson, a orphan who worked as a newsboy. One night, Billy is lead into an abandoned subway tunnel by a mysterious stranger. The two travel down the long abandoned tunnel on a driverless car, which stops before a long hallway. Along one side of the hallway are images of the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man: Pride, Envy, Greed, Hatred, Selfishness, Laziness, and Injustice.

Once they reach the end of the hall, the stranger vanishes, but Billy finds an old man seated on a throne in the room at the end of the hall. Hanging above the man by a fraying thread is a huge stone slab. The old man introduces himself as the wizard Shazam and Billy sees written on the wall behind the wizard the names of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. Shazam tells Billy to say his name, which Billy does. A bolt of lighting appears with a peal of thunder and Billy Batson is transformed into a muscular man. Shazam explains that he now has the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, and the speed of Mercury. Shazam tells Billy that he is to fight evil with these new powers and then tells him to say the wizard's name again. When Billy repeats the name, he is transformed back into his own form, but the resulting bolt of lightning breaks the thread, sending the stone slab crashing down on top of the old wizard.

So begins the adventures of the original Captain Marvel. Over the years, he encounters many enemies like the evil genius Dr.Thaddeus Silvana, the ancient Egyptian powerhouse Black Adam, to the bizarre menace of Mr. Mind, a catepillar with a bad attitude and telepathic abilities. Captain Marvel did not fight these menaces alone, for soon, a whole group of heroes or as they are often called the Marvel Family was introduced. They include Captain Marvel Jr., Mary Marvel, Uncle Marvel and even Hoppy Marvel or the Marvel Bunny.

In the 1960's, after the Fawcett hero Captain Marvel was no longer being published, M.F. Enterprises published a short-lived hero called Captain Marvel. The hero was created by Carl Burgos and first appeared in his own comic in April 1966. This new Captain Marvel was a robot from a long dead world with immense strength and the ability to fly. His most unique power, however, was the ability to have his limbs and head split from the trunk of his body and act independent of each other. This was accomplished by him yelling Split!. His comic was not well recieved and only lasted six short issues.

Three years later in 1967, Marvel Comics created their own Captain Marvel. Created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan, the Captain Marvel was an alien from the planet Kree (whose real name was Mar-Vell) who was on Earth as a spy. Eventually he became an ally of humanity and renounced his connection with his own people. Armed with his nega-bands (two bracelets that allowed him to fly through space and shoot bolts of energy) and his cosmic awareness (a sort of Zen, one with the universe thing), Captain Marvel fought many cosmic foes. He eventually became linked to Rick Jones, the former partner to Captain America and the harmonica-playing teen who was responsible for the creation of the Incredible Hulk. The two would change places by tapping the bands together.

In the 1970's as this Captain Marvel's popularity waned, Marvel killed him off in a graphic novel known as The Death of Captain Marvel. The character was killed, not in battle but by cancer.

In the early 1980's, Marvel created a new Captain Marvel. Monica Rambeau was a harbor cop in New Orleans when she was involved in preventing a group of criminals from gaining access to a interdimensional rift. During the conflict, Monica destroyed the rift, linking herself with it, giving her the power to transform herself into any type of energy. Due to the unstable nature of the link, she initally was in danger of exploding, but with the help of Spider-Man and Mr. Fantastic the link was stablized. During her initial adventure, she was given the name Captain Marvel.

She became a member of the Avengers and served for a time as chairperson of the group. During one of their missions, Captain Marvel came into contact with the ocean while in an electrical form. This shunted a good deal of her mass, robbing her of a good deal of weight and seemingly of her powers. After many months of recovery, Monica discovered that her powers were not lost, only altered. She now had super-strength, the ability to fly at super-sonic speeds, and an aura that gave her a degree of invulnerability. During this time, she worked with the Avengers again and during one of their missions regained her original powers.

In the mid-1980's, DC Comics gained the rights to Fawcett Comics version of Captain Marvel. The introduced the heroes into their Crisis on Infinite Earths story, and after the Crisis, Captain Marvel joined the DC Comics cast of characters. He became a member of the Justice League.

In the last few years, Marvel Comics has brought the name Captain Marvel back to the forefront. In the Avengers Forever mini-series, Captain Marvel's son Genis was introduced as a future Captain Marvel. Monica Rambeau renamed herself Photon and gave Genis the use of the name. He and Rick Jones currently share their existence as Rick and the original Captain Marvel had.

In addition to the comic-book adventures discussed in earlier nodes, the original Captain Marvel has also appeared in motion picture and on television.

In 1941, Republic made a 12-part serial entitled The Adventures of Captain Marvel. In this version of things, Billy Batson acquires the magic ability to become Captain Marvel while on an archaological expedition in Siam (modern Thailand-- but here it's basically a low-budget version of Hollywood's mysterious east). The other five on the expedition discover an ancient, powerful weapon called the Scorpion which consists of five lenses. The explorers keep these separate so that none will have its world-shaking power.

Captain Marvel soon finds himself facing a villain called the Scorpion who wants to steal all five lenses.

Frank Coglan, Jr. plays Billy Batson; Tim Tyler plays Captain Marvel. Tyler looks like the comic book superhero, but his voice was less than heroic, so he gets very little dialogue. A puff of smoke covers the transformation.

The next crack at the Captain occured on television, from 1974-1976, with Shazam!. This Filmation Saturday morning live-action show featured a teenage Billy Batson (Michael Gray) and his Mentor (Les Tremayne) travelling "the highways and byways of the land" in an RV, conspiciously marked with Captain Marvel's insignia, "to right wrongs, develop understandings and seek justice for all!" Billy's power comes not from an ancient wizard, but from the "immortal Elders"-- Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. These Elders were contacted via a gizmo covered with flashing colored lights, and they were played by a flat drawing with animated lips and a voiceover. They would give Billy and his Mentor cryptic warnings about the week's plot.

After hearing from the Elders, Billy and the old man would drive around until they encountered a runaway or someone involved with drugs and try to straighten things out. Eventually, a crisis would develop which would require Billy to yell, "Shazam!" and turn into Captain Marvel, played by Jackson Bostwick in the first season and John Davey thereafter. The transformation reused the same footage each week; likewise, most shots of the Captain airborne reused the same special effects film. At the end of each episode, Captain Marvel would land (he always looked like he was leaping from an off-camera stepladder) and restate the moral for the kids at home.

The last two seasons saw the show followed by a live-action heroine named Isis; in some episodes, she and Captain Marvel would crossover and join forces.

During the time of this show's run, DC, now in control of the Fawcett-created rival to Superman, modified Billy's life to resemble the show. He left behind the rest of the Marvel Family, drove off in the RV with Uncle Dudley (refashioned to look like the tv mentor, who was never given a proper name), and the Elders were assigned to take over his guidance, so that he wouldn't have to constantly return to the Rock of Eternity to consult the wizard Shazam. These changes disappeared once the show was cancelled.

A Filmation Shazam! cartoon ran in 1981. Part of the Kid Super Power Hour, it remained faithful to the original Fawcett comic book. The Captain has since reappeared in various DC superhero cartoons.

"The Adventures of Captain Marvel." The Marvel Family Web.

"Shazam!" The Marvel Family Web.


"Shazam!" TV Tome.

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