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Here's why there are actually two Captain Marvels on screen this year

Photo credit: Marvel Studios/GettyImages/DigitalSpy/AH - Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Marvel Studios/GettyImages/DigitalSpy/AH - Warner Bros.

From Digital Spy

If you don't know your comic book history, you may not be aware that Brie Larson's Captain Marvel isn't the only Captain Marvel on screen this year.

The next Worlds of DC offering, Shazam!, will arrive in cinemas a month after the MCU's first female-led movie lands and if it weren't for a lawsuit way back in 1951, the DC movie would've been called Captain Marvel instead.

Created by artist CC Beck and writer Bill Parker in 1939, Captain Marvel was the alter ego of Billy Batson, who transformed into the superhero by speaking the world "SHAZAM".

Photo credit: DC Comics
Photo credit: DC Comics

He first appeared in February 1940 in Whiz Comics, but publisher Fawcett Comics soon ran into trouble. DC Comics alleged that Captain Marvel was a copy of Superman and a lengthy legal battle eventually saw Fawcett agree to cease publication of Captain Marvel-related comics.

Captain Marvel didn't appear in comics for more than a decade before Marvel Comics trademarked the name in 1967. Their take on the character debuted in Marvel Super-Heroes #12 before getting his own line, and it was markedly different to DC's version.

Created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist Gene Colan, Captain Mar-Vell is a Kree warrior who's sent to spy on Earth but ends up helping humanity. He gains the Captain Marvel moniker when citizens he saves mishear his name and call him Captain Marvel instead.

Photo credit: Marvel Comics
Photo credit: Marvel Comics

Marvel's Captain Marvel wasn't entirely a hit with their readers, according to comics historian Don Markstein. "In fact, Marvel didn't seem to quite know what to do with him - but they did put his comic out every other month through most of the 1970s," he added.

The reason for this was that in 1972, DC Comics acquired the other Captain Marvel from Fawcett. Due to Marvel's trademark, they couldn't publish a comic under his name and called it Shazam instead. DC did try to find a way around that trademark, though.

"You’ll find on the earliest issues of Shazam!, the title reads Shazam!: The Original Captain Marvel," Michael Uslan (executive producer of all Batman movies) told Newsarama.

Photo credit: DC Comics
Photo credit: DC Comics

"And then Marvel sent them a cease-and-desist letter saying that under trademark laws, you couldn’t even have the name prominently on the cover like that. So they had to then had to change it to Shazam!: The World’s Mightiest Mortal."

To retain their trademark, Marvel continued to produce Captain Marvel comics with various characters taking on the name following the death of Mar-Vell in Marvel's first graphic novel, 1982's The Death of Captain Marvel.

They've included Monica Rambeau (who appears in Captain Marvel), Genis-Vell and, most recently, Carol Danvers.

Danvers first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #13 as a colleague of Mar-Vell and became Ms Marvel in 1977. This was after she was changed into a human-Kree hybrid with superpowers following an explosion involving a Kree device.

Photo credit: Marvel Comics
Photo credit: Marvel Comics

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She assumed the Captain Marvel moniker in 2012 and has remained Captain Marvel in the Marvel Comics universe to this day.

As for the other Captain Marvel, DC Comics used The New 52 relaunch in 2011 to officially rename Billy Batson's superhero alter go as Shazam, so Captain Marvel no longer exists in the DC Comics universe.

Well, not at the moment anyway. Who knows what the future holds?

Captain Marvel is out in cinemas on March 8, with Shazam! released on April 5.


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