Captain Marvel has finally landed in theaters, and DC's Shazam! will soon follow suit. As a result, there has been a bit of confusion online in regards to the character of Shazam previously going by Captain Marvel and why that changed. Some are referring to DC's iteration as the original, which is true, and others are calling Marvel the rightful owners of the character, which is also true. Once you throw Mar-Vellinto it all it gets a bit muddled, and with Shazam hitting theaters soon that will only continue, so we're here to break down what happened and how each of those characters are. Spoilers are incoming for Captain Marvel, of course, so you've been warned.
First up let's tackle Captain Marvel, otherwise known as Carol Danvers. Brie Larson is playing her in the film, but in the comics, the character wasn't actually called Captain Marvel until fairly recently (at least in comic years). Danvers originally went by Ms. Marvel as an homage to the one who gave Danvers her powers, who happened to be a Kree warrior named Mar-Vell (undercover as Walter Lawson).
Now, as we know, Carol's origin in the movie ended up getting some tweaks, though Mar-Vell still played a big part. Wendy Lawson revealed herself to be Mar-Vell to Carol before she died, and her Lightspeed Engine is what ended up giving Carol her powers. Even with those changes, the major beats remain.
So, who is Mar-Vell then? In the comics, Mar-Vell ended up as part of a task force who were sent by the Kree to spy on Earth. Unfortunately, he happened to be under the command of Colonel Yon-Rogg, whose jealousy put a target on Mar-Vell's back. After an assassination attempt gone wrong, Mar-Vell ended up saving innocent bystanders from a Kree Sentry. The grateful citizens misheard his name of Mar-Vell, and thus called him Captain Marvel from that point on.
Mar-Vell was the first to use the name, but during his adventures, he saved Carol Danvers from Yon-Rogg, who was still pissed and jealous mind you. He shielded her from the blast of the Psyche-Magnitron, and while he did protect her, she also ended up absorbing some of his genetic makeup, thus changing her DNA and granting her powers.
So, you can see why she adopted the Ms. Marvel name. Unfortunately for Mar-Vell, his previous exposure to a lethal gas called Compound 13 ended up giving him cancer, as he had direct contact with it. His Nega-bands were able to slow the effects, but he eventually crossed over to the afterlife seven years later.
That brings us back to Carol Danvers, who still went by Ms. Marvel for the majority of her career. It would be Captain America and the words of her late friend Helen Cobb who would help convince her to accept the mantle of Captain Marvel, and she finally did.
In the movie, we see Mar-Vell's quest as one to help the Skrulls find a new home, and though different from the comics it still puts the character in direct conflict with the Kree eventually. Mar-Vell's gender was also changed for the film, which honestly works better than its comic counterpart, but that's just my opinion.
So, Mar-Vell is the first to hold the mantle, and Carol is the second, but who is DC's Captain Marvel?
Well, these days the character goes by Shazam, but this one can be a bit confusing. The original copyright holder of the name Captain Marvel used to be Fawcett Publications, who came up with a Superman-type character named Captain Marvel. The character's real name was Billy Batson, a young boy who was given the power of the Gods by the Wizard Shazam.
When Billy transformed into a hero, he would be called Captain Marvel, and also had a twin sister who became Mary Marvel and a friend who became Captain Marvel Jr.
To make a long story short, Fawcett eventually stopped publishing Captain Marvel comics in 1953 and later stopped its comics business completely. The character would get new life when DC Comics licensed the character from Fawcett in 1972.
During that time of inactivity though Marvel Comics had copyrighted the name Captain Marvel for Mar-Vell, so DC could use the character but couldn't actually call the book or the character Captain Marvel. They decided to go with Shazam!, that being Billy Batson's magic word to transform into a hero as well as the name of the Wizard. They would still reference the Marvel family in the books of course, but they couldn't officially use the title any longer.
Now Shazam will be brought to life in the movies by Zachary Levi, and as far as we can tell many of the comic elements are being brought into the film. From the recent POPs, it seems we'll even get several of the Marvel Family making their debut as well, so fans of the character should be quite happy.
Alright, now you should be all set! Captain Marvel is in theaters now while Shazam! lands in theaters on April 5th.
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