- The History of Comic Books  

Captain Marvel/Shazam

Captain Marvel was created by C.C. Beck. Hist first appearance was as Captain Thunder in an ashcan comic titled Thrill Comics #1. His name was changed shortly afterward because Captain Thunder was already being used by another company. As a result, in Whiz Comics #2 Captain Marvel appeared, and he became more popular than Superman. Why was this? Well, there were many reasons.

First, young readers could relate to Captain Marvel because he was a boy with superpowers. Young Billy Batson just had to say "Shazam" and he would become the powerful Captain Marvel. At this time, most of the comic readers were young boys, who after reading comics would fantasize about becoming a superhero themselves.

Additionally, the stories were much better. The writers for Captain Marvel were much more creative than those who scripted Superman. A good example would be the villain Mr. Mind. Originally appearing as a voice over a radio, we would later find out that Mr. Mind was really a super intelligent worm from another planet! It was a shocking and more exciting villain than the typical robot or mad scientist that Superman was fighting.

So successful was Captain Marvel that his title Captain Marvel Adventures would almost circulate 1.4 million copies per issue, on a bi-weekly basis in 1946. The Captain Marvel phenomena also expanded to his relatives. There was a Mary Marvel (sister), a Captain Marvel Jr., an Uncle Marvel, and even Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, as well as many others.

Still, Captain Marvel had all sorts of legal troubles in his early years. They began in 1941 when DC filed a lawsuit against Fawcett Comics (publisher of the Captain Marvel titles). DC claimed that Captain Marvel was a copyright infringement on their character Superman. This case would finally come to trial in 1948; the courts decided in Fawcett's favor. The court stated that some of Superman's appearances were not published with the proper copyright material. However, the court did say that there were some similarities between the two characters. DC Comics appealed this decision and got a new trial in 1951. This court decided that because DC had no intention of abandoning the Superman character, their copyright was still intact, despite their earlier errors in publishing the proper copyright notices. In 1953, the case was finally settled out of court when Fawcett agreed to quit using the Captain Marvel character(s) and pay DC the sum of $400,000.

A new hero called Captain Marvel was published in 1966 by M.F. Enterprises. This was a totally new character, and the title only lasted 5 issues with another one-shot appearance in 1967. Later in 1967, Marvel Comics would come up with their own Captain Marvel. This was also a completely different character, but an important one, because: 1) He would die of cancer, and 2) He remains dead to this day (an amazing and astonishing occurrence in the comic book world).

In 1973, DC themselves revived the original Captain Marvel, but they were forced to call this title Shazam because Marvel Comics now held the trademark to the Captain Marvel name. Drawn by co-creator C.C. Beck, Shazam would last 35 issues. He would later re-appear in the Legends mini-series in 1986, then in his own Shazam mini-series in 1987, and now in a title called The Power of Shazam, begun in 1995 and currently still in circulation.