Captain Marvel - Shazam!

By Karl Stern (@dragonkingkarl, @wiwcool, karl@dragonkingkarl.com)

Captain marvel from whiz comics #2

Captain marvel from whiz comics #2

Today the When It Was Cool website celebrates one of the only pure and true heroes of the superhero genre- Captain Marvel!  Let's go ahead and clear up the confusion right out of the gate.  The character's name is Captain Marvel even though he has often been called Shazam.  Now, if only it were that simple.  In the golden age of comics, the character's name was Captain Marvel and the old Wizard who gave him his powers was named Shazam.  By saying the Wizard's name, young Billy Batson, could transform himself into the powerful Captain Marvel.

Captain Marvel early appearance from America's Best comics in 1940.  Captain Marvel got his powers from the mythical characters- S- Solomon, H- Hercules, A- Atlas, Z- Zeus, A- Achilles, M- Mercury.

Captain Marvel early appearance from America's Best comics in 1940.  Captain Marvel got his powers from the mythical characters- S- Solomon, H- Hercules, A- Atlas, Z- Zeus, A- Achilles, M- Mercury.

However, DC Comics sued Fawcett Comics over the similarities between Captain Marvel and Superman.  Ultimately, DC Comics would come to own the character outright.  Of course, Marvel Comics also came out with their own various Captain Marvel characters over the years.  DC Comics revived Captain Marvel in the 1970's under his own comic book "Shazam" and the character also got a live-action Saturday morning television show and a cartoon series and culturally many kids began simply calling him Shazam.  In the current era of comics, DC has thrown in the towel trying to call him Captain Marvel and have simply renamed him Shazam... so I suppose technically speaking he now IS Shazam... though in my heart he will always be Captain Marvel.

in 1941, Captain Marvel got his own 12 part movie serial and the character was played in live action for the first time by tom tyler.

in 1941, Captain Marvel got his own 12 part movie serial and the character was played in live action for the first time by tom tyler.

One of the movies tentatively scheduled to be added to the Warner Brothers DC Cinematic Universe line-up is Captain Marvel.  Already, Dewayne "The Rock" Johnson has been vocal about playing the Captain Marvel arch-villain Black Adam. 

The first appearance of black adam and the ancient shazam champion.  according to his first appearance he had been banished to the farthest star and had been flying back to earth for 5000 years.

The first appearance of black adam and the ancient shazam champion.  according to his first appearance he had been banished to the farthest star and had been flying back to earth for 5000 years.

There is a marvelous (sorry) appeal to the Captain Marvel character.  Captain Marvel is really the young homeless boy Billy Batson who becomes a childhood radio personality (at WHIZ Radio of course).  Captain Marvel has a refreshing innocence about him that is sorely needed in this era of the dark and brooding super hero.  Even Superman has been presented in the current era in the DC movies as an unsmiling dark hero.  Captain Marvel could be the perfect antithesis to that if allowed to be.  However, the handling of the (now named) Shazam character in the modern DC Comics continuity has left a lot to be desired and is a vast departure from the classic character.

Captain Marvel was played by john davey in the saturday morning live action series.  the show ran from 1974 to 1977 and from 1975 on shared the show with isis, a female egyptian super hero.  the two occassionally teamed up as well.

Captain Marvel was played by john davey in the saturday morning live action series.  the show ran from 1974 to 1977 and from 1975 on shared the show with isis, a female egyptian super hero.  the two occassionally teamed up as well.

Today there are actually multiple podcasts devoted to the character.  Some of the best include- The Shazam & Isis Podcast and The Shazamcast.

the 1970's shazam animated series.

the 1970's shazam animated series.

an early captain marvel comic describes the sources of his powers.

an early captain marvel comic describes the sources of his powers.

the popularity of captain marvel in the 1940's saw the spin off of an entire marvel family including captain marvel, jr., mary marvel, uncle dudley, and others.  captain marvel, jr. was a favorite of elvis presely who took his lightning bolt T.C.B. logo and cape from his childhood love of the character.

the popularity of captain marvel in the 1940's saw the spin off of an entire marvel family including captain marvel, jr., mary marvel, uncle dudley, and others.  captain marvel, jr. was a favorite of elvis presely who took his lightning bolt T.C.B. logo and cape from his childhood love of the character.

the first appearance of captain marvel in whiz comics #2.  oddly enough there was no whiz comics #1.  they strangly started the numbering of the series at issue 2.

the first appearance of captain marvel in whiz comics #2.  oddly enough there was no whiz comics #1.  they strangly started the numbering of the series at issue 2.

in the 1970's there was a big rebirth of captain marvel popularity.  his mego action figure was among the more popular early mego figures.

in the 1970's there was a big rebirth of captain marvel popularity.  his mego action figure was among the more popular early mego figures.

in the 1980's captain marvel was part of the DC Super Powers action figure line up.

in the 1980's captain marvel was part of the DC Super Powers action figure line up.

in the early 2000's captain marvel was part of the infinite heroes crisis action figure line.

in the early 2000's captain marvel was part of the infinite heroes crisis action figure line.

in the 1990's there was a really high quality captain marvel series called "Power of Shazam" which is the closest the character has gotten in the modern age to a faithful rendition of the character.

in the 1990's there was a really high quality captain marvel series called "Power of Shazam" which is the closest the character has gotten in the modern age to a faithful rendition of the character.

sadly, over the last decade, DC Comics has struggled to find direction for the classic character now renamed shazam.  the modern continuity now has a completely changed billy batson who is no longer an innocent child and shazam himself bears little resemblence to the classic hero.

sadly, over the last decade, DC Comics has struggled to find direction for the classic character now renamed shazam.  the modern continuity now has a completely changed billy batson who is no longer an innocent child and shazam himself bears little resemblence to the classic hero.

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