A History of Billy Batson and Why A Capt. Marvel film would Work

Posted by Smart_Dork_Dude (2638 posts) - - Show Bio

In light of the controversial direction DC Comics is currently taking the character, the follow blog will serve to educate those unfamiliar with the character of Billy Batson/Captain Marvel's publication history and why he deserves a movie. Please keep in mind I am posting only what I know, so please if any information is incorrect, alert me in a PM. Thank you.

Once upon a time Captain Marvel was extremely popular during the 40's and early 50's. He was so popular that he was even outselling Superman and was infinitely more popular. Part of the reason for this popularity included the inherent wish-fulfillment appeal of the character to children, as well as the humorous and surreal quality of the stories. The only problem was that DC sued Fawcett Comics, Captain Marvel's publisher at the time, for copyright infringement in 1941, on the basis that Captain Marvel was based on Superman. After seven years of litigation Fawcett decided to settle with DC out of court. The DC lawsuit was not the only problem Fawcett faced in regards to Captain Marvel.

While Captain Marvel Adventures had been the top-selling comic series during World War II, it suffered declining sales every year after 1945 and by 1949 it was selling only half its wartime rate.Fawcett tried to revive the popularity of its assorted Captain Marvel series in the early 1950s by introducing elements of the horror comics trend that gained popularity at the time. Feeling that a decline in the popularity of superhero comics meant that it was no longer worth continuing the fight, Fawcett agreed to never again publish a comic book featuring any of the Captain Marvel-related characters, and to pay DC $400,000 in damages. Fawcett shut down its comics division in the autumn of 1953 and laid off its comic-creating staff. Whiz Comics had ended with issue #155 in June 1953, Captain Marvel Adventures was canceled with #150 in November of 1953, and The Marvel Family ended its run with #89 in January 1954.

When superhero comics became popular again in the mid-1960s in what is now called the Silver Age of Comics, Fawcett was unable to revive Captain Marvel, having agreed never to publish the character again in order to settle the lawsuit. The publisher of DC Comics, licensed the characters from Fawcett in 1972, and DC began planning a revival. Because Marvel Comics had by this time established their own version of Captain Marvel as a comic book trademark, DC published their book under the name Shazam! Since then, that title has become so linked to Captain Marvel that many people who only have passing knowledge or are not entirely familiar with the character have taken to identifying him as "Shazam" instead of his actual name.

The Shazam! comic series began with Shazam #1, dated February 1973. It contained both new stories and reprints from the 1940s and 1950s. The first story attempted to explain the Marvel Family's absence by stating that they, Dr. Sivana, Sivana's children, and most of the supporting cast had been accidentally trapped in suspended animation for twenty years when the Sivanas attempted to put the Marvels into suspended animation, until finally breaking free when the Suspendium globe moved towards the sun.

With DC's Multiverse concept in effect during this time, it was stated that the revived Marvel Family and related characters lived within the DC Universe on the parallel world of "Earth-S". While the series began with a great deal of fanfare, the book had a lackluster reception. With their 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths limited series, DC fully integrated the characters into the DC Universe. With the exception of an appearance by Lex Luthor in #15 of December 1974, the early, "Faithful to the original comics" versions never crossed over with the mainstream DC characters.

As DC has officially changed the character's name to Shazam(I would've preferred Captain Thunder since that WAS his original name before it was changed 1 issue later) I believe they can finally make a proper film. DC tends to have a knack for putting out their lesser known works when it's not Superman and Batman on the big screen. Examples include Watchmen(Wasn't very well know by the average public before the movie), V for Vendetta, and Constantine though this was just loosely based on the comic Hellblazer. I believe that a movie that keeps to the original concept of a boy that has had a hard life, yet still maintains a positive outlook, that is given the power to help the world in ways he could have only dreamed of by an ancient wizard is a story that I feel many people that aren't comic book readers would want to see. It basically has the elements of Harry Potter with the magical aspect, which could even be played up within the film and thus entice people to go see it, and as it involves a superhero with the popularity of superhero films at an all time high I don't see how a film could fail!

#1 Posted by The Poet (8336 posts) - - Show Bio

good job. not many people seem to know the whole story about why Billy Batson can't be Captain Marvel. I came here thinking it was another thread without much substance (maybe a sentence or two at the most), but this is a good thread. nice work.

Moderator
#2 Posted by Smart_Dork_Dude (2638 posts) - - Show Bio

@The Poet: Why thank you. I can say that while I DO like the direction DC is taking with the character, I believe they are mishandling Billy's personality. I understand this is a new take on him and that it's not the same version. However even if they are trying to make him more realistic in terms of how a kid would use superpowers, it still doesn't mean he has to be a jerk with them. I'm enjoying the Shazam back ups in Justice League, at this point they're the soul reason I buy that book, but I hope they do something to adjust his personality into a somewhat nicer version and soon.

#3 Posted by SandMan_ (4528 posts) - - Show Bio
Shazam
#4 Posted by SoA (4838 posts) - - Show Bio

@Smart_Dork_Dude: i love the character , would also love to see a movie done right , really not liking billy being a little snot i think its ruining and missing the entire point of who the character is . im glad im not alone on this

#5 Posted by Smart_Dork_Dude (2638 posts) - - Show Bio

@SandMan_ said:

Shazam

Um, Captain Marvel?

#6 Posted by joshmightbe (24885 posts) - - Show Bio

I always laugh when people explain why a movie wouldn't ever work because it makes me think of all the movies people claim would never work that ended up being some of the most successful movies of all time or at least popular at the time. I've heard this same statement about Blade, X-Men, The Avengers as a team and Individually, The Lord Of The Rings, ete, etc, etc. You can never tell what will make a good movie, some ideas that are great on paper turn out to be utter failures while stuff people swear couldn't possibly work on film becomes a smashing success.

#7 Posted by Smart_Dork_Dude (2638 posts) - - Show Bio

@joshmightbe: I know right? Just because it's a difficult setting, concept, character, etc, doesn't mean it can't be an enjoyable film if done right. A perfect example is Thor. Everyone, even me a major Thor fan, thought the movie wouldn't work. I initially thought that when they said they were going to do a Thor movie, we'd get the medieval version of Thor instead of the high-tech looking Jack Kirby version. When I saw that the latter is what they were going for, I just laughed it off and thought it wouldn't be any good. I went to see it just because it was Thor and I was blown away at how well it was done.

#8 Posted by joshmightbe (24885 posts) - - Show Bio

@Smart_Dork_Dude: Remember when ever you hear this argument hundreds of people told George Lucas that star wars would never work and people told Spielberg that no one would take a shark attack movie seriously yet these are both pop culture icons now

#9 Posted by Smart_Dork_Dude (2638 posts) - - Show Bio

@joshmightbe: Very true indeed

#10 Posted by _Black (2302 posts) - - Show Bio

I expect (and hope) that Billy will grow to have the demeanor we know and love eventually.

#11 Posted by Smart_Dork_Dude (2638 posts) - - Show Bio

@_Black said:

I expect (and hope) that Billy will grow to have the demeanor we know and love eventually.

Same here. I think they're going for a kind of "Heroes Journey" angle where he's not really a true hero to begin with and has to earn the right to be called one, along the way become a genuinely kind and thoughtful person and lose the edgy attitude.

#12 Posted by _Black (2302 posts) - - Show Bio

@Smart_Dork_Dude: Yeah exactly! It might be better than Billy just starting out that way, but I kind of liked the fact that he was basically always a goody two shoes. He didn't have to go through some traumatic event, ya know?

#13 Posted by Smart_Dork_Dude (2638 posts) - - Show Bio

@_Black: While I can see how some would get tired of a character that "does no wrong" all the time, Billy has managed to make it work for years! He's by far the purest example of what a superhero is supposed to be.

In regards to the New 52 version I'm reminded, somewhat fittingly and ironically, of Hercules. He slew his wife and children in a rage, though this was manipulated by Hera to happen, and went off on his famous 12 labors to seek atonement for his sin, thus becoming a true hero in the eyes of many and rising to Mt. Olympus. I believe Billy will go through such a journey, though not exactly like Hercules' mind you.

#14 Posted by _Black (2302 posts) - - Show Bio

@Smart_Dork_Dude: Nice connection there. I didn't think of that.

#15 Posted by Kal'smahboi (3519 posts) - - Show Bio

@SandMan_ said:

Shazam

I've always wanted to ask you, do you enjoy being vague or does it just come naturally?

#16 Posted by joshmightbe (24885 posts) - - Show Bio

If you want someone to blame about the current state of public opinion about Captain Marvel, look no further than DC, who feeling but hurt over the fact that Billy was beating Kal's ass in sales causing them to file a law suit over minimal similarities, which considering the Supes technically stole the whole flying thing from Cap in the first place seems suspect. Yes they were both super strong, super fast, bullet proof guys but remember Billy flew first. Any way after DC sued and acquired the rights to Captain Marvel they let him sit on a shelf for years and when they finally did bring him back they pretty much neutered the character to make sure even the possibility of outshining Superman was nonexistent.

#17 Posted by Smart_Dork_Dude (2638 posts) - - Show Bio

@joshmightbe said:

If you want someone to blame about the current state of public opinion about Captain Marvel, look no further than DC, who feeling but hurt over the fact that Billy was beating Kal's ass in sales causing them to file a law suit over minimal similarities, which considering the Supes technically stole the whole flying thing from Cap in the first place seems suspect. Yes they were both super strong, super fast, bullet proof guys but remember Billy flew first. Any way after DC sued and acquired the rights to Captain Marvel they let him sit on a shelf for years and when they finally did bring him back they pretty much neutered the character to make sure even the possibility of outshining Superman was nonexistent.

It's times when I think about that I wish that DC would just SELL the Marvel family to oh, I don't know MARVEL!!! At least they HAVE the Captain Marvel name so they could call him by his proper name!!! I think Marvel could do it very easily. I always pictured that if Billy Batson and the Marvel Family were in the Marvel Universe they would get their powers from the Egyptian gods like Black Adam, if only because aside from Moon Knight with Konshu Marvel's Egyptian pantheon doesn't get any face time

#18 Posted by joshmightbe (24885 posts) - - Show Bio

@Smart_Dork_Dude: I just wish they'd give the whole Marvel/Black Adam family and their villains their own corner of the DCU and leave them out of the rest.

#19 Posted by Smart_Dork_Dude (2638 posts) - - Show Bio

@joshmightbe: Better yet go back to what they originally did when they got the rights to them and put them in their own SEPARATE universe!!

#20 Posted by joshmightbe (24885 posts) - - Show Bio

@Smart_Dork_Dude: That would be perfect

#21 Posted by Smart_Dork_Dude (2638 posts) - - Show Bio

@joshmightbe: Don't get me wrong I loved having Billy and the Marvel Family in the DCU, well before DC decided to flush their whole mythos down the crapper. I think they COULD work in the DCU, but unless this new version starts proving himself to be worthy of having the name Billy Batson, I think the entire Marvel Family and supporting cast would be better off in another universe.

#22 Posted by PowerHerc (84035 posts) - - Show Bio

Good post.

I hadn't thought about it until you mentioned it but I, too, would like it if DC had decided to call him "Captain Thunder."

I get why they chose SHAZAM! though.

I noticed you identified the parallel world of the Marvel Family as "Earth-5" but I thought the Marvel Family's reality was called "Earth-S" back then and only changed to the current Earth-5 when DC re-established it's multiverse.

#23 Posted by Smart_Dork_Dude (2638 posts) - - Show Bio

@PowerHerc said:

Good post.

I hadn't thought about it until you mentioned it but I, too, would like it if DC had decided to call him "Captain Thunder."

I get why they chose SHAZAM! though.

I noticed you identified the parallel world of the Marvel Family as "Earth-5" but I thought the Marvel Family's reality was called "Earth-S" back then and only changed to the current Earth-5 when DC re-established it's multiverse.

Thank you.

I just think Captain Thunder is closer to the original name because A) It's got Captain in it and B) Captain Thunder was a prototype name for him, DC used a character called Captain Thunder for Superman to fight before they brought Billy into the DCU who was basically CM, and that was the name they used for him during Flash Point, so it's not like the name doesn't have history.

Oh yeah, I forgot that! Thank you for catching that!

#24 Posted by PowerHerc (84035 posts) - - Show Bio

@Smart_Dork_Dude:

Yeah, keeping "Captain" in his name is a great idea.

I remember the Superman vs Captain Thunder issue (I had it as a reprint in a DC Digest around 1980). The art was great and it made the battle great, too.

The only things I remember about that Captain Thunder that I didn't like were his "cloud" symbol (the traditional Captain Marvel/SHAZAM Thunderbolt is so much better, imo) and the way they explained his powers made it so they weren't from the SHAZAM Elders anymore. In that story he derived his powers from nature through an American Indian mystical source (if I remember correctly).

#25 Posted by Smart_Dork_Dude (2638 posts) - - Show Bio

@PowerHerc:I've seen a few scans of that Captain Thunder here on the site and it said that his powers ARE from an old Native American and his magic word was "THUNDER" which was for

Tornado- Power

Hare- Speed

Uncas- Bravery

Nature- Wisdom

Diamond- Toughness

Eagle- Flight

Ram- Tenacity

If you think about it, the name Captain Thunder fits the character a little more than Captain Marvel does. After all lightning is a major part of the character and he's even got a lightning bolt on his chest. Personally I think DC should've renamed him Captain Thunder the minute Marvel came out with Mar-Vell. Would've saved a lot of naming confusion over the years.

#26 Posted by PowerHerc (84035 posts) - - Show Bio

@Smart_Dork_Dude said:

@PowerHerc:I've seen a few scans of that Captain Thunder here on the site and it said that his powers ARE from an old Native American and his magic word was "THUNDER" which was for

Tornado- Power

Hare- Speed

Uncas- Bravery

Nature- Wisdom

Diamond- Toughness

Eagle- Flight

Ram- Tenacity

If you think about it, the name Captain Thunder fits the character a little more than Captain Marvel does. After all lightning is a major part of the character and he's even got a lightning bolt on his chest. Personally I think DC should've renamed him Captain Thunder the minute Marvel came out with Mar-Vell. Would've saved a lot of naming confusion over the years.

Yes, that's it! Thanks for the refresher!

I agree; "Thunder" does fit the good Captain better than "Marvel." I also agree that DC would've been better off just changing his name to Thunder and leaving it that way right from the moment the obtained the character.

I wonder; Would you prefer him having the Captain Thunder "Cloud" symbol or would your rather him keep his Thunderbolt symbol?

#27 Posted by Smart_Dork_Dude (2638 posts) - - Show Bio

@PowerHerc: No problem!

Certainly would've saved me thousands of conversations explaining that Shazam isn't his name. Wait, since they changed his name to Shazam now, that means my friends are gonna come back at me with that and now I can't say anything!!

Just the lightning bolt. Anything else would make the symbol look too much like Flash's

#28 Posted by PowerHerc (84035 posts) - - Show Bio

@Smart_Dork_Dude said:

@PowerHerc: No problem!

Certainly would've saved me thousands of conversations explaining that Shazam isn't his name. Wait, since they changed his name to Shazam now, that means my friends are gonna come back at me with that and now I can't say anything!!

Just the lightning bolt. Anything else would make the symbol look too much like Flash's

Lol!

I know what you mean. I've had to explain that at least a hundred times myself!

I'm glad we agree on the Thunderbolt! SHAZAM!

#29 Posted by Smart_Dork_Dude (2638 posts) - - Show Bio

@PowerHerc: Ha ha, yeah man! XD

Hmm, I wonder though, will they end up changing his name in Young Justice? I kinda hope they do for one reason. Since his name is now Shazam in the comics, and I know quite a few people that are getting into the comics through Young Justice, I hope a combined fan backlash of YJ fans and just plain Captain Marvel fans will be enough to convince them to at least change it to Captain Thunder. There IS still time to do it considering he hasn't been OFFICIALLY called Shazam in the backups yet.

#30 Posted by PowerHerc (84035 posts) - - Show Bio

@Smart_Dork_Dude: I bet they don't change it. The confusion will continue.

#31 Edited by Smart_Dork_Dude (2638 posts) - - Show Bio

@PowerHerc: I don't see it happening either, but a guy can hope. Yeah, same confusion only in reverse

#32 Posted by PowerHerc (84035 posts) - - Show Bio

@Smart_Dork_Dude said:

@PowerHerc: I don't see it happening either, but a guy can hope. Yeah, same confusion only in reverse

Yep, only in reverse. The irony is tangible!

#33 Posted by Smart_Dork_Dude (2638 posts) - - Show Bio

@PowerHerc said:

@Smart_Dork_Dude said:

@PowerHerc: I don't see it happening either, but a guy can hope. Yeah, same confusion only in reverse

Yep, only in reverse. The irony is tangible!

If DC does keep his name as Shazam, I will start calling the comic version "Captain Bizarro" I kid you not. At the moment he's basically Bizarro Captain Marvel anyway, he's just missing the "Me am" speak

#34 Posted by PowerHerc (84035 posts) - - Show Bio

@Smart_Dork_Dude:

You will? Really? No way.

#35 Posted by Smart_Dork_Dude (2638 posts) - - Show Bio

@PowerHerc: If he's still called Shazam and is the same way he is now by the end of this arc then yes I will, no "if's", "and's" or "but's" about it. If that happens that's all this version will be to me until they get him right.

#36 Posted by PowerHerc (84035 posts) - - Show Bio

@Smart_Dork_Dude:

Got it.

#37 Posted by jobbernos (1420 posts) - - Show Bio

i would love a captain marvel movie. it also will get a chance to bring out black adam.

#38 Posted by Jonny_Rogers (127 posts) - - Show Bio

I think that the concept of this film, especially if they take in the direction that you proposed, could do a lot of good to the Superhero Film genre (if the term, 'genre' is appropriate). Although comic-book fans have a lot to give to the regeneration of Superheroes in the mass-media (to clarify, this does not cover comic-books themselves), specifically with the X-Men and recent Batman films, they have also raised the bar too high. I could go into a lot of detail on this subject, but my essential point is that a Capt. Marvel film (or Shazam!, as it will most likely be called) would provide a lighter, more true-to-original-material comic-book adaptation - something that we need to see more of.  Alan Moore himself has (in different words) said that if he were to ever write superhero comics again, he'd write about Capt. Marvel - one of the few remaining characters that remains free from the 'dark' and 'gritty' rut of the medium. To note, I only chose these adjectives as I have not seen a modern superhero film review or description without them.
 
My personal view could be that the 'reality' of super heroism being considered so dark (as suggested to the general audience through the more recent superhero films) could be reflected in this film through the acts of Billy Batson; a child that fulfils his dreams to becomes a superhero, only to find that it becomes his greatest nightmare. 
His story should be anything but dark, given that a child is doing the one thing that no other child ever could - becoming a superhero! But being unwillingly forced into the seemingly dark world of maturity and adulthood through these powers is doing nothing but mentally destroying his innocence, the very value that motives him. As an interesting twist and reflection of the genre, this film could explore how it is Billy Batson, not  Capt. Marvel, that is choosing to do good. It is his childish awe and escapism that gives purpose to his being, not the dark reality of being mature. This is not to say that the film should be childish, or even too light-hearted, but rather that it should revolve around the positive aspects of being a hero rather than of the negative. 
 
Although I am far from being an expert in the field, if you look at what made Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns so successful and revolutionary, it was that they were so different to (almost) everything that came before, and also reflected their era in a coherent and intelligent manner. This has effectively happened in the cinema, so I strongly believe that instead of doing another seemingly risk-free carbon copy of what has already worked, the future of comics (specifically in the subsequent film adaptions) lies in the rejuvenation and emphasis on these themes, as will be hopefully be introduced in this Capt. Marvel film. There is currently more seriousness than ever in our every-day lives, and, much like comics in WWII, we need to be reminded that there are people that choose to do good out there, not that even the greatest of people have problems.

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