Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The History of ALL the Captain Marvels (short version)

This article is being updated constantly to keep up as things change. Please bookmark it and refer back for updates.
Please comment below and tell us which is your favorite Captain Marvel, and  "Follow" this blog for more history and insight regarding the many Captain Marvels!

So long as we are taking a break from the serial chapter play of the history of all the Captain Marvels to catch up with the movie news, here is a "short version" of the history that you can link to or copy-paste whenever Someone is Wrong on the Internet.

For those of you who prefer your history in video form, here is basically all the information you will get if you read this post:

If you prefer reading words than hearing them, please continue below:

*NOTE: This brief history does not include one-panel or one-issue Captain Marvels, like The Captain, or that other genetically-altered Skrull, alternate-reality or alternate-timeline Captain Marvels, like CC and Marilyn Batson, Teddy Altman, and Janet Van Dyne, the Amalgam Captain Marvel, any of the various variants named Captain Thunder, or spoofs and rip-offs like Marvelman/Miracleman, Captain Marbles, Prime, and Mighty Man.*

1.1 The Original Captain Marvel - Billy Batson (Fawcett)
During the Superhero boom that began with Superman in 1938, Fawcett Publications, a large, successful, and diverse magazine publishing house, decided to get into the comic book racket with a Superman-like superhero. Writer Bill Parker and artist C.C. Beck created the original Captain Marvel. His alter ego was a young orphan boy, Billy Batson, who was granted the power by an ancient wizard to transform into a mighty hero by speaking his name, SHAZAM! He first appeared in Whiz Comics #2 in December of 1939 (Why #2? That's another story).

This hero soon had an extended family that included Freddy Freeman/Captain Marvel Jr, Mary Batson/Mary Marvel, Uncle Dudley/Uncle Marvel, the Three Lieutenant Marvels, Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, and various supporting characters and villains. Billy Batson became a radio reporter, and would call upon Captain Marvel when his adventures required someone with his power.

One important detail of this bicameral character was that Billy Batson and Captain Marvel were separate personalities, separate consciousness, with a shared memory. Captain Marvel was an adult, and Billy Batson was a boy. Remembering this is important.

1.2 The DC-Fawcett Lawsuit
The hero was so much like Superman (he was super strong, super fast, invulnerable, could jump great distances, etc), and was so popular (even being the first comic book superhero with a movie serial, The Adventures of Captain Marvel), that the publishers of Superman (who will be referred to in this article as DC Comics, though they went by different names over the years) sued Fawcett for copyright infringement.

The court initially found that character similarities and differences were irrelevant to copyright infringement, but did find that certain Captain Marvel material had been copied from certain Superman material. However, a bunch of Superman newspaper strips had been printed without the correct copyright notice. This was ruled abandonment of copyright, and Fawcett could do what it wanted!

DC appealed, and Judge Learned Hand found that the improper copyrights were not evidence of intent to abandon copyright, and since Fawcett did copy some material, there was ground for DC to seek damages.

But rather than go through litigation over every instance of alleged copying, Fawcett made the business-wise decision to settle (it was now 1953  and superhero comics had been in decline for some time). They paid DC $400,000 and agreed never to print Captain Marvel comics again, and continued to successfully publish magazines, paperbacks, and other things for decades.

2.1 The Second Captain Marvel - Roger Winkle (MF Enterprises)
Time went by and while Fawcett continued to hold the copyright on their Captain Marvel material, any trademark on the name "Captain Marvel" expired. In 1966, with a superhero revival led by Marvel Comics (A comics company that had only recently taken that name and had nothing to do with Captain Marvel) going on, schlockmeister publisher Myron Fass released a new comic book titled Captain Marvel with a superhero "based on a character created by Carl Burgos" (the creator of the original human torch). The company that published this comic was called MF Enterprises.


This new hero was an alien android from another planet, sent to Earth on the cusp of a nuclear holocaust to prevent such a thing from happening to Earth. He wore a red suit and had the power to separate his body parts by crying "SPLIT!" He would pull himself together by saying "XAM!" He took on the alter ego of Roger Winkle, mild-mannered college professor, and his best friend was a boy named Billy Baxton (yes, Baxton).

This Captain Marvel appeared in exactly six issues in 1966-67, but was far from the last to appear. Marvel Comics came out with their first Captain Marvel later in 1967.

3.1 The Third Captain Marvel - Mar-Vell/Dr. Walter Lawson/Rick Jones (Marvel Comics)
This new hero came about either as a reaction to Myron Fass or because of a TV show pitch by an animation company (or a little of both). Whatever the reason, Stan Lee and Gene Colan created Mar-Vell, a captain of the alien Kree military, sent to Earth to determine if the human race should be wiped out or not. But he was a sensitive soul and chose to protect Earth instead.


His initial alter-ego was that of Dr. Walter Lawson, mild-mannered rocket scientist at a "secret missile base" (later revealed to be Cape Canaveral), and wound up having a Clark Kent/Lois Lane/Superman relationship with the head of security there, one Carol Danvers (remember that name).

Many plot twists, shark-jumps, and series reschedulings failed to make him a top-tier superhero in Marvel's pantheon. Most notably, he dropped the Walter Lawson persona and became linked with Rick Jones (the kid who was Hulk's best friend). They would swap places between Earth and the Negative Zone by banging a pair of golden wristbands - called "nega-bands" - together. Later, a cosmic entity named "Eon" would transform him from an indomitable warrior to a cosmic space hippie with "cosmic awareness."

And, oh yeah, he was the superhero that got Thanos over (if you'll pardon the pro wrestling parlance).

3.2 the MF Enterprises - Marvel Comics Lawsuit
Myron Fass sued Marvel for trademark infringement of his Captain Marvel, but it was settled with Marvel paying Fass a few thousand dollars and securing the trademark for themselves.


1.3 The Revival of the Original (DC)
Meanwhile, in 1972, either Jack Kirby suggested that DC revive a bunch of old superheroes, including the original Captain Marvel (Billy Batson//SHAZAM!), or publisher Carmine Infantino thought of it himself because he loved the character. Either way, DC licensed the hero and his extended family, friends, and villains from the still-extant Fawcett Publications. They revived him in a new series. However...


...Marvel Comics now held the trademark. This meant that DC could not make the title of the comic Captain Marvel. DC tried to "pull a fast one" by making the title long and involved:

With One Magic Word...
...The Original Captain Marvel!


DC got away with that for about a year, but Marvel sent a cease-and-desist letter, so DC changed the title to...

With One Magic Word...
...The World's Mightiest Mortal!

...SHAZAM! for short (all caps, with the exclamation point). This "one magic word" was the title used in subscription lists, action figures, toy cars, T-shirts, Underoos, View-Master slides, even the Saturday morning TV show. Some people started to think that "SHAZAM!" was the name of the hero.

3.3 Carol Danvers development
Meanwhile, over at Marvel, Carol Danvers first appeared as the superheroine Ms. Marvel in 1977.

3.4 The Death of Captain Marvel - Mar-Vell
Eventually, Marvel killed off Mar-Vell in 1982 in their first "graphic novel," The Death of Captain Marvel.

4.1 The Fourth Captain Marvel - Monica Rambeau (Marvel Comics)
So Marvel needed a new character to maintain the trademark, so they created a black female harbor patrol officer in New Orleans named Monica Rambeau. Through an accident involving extra-dimensional radiation, she absorbed the ability to transform into electromagnetic energy (light, infra-red, ultra-violet, X-rays, etc).

She became leader of the Avengers and continued in that role for the next few years.

5.1 The 5th Captain Marvel - Billy Batson: The New Beginning (DC)
In 1986 DC brought forth the largest company-wide crossover event up 'till then, the Crisis on Infinite Earths. DC had been creating new "universes" for different generations of their superheros and for superheroes from different companies that they had acquired or licensed. DC decided to combine all these universes into one, rebooting many of their characters. Billy Batson/Captain Marvel was one of them, and his new version was slightly different: Instead of Billy and Captain Marvel having different minds but shared memories, Captain Marvel was Billy's mind in a grown-up's body. This interpretation has stuck to this day through several other re-inventions. He was officially introduced in a four-issue miniseries written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Tom Mandrake, SHAZAM! A New Beginning. There were plans for an ongoing series, but DC dropped the ball, and the hero only appeared in back-up stories and guest appearances and as part of the Justice League.


6.1 The Sixth Captain Marvel - Genis-Vell/Rick Jones (Marvel Comics)
Meanwhile, over at Marvel, Mar-Vell's bereaved lover, Elysius, cloned him and artificially aged him with implanted memories and a pair of nega-bands so he would be able to face those who would threaten him. Genis-Vell was thus introduced, calling himself "Legacy."

In time he became friends with Rick Jones and took on the mantle of "Captain Marvel," pissing off Monica Rambeau. After a shared adventure with Genis-Vell, Monica ceded the title to him and changed her superhero name to "Photon."

7.0 The Seventh Captain Marvel - Billy Batson: The Power of SHAZAM! (DC)
Meanwhile, back over at DC, Jerry Ordway was given the reigns of the SHAZAM! franchise, and re-booted Captain Marvel in the Power of SHAZAM! series.


In this series, Fawcett City was established as the home of the Big Red Cheese, Captain Marvel had Billy Batson's mind, and the origin and backstory of Shazam and the Marvel Family was tied into some elements from the Movie serial from 1941.

8.1 The Eighth Captain Marvel - Mary Batson/Bromfield (DC)
Also, Mary Batson transformed into a grown-up hero when she said the word, but was never called "Mary Marvel" in the series, instead she was a Captain Marvel. She was sometimes referred to a "The Lady Captain Marvel. Outside the series, however, the Mary Marvel name was used and stuck.

6.2 Genis-Vell Cracks Up
As time progressed over at Marvel, Genis-Vell became linked with Rick Jones through the same body-switching, nega-band thing as Mar-Vell had, except the "other place" was the Microverse, not the Negative Zone. Peter David took over writing the character and, since Genis had inherited his father's cosmic awareness but not his maturity and experience, he went mad.

9.1 The Ninth Captain Marvel - Phyla-Vell (Marvel Comics)
In the course of his madness, Genis-Vell helped the consciousness of Entropy destroy and then re-create the universe (long story). In this newly-created universe, Elysius had also created a daughter to replace him when he went mad. Her name was Phyla, and she became the next Captain Marvel for a while.

10.1 The Tenth Captain Marvel - Billy Batson: The Monster Society of Evil/The Magic of Shazam (DC)
Somewhere in there (2007) DC gave Jeff Smith license to do his version of Billy Batson/Captain Marvel, which wound up being the miniseries SHAZAM! The Monster Society of Evil. In this version, the Captain Marvel who appeared when Billy said his magic word was initially a different person from Billy, but their consciousnesses and personalities merged by the end of the series.

DC's youth-targeted line, Johnny DC, then launched the title Billy Batson and the Magic of SHAZAM! This was ostensibly a follow-up to Jeff Smith's story, but with some minor differences. It lasted a couple of years.


7.2 Lord Marvel and the new Shazam
And back in the mainstream DC universe, Captain Marvel had moved up to take over the job of the old wizard Shazam (who had given Billy Batson the power to become Captain Marvel, remember?). taking the new title of "Lord Marvel," and Freddy Freeman, the orphan boy who had gained from that same wizard the power to become Captain Marvel Jr, had lost his powers. So Freddy was put through the Trials of Shazam (12-issue limited series) in which he gained back his powers,  one by one, until he took over as the new Captain Marvel. But because DC Comics was tired of having a hero whose name they could not put in the title, Freddy's new superhero name was "Shazam."


11.1 The Eleventh Captain Marvel - Freddy Freeman (DC)
This lasted but a little while, and then his name was changed to Captain Marvel.

12.1 The Twelfth Captain Marvel - Pluskommander Geheneris Hala'son Mahr Vehl (Marvel Ultimates)
Marvel Comics, , meanwhile, had started a new line of its superheros, using the same names and basic concepts, but telling stories as if they had started their careers in present day, rather than continuing stories that had begun in the 1860's. They called this the "Ultimates" universe.

First appearing in this Ultimates line in Ultimate Secret #1 (May, 2005), Dr. Philip Lawson was a Kree in disguise who helped work on a new space rocket for S.H.I.E.L.D. When it was sabotaged, he revealed himself as Pluskommander Geneheris Halason Mahr Vell. This was the Captain Marvel of the Ultimates universe. He participated in a few adventures, and his "Philip Lawson" persona tried to be cute and funny but really turned out to be snarky and obnoxious. In his alien form he looked quasi-fish-like.

12.2 Carol Danvers update
Carol Danvers was there also, as a security chief at the rocket base and a S.H.I.E.L.D. operative.

13.1 The Thirteenth Captain Marvel - Rick Jones (Marvel Ultimates)
Eventually, The Ultimates Universe Mahr Vehl was killed by Galactus, but before he died, he gave his Kree battlesuit to Rick Jones. Rick then called himself Captain Marvel. He has not been seen much.

14.1 The Fourteenth Captain Marvel - Khn'nr (Marvel Comics)
In 2006, in Marvel Comics, the first Civil War epic cross-over storyline hit, and Mar-vell appeared, apparently traveling through time from the past, before he died. The following Secret Invasion epic cross-over storyline, in which the Skrull Invasion of Earth climaxed, revealed that this "Mar-Vell" was really Khn'nr, a Skrull genetically altered to believe he was Captain Mar-Vell. But they had gone too far, and he would not go back to being a Skrull, even after the truth was revealed to him.

He died fighting Skrulls in space and fell to Earth. He landed in the arms of...

15.1 The Fifteenth Captain Marvel - Noh-Var
...Noh-Var, a Kree from an alternate dimension who had crashed to Earth. He was known as Marvel Boy from time to time and was a member of the Young Avengers for a while. After the Secret Invasion ended, an new team of Avengers was created (the original team had been disgraced and Norman Osborn, AKA the super-villain Green Goblin, was a the hero of the war). This team was made up mostly of villains, morally ambiguous powered characters, and a couple of heroes who were a little confused. One of them was Noh-Var, and Osborn recruited him to stand in as this new team's "Captain Marvel."

In time, Noh-Var became disillusioned with the group, and split. He changed his hero name to "The Protector," redesigned his suit, and was a member of a re-assembled Avengers team briefly.

He has since gone back to "Marvel Boy" as a member of the Young Avengers, and is much happier.
Then came 2012.

16.1 The New 52 Shazam (not named Captain Marvel)
DC Comics gave its entire line a reboot, calling it "The New 52." They reinvented all of their characters (to varying degrees) and re-started their stories from the beginning. The original Captain Marvel was re-imagined as a hero named "Shazam" with a redesigned costume and additional powers, including being able to shoot lightning out of his fingers when he said his magic word ("Shazam!" of course). Billy Batson was a problem-child foster kid, in and out of foster homes for years. He finally got adopted by a family with 5 other kids, and after Billy gained his power to change into Shazam by saying the word, it was discovered that if they all said the word together they would become individualized versions of Shazam as well. This version of SHAZAM! is what the movie by that title is about.

1.4 The Original is Back...I Think (DC)
A couple of years later, DC revealed that this universe was actually part of a "multiverse" of 52 universes. On one of them ("Earth-5") live the original Captain Marvel and the Marvel family.

17.1 The Sixteenth Captain Marvel - Carol Danvers
Meanwhile, over at Marvel, the big, epic cross-over storyline event was Avengers vs. X-Men. In it, Mar-Vell came back to life, then died saving the universe again. After this, Captain America encouraged Carol Danvers (remember her?) to take of the mantle of Captain Marvel herself. She did so, changing her costume to something less skin-baring and evoking her Air Force past. This is the character that Marvel's Captain Marvel movie is about.

18.1 In the Movies...
So today, DC has its character "Shazam" (Billy Batson), who has a movie coming out in 2019, and has not been seen in print much in the past few years, While Marvel Comics has its character named "Captain Marvel" (Carol Danvers), whose movie is also coming out next year, and has been positioned as one of the top-tier heroes in its pantheon.

I hope this helps. For further details of each of these characters and their social and historical relevance, please feel free to browse this blog, visit the Captain Marvel Culture YouTube channel, and watch out for the forthcoming book Captain Marvel Culture by Zorikh Lequidre

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Some of the things mentioned in this post can be found in these items:
Just a quick reminder, this is Part 2 of a blog post based on the following:

First, EW hits us with a brief but juicy cover story

But even more interesting is this: ten photos from the movie

And ScreenRant listed all the "reveals."

In my previous post I talked about how the current Entertainment Weekly article about Brie Larsen and Marvel's upcoming Captain Marvel has revealed, and not revealed, certain key details about Carol Danvers' costume and Jude Law's character.

I don't need to go over every detail of the movie that is revealed by the article and pictures, but I do find certain things particularly interesting....

3. Ben Mendelsohn's role
Pretty much all the initial speculation about the role to be played by Ben Mendelsohn was that he would play Yon-Rogg, Mar-Vell's initial adversary in Marvel Comics. This article, however, reveals that he will be playing a Skrull villain named Talos who disguises himself (through the physical morphing ability shared by all Skrulls) as a supervisory S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. EW released an interveiw with the actor on September 7th in which he waxed enthusiastic about the movie and his delight in playing villainous roles. He also explained why the Skrulls speak Australian. It's amusing. Go read it. I'll wait.

But for those of you who stuck around, I will continue.

I thought Mendelsohn would have made a good choice of Yon-Rogg. Not only does he have a lean, angular, middle-aged face that is within acceptable esthetic parameters of the character as drawn by at least two artists (even if not so much as drawn by two others, and you can see pictures of him here), he has already played a similar role.
I am not too familiar with Mendelsohn's body of work, but I have seen Star Wars: Rogue One more than once. In it Ben plays an imperial fleet officer with a cold heart, an ulterior motive, and a mean streak that can be self destructive when he does not get his way. Sound familiar? Well, if you read the first year or three of Marvel's Captain Marvel starting in 1967 it would. That is pretty much describes Yon-Rogg to a T.

But now it is revealed that he will not be Yon-Rogg, and all the click-baiters who bit on that are going to have to eat their digital hats. Besides, the plot is going to be different that Carol Danvers' origin in the comics, but more on that later.

4. Lashana Lynch's role
A while back I wrote a list of things that ought to be in Marvel's Captain Marvel movie on one of those write-your-own-article quasi-clickbait sites (I have forgotten the name of it and can't find a link to it, dammit!). In it I said that one of those things should be something relating to Monica Rambeau.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ms. Rambeau, she was the black, female Captain Marvel. After Mar-Vell died in 1982 graphic novel The Death of Captain Marvel, Marvel Comics needed a new character to keep the "Captain Marvel" trademark alive. Being as the name is not gender-specific, and there weren't many black character around, a black female character was created.

She was originally a New Orleans Harbor Patrol officer facing the "glass ceiling" at her job. An explosion of inter-dimensional energy (of course) gave her the ability to transform into electro-magnetic energy ie: light. She got the name because someone had been calling her "Mon Capitan" (though she was a lieutenant) and after she survived the explosion, a Mexican security guard who had both heard this and witnessed the explosion passed into unconsciousness mumbling "El Capitan es un maravilla..."

She wound up being a strong, smart, courageous, and resourceful superhero, leading the Avengers through many challenging conflicts. In many ways I consider her a better "feminist role model" than Ms. Marvel/Carol Danvers. She carried the mantle of Captain Marvel from 1982-1994.

It would be a crying shame if Marvel did not acknowledge this history and at least do some fan service here, and it looks like they are doing it. One of these ten pictures is Lashana Lynch in the cockpit of a jet fighter plane with her name and "handle" clearly visible. It is Maria "Photon" Rambeau.

"Photon" was the name that Rambeau picked for herself after giving "Captain Marvel" up to Genis-Vell, Mar-Vell's cloned son. This movie is said to be set in the 1990's. If we assume this Maria Rambeau is in her 20's, she would be in her 40's today. It is quite possible that there is a 20-something Monica Rambeau just waiting to make her appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe! It is therefore not too far-fetched to think that  Lahsana Lynch may be playing the mother of another Captain Marvel!
I had more things to say about this article, but the news is starting to get away from, as I have had limited InterWeb time these past few weeks. The Trailer has finally been released and you betchum that I am gonna talk about it!