In late 1972, I saw an advertisement in a DC comic book. I cannot recall which one, but it said that DC was giving comics readers a Christmas present - and that gift was the following (here, I've used a scan of the original art, used recovered clip art for the center of the wreath and re-colored it based on the printed version):
I was elated for two reasons - firstly, because I had read Captain Marvel's origin in "The Great Comic Book Heroes" by Jules Feiffer, but knew scant else of him other than part of his origin and what was revealed here in this ad. Secondly, I had never developed a fondness for Marvel's version of the character and had noted how hard they tried to make him into the Fawcett Captain Marvel (particularly by having Mar-Vell and Rick Jones trade places by use of twin "Nega-Bands" worn on their wrists which, when slammed together, caused one of them to transfer to the Negative Zone and the other to be here on Earth). To see the original seemed like a LOT more fun. Plus, he was an 11-year-old kid - like me!
And, as promised in December, this book shipped:
One found, upon closer inspection, that Captain Marvel's creator, C.C. Beck, was very involved in the book. The stories were written by no less than Denny O'Neil and Elliot S! Maggin. The first issue re-introduced the Marvel Family and their supporting cast and the Sivana family, complete with a Key to the Characters in the book to help familiarize readers with the world writers were re-building. The introductory story, itself, allowed the series to pick right up and move along without hesitation.
Jack Adler gave us some lovely infinity covers in the first few issues:
Even after the first issue's eventful origin story and ret-con back into existence, and a few reprints (Otto Binder stories, no less) as backups, I yearned to learn more about the fabled Captain's history. DC obligingly provided access - in several forms. In the fifth month after Cap's return, the biggest comic book my 11-year-old eyes had ever seen arrived on the newsstands. A tabloid-sized comic with reprints of Captain Marvel's adventures from the Golden Age of comics - DC Limited Collector's Edition C-21:
Four months later, the planned 100 Page Super Spectactular (DC-23) became Shazam #8 replete with more reprints (of which there was a large backstock, curated by E. Nelson Bridwell).
Shazam! #10 was C.C. Beck's final issue. He is reputed to have initially enjoyed the first several issues and their stories, although he would later disavow the entire series. Mr. Beck was a wonderful artist and creator. He had his own motivations for his departure and there are differing stories told on both sides. Eventually, it appears that - after he had been invited to submit a story script, it was returned with heavy editing and he became frustrated attempting to draw the changed script and ended his work with DC. Personally, I was saddened that Cap's creator was no longer with the book, but it did not impact my enjoyment of the characters from that world.
With the 12th issue, DC began printing Shazam! bi-monthly, but they made up for it by switching to the 100-Page format for the coming year, giving both new stories and reprinted stories. For those of us who had subscribed, they honored the number of comics shipped for the subscription without any added cost!
Not much later, another DC Limited Collector's Edition (C-27) was published:
With the success of the Shazam! Television Series - starring Michael Gray and Jackson Bostwick as Billy & Captain Marvel, respectively - at the top of Shazam! covers appeared "Meet TV's Newest Super-Star!". Also, the subheading of the "Shazam!" title changed from "The Original Captain Marvel" to "The World's Mightiest Mortal". The TV series was popular for a couple of years and featured Billy was traveling the US in a Winnebago with a weird combination of Uncle Dudley & the Wizard Shazam named "Mentor", played by Les Tremayne. It doesn't age well, but it featured the MOST accurate version of the classic Captain Marvel uniform. And it did spawn a sort-of spinoff in "The Secrets of Isis" telvision series, which featured a character who similarly changed identities with a magic phrase.
While the departure of C.C. Beck was sad, he later indicated that he felt that the trend toward "realism" in comics art was a bad idea. However, even the most "realistic" artists of the time - Neal Adams & Dick Giordano - were entirely capable of capturing the cartoonist appeal of Captain Marvel and maintaining an aesthetic that felt very much in the vein of Beck himself. Here's an example from the 1976 DC Calendar:
There's been plenty of wrangling around the name "Captain Marvel", but his name was originally going to be "Captain Thunder". Had they gone with a name change, we wouldn't be trying to call him "Shazam" these days (making him a hero who can't tell anyone his name). They can't do that currently, because there is a copyright on that name for a different character. Be that as it may, I've put together a cover that "might have been" had they decided to go with the original name.
Speaking of Captain Thunder, not only was Superman in on the introduction of The Original Captain Marvel, but fans kept demanding a showdown. While there have been many covers depicting this in the years since, the first iteration was shown on the cover of Superman #276. However, this was, in fact, a "Captain Thunder", rather than Captain Marvel. His alter ego, rather than Billy Batson, was Willie Fawcett (interestingly, the namesake of Fawcett Publications' founder, Wilford Fawcett). He would say the magic word "Thunder" (Tornado - Power, Hare - Speed, Uncas - Bravery, Nature - Wisdom, Diamond - Toughness, Eagle - Flight, Ram - Tenacity) and rub his magic belt buckle, resulting in a change ("Sha-Boom!") into the adult Captain Thunder. His powers were given to him by the last Mohegan medicine man, Merokee, who granted him the belt and great powers of the Mohegan Shamans. While fighting the Monster League of Evil (a group of Universal Monster look-alikes) across 1953 dimensions of time-and-space, he somehow appeared in 1974 Metropolis. Captain Thunder was masterfully rendered inside by Curt Swan and Bob Oksner, and the answer to the question posed on the cover was given by Superman: "If one of us is stronger, the difference is too small to measure". Regardless, the cover by Nick Cardy is iconic. I always felt that if they had had Captain Thunder in the foreground, it would have been less obvious that this was not Captain Marvel. But I'm not an artist and certainly nowhere in the ballpark with the design sense of Nick Cardy and Joe Orlando (Cover Editor) it's a wonderful, enduring image nevertheless (and one of the few that Cardy signed during this period):
Speaking of Bob Oksner, his involvement was planned on the Shazam! title beginning with a Mary Marvel backup feature. He was well-suited for the job. Having done many female-oriented comics and also humor comics, he had the experience necessary to bring Mary to life. It's no wonder that he was later tapped to take over the art duties on the regular Captain Marvel feature as soon C.C. Beck was no longer continuing with the character at DC. Here's Oksner's version of Mary, which was drawn for "Who's Who in the DC Universe":
DC also managed a coup by engaging Dave Cockrum to draw the backup feature of Captain Marvel, Jr. His style was reminiscent enough of Mac Raboy to bring the appropriate flair to the character and he was at the height of his powers drawing this character. Sadly, DC's ruined relationship with Cockrum resulted in his departure for Marvel (where he co-created the New X-Men soon afterward, so he landed on his feet, as it were). Here's a latter-day drawing of Captain Marvel Jr. by Cockrum - from Dave's portfolio from the year that he transitioned from DC to Marvel:
I really loved this period of Captain Marvel in Shazam! Fun stories, great art involving all members of the Marvel Family and a ton of history to discover. I missed out on seeing Don Newton become the new artist on the Marvel Family's adventures and - while I'm a big fan of Don Newton's and Don Newton was a huge fan of the Original Captain Marvel, I have not truly developed enough of an appreciation to collect these stories as a whole or comment on them at all. That said, I also enjoyed Jerry Ordway's injection of a new mythology for the Marvel Family. Speaking of the Marvel Family, here they are, rendered by Bob Oksner for DC Limited Collector's Edition C-35.
The current movie did a great deal to bring me around on the current iteration of Cap, although I'm not personally fond of the idea that he's supposed to be called "Shazam" instead of "Captain Marvel". While I understand the legal difficulties, I thought it was hilarious the way they treated the concern by avoiding use of "Shazam" as his name and referring to him as "Captain Sparkles" and the like whenever someone asked his name. Lots of fun!
The recent Shazam! movie (2019) is an indication that the World's Mightiest Mortal still has legs. And if that's insufficient to convince you, here's a list of comics, live-action and animated characters - all inspired by The Original Captain Marvel - illustrated by none other than Alex Ross (on an 11" x 17" piece of paper, mind you). Entitled "Echoes of Captain Marvel":
Here's a key to all of the characters - SAVE FOR 1 STILL UNIDENTIFIED (SEE BELOW) - depicted in the above illustration:
KEY TO THE CHARACTERS: "ECHOES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL"
1. Shazam, the wizard (Top Center, dominating the background) [Comics - Fawcett/DC - the Original]
2. Elvis' jet upper left with the Marvel Family logo & TCB (Taking Care of Business) [Real Life]
FRONT & CENTER:
3. Captain Marvel & Billy Batson (a la CC Beck, front and center) [Comics - Fawcett/DC - the Original]
4. Carol Danvers CM (next to Cap & Billy) [Comics - Marvel]
5. MF Ent. Captain Marvel (Prof. Roger Winkle "Split!", "Xam!" - next to Carol Danvers) [Comics - MF Enterprises]
RIGHT, STARTING AT THE TOP:
6. Thunderbunny (Bobby Caswell places his hands in the impressions on a box, which transforms him into the alien Thunderbunny) [Comics - Charlton/Red Circle/WaRP]
7. Captain Marvel from "The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam!" [Television - Animated]
8. Lightning/ Thunder (Synthetic Lifeform, changes from Lightning to Thunder) [Comics - DC]
9. Mar-Vell (Universe X version) [Comics - Marvel]
10. Shazzan (giant genie from Saturday Morning cartoon, see 14) [Television - Animated]
11. SheZow (Guy Hamdon, "You Go Girl!", with magic ring) [Television - Animated]
12. Fatman the Human Flying Saucer (Van Crawford drinks chocolate drink and becomes human flying saucer) [Comics - Lightning]
13. "The Flying Man" and Wizard, from Turkish "KiLiNK"films, (sometimes known as the "Turkish Superman - complete with "S" symbol - but owes a greater debt to Captain Marvel). Uçan Adam was "gifted" powers by a Wizard (next to him) and changes when he says the magic word "Shajam!". [Film - Live Action]
14. Chuck, Nancy and Kaboobie the flying camel (when Chuck & Nancy connect the two halves of the talisman on their rings, they summan Shazzan) [Television - Animated]
15. Shaloman (inanimate rock, "Oy vey!", shouted by others) [Comics - Mark 1]
16. Original Mar-Vell [Comics - Marvel]
17. Amalgam Captain Marvel (on our left of Mar-Vell in his original Kree togs) [Comics - DC/Marvel]
18. Darna, aka Varga (Narda swallows a magic white stone & shouts "Darna") [Comics & later Live Action Television]
19. Captain Thunder, Billy & Mary Batson, Freddy Freeman, Eugene Choi, Pedro Peña, Darla Dudley and Tawky Tawny the Tiger (“Shazam!” foster kids *all* turn into the Flashpoint version of Cap) [Comics - DC]
20. Captain Flash (Prof. Keith Spencer "Claps Hands") [Comics - Sterling]
21. Captain Barbell (Tenteng/Enteng, "Captain Barbell!" while lifting a magic barbell) [Comics & later Live Action Television]
22. Pureheart the Powerful (Archie Andrews, "PH Factor") [Comics - Archie]
23. The Fly (Tommy Troy, "I wish I were The Fly" with magic fly ring) [Comics - Red Circle]
24. Captain Tootsie (using a style strikingly similar to C.C. Beck's, Tootsie Roll Industry's pitch-man in comics form) [Comics - Toby/Minoan]
25. The hooded iteration (Shazam!) [Comics - DC]
26. Dynamo (uses the Thunderbelt to give him invulnerability and super-strength, from T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents) [Comics - Tower]
27. Mazahs (Shazam backwards - from Forever Evil) [Comics - DC]
28. Lord Marvel (in all white from Trials of Shazam) [Comics - DC]
29. Freddy Freeman version (with long hair from Trials of Shazam) [Comics - DC]
30. Genis-Vell (Alex Ross Redesign) [Comics - Marvel]
31. Mar-Vell of Earth-X (kid holding Captain America's shield) [Comics - Marvel]
32. Adam Warlock (originally "Him", the symbol is the main connection) [Comics - Marvel]
33. Robby Reed (Dial "H" for Hero, changes to different heroes with the dial) [Comics - DC]
34. Kingdom Come Captain Marvel [Comics - DC]
35. Captain Marble and Billy Battyson (Billy takes "Old Doc Shazam's Elixir" containing "Smaltz herring, Hedgehog quills, Axel grease, Zebra livers, Avocado seeds, Mashed garlic) - cowering behind Kingdom Come Captain Marvel's leg - a parody by "Get Lost" magazine, drawn by Ross Andru) [Magazine Parody]
36. Genis-Vell ("Nega-Bands", w/ Rick Jones) [Comics - Marvel]
37. Etrigan, The Demon (Jason Blood, "Change! Change! O form of man! Free the prince forever damned! Free the might from fleshy mire! Boil the blood in the heart for fire! Gone! Gone! O form of man, And rise the demon Etrigan!!") [Comics - DC]
38. Champion (a young Shazam, “Vlarem!” [an anagram for “Marvel”] - strength of Voldar, the wisdom of Lumiun, the speed of Arel, the power of Ribalvei, the courage of Elbiam, the stamina of Marzosh) [Comics - DC]
39. Kevin Matchstick (from Matt Wagner's Mage - symbol on t-shirt - in his hands, a baseball bat becomes magic weapon and focuses his strength) [Comics - Matt Wagner/Comico/Image]
40. Madman (symbol is the same - except for the period, which resembles the Shazam! comics logo at the top of this page) [Comics - Image]
41. Omac (Buddy Blank, changed by a beam from Brother Eye, a computer AI satellite) [Comics - DC]
42. Captain Marbles (& Billy Spafon "Shazoom" from Superduperman) [Comics - Mad, later Magazine]
43. The Gentleman (from Astro City, looking like Fred MacMurray) [Comics - Kurt Busiek/Image/Homage]
44. His daughter, Tillie Armstrong (looking like Judy Garland, she conjurs him while dreaming)
45. Captain Marvel Bunny (Hoppy, says "Shazam!") [Comics - Fawcett/Charlton/DC]
46. A Mego Captain Marvel [Toy from Real Life]
LEFT, STARTING AT THE TOP:
47. Ultraman (Science Patrol Officer Shin Hayata holds the Beta Capsule to the sky and turns into Ultraman) and Ultraseven [Television - Live Action]
48. Powerman/Powerbolt (bolt of lightning struck him as a child and gave him powers) [Comics - Eclipse]
49. Captain Marvel (Filmation, w/ kid on his back) [Television - Animated]
50. Thundergirl (Molly Wilson, "Alakazam!") [Big Bang Comics - Image]
51. Mighty Mightor (holds magic club in air, sometimes shouts "Mightor!") [Television - Animated]
52. Spectreman (an alien in diguise as human Jôji Gamô, who says "Ryōkai" and the Overlord of the Neutron Star changes him to Spectreman) [Television - Live Action]
53. Superior (Simon Pooni in wheelchair, "One Magic Wish") [Comics - Icon]
54. Eightman/8 Man (Detective Yokoda/Hachiro Azuma smokes "energy" cigarettes to change. With Sachiko Seki & supporting characters) [Manga - Anime]
55. Prince Planet (Bobby calls out "Peeeeee Pazow" and changes into Prince Planet) [Television - Anime]
56. Young Samson and Goliath (slams wristbands together, saying "I need Samson Power" or "Time for Samson Power" to change) [Television - Animated]
57. Sinbad Jr. and his Magic Belt (Sinbad Jr. tightens his magic belt, causing the diamond-shaped buckle to flash like lightning and gains the strength of 50 men) [Television - Animated]
58. He-Man (Prince Adam raises his sword and calls out "By the power of Greyskull" and changes into He-Man) & Battle Cat (Cringer) [Television - Animated]
59. Forever People & the Infinity-Man (“Taaru!” & Mother Box - Beautiful Dreamer, Big Bear, Mark Moonrider, Vykin and Serifan) [Comics - DC]
60. Billy/Cap as Shazam (seated) [Comics - DC]
61. Thunder (Ceecee Beck, 10-year-old from 90th century planet Binderaan, says "Captain Marvel" & lightning transforms her into a 17-year-old possessing the classic Marvel Family powers - from Legionnaires/LOSH) [Comics - DC]
62. Son-O-God (Benny Davis, "Jesus Christ!" from National Lampoon, looks like Jesus & kid w/ glasses next to him) [Magazine Parody]
63. Mighty Man (Bobby Berman/Ann Stevens, taps wrists together) [Comics - Image]
64. Prime (kid Kevin Green grows a super-powerful body when trouble arises) [Comics - Malibu/Marvel]
65. Thor/Dr. Donald Blake (Blake slams his walking stick on the ground and changes into Thor) [Comics - Marvel]
66. Captain Thunder (& Willie Fawcett, "Thunder!" while rubbing his magic belt) [Comics - DC]
67. Isis (Andrea Thomas, "Oh, Mighty Isis!") [Television - Live Action]
68. Marvelman/Miracleman (Micky Moran "Kimota!") [Comics - UK]
69. Ben 10 (The Omnitrix that Ben wears on his wrist allows him to transform into various alien life forms. With Grandpa Max) [Television - Animated]
70. Captain Super of "Earth-2" (Earth-3, originally. Summons lightning in unknown manner - Crime Syndicate other-dimensional version of the Original Captain Marvel - unknown alter-ego) [Comics - DC]
71. Kirby Captain Marvel (as Alex mentions, lots of Kirby/Captain Marvel connections) [Comics - DC]
72. Gomer Pyle (says "Shazam" with country accent: "Shazayum!") [Television - Live Action]
73. Billy & Captain Marvel/Shazam (from Say My Name - Shazam) [Comics - DC]
74. Monica Rambeau (Captain Marvel/Photon) [Comics - Marvel]
75. Kid Miracleman/Kid Marvelman (Johnny Bates, “Kimota!”) [Comics - UK/Eclipse]
76. Mar-Vell, final costume & cosmic awareness, ("Nega-Bands", also w/ Rick Jones) [Comics - Marvel]
And the raft of television, movie & comic book versions of Captain Marvel/Billy (I think every actor who played Captain Marvel & Billy on television and the movie serial version, as well, are represented, here):
77. Brie Larson's version w/ Zachary Levi [Films, Marvel and Warner Bros]
78. Tom Tyler as Cap & Frank Coghlan, Jr. as Billy [Film Serial]
79. Jackson Bostwick as Cap, Michael Gray as Billy, John Davey as Cap, Garrett Craig as Cap [Television - Live Action]
80. Brandon Molale, Actor who wanted to play Captain Marvel [Would-Be Live Action]
Still seeking to identify this last character (see image below).
1. Huge Fire Guy on far right (with "The Flying Man" and "Wizard" from Turkish KiLiNK films on his shoulder - not related). Looks like a red, flaming version of the Jolly Green Giant, but no one has identified him yet.
I look forward to hearing from anyone who can identify the above, as well as anyone who enjoys The Original Captain Marvel or any of the other pages on MetropolisPlus.com. Links to E-mail me below!
My thanks to the following members of Facebook Comics Groups who helped identify characters that, on my own, I either could not or may not have - they helped move the process along while my time was being consumed by simply accumulating and verifying characters for the list. In parentheses are the characters they helped identify:
Allen Berrebbi (Thundergirl from Big Bang Comics)
Chad Walters (@ChadWalters on Twitter - The Flying Man & Wizard)
Chris Sanders (Son-O-God, Spectreman)
Hugh H. Davis (Champion)
James Reed (Kid Marvelman)
Joe Sewell (Eightman/8 Man, Amalgam Captain Marvel, Superior)
Marlin Muhe (Superior, Flashpoint Captain Thunder, Filmation Captain Marvel, Brandon Molale)
Matt Hickman (Captain Flash, Super Power Hour Captain Marvel)
Pól Rua (Captain Barbell)
Roy Johnson (Lightning/Thunder)
Rudy Panucci ("Get Lost" Captain Marble & Billy Battyson)
Todd Riggs (Powerman/Powerbolt)
Tory Jeremiah D'Anna (SheZow)
Wayne Garml (Thunder Legionnaires/LOSH)
The Captain Marvel Club
Earth-S: Home of "The Original" Captain Marvel
DC Comics Fans 1956-1986
Public Domain HEROES
Long live the World's Mightiest Mortal!
I hope you enjoyed this trip throught he past - I enjoyed bringing it to you!
Brian G. Philbin
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THE JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA & OUR IMAGE RESTORATION PROCESS - NEW GRAPHICS
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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE
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All characters mentioned within these pages and associated images are © and ™ of DC Comics, Inc. If you have any questions, comments or other items of interest concerning this page or DC Comics or what-have-you, please feel free to E-Mail Brian G. Philbin. All items which are highlighted in blue text and underlined are links to the named item!
Text content is Copyright 1999 Brian G. Philbin