DC and Marvel have produced comics since the 1930s and 1940s, presenting us with characters that became part of popular culture. Of course, both comic book publishers had humble beginnings with characters that potentially could become silly today. However, the characters like Captain America and Batman became the most notable comic book characters in each comic book era and stayed relevant today. However, the competition for creating original characters was insane back then, and two characters from respective companies got the same name – Captain Marvel. In this article, we will discuss if Shazam is Captain Marvel and who is the “original” character.
The character of Shazam first appeared in Whiz Comics in 1940 and was published by Fawcett Comics. However, Shazam wasn’t the character’s original name – it was Captain Marvel. Eventually, DC comics acquired character rights from Fawcett Comics in 1972 and changed his name to Shazam because Marvel Comics created their own character with a similar name, Captain Mar-Vell, in 1967. Ultimately, Shazam is technically and is originally Captain Marvel, but DC Comics cannot use the name anymore.
We will discuss this topic by explaining if Shazam is Marvel or DC, why Shazam is called Captain Marvel, and which Captain Marvel has “bragging rights” on who is the “original. If you are interested, stay with us until the end.
Is Shazam Marvel or DC?
Before ” digging” into the article’s main topic, let’s discuss Shazam’s origins. Shazam’s character first appeared in Whiz Comics #2, published by Fawcett Comics in 1940, and soon became the most popular superhero of that era. However, Shazam was “born” with a different name – formerly called Captain Marvel.
Fawcett Comics’ Captain Marvel was more popular than DC’s Superman and Marvel’s Captain America, the latter being the product of the World War II era. The popularity of Billy Batson and his “shazam” powers continued throughout the decade until Fawcett Comics ceased writing about Captain Marvel and his family in 1953 when DC Comics’ decided to sue the publishing company for their character blatantly copying their most popular character, Superman.
Unfortunately, the lawsuit kickstarted the fall of Fawcett Comics, who decided to cease all superhero-related publications, including Captain Marvel., and ultimately, shut down. During the 1960s, Fawcett Publications focused on comic book series like Dennis the Menace, while Captain Marvel fell into the background. However, when it seemed that once the most popular superhero in the world would be forgotten, DC Comics decided to acquire rights to the Captain Marvel family and implement the characters into the DC Universe continuity.
Since then, Billy Batson has been consistently part of big events in DC Comics and has had to adapt to the other characters’ frequent changes in DC Universe. Still, his superhero persona had to change his name – Captain Marvel was no more, and Shazam was born.
Despite Shazam being created and published by Fawcett Comics in 1940, in the end, Billy Batson became a part of DC Universe and one of their most important characters.
Another question needs to be answered here – why did DC change the name of the notable character to Shazam? Let’s find out why.
Why is Shazam called Captain Marvel?
In 1939, both DC and Marvel (under the names National Comics Publications and Timely Comics) started publishing notable superhero characters that had already started gaining popularity among the readers. Fawcett Comics decided to create its own superhero character, and the idea was born. Bill Parker and C.C. Beck decided to create six characters with powers bestowed on them by mythological powers.
The same idea was scrapped in favor of one character having powers from six mythological beings, which kickstarted the creation of Captain Thunder. Parker and Beck realized that the name was already used by other comic book publications and decided to rename Captain Thunder to Captain Marvelous, which editors shortened to Captain Marvel.
This moment was the beginning of Billy Batson and his Captain Marvel persona. The character was named Captain Marvel simply because he is just so marvelous. Billy Batson is introduced as an orphaned 12-year-old boy who is struck by a magic lightning bolt of the ancient wizard Shazam and turned into the adult and powerful superhero Captain Marvel. Of course, Shazam is an acronym for six immortal elders – Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury, who lend Captain Marvel their powers.
The powerful superhero later expanded his group, and the Captain Marvel family was born, with other children having the same powers as Billy Batson. Of course, we did mention that Captain Marvel’s comic book run and publishing was dismissed in 1953 by Fawcett Comics, following the lawsuit of DC Comics, and the character was “shelved” for quite some time.
However, DC Comics decided to buy out the rights to Captain Marvel and his family but had one big problem – in the meantime, Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee created his own Captain Marvel, also known as Mar-Vell, Walter Lawson.
Which Captain Marvel came first: DC or Marvel?
In 1967, Marvel Comics took advantage of Fawcett’s Comics vs. DC Comics situation and took over the rights to Captain Marvel’s name by creating and publishing their own character as an alien military officer, Captain Mar-Vell of the Kree Imperial Militia.
To retain the rights to Captain Marvel’s name, Marvel Comics decided to publish Captain Marvel periodically titled content, which was mostly one-shots, limited series, and more. All in all, Captain Marvel of Marvel Comics was born, and in 1972, DC had to change the name of their Captain Marvel to Shazam to avoid a lawsuit from their direct competitors.
Of course, this means that technically DC Comics’ Captain Marvel, or rather Fawcett Comics’ came before the Marvel Comics version. One would say Fawcett Comics created Captain Marvel before anyone, but DC bought the rights to the Captain Marvel character in 1972. It’s interesting how copyright worked during comics’ Golden and Silver Ages and how competitors protected their assets and character property.
Ultimately, Shazam is a fantastic and memorable name that the fans love. At the same time, Captain Marvel is an established name connected to Walter Lawson, Monica Rambeau, and Carol Danvers of Marvel Comics. Also, how could Stan Lee miss the opportunity to take the name Captain Marvel for his Marvel Comics? You always take the chances you get.
Most importantly, formerly Captain Marvel, now Shazam, wasn’t scrapped and thrown into the abyss with other once-great characters of the Golden Age of Comics that were shut down as their respective companies. We got to experience two versions of Captain Marvels of DC and Marvel Comics, which is great. Shazam was the first Captain Marvel, but the other Captain Marvel became an important character in each big event of Marvel Comics – some would say it became the company’s mascot.