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A Brief History of the Creation of Captain Marvel (Shazam - Fawcett Comics)

The history of the names "Shazam" and "Captain Marvel" is a complex tale involving multiple comic book publishers, legal battles, and rebranding efforts spanning several decades.

It all begins in the 1930s with Fawcett Comics, which introduced a character named Captain Marvel in "Whiz Comics" #2 in 1940. This character, created by writer Bill Parker and artist C.C. Beck, was a young boy named Billy Batson who could transform into the superhero Captain Marvel by uttering the magic word "Shazam," an acronym for the mythological figures Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury, from whom he gained his powers.

Bill Parker - Left --- C.C. Beck - Right

Captain Marvel quickly became one of the most popular superheroes of the Golden Age of comics, rivaling even Superman in terms of sales. However, in the early 1950s, Fawcett Comics faced a copyright infringement lawsuit from DC Comics (then known as National Comics Publications), claiming that Captain Marvel was too similar to Superman. Fawcett eventually ceased publication of Captain Marvel comics in 1953 and settled the lawsuit with DC Comics out of court, agreeing to never publish the character again.

Fawcett Publications Logo - See our Fawcett Collection

In the meantime, DC Comics acquired the trademark for the name "Captain Marvel" and began publishing their own Captain Marvel comics in the 1970s, after purchasing the rights to the character from Fawcett. However, due to Marvel Comics' own character named Captain Marvel, introduced in 1967, DC was unable to use "Captain Marvel" as the title of their comics. This led to DC Comics publishing their Captain Marvel comics under the title "Shazam!" starting in 1972, effectively making "Shazam" the de facto name of the character.

Marvel Comics, on the other hand, capitalized on the lapsed trademark and introduced their own Captain Marvel character in 1967, initially a Kree military officer named Mar-Vell. Over time, various characters have taken up the mantle of Captain Marvel in Marvel Comics, including Carol Danvers, Monica Rambeau, and others.

Whiz Comics #2, #23 & #16

In 2012, DC Comics officially rebranded their character as "Shazam" to avoid confusion with Marvel's Captain Marvel and to solidify the association of the character with his iconic magic word. This change was formalized with DC's "New 52" reboot of their comic book universe.

Today, "Shazam" is recognized as the superhero's name in both DC Comics and popular culture, while "Captain Marvel" remains associated with Marvel Comics' characters. Despite the legal entanglements and name changes, both characters continue to have dedicated fan bases and have been adapted into various forms of media, including films, television shows, and video games.

What's your favourite Shazam comic or story? Let us know in the comments!

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