Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Shazam! ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post

Sorry if yours is one of the many blogs I visit regularly but have not visited much, if at all, for the past few days. Just not feeling well lately. Among other things, I have an occasional flare-up of gout (Yes, gout! It doesn't only exist in old movies!), and it's been bothering me for several days. And by the way, gout has often been described as a "rich man's disease," but folks, I've got it, so that's not a very appropriate name for it.


Today's "Comical Wednesday" post is actually aimed more at those of you who don't follow comics. The comic book cover at the top of this post is Whiz Comics #22, from 1941. The most prominent character in that title was the original Captain Marvel, who was a boy named Billy Batson that received magic powers and an adult persona by saying the word "Shazam!" Shazam, by the way, was the name of the ancient wizard that bestowed these powers upon young Billy.

Now, why did I say "the original Captain Marvel?"

Captain Marvel debuted at the very beginning of 1940. He was one of a handful of superheroes that DC Comics attempted to sue out of existence. They (DC) claimed that the Captain was ripping off their own hero, Superman, who premiered in 1938. "The original Captain Marvel" even outsold Superman for a time.

The court battle dragged on for many years, and at one point Fawcett Comics (who published Captain Marvel's multiple titles and spin-offs) was prevailing, and at other times DC seemed to have the legal edge... Finally, due as much to falling comic book sales as to anything else, Fawcett stopped publishing comics altogether and promised DC they would never bring the Captain back.

That was in 1953.

By 1968, a company once known (in the 1940s) as Timely Comics had been calling itself Marvel Comics for about eight years. They decided that it was only natural that they revive the "Captain Marvel" name. They did so, and trademarked the character.

Less than two years later, they changed Captain Marvel's costume. 

In 1972, DC Comics, of all people -- well, not really "people" -- announced that they were bringing back the original Captain Marvel. They'd made an arrangement with Fawcett and were licensing the rights to good ol' Cap, y'see. (They eventually bought the character outright.)

The problem was, DC was able to write new stories about Captain Marvel, reprint old stories about Captain Marvel, and even call him Captain Marvel, but because Marvel Comics now owned the trademark to Captain Marvel, they couldn't call him Captain Marvel on the cover of his own book!

So they named the comic book after his magic word, "Shazam," instead.

Notice, if you will, the cover of Shazam! #2, below. Underneath the title is the phrase "the original Captain Marvel." I've heard two versions of why those words are there. The first version is that DC paid Marvel some undisclosed sum to use that phrase on their covers, but eventually decided it wasn't worth the money and stopped doing it. The other version is that DC did it without permission, until Marvel told them to cut the shit cease and desist. Regardless of why they stopped doing it, issue #14 was the last one to feature "the original Captain Marvel" on the cover. After that, the words were replaced by "The World's Mightiest Mortal."

In 1974, the original Captain Marvel made his way to television. Once again, they couldn't call the program Captain Marvel, so it became Shazam!

That damned word "Shazam" became more and more associated with the character of Captain Marvel, so much so that non-comic readers (mainly) thought that the character's actual name was Shazam. But DC was stuck with the word because Marvel Comics has had several different characters calling themselves Captain Marvel over the years -- the latest one is shown below -- so they'll obviously never abandon the trademark! (And frankly, who can blame them?)

DC has launched several series featuring "the original Captain Marvel" over the years. However, the character has never been anywhere near as popular as he was in the Golden Age, so relatively recently, DC threw up their non-existent hands and re-named the S.O.B. Shazam.

Now, this is the "Shazam" logo!

It's the confusion I mentioned earlier that caused non-comic readers to see this logo...

...which is actually the logo of another DC superhero, the Flash...

...and point to the Flash's logo on t-shirts, or wherever, saying "Shazam!"

In fact, speaking of confusion, about twenty to twenty-five years ago, I used to wear the t-shirt pictured below, featuring characters from a comic called Bone, written & drawn by Jeff Smith...

And non-comic readers would point at it and say "Casper!"

Meaning this idiot!

You non-comic types are so cute.

Thanks for your time.


  1. lol who wouldn't want a friendly ghost? I always thought he was just Shazam until I read about it a while back. I'm sure the movie, if it gets made, will cement Shazam forever now.

    1. I haven't read new comics for about fifteen years. It was only recently that I learned they'd finally re-named him Shazam. And you're right, once the movie comes out, everybody but the old-time comic fans will be calling him Shazam.

  2. I remember well Shazam!! and we loved! xoxo

    1. He was a fun character. Not sure if he still is, though. I don't read the new stuff.

  3. My brain hurts!! :)
    p.s. sorry to hear about the gout - I understand it's a very painful condition.

    Susan A Eames at
    Travel, Fiction and Photos

    1. It can be, but I got medicine right away, and I'm fine now!

  4. LOL, being the non-comic type, as soon as I saw the lightning symbol, I heard (in my head), "SHAZAM!" and pictured whoever that was who starred on the TV show in the . . . good golly, the mid-70s? Really? I remember liking the guy's long hair. But then again, I still like long hair on guys (most of them, anyway).

    1. Captain Marvel was portrayed by two different actors, both of whom went on to other undistinguished roles. Eventually they teamed Cap with the character from a spin-off series called Isis, starring Joanna Cameron. She was the reason a lot of middle-aged dads watched the show with their young sons!

    2. I always thought it was so weird that they had two actors for it. I mean, all the other superheroes just put on and took off glasses to disguise themselves. I wonder what made them choose that route?

    3. Oh, you mean the way his secret identity was played by a different person? (I was referring to the two actors who played the Captain himself during the run of the series.) Well, in the comics, Billy Batson was a young boy who changed into a grown man when he said "Shazam!" That's why they had Billy and Cap played by different people.

    4. That makes perfect sense now. Had I been more versed in the comic book origins, the two actors would have made a lot more sense to me. Thanks for the explanation!

    5. You're welcome. If you look at the comic cover shown at the top of this post, you'll see an "impossible" drawing of Captain Marvel AND his other self, Billy Batson. There was obviously a disparity between their ages, which wasn't put across very well by the TV show, which used a 23-year-old actor as Billy (although I believe the actual character of Billy was supposed to be a teenager).

  5. 'SHAZAM' is a fun word to say. It just sounds magical. Volume No 22 - I have to like that number. A very interesting post Silver Fox.

    1. Glad you liked it. I've been trying to make my posts a bit shorter...


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