Even for a nerd like me the idea that Captain Marvel was once a more popular comic book hero than Superman is a hard fact to swallow. Especially when you take into account that DC comics (known as National Comics Publications at the time) were eventually able to sue the publishers of Captain Marvel (Fawcett Comics) for copyright infringement, alleging that Captain Marvel was a ‘rip off’ of Superman… So, in a way, they were pipped by their own derivative.
Another interesting tid-bit about the world’s mightiest mortal (aka Captain Marvel) is that he was the first super-hero to make the leap from the pages of a comic book to the big screen. Of course if none of this sounds quite right you do have to take into account that we’re talking about events which took place during the 1940s.
If you’re unfamiliar with Captain Marvel, then there’s probably a pretty good reason for that… well, two if you count having a life. As a result of the agreement reached between Fawcett and DC Comics over the Superman/Marvel lawsuit Fawcett agreed never to publish the character again. DC licensed the use of Captain Marvel (and associated characters) from Fawcett in 1972, but couldn’t name their publications Captain Marvel because by this time Marvel Comics had, in the intervening years, established their own character under the title of Captain Marvel.. and so DC called their series ‘Shazam’ (The ‘magic’ word that the character Billy Batson uses to instigate his transformation into Marvel).
Eventually DC took complete ownership of Captain Marvel (and associated characters) and bought them into the DCU. Captain Marvel has fought alongside (and against) Superman and was even a member of the Justice Society of America. And now, if NEW LINE has its way, Captain Marvel will be returning to the big screen and Jake Gyllenhaal is the guy they have their eye on to play the part. Well, one of them…
Unlike most of the currently popular super-heroes Marvel has a alter-ego, the most comparable comic-book character to have been adapted is HULK. However, unlike the Hulk, Captain Marvel is literally two people. As Captain Marvel has the appearance of a fully grown man; his physical appearance is actually based on Billy Batson’s (deceased) father. And then there’s Billy Batson; a teenager. This facet of the Marvel character alone could make for an interesting dynamic on screen… particularly if they attempt to jam a traditional ‘love interest’ into the story.
Oh, and for anyone who was wondering ‘Shazam’ is an acronym for the names of those granted Marvel his powers: Solomon’s wisdom, Hercules’ strength, Atlas’ stamina, Zeus’ power, Achilles’ courage and Mercury’s speed. [source] [source]