Even 'Shazam!' Star Zachary Levi Makes 'Captain Marvel' Jokes

There is a vocal contingent of fans who still refuse to call DC's Shazam by any name other than Captain Marvel -- the one he was given when created by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck in 1939.

While Shazam! star Zachary Levi is not among that contingent, he has been a can for long enough to remember when calling the character by that name was uncontroversial...and apparently he still does it himself.

During a visit to the film's set, Levi was answering an unrelated question when he stopped himself mid-sentence to make sure that the reporters in attendance understood the Shazam/Captain Marvel distinction.

After saying that certain story elements "are a little bit more evident as Billy is becoming Captain Marvel -- Shazam," Levi added, "You guys all know when I say 'Shazam' I mean 'Captain Marvel,' vice versa? Because his name is now that and I know a lot of people are upset about that, but a lot of those people just need to get over it. How do you sell Pepsi without calling it 'Pepsi?' I don't know....Anyway, moving on."

Shazam was not always property of DC Comics; they have owned it since 1991, acquiring it from the defunct Fawcett, after having first licensed the character and his supporting cast since 1972. The company had stopped making new Captain Marvel comics in the '50s, in no small part due to a lawsuit by DC alleging that the character was too similar to Superman. Ironically for DC, this meant that Fawcett eventually allowed the "Captain Marvel" trademark to lapse. It was snapped up by Marvel Comics, and by the time DC took over the original Captain Marvel, they were forced to use the lawyer-friendly "Shazam!" in titles and merchandising.

While Marvel was unable to stop DC from calling the character "Captain Marvel" in-story, the company (likely with movies and TV in mind) eventually decided that the potential for confusion was too great. When DC revamped their publishing line in 2011, the "Shazam" title officially became his character name in-continuity.

Several decades and a few iterations of "Captain Marvel" later, DC's Shazam! will now hit theaters less than a month after Disney releases Captain Marvel, a feature film starring Brie Larson in the title role. While there is no actual animosity between the two camps as far as anybody knows, Shazam! director David F. Sandberg has occasionally jokingly referred to his character as "the original Captain Marvel" on social media.

Yesterday, a release from Funko seemingly revealed that Billy Batson's foster siblings will get super-powers and costumes as well. That doubles down on the issue, since Captain Marvel/Shazam's network of similarly-powered and similarly-costumed heroes have traditionally been called "The Marvel Family." Indeed, Freddy Freeman's name was "Captain Marvel, Jr." and Mary Batson's name was "Mary Marvel."

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The 2011 reboot not only rebranded Mary as "Lady Shazam" but changed her backstory so that she and Billy are no longer biological siblings; the "Mary Bromfield" name is likely to be the one used in the film.

Shazam! hits theaters on April 5, 2019. Other upcoming DC films include Joker on October 10, 2019, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) on February 7, 2020, and Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5, 2020.