SHAZAM! Why Captain Marvel Keeps Us Captivated
The World’s Mightiest Mortal has been around for almost 8 decades now, and despite the highs and lows the comics industry has faced throughout that time, Captain Marvel has remained alive both on the pages of the funny books and the minds of its readers worldwide. First appearing in Whiz Comics #2, published by Fawcett Comics, the C.C. Beck and Bill Parker character has appeared in numerous single issues and collected editions since then – not to mention his frequent appearances in animated features, series, and even a live-action adaptation. Fun fact: even before Christopher Reeve put on the red, white, and blue spandex for his iconic role as Superman, Captain Marvel had already beat the Man of Steel to the big screen by appearing in a feature entitled “Adventures of Captain Marvel” released in 1941. The story of this magical hero isn’t all peaches and cream, though. Within the same year his movie was released, Detective Comics (you know, those guys that publish Superman and Batman) won the character over a lawsuit claiming copyright infringement on its original publisher. This particular event would however prove to be a blessing in disguise for the property, as DC Comics will keep the character in rotation for the decades to come. Not bad for a character that some people think is just another generic clone of Superman.
For the uninitiated, it would appear that Captain Marvel just looks like a knockoff of DC’s last son of krypton. But to simply dismiss the character like that means to miss out on something that’s really good; the World’s Mightiest Mortal has a wonderful mythology surrounding him. Take this for example: he’s one of the first superheroes to become a full-blown franchise that is complete with sidekicks like Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., and that anthropomorphic gentleman tiger, Mister Tawky Tawny. And then, no article about Captain Marvel would be complete if we didn’t mention his equally, if not more so, appealing foil and nemesis, Black Adam.
But despite all this, the question’s still there: why does Captain Marvel remain as an enduring character in the world of comics? Well, to answer that, just look at the difference between how you may think of him compared to his more famous DC roster mate and one-time publication rival Superman. When we look at DC’s big blue Boy Scout, for better or worse, we see a figure that represents a very conservative, naïve and, for those who really can’t appreciate Kal-El, dated era to a point that even DC’s efforts to keep the character with the times always seem to fall short. And that’s where Captain Marvel finds his appeal: where Superman, as great as he is as a character and property, needs to continually keep up with the times to be relevant, Shazam (hey, they changed his name a few years ago) does not. Now, don’t get us wrong; we’re not saying Superman has no place in this world anymore, but that’s a discussion for another time altogether. With his bright red and yellow costume, that very chic sash/cape, and his overall aura, Captain Marvel is unquestionably a product of his time but may not be considered a relic at all. There’s just a quality of timelessness to him, from the costume design down to his fictional biography, every kid can find joy in and every discerning comic book fan sees as a reminder of the good ol’ days of the golden age.