This Character Needs a Comic: Captain Marvel (Shazam)
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the defunct comic book publisher Fawcett Comics did just that when they created Captain Marvel back in the ‘40s: a hero that, by and large, was (and still kind of is) a blatant copy of DC Comics’ caped moneymaker Superman. Having bought the rights to the character years ago, DC scribe Geoff Johns has been currently integrating Captain Marvel (now called “Shazam” for copyright reasons) into the New 52 continuity thanks to a backup feature seen within recent issues of Justice League. Given Captain Marvel/Shazam’s unique history and surprisingly large fanbase, DC would be smart to give this character his own comic!
Who is Captain Marvel (Shazam)?
Captain Marvel made his inaugural appearance in Whiz Comics #2 all the way back in 1940. As I said earlier, the good Captain drew inspiration heavily from DC’s Superman in terms of design, powers and even the cover of the comic itself; it bears an uncanny resemblance to the premiere issue of Action Comics.
But Fawcett Comics at least had the creative chops to draft an origin story for the hero that made Captain Marvel somewhat distinct from Supes. While having the appearance of an adult, Captain Marvel is actually a young boy named Billy Batson empowered by the wizard Shazam (separate character not to be confused with the New 52 name for Captain Marvel). In his youth, six ancient gods bestowed Shazam with great power and made him their champion of justice. Growing old and weary, Shazam needed a worthy successor and found one in the unwitting form of Billy. By shouting the magic word “SHAZAM,” Billy is engulfed in a bolt of lightening and emerges as Captain Marvel, carrying with him the strength and abilities of legendary epic heroes such as Hercules and Achilles.
For a time, Whiz Comics and The Adventures of Captain Marvel outsold issues of Action Comics featuring Superman by an exponential margin, incurring the litigious wrath of DC (called National Periodical Publications at the time)! Fawcett Comics was forced into ceasing all publications featuring Captain Marvel due to accusations of copyright infringement. Cap fell into relative obscurity until the early ‘70s when DC bought the rights to the character.
Why He Deserves His Own Series
You wouldn’t think so, but there are plenty of people out there that have a place in their heart for Captain Marvel; with Savage Dragon writer Erik Larsen probably counting himself as the character’s #1 fan. Why? Because first and foremost, Captain Marvel is very relatable and has a human quality that Superman just seems to lack. Billy Batson isn’t an alien from another planet that was born with innate superhuman abilities. Rather, he’s the everyday, kind-hearted person that demonstrates the great potential we are all capable of. And if you really think about it, Captain Marvel is also the embodiment of the nostalgic imagination we had as children pretending we were super heroes.
It’s been roughly 13 years since we’ve last had a real ongoing series featuring Captain Marvel, with the last one being The Power of Shazam which ran from ’95-’99 (subsequent series were geared towards younger readers). Since then he and other characters including his rogues gallery have appeared in a limited capacity in other titles such as Justice Society of America and 52.
While many share the same sentiment that Captain Marvel should have his own series, it isn’t without apprehension. History has shown that DC is unable to drum up significant hype for the character, leading to any ongoing Captain Marvel series getting the axe. Still, from what we’ve seen in the Justice League backup stories, Geoff Johns is obviously putting in a lot of effort to create a modern, edgier, and engaging Captain Marvel—I mean Shazam—that will hopefully catch the eye. To re-imagine Captain Marvel in such a way and have it go nowhere afterwards is, bluntly, disappointing.
Would you read a Captain Marvel (Shazam) ongoing series?