The history of Captain Marvel in comics is a tapestry of complexity, woven through various characters and publishers. The legacy spans different comic book companies, including Fawcett Comics, Marvel Comics, and DC Comics. Here’s a chronological overview of the key Captain Marvel personas and their narrative journey:
Fawcett Comics’ Captain Marvel (1940s): The original Captain Marvel emerged from the creative minds of writer Bill Parker and artist C.C. Beck, making his debut in “Whiz Comics” #2 in 1940, courtesy of Fawcett Comics. This Captain Marvel, also known as Shazam due to his transformative incantation, embodied the identity of young Billy Batson, who could metamorphose into an adult superhero wielding the powers of six mythical beings upon uttering the word “SHAZAM.” Experiencing soaring popularity during the 1940s, he even momentarily outsold Superman. However, legal strife arose when DC Comics (then National Comics) accused Fawcett of copyright infringement, alleging Captain Marvel’s resemblance to Superman. Inevitably, protracted legal battles compelled Fawcett to halt the publication of Captain Marvel comics during the 1950s.
Marvel Comics’ Captain Marvel (1960s – 1970s): Marvel Comics made their foray into the Captain Marvel arena during the 1960s. Birthed by the imaginations of writer Stan Lee and artist Gene Colan, this iteration of Captain Marvel emerged as Mar-Vell, a Kree warrior. Mar-Vell initially arrived on Earth as a spy, yet ultimately betrayed his own people to safeguard the planet. The Mar-Vell series, entitled “Captain Marvel,” debuted in 1967, setting the stage for an iconic era. Notably, Jim Starlin’s influential run during this period infused cosmic and philosophical elements, including the introduction of Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet narrative. However, Mar-Vell’s popularity gradually waned, culminating in his poignant demise from cancer as depicted in the 1982 graphic novel “The Death of Captain Marvel.”
DC Comics’ Captain Marvel (1970s – Present, Rebranded as Shazam): The 1970s witnessed DC Comics procuring licensing rights to the Fawcett characters, including Captain Marvel, post their legal tussles. Due to Marvel’s claim over the “Captain Marvel” name, DC’s series emerged as “Shazam!” while still referencing the character as Captain Marvel/Shazam. This version retained the essence of a youthful Billy Batson, empowering him to evolve into an adult superhero through the invocation of the magical word “Shazam.” Three major Shazam related movies have been released, two in 2019 and 2023, and one for Black Adam in 2022. Both Black Adam and Shazam draw their powers from a shared magical source: the ancient wizard Shazam. This mystical figure grants them both abilities harnessed from six mythological entities: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury.
Marvel Comics’ Captain Marvel (1980s – Present, Carol Danvers): Marvel introduced Carol Danvers in “Marvel Super-Heroes” #13 (1968), originally as a supporting figure in the Mar-Vell Captain Marvel series. In 1977, she obtained her standalone title as an accomplished writer and editor for a magazine called Woman. She crosses paths with Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell), who is a Kree warrior. During a confrontation between Captain Marvel and his longtime nemesis Yon-Rogg, an explosion occurs that exposes Carol to a Kree device called the Psyche-Magnitron. This event imbues her with superhuman powers, transforming her into Ms. Marvel. Subsequently, she embraced the mantle of Captain Marvel in 2012.
The character’s influence was further amplified by her presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), where actress Brie Larson portrayed her.
Modern Legacy (Kamala Khan): In 2013, Marvel Comics introduced Kamala Khan, a novel addition to the comic realm. Her journey burgeoned as she adopted the Ms. Marvel persona through her solo series, aptly titled “Ms. Marvel,” which premiered in February 2014. The narrative unfurled as Kamala unveiled her Inhuman lineage, awakening her shape-shifting and elasticity gifts catalyzed by the Terrigen Mist event. Her entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) began through her dedicated Disney+ series, “Ms. Marvel,” portrayed by Iman Vellani.
This historical odyssey underscores the intricate interplay of legal wrangling, trademark dynamics, and character evolution across diverse comic book publishers. Each iteration contributes its indelible mark to the expansive tapestry of comics and pop culture.