Why I Call Him Captain Marvel, Not Shazam.

I had a question posed to me on Twitter recently:

Most who follow me on Twitter (@CaptMarvelTalk) will know that I have a penchant for calling the World’s Mightiest Mortal by his original name, Captain Marvel.

As a result, I often am told a variation of, “DC calls him Shazam now.”

Truth is, that is not entirely true. DC Comics calls him both Captain Marvel and Shazam. In fact, just this past Wednesday, they published classic Captain Marvel and the rest of his Marvel Family in Scooby Doo Team-Up #16¹, which is now the third publishing effort following Thunderworld and Convergence: Shazam! from DC Comics in the past two years, so one cannot say that his name is only Shazam now.

That said, my response to the question above was that I detest do not like calling Captain Marvel, Shazam. If I did like calling him that, I would almost certainly call him Shazam.

However… I do not.

By Alex Ross
By Alex Ross

Let me explain why.

My reasons are threefold: First, I just simply prefer that name. It is more “superhero-y” than Shazam. That, and for most of my fandom of the character, I first met him as Captain Marvel and have known him by that name. It is what I know and what I prefer.

Secondly, Shazam is and was originally the name of the wizard – well, that is, until DC Comics decided to revise that in the 90’s Power of Shazam!  series where his original name was Jebediah of Canaan and once more in the very recent Darkseid War: Shazam! one-shot where the wizard was retconned to where he was actually the Aborigine god of lightning, Mamaragan.

In terms of his Fawcett mythology, the wizard is the one who granted Billy Batson the power to transform into the World’s Mightiest Mortal, Captain Marvel just by speaking his name. Also, it was Shazam who gave Billy Batson’s alter ego the name, Captain Marvel, in WHIZ Comics #2.

WHIZ Comics #2
WHIZ Comics #2

Thus, the wizard is Shazam, and Billy Batson is Captain Marvel.

It is an important distinction to make, I feel.

Third, and most importantly, for me – more than preference affinity for the name, Captain Marvel – it is a matter of respect. Not just to the character, but also to his original creators and their intent for the character.

According to Captain Marvel’s co-creator C.C. Beck’s testimony in the famous National v Fawcett court case, he and Bill Parker had always intended  for the character to have the title of “Captain.”

Additionally, in the time since the character first made his debut at DC Comics after they began licensing the character from Fawcett in 1972, C.C. Beck has always insisted that his proper name is Captain Marvel.

For those reasons, it is only right that I call the character by that name. To do otherwise is to disrespect and dishonor the character and his creators.

JLA: Secret Origins
JLA: Secret Origins

Thus, you have my stance on always calling the character by his proper name, Captain Marvel.

And I always will.

Well, there is only one possible exception that I might make: If DC Comics ever changed his name to Captain Thunder, then I will call him Captain Thunder.

Here are the reasons why:

The first is the obvious one: It would have the military title that Captain Marvel’s creators always intended for him to have.

The second is that that kind of name change would honor both the character and his original creators, given that when they originally conceived of Captain Marvel, they had initially named him Captain Thunder, and it was going to be his name until Fawcett higher-ups told them to change the name to something else.

I suppose they might have felt that Captain Thunder was too threatening of a name for kids.

It is the type of holistic approach I could get on board with. That, and the wizard gets to remain known as Shazam.

Captain Thunder - Flashpoint 4

Superman #276

There is no reason DC Comics cannot make that change if they felt the need or the want to do so. They already have copyright precedence of at least two alternative Captain Marvels, each called Captain Thunder.

The first was in Superman #276 and the other was in their Flashpoint storyline event.

Granted, Roy Thomas owns trademark for Captain Thunder, but he has not kept the property in regular commercial use and he does not have the trademark registered, so he has not established an exclusive right to the trademark and he cannot bring an action concerning the trademark in federal court. At least, that is my understanding of it.

Until then, I will always call the character Captain Marvel.

Actually… even then, I am not sure would not still call him Captain Marvel if his name was changed to Captain Thunder. I may simply just differentiate between the two. I guess we will see if that time ever comes, won’t we?

Interestingly, as a bit of a side note, while I disagree with and consider it dishonorable on Geoff Johns DC Comic’s part to make the allopathic decision to change his name from Captain Marvel to Shazam – mind you, all because “That’s what everyone calls him now,” – it is because of the aforementioned respect that I make sure to differentiate DC’s New 52 main-continuity version of the character by calling him New 52 Shazam as I do on Twitter and other social media.

I would be a hypocrite if I did not respect and honor other creators and their intents, even if I disagree with them.

Now you have it, the reasons why I call him Captain Marvel and why I always will.

As always, call down the lightning and post in the comments section.


¹Yes, I am aware that DC called them the Shazam! Family on the cover. However, they are called the Marvel Family inside the story, so that meant that they were called by their proper names, Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, and Captain Marvel Jr.


3 thoughts on “Why I Call Him Captain Marvel, Not Shazam.

  1. I sympathize with your position. I view it in a slightly different light: The character in the New 52 named “Shazam” is not Captain Marvel, any more than Alan Scott is Hal Jordan.

    The New 52 is a new universe in which everything has the opportunity to be different. As such, creating a different character to market under the trademark “Shazam” is a legitimate editorial decision. This character has different powers, a different origin, a different supporting cast, they all just happen to share some traits. So we don;t have to get upset that DC has “changed Captain Marvel” any more than we should get upset that they “changed Alan Scott (Green Lantern)” in the new Earth-1 universe (and are now calling him Hal Jordan).

    It has been established that there is still a character named Captain Marvel in at least one of these 52 universes (Earth-5, specifically). This character is much more like the Ordway and Fawcett/Earth-S versions.

    So to me it is not a question of “still calling him Captain Marvel,” the New 52 character is not Captain Marvel. His name is Shazam. There is a perfectly good Captain Marvel still bouncing around, appearing in things like “Convergence” and a Scooby-Do team-up.

    The constant reference to the character as “Shazam”: for the upcoming movie makes me think that they are considering using the New 52 character for it. If they come out with a classic version of CM in the movie and call him “Shazam,” then I will be upset.

  2. Hi Carl,
    I agree. But with Geoff Johns (he’s responsible for the name change in the comics) now in charge of DC Films, once the Shazam movie is released, the rebranding will be complete. It also won’t help that Marvel’s Captain Marvel will be released a few weeks before it. That said, he’ll always be Captain Marvel to me.
    BTW, one of your recent Tweets had a small error. The last time the original Captain Marvel had his name on a cover was in Power of Shazam # 1. It even has the Jerry Ordway Captain Marvel logo with a small TM next to it. They likely had to pay Marvel Comics for the usage.
    Keep up the great work! I love your dedication to my favourite superhero.

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