You say Captain Marvel, I say SHAZAM!

A quick retelling of 

the long, complicated story of 

the battle over The Big Red Cheese


illustration by P. R. Neil

With the announcement of the new Captain Marvel movie from Marvel, and a new Shazam movie from DC, some people might be saying, “isin’t that the same character?” The answer is no, and yes. 

The original Captain Marvel, created in 1939 by artist C. C. Beck and writer Bill Parker, is known to most people by SHAZAM, the magic word Billy Batson uttered to transform into a superhero. Published in 1941 by Fawcett Comics to compete with rival DC’s Superman, Captain Marvel was the epitome of wish fulfillment. Most people don’t realize  Captain Marvel often outsold Superman in the 40's to the chagrin of DC Comics. The first comic book superhero movie ever was The Adventures of Captain Marvel in 1941. DC claimed Captain Marvel was a Superman copy, and after a long court battle, they won.  DC now owned Captain Marvel, but stopped publishing the character as to not interfere with Superman sales.


Cut to 1967, and Marvel Comics claims trademark of the name Captain Marvel when they release a series of the same name, and DC Comics is not allowed to publish any comics with Captain Marvel in the title ever again. This new "Marvel" Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) was from an alien race called the Kree, and the comic had varied success over the years, but was never more popular than when he died of inoperable cancer in the first large-format Graphic Novel from Marvel comics in 1982, entitled, what else, The Death of Captain Marvel.


DC Comics started publishing their Captain Marvel again in 1972, with the rest of the Marvel Family (Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr, etc.) but didn’t acquire all the rights until 1991. 

During the 70’s, there was a live-action television show titled Captain Marvel, but since it wasn’t the title of a comic book, they retained the title. I watched this show religiously!

 When DC relaunched the whole line of comics in 2011, the character was officially named SHAZAM. Although the role of SHAZAM has yet to be cast, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson will be playing the role of archenemy "Black Adam" in the just announced SHAZAM movie for 2019.


Capitalizing on the Women’s Liberation movement in the 70’s, Marvel secured the trademark for a new character, Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers), a nod to Ms. Magazine, and released her self-titled comic in 1979. Carol Danvers' superhero name changed a few times over the years, and costumes (two words, hip sash), and even bodies when her psyche took residence in Rogue, but over that time fans grew to love the character. 

In 2013, Marvel released a brand new Captain Marvel with Carol as Captain. The "Ms." is gone and so is the revealing, outdated, sexist costume. This is an military woman, not a super sex-kitten. This latest incarnation is arguably the best yet, firmly planting her in the upper echelon of the Marvel Universe. She is essentially Marvel's Wonder Woman and she will be the character in the Captain Marvel movie recently announced and set to release May 2018.


Believe it or not, there are actually more “Marvels”. During the 80’s, when I was really falling in love with comics, the current Captain Marvel was an African-American woman, Monica Rambeau, who could transform herself into pure light. I loved her!!

January of this year saw the latest incarnation of the seemingly outdated monicker of Ms. Marvel, in the form of Kamala Khan, the first Muslim superhero. This is a story of a teenage girl trying to manage her family, her powers, and the pitfalls of daily life, that gives us insight into an American Muslim culture many of us are still confused about. No movie is planned yet, but just wait.

Then there’s the whole complicated story of Marvel Man (who is later called Miracle Man to avoid legal woes), but I’ll save that for another article.

So, to wrap up, SHAZAM (the original Captain Marvel, often called The Big Red Cheese) is property of DC Comics and they will be releasing the movie in 2019. 

Captain Marvel (former Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers) is property of Marvel Comics and she will have her own movie July 5,  2018. 

© 2014