Captain Marvel (DC Comics)
The traditional Captain Marvel, art by Alex Ross
|Publisher||Fawcett Comics (1939–1953)
DC Comics (1972–present)
|First appearance||Whiz Comics #2 (cover date Feb. 1940, release date Dec. 1939)|
|Created by||Bill Parker
C. C. Beck
|Alter ego||William Joseph "Billy" Batson|
|Place of origin||New York City, America|
|Team affiliations||Marvel/Shazam Family
Squadron of Justice
Justice Society of America
Justice League International
Captain Marvel Jr.
Mister Tawky Tawny
|Notable aliases||Captain Thunder, Marvel|
Magically bestowed powers include:
|Captain Marvel Adventures|
|Series publication information|
|Publication date||March 1941 – November 1953|
|Number of issues||150|
|Main character(s)||Captain Marvel|
|Writer(s)||Otto Binder, Joe Simon|
|Artist(s)||C. C. Beck, Pete Costanza, Jack Kirby|
Captain Marvel, also known as Shazam (//), is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. Artist C. C. Beck and writer Bill Parker created the character in 1939. Captain Marvel first appeared in Whiz Comics #2 (cover-dated Feb. 1940), published by Fawcett Comics. He is the alter ego of Billy Batson, a boy who, by speaking the magic word "SHAZAM" (acronym of six "immortal elders": Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury), can transform himself into a costumed adult with the powers of superhuman strength, speed, flight and other abilities.
Based on book sales, the character was the most popular superhero of the 1940s, outselling even Superman. Fawcett expanded the franchise to include other "Marvels", primarily Marvel Family associates Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr., who can harness Billy's powers as well. Captain Marvel was also the first comic book superhero to be adapted into film, in a 1941 Republic Pictures serial titled Adventures of Captain Marvel.
Fawcett ceased publishing Captain Marvel-related comics in 1953, partly because of a copyright infringement suit from DC Comics, alleging that Captain Marvel was a copy of Superman. In 1972, DC licensed the Marvel Family characters from Fawcett, and returned them to publication. By 1991, DC had acquired all rights to the characters. DC has since integrated Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family into their DC Universe and has attempted to revive the property several times, with mixed success. Due to trademark conflicts over another character named "Captain Marvel" owned by Marvel Comics, DC has branded and marketed the character using the trademark Shazam! since his 1972 reintroduction. This, in turn, led many to assume that "Shazam" was the character's name. DC later officially renamed the character "Shazam"—and his associates the "Shazam Family"—when relaunching its comic book properties in 2011. Captain Marvel/Shazam and his family battle an extensive rogues' gallery, primarily archenemies Dr. Sivana and Black Adam.
The character has been featured in two television series adaptations, one live action and one animated, by Filmation, and an upcoming New Line Cinema/Warner Bros. Shazam! feature film scheduled for release in 2019 as part of the DC Extended Universe, with Zachary Levi and Asher Angel portraying the title role. Captain Marvel was ranked as the 55th greatest comic book character of all time by Wizard magazine. IGN also ranked Captain Marvel as the 50th greatest comic book hero of all time, stating that the character will always be an enduring reminder of a simpler time. UGO Networks ranked him as one of the top heroes of entertainment, saying, "At his best, Shazam has always been compared to Superman with a sense of crazy, goofy fun"
- 1 Publication history
- 1.1 Development and inspirations
- 1.2 Copyright infringement lawsuit and cancellation
- 1.3 Marvelman / Miracleman
- 1.4 M. F. Enterprises
- 1.5 DC Comics revival: Shazam!
- 1.6 Captain Marvel in the late 1980s
- 1.7 The Power of Shazam!
- 1.8 Early-mid-2000s: JSA, 52, and more
- 1.9 The Trials of Shazam!
- 1.10 The New 52 relaunch
- 2 Fictional character biography
- 3 Powers and abilities
- 4 Other versions
- 4.1 Captain Thunder (1974)
- 4.2 Captain Thunder (1982)
- 4.3 Captain Thunder (2011): Flashpoint
- 4.4 Elseworld's Finest
- 4.5 The Dark Knight Strikes Again
- 4.6 Superman: Distant Fires
- 4.7 Kingdom Come
- 4.8 Earth-5
- 4.9 Justice League: Generation Lost
- 4.10 Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil
- 4.11 Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!
- 4.12 Mazahs
- 4.13 Injustice: Gods Among Us
- 5 Supporting cast
- 6 Collected editions
- 7 In other media
- 8 Cultural impact
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Development and inspirations
After the success of National Comics' new superhero characters Superman and Batman, Fawcett Publications started its own comics division in 1939, recruiting writer Bill Parker to create several hero characters for the first title in their line, tentatively titled Flash Comics. Besides penning stories featuring Ibis the Invincible, Spy Smasher, Golden Arrow, Lance O'Casey, Scoop Smith, and Dan Dare for the new book, Parker also wrote a story about a team of six superheroes, each possessing a special power granted to them by a mythological figure.
Fawcett Comics' executive director Ralph Daigh decided it would be best to combine the team of six into one hero who would embody all six powers. Parker responded by creating a character he called "Captain Thunder". Staff artist Charles Clarence "C. C." Beck was recruited to design and illustrate Parker's story, rendering it in a direct, somewhat cartoony style that became his trademark. "When Bill Parker and I went to work on Fawcett’s first comic book in late 1939, we both saw how poorly written and illustrated the superhero comic books were," Beck told an interviewer. "We decided to give our reader a real comic book, drawn in comic-strip style and telling an imaginative story, based not on the hackneyed formulas of the pulp magazine, but going back to the old folk-tales and myths of classic times".
The first issue of the comic book, printed as both Flash Comics #1 and Thrill Comics #1, had a low-print run in the fall of 1939 as an ashcan copy created for advertising and trademark purposes. Shortly after its printing, however, Fawcett found it could not trademark "Captain Thunder", "Flash Comics", or "Thrill Comics", because all three names were already in use. Consequently, the book was renamed Whiz Comics, and Fawcett artist Pete Costanza suggested changing Captain Thunder's name to "Captain Marvelous", which the editors shortened to "Captain Marvel". The word balloons in the story were re-lettered to label the hero of the main story as "Captain Marvel". Whiz Comics #2 (cover-dated Feb. 1940) was published in late 1939.
Inspiration for Captain Marvel came from a number of sources. His visual appearance was modeled after that of Fred MacMurray, a popular American actor of the period, though comparisons with both Cary Grant and Jack Oakie were made as well. Fawcett Publications' founder, Wilford H. Fawcett, was nicknamed "Captain Billy", which inspired the name "Billy Batson" as well as Marvel's title. Fawcett's earliest magazine was titled Captain Billy's Whiz Bang, which inspired the title Whiz Comics. In addition, Fawcett took several of the elements that had made Superman the first popular comic book superhero (super-strength and speed, science-fiction stories, a mild-mannered reporter alter ego) and incorporated them into Captain Marvel. Fawcett's circulation director Roscoe Kent Fawcett recalled telling the staff, "Give me a Superman, only have his other identity be a 10- or 12-year-old boy rather than a man".
In addition to introducing the main character and his alter ego, Captain Marvel's first adventure in Whiz Comics #2 also introduced his archenemy, the evil Doctor Sivana; his mentor, the ancient wizard Shazam (whose name is derived from the same magic acronym); and found Billy Batson talking his way into a job as an on-air radio reporter. Captain Marvel was an instant success, with Whiz Comics #2 selling over 500,000 copies. By 1941, he had his own solo series, Captain Marvel Adventures, while he continued to appear in Whiz Comics, as well as periodic appearances in other Fawcett books, including Master Comics.
Copyright infringement lawsuit and cancellation
Through much of the Golden Age of Comic Books, Captain Marvel proved to be the most popular superhero character of the medium, and his comics outsold all others. Captain Marvel Adventures sold fourteen million copies in 1944, and was at one point being published bi-weekly with a circulation of 1.3 million copies an issue (proclaimed on the cover of issue #19 as being the "Largest Circulation of Any Comic Magazine"). Part of the reason for this popularity included the inherent wish-fulfillment appeal of the character to children, as well as the humorous and surreal quality of the stories. Billy Batson typically narrated each Captain Marvel story, speaking directly to his reading audience from his WHIZ radio microphone, relating each story from the perspective of a young boy.
The franchise was expanded to introduce teen spin-off characters to Captain Marvel (who, unlike Billy, remained kids in superhero form) In late 1941 and in 1942, new characters were introduced with Captain Marvel's sidekick Captain Marvel, Jr. in Whiz Comics #25 (1941) and his sister Mary Marvel in Captain Marvel Adventures #18. Both Captain Marvel, Jr. and Mary Marvel were given their own eponymous books in addition to appearing as the lead features in Master Comics and Wow Comics, respectively. Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., and Mary Marvel appeared together in another publication, The Marvel Family.
Detective Comics (later known as National Comics Publications, National Periodical Publications, and today known as DC Comics) sued both Fawcett Comics and Republic Pictures for copyright infringement in 1941, alleging that Captain Marvel was based on their character Superman (see National Comics Publications, Inc. v. Fawcett Publications, Inc.). After seven years of litigation, the National Comics Publications v. Fawcett Publications case went to trial in 1948. Although the presiding judge decided that Captain Marvel was an infringement, DC was found to be negligent in copyrighting several of their Superman daily newspaper strips, and it was decided that National had abandoned the Superman copyright. As a result, the initial verdict, delivered in 1951, went in Fawcett's favor.
National appealed this decision, and Judge Learned Hand declared in 1952 that National's Superman copyright was in fact valid. Judge Hand did not find that the character of Captain Marvel itself was an infringement, but rather that specific stories or super feats could be infringements, and this would have to be determined in a retrial. He therefore sent the matter back to the lower court for final determination.
Instead of retrying the case, however, Fawcett settled with National out of court. The National lawsuit was not the only problem Fawcett faced in regard to Captain Marvel. While Captain Marvel Adventures had been the top-selling comic series during World War II, it suffered declining sales every year after 1945, and, by 1949, it was selling only half its wartime rate. Fawcett tried to revive the popularity of its Captain Marvel series in the early 1950s by introducing elements of the horror comics trend that had gained popularity at the time.
Feeling that this decline in the popularity of superhero comics meant that it was no longer worth continuing the fight, Fawcett agreed to permanently cease publication of comics with the Captain Marvel-related characters and to pay National $400,000 in damages. Fawcett shut down its comics division in the autumn of 1953 and fired its comic book staff. Whiz Comics had ended with issue #155 in June 1953, Captain Marvel Adventures was canceled with #150 (November 1953), and The Marvel Family ended its run with #89 (Jan. 1954).
Marvelman / Miracleman
In the 1950s, a small British publisher, L. Miller and Son, published a number of black-and-white reprints of American comic books, including the Captain Marvel series. With the outcome of the National v. Fawcett lawsuit, L. Miller and Son found their supply of Captain Marvel material abruptly cut off. They requested the help of a British comic writer, Mick Anglo, who created a thinly-disguised version of the superhero called Marvelman. Captain Marvel, Jr., was adapted to create Young Marvelman, while Mary Marvel had her gender changed to create the male Kid Marvelman. The magic word "Shazam!" was replaced with "Kimota" ("Atomik" spelled backwards). The new characters took over the numbering of the original Captain Marvel's United Kingdom series with issue number #25.
Marvelman ceased publication in 1963, but the character was revived in 1982 by writer Alan Moore in the pages of Warrior Magazine. Beginning in 1985, Moore's black-and-white serialized adventures were reprinted in color by Eclipse Comics under the new title Miracleman (as Marvel Comics objected to the use of "Marvel" in the title), and continued publication in the United States after Warrior's demise. Within the metatextual story line of the comic series itself, it was noted that Marvelman's creation was based upon Captain Marvel comics, by both Moore and later Marvelman/Miracleman writer Neil Gaiman. In 2009, Marvel Comics obtained the rights to the original 1950s Marvelman characters and stories, obtaining the rights to the 1980s version and those reprints in 2013.
M. F. Enterprises
In 1966, M. F. Enterprises produced their own Captain Marvel: an android superhero from another planet whose main characteristic was the ability to split his body into several parts, each of which could move on its own. He triggered the separation by shouting "Split!" and reassembled himself by shouting "Xam!" He had a young human ward named Billy Baxton. This short-lived Captain Marvel was credited in the comic as being "based on a character created by Carl Burgos". Legal issues with Marvel Comics over the use of "Marvel" in the title led to M.F. ceasing publication after five issues, and accepting a $4500 settlement from Marvel.
DC Comics revival: Shazam!
When superhero comics became popular again in the mid-1960s in what is now called the "Silver Age of Comic Books", Fawcett was unable to revive Captain Marvel, having agreed to never publish the character again as part of their 1953 settlement. Looking for new properties to introduce to the DC Comics line, DC publisher Carmine Infantino decided to bring the Captain Marvel property back into print, and in 1972 he licensed the characters from Fawcett. Because Marvel Comics had by this time established Captain Marvel as a comic book trademark for their own character, created and first published in 1967, DC published their book under the name Shazam! Infantino attempted to give the Shazam! book the subtitle The Original Captain Marvel, but a cease and desist letter from Marvel Comics forced them to change the subtitle to The World's Mightiest Mortal, starting with Shazam! #15 (December 1974). As all subsequent toys and other merchandise featuring the character have also been required to use the "Shazam!" label with little to no mention of the name "Captain Marvel", the title became so linked to Captain Marvel that many people took to identifying the character as "Shazam" instead of "Captain Marvel".
The Shazam! comic series began with Shazam! #1 (Feb. 1973). It contained both new stories and reprints from the 1940s and 1950s. Dennis O'Neil was the primary writer of the book. His role was later taken over by writers Elliot S. Maggin and E. Nelson Bridwell. C. C. Beck drew stories for the first ten issues of the book before quitting due to creative differences. Bob Oksner and Fawcett alumnus Kurt Schaffenberger were among the later artists of the title. As per DC's agreement with Fawcett, DC paid Fawcett a licensing fee per issue for each of the Fawcett characters who appeared, either in Shazam! or crossovers in Justice League of America, DC Comics Presents, and other comic series.
With DC's Multiverse concept in effect during this time, the revived Marvel Family and related characters lived within the DC Universe on the parallel world of "Earth-S". While the series began with a great deal of fanfare, the book had a lackluster reception. The creators themselves had misgivings. Beck said, "As an illustrator, I could, in the old days, make a good story better by bringing it to life with drawings. But I couldn't bring the new [Captain Marvel] stories to life no matter how hard I tried".
Shazam! was heavily rewritten as of issue #34 (April 1978), and Bridwell provided more realistic stories, accompanied by similar art; the first issue was drawn by Alan Weiss and Joe Rubinstein, and thereafter by Don Newton, a longtime fan of the character, and Schaffenberger. Nevertheless, the next issue was the last one, though the feature was kept alive in a back-up position in the Dollar Comics-formatted run of World's Finest Comics (from #253, October/November 1978, to #282, August 1982, skipping only #271, which featured a full-length origin of the Superman-Batman team story). Schaffenberger left the feature after #259, and the inking credit subsequently varied.
When World's Finest Comics reverted to the standard 36 pages, leftover Shazam! material saw publication in Adventure Comics (#491–492, September–October 1982). The remaining 11 issues of that run contained reprints, with Shazam! represented by mostly Fawcett-era stories (left out of Legion of Super-Heroes #500 and the final #503, where two features were doubled up to complete their respective story arcs). Limited Collectors' Edition #C-58 (April 1978) featured a "Superman vs. Shazam!" story by writer Gerry Conway and artists Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano. With their 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths limited series, DC fully integrated the characters into the DC Universe. Prior to Crisis, the characters had appeared a few times as guest stars in the Justice League of America series (vol. 1).
Captain Marvel in the late 1980s
The first post-Crisis appearance of Captain Marvel was in the 1986 Legends miniseries. In 1987, Captain Marvel appeared as a member of the Justice League in Keith Giffen's and J. M. DeMatteis' relaunch of that title. That same year (spinning off from Legends), he was given his own miniseries titled Shazam!: The New Beginning. With this four-issue miniseries, writers Roy and Dann Thomas and artist Tom Mandrake attempted to re-launch the Captain Marvel mythos and bring the wizard Shazam, Dr. Sivana, Uncle Dudley, and Black Adam into the modern DC Universe with an altered origin story. Roy Thomas, a veteran comic book writer and editor, had been lured from Marvel Comics to DC in 1981 with the specific contractual obligation that he would become the main writer of Shazam! and the Justice Society of America characters. Before the Crisis, Thomas wrote several of the DC Comics Presents stories featuring the Marvel Family.
The most notable change that the Thomases, Giffen, and DeMatteis introduced into the Captain Marvel mythos was that the personality of young Billy Batson is retained when he transforms into the Captain. This change would remain for most future uses of the character as justification for his sunny, Golden-Age personality in the darker modern-day comic book world, instead of the traditional depiction used prior to 1986, which tended to treat Captain Marvel and Billy as two separate personalities.
This revised version of Captain Marvel also appeared in one story-arc featured in the short-lived anthology Action Comics Weekly #623–626 (October 25, 1988 – November 15, 1988), in which a Neo-Nazi version of Captain Mazi was introduced. At the end of the arc, it was announced that this would lead to a new Shazam! ongoing series. Though New Beginning had sold well and multiple artists were assigned to and worked on the book, it never saw publication due to editorial disputes between DC Comics and Roy Thomas. As a result, Thomas' intended revival of the Marvel Family with a new punk-styled Mary Bromfield/Mary Marvel (aka "Spike") who was not Billy's sister, and an African-American take on Freddy Freeman/Captain Marvel Jr., did not see print. Thomas departed DC in 1989, not long after his removal from the Shazam! project.
Other attempts at reviving Shazam! were initiated over the next three years, including a reboot project by John Byrne, illustrator of Legends and writer/artist on the Superman reboot miniseries The Man of Steel (1986). None of these versions saw print, though Captain Marvel, the Wizard Shazam, and Black Adam did appear in DC's War of the Gods miniseries in 1991. By this time, DC had finally ceased the fee-per-use licensing agreement with Fawcett Publications and purchased the full rights to Captain Marvel and the other Fawcett Comics characters.
The Power of Shazam!
In 1991, Jerry Ordway was given the Shazam! assignment, which he pitched as a painted graphic novel that would lead into a series, rather than starting the series outright. Ordway both wrote and illustrated the graphic novel, titled The Power of Shazam!, which was released in 1994. Power of Shazam! retconned Captain Marvel again and gave him a revised origin, rendering Shazam! The New Beginning and the Action Comics Weekly story apocryphal while Marvel's appearances in Legends and Justice League still counted as part of the continuity.
Ordway's story more closely followed Captain Marvel's Fawcett origins, with only slight additions and changes. The graphic novel was a critically acclaimed success, leading to a Power of Shazam! ongoing series which ran from 1995 to 1999. That series reintroduced the Marvel Family and many of their allies and enemies into the modern-day DC Universe.
Captain Marvel also appeared in Mark Waid and Alex Ross's critically acclaimed 1996 alternate universe Elseworlds Kingdom Come miniseries. Set 20 years in the future, Kingdom Come features a brainwashed Captain Marvel playing a major role in the story as a mind-controlled pawn of an elderly Lex Luthor. Because he is one of the most powerful beings on Earth, his mere presence unnerves many of those around him and, brainwashed, he even sets out to cause what could lead to the end of the world. However, Marvel ultimately sacrifices himself as an act of redemption and, as a figure of martyrdom, becomes the symbol of a new world order.
Early-mid-2000s: JSA, 52, and more
Since the cancellation of the Power of Shazam! title in 1999, the Marvel Family has made appearances in a number of other DC comic books. Black Adam became a main character in Geoff Johns' and David S. Goyer's JSA series, which depicted the latest adventures of the Justice Society of America, with Captain Marvel also briefly joining the team to keep an eye on his old nemesis. He also appeared in Frank Miller's graphic novel Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, the sequel to Miller's highly acclaimed graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, which culminated in his death. The Superman/Shazam: First Thunder miniseries, written by Judd Winick with art by Josh Middleton, and published between September 2005 and March 2006, depicted the first post-Crisis meeting between Superman and Captain Marvel.
The Marvel Family played an integral part in DC's 2005/2006 Infinite Crisis crossover, which began DC's efforts to retool the Shazam! franchise. In the Day of Vengeance miniseries, which preceded the Infinite Crisis event, the wizard Shazam is killed by the Spectre, and Captain Marvel assumes the wizard's place in the Rock of Eternity. The Marvel Family made a handful of guest appearances in the year-long weekly maxi-series 52, which featured Black Adam as one of its main characters and introduced Adam's "Black Marvel Family" which included Adam's wife Isis, her brother Osiris, and Sobek. The series chronicled Adam's attempts to reform after falling in love with Isis, only to launch the DC universe into World War III after she and Osiris are killed. The Marvel Family appeared frequently in the 12-issue bimonthly painted Justice maxi-series by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, and Doug Braithwaite, published from 2005 to 2007.
The Trials of Shazam!
The Trials of Shazam!, a 12-issue maxi-series written by Judd Winick and illustrated by Howard Porter for the first eight issues, and by Mauro Cascioli for the remaining four, was published from 2006 to 2008. The series redefined the Shazam! property with a stronger focus on magic and mysticism. Trials of Shazam! featured Captain Marvel, now with a white costume and long white hair, taking over the role of the wizard Shazam under the name Marvel, while the former Captain Marvel, Jr., Freddy Freeman, attempts to prove himself worthy to become Marvel's champion under the name "Shazam."
In the pages of the 2007–2008 Countdown to Final Crisis limited series, Black Adam gives the powerless Mary Batson his powers, turning her into a more aggressive super-powered figure, less upstanding than the old Mary Marvel. By the end of the series, as well as in DC's 2008–2009 Final Crisis limited series, the now black-costumed Mary Marvel, possessed by the evil New God DeSaad, becomes a villainess, joining forces with Superman villain Darkseid and fighting both Supergirl and Freddy Freeman/Shazam.
A three-issue arc in Justice Society of America (vol. 3) undid much of the Trials of Shazam! changes. Issues 23 through 25 of Justice Society featured Black Adam and a resurrected Isis taking over the Rock of Eternity. Adam and Isis recruit the now-evil Mary Marvel to help them in the ensuing fight against a now-powerless Billy Batson and the Justice Society.
Billy and Mary Batson made a brief appearance during DC's 2009–2010 Blackest Night saga in a one-shot special, The Power of Shazam! #48. In 2011, DC published a one-shot Shazam! story written by Eric Wallace, in which the still-powerless Billy and Mary help Freddy/Shazam in a battle with the demoness Blaze. Freddy would eventually have his powers stolen by Osiris in Titans #32 the same year.
The New 52 relaunch
In 2011, DC Comics relaunched their entire comic book lineup, creating The New 52 lineup of comics. The revamp began with a seven-issue miniseries, Flashpoint, which features an alternate timeline in which Billy Batson, Mary Batson, and Freddy Freeman are joined by three new kids, Eugene Choi, Pedro Peña, and Darla Dudley, as the "S! H! A! Z! A! M! Family." In this concept, all six kids say "Shazam!" in unison to become an alternate version of Captain Marvel named Captain Thunder. While the continuity would be altered again by the conclusion of the story, creating the "New 52" multiverse, the three new Shazam! kids would be reintroduced for later appearances.
One of these relaunched series, Justice League, began featuring a Shazam! backup story with issue #7 in March 2012. The feature, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank, introduces Billy Batson and his supporting cast into the new DC Universe. As part of the redesign, Captain Marvel received a new costume designed by Frank with a long cloak and hood. Johns noted that the character's place in the world will be "far more rooted in fantasy and magic than it ever was before". The character also was officially renamed "Shazam" at this time. The Shazam! origin story, which included two full issues in Justice League #0 (2012) and #21 (2013), reintroduced Billy Batson/Shazam, the Wizard, Black Adam, Tawny the tiger and the Shazam Family (Freddy, Mary, Darla, Eugene, and Pedro) to continuity. The Shazam! feature concluded with Justice League #21, preceding DC's crossover Trinity War storyline which heavily features the Shazam mythos.
Johns and Frank's reboot was met with both acclaim and criticism, and the renaming of the hero as Shazam brought mixed reactions. Johns noted that the change was made "because that's what everyone thinks his name is anyway," due to the inability to use the "Captain Marvel" moniker on comic book covers and merchandise. In updating Shazam!, Johns and Frank skirted some controversy among long-time fans by introducing Billy Batson as a cynical foster child who comes to appreciate his potential as a hero and the concept of family, rather than starting him from that point as with earlier retellings.
Following his appearances in the Trinity War and Forever Evil crossover events, Shazam appeared as a member of the Justice League from Justice League (vol. 2) #30 through #50 from 2014 through 2016, and also in a one-shot spinoff titled Justice League: The Darkseid War: Shazam (cover-dated January 2016). He also appeared as a supporting character in the Cyborg series as the friend of Victor Stone/Cyborg. New takes on the classic Fawcett versions of Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family appeared in Grant Morrison's 2014 miniseries The Multiversity (which takes place on the parallel world of Earth-5) and in a 2015 spin-off to the Convergence crossover event, Convergence: Shazam! (which takes place on the parallel world of Earth-S)
Fictional character biography
Fawcett/Early DC origin
Whiz Comics #2 (Feb. 1940) introduces William Joseph "Billy" Batson, a homeless 12- (later 14-) year-old newsboy who sleeps in the subway station of his home city (originally New York City; later referred to in DC publications as Fawcett City). A mysterious man in a green cloak asks Billy to follow him into the subway station, where a magic subway car painted in unusual shapes and colors escorts them to an underground throne room, which is inhabited by a very old man with a long beard and a white robe. As the man in green disappears, the old man on the throne explains to Billy that he is the Wizard Shazam, and has used the powers of "the gods" - Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury, hence the name "Shazam" - to fight evil for over 3,000 years. However, he has now grown too old to continue and is in need of a successor. The wizard explains that Billy was chosen due to his misfortune: he had been thrown out by a greedy uncle who stole his inheritance following the deaths of his parents (later retellings of the origin would also note that Billy was chosen for being "pure of heart"). Ordered by the wizard to speak the name "Shazam," Billy is struck by a sudden bolt of lightning and transformed into a superpowered adult in a red costume with gold trim.
The Wizard Shazam declares the new hero "Captain Marvel" and orders him to carry on his work, as a stone block suspended above his throne falls upon him, killing him as prophesied. The wizard would return - in later retellings of the origin story, immediately - as a spirit to serve as a mentor to Billy and Captain Marvel, summoned by lighting a torch on the wall of his lair. As a spirit, the Wizard Shazam lives at the Rock of Eternity, a bicone-shaped rock formation situated at the nexus of time and space. Later retellings of the Captain Marvel origin place Shazam's underground lair within the Rock. Saying the word "Shazam" allows Billy to summon the magic lightning and become Captain Marvel, while Captain Marvel can say the magic word himself to become Billy again.
Captain Marvel's first battle was with the mad scientist Doctor Sivana, who becomes Captain Marvel's arch-enemy. Billy Batson becomes a reporter and host for WHIZ Radio, his career allowing him to travel and investigate criminal activity. An adult daughter of Sivana's, Beautia, becomes an unwitting love interest for the shy Captain Marvel, despite her wavering allegiance to her evil father.
While the majority of Billy's adventures feature him as a solo hero, he also fought evil on a regular basis accompanied by several other kids who share his powers to make up a superhero team called the Marvel Family (later referred to as the Shazam Family due to the issues DC Comics faced over the "Marvel" and "Captain Marvel" trademarks). The first members of the family, introduced in Whiz Comics #21 (Sept. 1941) and used sparingly afterwards, were the Lieutenant Marvels: three other boys from various parts of the United States who are also named "Billy Batson" and discover that, if they all say "Shazam!" in unison, they can become adult superheroes as well.
In Whiz Comics #25 (Dec 1941), Captain Marvel saves Freddy Freeman, a boy who had been left for dead by the evil Captain Nazi, and does for Freddy what the wizard did for him. By speaking the name "Captain Marvel," Freddy can become the superpowered Captain Marvel, Jr.. Unlike Billy, Freddy retains his 14-year-old appearance as a superhero. Captain Marvel Adventures #18 (Dec. 1942) introduced Billy and Freddy to Mary Bromfield, a rich girl who turns out to be Billy's long-lost twin sister. By saying the magic word "Shazam," Mary Bromfield becomes Mary Marvel. In the Fawcett and pre-1986 DC stories, Mary remained a teenager as Freddy did in Marvel form; Ordway's 1990s Power of Shazam! series made her superpowered form an adult like Billy's. The Marvel Family also included non-powered honorary members such as Uncle Marvel, an old con man who pretended to be Mary's uncle, and Freckles Marvel, an honorary cousin.
Later DC origins
The basic elements of Billy Batson's and Captain Marvel's origin story remained more or less intact through 2012, with minor alterations over the years. Roy & Dann Thomas' 1987 miniseries Shazam! The New Beginning had a 15-year old Billy being forced to move in with Doctor Sivana, who in this version is the cruel uncle who throws Billy out into the street. Jerry Ordway's 1994 Power of Shazam! graphic novel, which became the character's definite origin through 2011, featured a ten-year-old Billy being chosen as the Wizard Shazam's champion, due to the influence of his archaeologist parents; the mysterious stranger from magic subway car is the ghost of Billy's father in this version. Both the Thomases' and Ordway's retellings of the origin directly tie the need for the Wizard Shazam to draft a younger replacement to the coming re-emergence of Black Adam, the wizard's first champion from the days of ancient Egypt who became evil and was due to escape thousands of years of banishment.
Ordway's origin added the extra element of Black Adam's alter ego/descendant Theo Adam being the murderer of Billy's parents. The subsequent Power of Shazam! ongoing series features Billy, now 14, meeting his long-lost sister Mary and best friend Freddy Freeman and establishing the Marvel Family as in the Fawcett comics. The Marvels' home base of Fawcett City is depicted as a city full of old-fashioned traditions and architecture, later establishing that the Wizard Shazam placed a spell on the city (broken in later issues) that slowed time to a crawl in 1955. This phenomenon was used to explain the Marvel Family's sometimes anachronistic approaches to life and heroism compared to many of their contemporary heroes in the DC Universe.
In 2012, writer and DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns revised Billy Batson's origin for DC's New 52 universe, also renaming the character's alter-ego as "Shazam" at this time. In his new origin story, Billy Batson is a moody and troubled 15-year-old foster child living in Philadelphia who has gone through several foster homes. At his newest foster home under Victor & Rosa Vázquez, Billy gains five foster siblings: "den mother" Mary Bromfield, trickster and pick-pocket Freddy Freeman, shy and quiet Pedro Peña, brainy Eugene Choi, and energetic Darla Dudley. When the evil Dr. Sivana unleashes the ancient magical warrior Black Adam from his tomb, the Wizard of the Rock of Eternity – the last of a council of beings who once controlled magic – begins abducting candidates to assess them for the job of being his champion. He dismisses each of them for not being pure of heart.
Eventually, the Wizard summons Billy, who is another unsuitable candidate, but Billy persuades the Wizard that perfectly good people "really don't exist," and that, while he himself tried to be good, the world dragged Billy down to its level. In desperation and seeing the "embers of good" within Billy, the dying Wizard passes on his powers and teaches Billy they can be accessed through the magic word "Shazam" when spoken with good intentions. After saying the magic word, Billy is struck by a bolt of lightning which transforms him into Shazam, a super-powered adult possessing super-strength, flight, and vast magical powers. The Wizard dies and Shazam is transported back to Earth, where Billy reveals his new secret to Freddy. The two scheme to make money and score beer with Shazam's new powers, but Shazam is instead led to crime scenes where he is needed as a hero. Shazam and Freddy have a falling out when Shazam refuses to change back into Billy, and as soon as Freddy heads back home, Shazam is attacked by Black Adam. Billy is saved only by mending his relationships with Freddy, Mary, Eugene, Pedro, and Darla. When Adam again attacks, unleashing the Seven Deadly Sins on downtown Philadelphia and threatening to kill the other kids, Billy shares his powers with them, who all become magic-powered adult superheroes (save for Darla, who remains a child). Ultimately, Billy goads Adam into saying the magic word and transforming into his human form, at which point he promptly turns to dust. Although he'd contemplated running away, Billy decides to stay with his new family, having learned to be a better and more open person.
Commencing the "Trinity War" storyline, Billy flies to Black Adam's home nation of Kahndaq to bury Adam's remains. Shazam's entry into the country is interpreted by the locals as illegal US entry into their territory. This leads to run-ins with both the independent Justice League and the US-sponsored Justice League of America (JLA), and a series of events that see the opening of Pandora's Box, a portal to Earth-3 which brings the evil Justice League analogues of the Crime Syndicate to Earth-0. Following the successful defeat of the Crime Syndicate, Shazam is inducted into the League. While still a newcomer to the league, Billy has a number of new adventures while under the mentorship of Cyborg, who becomes one of his best friends
Powers and abilities
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The character obtains powers through a transformation from a human persona into a superpowered entity. When the human persona, Billy Batson, says the magic word "Shazam!", he becomes the superpowered Captain Marvel/Shazam.
Though the link to the specific mythological figures is de-emphasized in some modern-day stories, traditionally the letters in the name Shazam each represent a specific superhuman ability:
|S||for the Wisdom of Solomon||As Captain Marvel/Shazam, Billy has instant access to a vast amount of scholarly knowledge and objective. He possesses an excellent mental acuity and nearly infallible wisdom, including an innate understanding of most known languages and sciences. He also has a great understanding of divine phenomena in the mortal world. The wisdom of Solomon provides him with counsel and advice in times of need. In early Captain Marvel stories, Solomon's power also gave Marvel the ability to hypnotize people.|
|H||for the Strength of Hercules||Hercules' power grants Captain Marvel/Shazam superhuman strength comparable to that of the legendary demigod, making him one of DC Comics' strongest characters. He is able to easily bend steel in his bare hands, do the work of several laborers in half the time, toss semi trucks high into the air, punch through walls, and lift massive objects. In the comics, this strength has been compared to that of Superman and other godlike superheroes and villains. The strength of the Golden Age Captain Marvel was unlimited, and the character was strong enough to move stars and planets.|
|A||for the Stamina of Atlas||Using Atlas' stamina, Captain Marvel/Shazam can withstand and survive most types of extreme physical assaults, and heal from them within seconds without any seeming discomfort. The stamina of Atlas also prevents him from getting tired and provides him with a supernaturally endowed metabolism preventing fatigue, thirst and hunger.|
|Z||for the Power of Zeus||Zeus' power, besides fueling the magic thunderbolt that transforms Captain Marvel/Shazam, also enhances Marvel's other physical and mental abilities, and grants him resistance against all magic spells and attacks. The hero can use the lightning bolt as a weapon by dodging it and allowing it to strike an opponent or other target. The magic lightning has several uses, such as creating apparatus, restoring damage done to the hero, and providing fuel for magic spells. The current-continuity version of Shazam is able to personally generate and control lightning for various uses. He also can use it readily from his fingertips.|
|A||for the Courage of Achilles||This aspect is mostly psychological and spiritual in nature. The courage of Achilles gives Captain Marvel/Shazam the courage and bravery of the legendary Greek hero. In one story it is claimed to also give him fighting skills. In the Trials of Shazam! miniseries, this was changed temporarily to Achilles' near-invulnerability. It also aids the hero's mental fortitude against most mental attacks.|
|M||for the Speed of Mercury||By channeling Mercury's speed, Captain Marvel/Shazam can move at superhuman speeds and fly, although in older comics he could only leap great distances. The Captain Marvel of pre-1985 stories was also able to travel to the Rock of Eternity by flying faster than the speed of light.|
In classic stories, simply saying the word "Shazam!" transformed Billy into Captain Marvel and back again, a caveat that extended to accidental utterances, recorded playbacks, and so forth. When Captain Marvel shared his powers with his Marvel/Shazam Family teammates, it was depicted as a finite source which would be divided into halves, thirds, or further depending upon how many Marvels were super-powered at one time, and weakening them accordingly.
Captain Marvel/Shazam is not completely invulnerable. In several stories, he is shown to be susceptible to high-powered magic, which can weaken or de-power him, and, in some older stories, to significantly high voltages of lightning or electricity, which would revert him back to Billy Batson form. Later depictions also show his childlike innocence and immaturity to be a significant weakness.
In the late 2000s, when Billy replaced the wizard and took on a white costume and the name of "Marvel", he commanded the various magical abilities once owned by the wizard. However, he was required to remain on the Rock of Eternity and could only be away from it for 24 hours at a time.
Since the 2011 reboot, Shazam's powers have been slightly altered. Speaking the magic word word "Shazam" does not cause a transformation if Billy does not want it to, and can be used to cast magic spells other than the transformation. Shazam is able to use and manipulate magical lightning much more readily from his fingertips. He can share his magical powers and bestow unique powers onto members of his family, "family" in this case extending to chosen and foster relations, without weakening himself. Shazam also demonstrates the ability to use magic in as-yet-unexplored ways, on one occasion using it to conjure items.
A significant number of "alternate" depictions of Shazam/Captain Marvel have appeared in DC publications since the 1970s.
Captain Thunder (1974)
In Superman #276 (June 1974), Superman found himself at odds with "Captain Thunder", a superhero displaced from another Earth and another time. Thunder had been magically tricked by his archenemies in the Monster League of Evil into, and thus into doing battle with Superman. Captain Thunder, whose name was derived from Captain Marvel's original moniker, was a thinly veiled pastiche of Marvel—down to his similar costume, his young alter ego named "Willie Fawcett" (a reference to the publisher of the original Captain Marvel stories, Fawcett Comics), and a magic word ("Thunder!"), which was an acronym for seven entities and their respective powers. He got his power from rubbing a magic belt buckle with a thunder symbol on it and saying "Thunder". His powers came from Tornado (power), Hare (speed), Uncas (bravery), Nature (wisdom), Diamond (toughness), Eagle (flight), and Ram (tenacity). Superman held him while he used his wisdom to escape the effects of the spell.
At the time of Superman #276, DC had been publishing Shazam! comics for two years, but had kept that universe separate from those of its other publications. The real Captain Marvel would finally meet Superman in Justice League of America #137, two years later (although he met Lex Luthor in Shazam! #15, November/December 1974).
Captain Thunder (1982)
In 1983, a proposal for an updated Captain Marvel was submitted to DC by Roy Thomas, Don Newton, and Jerry Ordway. This version of the character, to be an inhabitant of DC's main Earth-One universe, rather than the Fawcett-based Earth-S universe, would have featured an African-American version of Billy Batson named "Willie Fawcett" (as in the 1974 story), who spoke the magic word "Shazam!" to become Captain Thunder, Earth-One's Mightiest Mortal. This alternate version of the character was never used.
Captain Thunder (2011): Flashpoint
The 2011 Flashpoint miniseries featured an alternate timeline accidentally created by the Flash, who then helped the heroes of this timeline to restore history. One of those heroes is Captain Thunder – an alternative version of Captain Marvel who has six alter-egos, rather than one, and a scarred face as the result of a fight with Wonder Woman, who in this timeline is a villain.
The six children, collectively known as "S.H.A.Z.A.M.", each possess one of the six attributes of the power of Shazam, and must say the magic word together to become Captain Thunder. They are: an Asian-American boy named Eugene Choi, who possesses the wisdom of Solomon; an overweight Hispanic boy named Pedro Peña, who possesses the strength of Hercules; the Caucasians Mary Batson, Freddy Freeman and Billy Batson, who possess the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, and the courage of Achilles, respectively; and an African-American girl named Darla Dudley who possesses the speed of Mercury. Pedro's pet tiger Tawny also transforms into a more powerful version of himself via the magic lightning.
The six children later transform into Captain Thunder to help Flash and his allies stop the war between Aquaman's Atlantean army and Wonder Woman's Amazonian forces. Captain Thunder briefly fights Wonder Woman to a draw before being transformed back into the six children by Flash's accomplice Enchantress, who is revealed to be a traitor. Before the kids can re-form Captain Thunder, Billy is stabbed by the Amazon Penthesileia and killed.
After the conclusion of the Flashpoint miniseries, the three new children from the Flashpoint timeline – Eugene, Pedro, and Darla – were incorporated into the DC Universe via the Shazam! backup strip in Justice League, appearing as Billy, Mary, and Freddy's foster siblings.
In the alternate universe Elseworlds book Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl (1998), the current Captain Marvel is depicted as a bald African American man; in a flashback to the older Justice Society, he appears as Captain Marvel typically has, leading to the conclusion that there were two Captain Marvels.
The Dark Knight Strikes Again
In the dark alternate future shown in The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Captain Marvel is visibly aged, with receding white hair and glasses. Lex Luthor, who has captured Mary Marvel, coerces him into working for him by threatening to kill her. During an alien attack on Metropolis, Marvel is trapped underneath a collapsing building with no way out, and admits that Billy Batson – here, clearly defined as a separate person from Marvel, rather than simply transforming into him – died eight years ago of unspecified health problems. As a result, when he next speaks his word, he will cease to exist, like any dream that no longer has anyone to remember it. His last words to Wonder Woman are to give everyone his best, noting that it was nice existing, before he calls down his lightning and destroys himself.
Superman: Distant Fires
In the dark alternate future of Superman: Distant Fires, where most of humanity has been destroyed in nuclear war, Billy Batson becomes obsessed with Wonder Woman when they become part of a small community of survivors of the holocaust, with most of the surviving superhumans having lost their powers or dealing with altered abilities. When the now-powerless Clark Kent joins their community, Batson's resentment of Superman becomes insanity, as he provokes his transformation into Captain Marvel despite use of this power causing damage to Earth.
The graphic novel Kingdom Come depicts a possible future of the DC characters. In this version, Billy Batson is an adult who now matches the appearance of his superhero identity. The human hostility towards superheroes has made him uneasy, and he has not transformed into Captain Marvel for several years. Batson has become the brainwashed servant of Lex Luthor, who uses Mister Mind's offspring to keep him in check and bend him to his will. Nevertheless, Batson's potential as a being powerful enough to rival Superman causes many others to react in fear and unease when he mingles with them, believing it is a non-costumed Captain Marvel that serves Luthor.
Events finally cause him to transform into Captain Marvel, and he unleashes a force that could destroy the world. When the authorities try to stop it by dropping a nuclear bomb, Captain Marvel – spurred by Superman telling him that due to his ties to both humanity and the superhuman community, he is the only one capable of making the choice – triggers his lightning to sacrifice himself and destroy the bomb while it is still airborne. The nuclear blast still kills a large number of heroes, but does cool the war-like attitudes of the survivors. Superman uses Marvel's cape as the symbol of a new world order in which humans and superhumans will now live in harmony.
In the final issue of the maxi-series 52 (#52, May 2, 2007), a new Multiverse is revealed, originally consisting of 52 identical realities, one of which is designated Earth-5. As a result of Marvel Family foe Mister Mind "eating" aspects of this reality, it takes on visual aspects similar to the pre-Crisis Earth-S, including the Marvel Family characters.
The Earth-5 Captain Marvel and Billy Batson appeared, assisting Superman, in the Final Crisis: Superman Beyond miniseries. The miniseries established that these versions of Captain Marvel and Billy are two separate beings, and that Billy is a reporter for WHIZ Media, rather than a radio broadcaster. The Earth-5 Captain Marvel reappeared in Final Crisis #7, along with an army of Supermen from across the Multiverse to prevent its destruction by Darkseid. Following The New 52 Multiverse reboot, Earth-5 remains a Fawcett Comics-inspired setting, and is spotlighted in the comic book The Multiversity: Thunderworld #1 (Feb 2015), a modernized take on the classic Fawcett Captain Marvel stories from writer Grant Morrison and artist Cameron Stewart.
Justice League: Generation Lost
A female version of Captain Marvel is shown as a member of an alternate-future Justice League in Justice League: Generation Lost. Little is revealed about her, other than the fact that her civilian name is Sahar Shazeen, and she is shown wielding a pair of swords during battle. She and her teammates are ultimately killed by an army of Omni Mind And Community (OMACs).
Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil
A second Captain Marvel miniseries, Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil, written and illustrated by Jeff Smith (creator of Bone), was published in four 48-page installments between February and July 2007. Smith's Shazam! miniseries, in the works since 2003, is a more traditional take on the character, which updates and reimagines Captain Marvel's origin. Smith's story features a younger-looking Billy Batson and Captain Marvel as separate personalities, as they were in the pre-1985 stories, and features a prepubescent Mary Marvel as Captain Marvel's sidekick, instead of the traditional teen-aged or adult version. Dr. Sivana is Attorney General of the United States, and Mister Mind looks more like a snake than a caterpillar.
Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!
An all-ages Captain Marvel comic, Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!, debuted in July 2008 under DC's Johnny DC youth-oriented imprint, and was published monthly through December 2010. Following the lead and continuity of Smith's version, it was initially written and drawn by Mike Kunkel, creator of Herobear. Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani, of Tiny Titans, took over as writers with issue #5, with Byron Vaughns as main artist until issue #13, when Mike Norton assumed his place for the remainder of the series. Kunkel's version returns to the modern concept of having Captain Marvel retain Billy's personality, and also introduces new versions of Black Adam (whose alter ego, Theo Adam, is a child like Billy Batson in this version), King Kull, the Arson Fiend, and Freddy Freeman/Captain Marvel, Jr.
Mazahs is a corrupted alternate-universe version of Shazam, introduced in the 2013–14 Forever Evil DC Comics crossover event series. He is the super-powered alter-ego of Alexander Luthor of Earth-3. In the story, the Crime Syndicate (evil Earth-3 analogues of the Justice League) have brought Alexander Luthor, their prisoner, with them to the Prime Earth where the Justice League and other heroes reside. Prime Earth's Lex Luthor and his team sneak in to the Justice League Watchtower where the Syndicate has Alexander hostage, and remove the duct tape over his mouth, allowing Alexander to speak the magic word "Mazahs!" and transform into his muscular, highly powerful alter-ego. While Prime Earth's Shazam is known for sharing his powers with others, Mazahs kills other superbeings and takes their powers for his own, as when he kills the Syndicate's speedster Johnny Quick. In the final issue of the series, it is revealed that Earth-3's Wonder Woman analogue, Superwoman, is in a relationship with Alexander and tricked her teammates into bringing him with them. She also reveals she is carrying his child, who is prophesied to bring an end to the world. Exploiting his ability to use the powers of those he has killed, Mazahs easily takes down both the Syndicate and Luthor's team, but Prime Earth Lex Luthor (having the same voice as Mazahs) manages to call down the lightning, using a lightning-rod that Batman had retrieved to try and use against Johnny Quick based on his planned defense against the Flash, and transform Mazahs into his human form. Sealing Alexander's mouth, Lex stabs him with a knife, killing him.
Superwoman later gives birth to Mazahs's child in Justice League #50, and uses the baby's power-stealing abilities - inherited from his father and by her using his magic word—to remove abilities the members the Prime-Earth Justice League had inherited from their time on Apokolips after the death of Darkseid. The story ends with the orphaned baby having absorbed both the Omega Effect from Lex Luthor as well as the Anti-Life Equation from Justice League associate Steve Trevor, transforming him into a resurrected—yet still infantile—Darkseid.
Injustice: Gods Among Us
In the prequel comic to the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us, Shazam joins Superman's Regime in establishing a new approach to ending crime. Similar to the Golden Age version, this Shazam is suggested to have two personalities: Billy Batson is a separate person from Shazam. In Year One he, like the Flash, is somewhat skeptical of Superman's intentions, as his actions are often immoral; one chapter particularly focuses on his contradicting views on the matter. Ultimately, Shazam decides to stay and support the Regime, devoted to its cause. Years Two and Three see him helping to fight, respectively, the Green Lantern Corps and the magic users that Batman recruits for his Insurgency. He becomes the object of Harley Quinn's affection, being bound and gagged by her in Year Four. He is freed by Ares to join the Regime in combating the Amazon army and Greek gods, but just when they seem to be winning Zeus strips him of his powers, reverting him to Billy permanently. He, Harley (for trying to help him), and Hippolyta are sent to Tartarus as punishment, though they escape and Billy is left out of the conflict without his powers. Eventually, Zeus is forced to return Billy's power after the Highfather intervenes in the conflict. In Year Five Shazam's relationship with Harley is complicated when she confronts him about being in the Regime despite their growing tyranny, Shazam defending his presence with the Insurgency by arguing that he acts as a moral compass to stop the others going too far.
In game, Captain Marvel appears with the Flash in Atlantis to discuss the treaty between the city and the regime with Aquaman. They are instead confronted by an alternate version of the sea king and are both defeated in the ensuing battle. Captain Marvel is later seen fighting the resistance and stops Lex Luthor from using a kryptonite laser to kill Superman, enabling the latter to kill him in retribution. Later at the Fortress of Solitude, Batson speaks out against Superman's plans to wipe out other cities, stating that the Regime has finally gotten out of hand. Superman soon kills him with his heat vision, challenging anyone else to oppose him before his body is taken away by Solomon Grundy.
In the traditional Shazam! stories, Captain Marvel often fights evil as a member of a superhero team known as the Marvel Family, made up of himself and several other heroes: the wizard Shazam, who empowers the team; Captain Marvel's sister Mary Marvel; and Marvel's protégé, Captain Marvel, Jr. Before the Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries in 1985, the Marvel Family also included part-time members such as Mary's non-powered friend "Uncle" Dudley (Uncle Marvel) and a team of protégés (all of whose alter egos are named "Billy Batson") known as the Lieutenant Marvels. A pink rabbit version of Captain Marvel, Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, appeared in his own stories featuring a funny-animal cast.
The current-continuity version of Shazam has a Shazam Family made up of his five foster siblings, with whom he can share his powers at will: Mary Batson, Freddy Freeman, Pedro Peña, Eugene Choi, and Darla Dudley. Shazam can also share his powers with Tawny, a tiger at the local city zoo whom he considers family.
The Marvel Family's non-powered allies have traditionally included Dr. Sivana's good-natured adult offspring, Beautia and Magnificus Sivana; Mister "Tawky" Tawny the talking tiger; WHIZ radio president and Billy's employer Sterling Morris; and Billy's girlfriend Cissie Sommerly. The 1970s Shazam! series also included Sunny Sparkle, the "nicest boy in the world." Jerry Ordway's 1990s Power of Shazam! series also introduced Billy's school principal Miss Wormwood and Mary's adoptive parents Nick and Nora Bromfield.
Over the course of his adventures, Captain Marvel has gained an extensive rogues gallery, the most infamous of whom include the evil mad scientist Doctor Thaddeus Bodog Sivana; the Sivana Family comprising Sivana's two younger children, Georgia and Sivana Jr.; Shazam's corrupted previous champion Black Adam, who has powers from Egyptian gods; Adolf Hitler's champion Captain Nazi; and the mind-controlling worm, Mister Mind, and his Monster Society of Evil.
Other Marvel Family foes include the evil robot Mister Atom; the "World's Mightiest Immortal" Oggar, a god with magical powers who had been a former pupil of Shazam; Aunt Minerva, a female bank robber and gangster inspired by Ma Barker; King Kull, an intelligent, immortal caveman; and Ibac and Sabbac, demon-powered supervillains who transform by speaking magic words made up of beings who give them power in a manner similar to Captain Marvel.
Many of the character's appearances have been collected into several volumes:
- Special Edition Series: Book 1 - Whiz Comics (1974, DynaPubs). This softcover volume features Golden Age adventures of Captain Marvel from Whiz Comics #7-28 in black & white. 8 1/2-in. x 11-in., 208 pages.
- Special Edition Series: Book 3 - Captain Marvel Jr. (1975, DynaPubs). This softcover volume reprints Captain Marvel Jr. stories from Master Comics #27-42 in black & white. Four covers are featured in full color on the back cover. 8 1/2-in. x 11-in., 208 pages.
- Shazam! From the Forties to the Seventies (1977, Harmony Books, ISBN 0-517-53127-5). Hardcover collection reprinting 37 Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel, Jr., Mary Marvel, and Marvel Family stories from the original Fawcett comics and DC's 1970s Shazam! series in black & white, with some color pages. Stories by Bill Parker, Otto Binder, and others; art by C. C. Beck, Marc Swayze, Mac Raboy, Kurt Shaffenberger, and others. Introduction by E. Nelson Bridwell. 352 pages.
- The Monster Society of Evil: Deluxe Limited Collector's Edition (1989, American Nostalgia Library, ISBN 0-948248-07-6). Compiled and designed by Mike Higgs. Reprints the entire "Monster Society of Evil" story arc that ran for two years in Captain Marvel Adventures #22–46 (1943–1945), in which Captain Marvel meets Mister Mind and his Monster Society of Evil. This oversized, slipcased hardcover book was strictly limited to 3,000 numbered copies.
- The Shazam! Archives, Volumes 1–4 (1992, ISBN 1-56389-053-4; 1998, ISBN 1-56389-521-8; 2002, ISBN 1-56389-832-2; 2005, ISBN 1-4012-0160-1). Hardcover volumes reprinting Captain Marvel's adventures from his earliest Fawcett appearances in titles such as Whiz Comics, Master Comics, and Captain Marvel Adventures from 1940 to 1942. Stories by Bill Parker, Ed Herron, and others; art by C. C. Beck, Pete Costanza, Mac Raboy, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, George Tuska, and others.
- The Shazam! Family Archives Volume 1 (2006, ISBN 1-4012-0779-0). This spin-off volume features the adventures of Captain Marvel, Jr., from Master Comics #23–32 and Captain Marvel, Jr. #1, as well as the origin of Mary Marvel from Captain Marvel Adventures #18. Stories by various writers; art by Mac Raboy, Al Carreno, Marc Swayze, and C. C. Beck.
- Shazam! and the Shazam Family! Annual No. 1 (2002). An 80-Page Giant-style, squarebound paperback collection reprinting several Golden Age Marvel Family adventures from Captain Marvel Adventures #18 (December 1942), Captain Marvel, Jr. #12 (October 1943), and The Marvel Family #1 (December 1945) and #10 (April 1947), including the first appearances of Mary Marvel and Black Adam. Stories by Otto Binder; art by C. C. Beck, Pete Costanza, Mac Raboy, Marc Swayze, Bud Thompson, and Jack Binder.
- Showcase Presents: Shazam! Volume 1 (2006, ISBN 1-4012-1089-9). A 500-page trade paperback featuring black-and-white reprints of stories from the 1970s Shazam! ongoing series, collecting only the new material that was published (and not the Golden Age reprints) in issues #1–33. Written by Dennis O'Neil, E. Nelson Bridwell, and Elliott Maggin; art by C. C. Beck, Kurt Schaffenberger, Dave Cockrum, Dick Giordano, and others.
- The Trials of Shazam!, Volumes 1 –2 (2007, ISBN 1-4012-1331-6; 2008, ISBN 1-4012-1829-6). Volume 1 reprints Trials of Shazam! #1-6 and a short story from DCU Brave New World #1. Volume 2 reprints #7-12.
- Shazam! The Greatest Stories Ever Told (2008, ISBN 1-4012-1674-9). A compilation featuring Captain Marvel stories collected from the Fawcett publications Whiz Comics #2; Captain Marvel Adventures #1, 137, 148; The Marvel Family #21, 85; and the DC publications Shazam! #1, 14; DC Comics Presents Annual #3; Superman #276; L.E.G.I.O.N. '91 #31; The Power of Shazam! #33; and Adventures in the DC Universe #15. An expanded anthology, Shazam! A Celebration of 75 Years, (ISBN 1-4012-5538-8) was published in hardcover format in 2015.
- Superman vs. Shazam! (2013, ISBN 1-4012-3821-1). A compilation featuring past team-ups between The Man of Steel and the World’s Mightiest Mortal in this collection also featuring Mr. Mxyzptlk, Mr. Mind, Captain Nazi, Black Adam and more. Collects All-New Collector’s Edition C-58, DC Comics Presents #33-34 and #49, and DC Comics Presents Annual #3.
- Shazam! Vol. 1 (2013, ISBN 978-1-4012-4244-2). Compiles the revised New 52 origins of Billy Batson and Shazam from backup features originally printed in Justice League Vol. 2 #0, 7–11, 14–16, 18–21. Story by Geoff Johns, art by Gary Frank.
In other media
The first filmed adaptation of Captain Marvel was produced in 1941. Adventures of Captain Marvel, starring Tom Tyler in the title role and Frank Coghlan, Jr. as Billy Batson, was a 12-part film serial produced by Republic Pictures. This production made Captain Marvel the first superhero to be depicted in film. The Adventures of Captain Marvel (for which the man-in-flight effects techniques were originally developed for a Superman film serial that Republic never produced) predated Fleischer Studios' Superman cartoons by six months.
In 1950, Columbia Pictures released the comedy/mystery The Good Humor Man with Jack Carson, Lola Albright, and George Reeves. The storyline has Carson as an ice cream vendor who also belongs to a home-grown Captain Marvel Club with some of the kids in the neighborhood. Fawcett released a tie-in one-shot the same year the movie appeared, Captain Marvel and the Good Humor Man.
DC Extended Universe
New Line Cinema began development of a Shazam! live-action feature film in the early 2000s, with multiple screenplay drafts by William Goldman, the team of Alec Sokolow & Joel Cohen, Bryan Goluboff, and John August. Peter Segal was attached as director and former wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was in talks to appear as Black Adam. New Line Cinema was absorbed into Warner Bros. during the course of pre-production. Following the success of Warner's film noir-inspired Batman film The Dark Knight and the commercial failure of its lighter, family-friendly Speed Racer during the summer of 2008, August departed from the project after being forced to make the film's script more in line with The Dark Knight's serious tone. In the summer of 2009, it was announced that Bill Birch and JSA/52 co-author Geoff Johns were assigned to write the screenplay, while Segal remained attached as director. In August 2010, Los Angeles Times columnist Geoff Boucher reported that discussions had begun to possibly cancel the theatrical Shazam! film and do a live-action series for prime time network television instead; by December 2013, Segal reported that the film would not be happening. However, on April 28, 2014, The Wall Street Journal revealed an upcoming slate of Warner Bros. films based on DC Comics properties, including a Shazam! film to be potentially released in 2016.
Dwayne Johnson confirmed the project and his attachment on August 20, 2014, officially announcing his casting as Black Adam on September 3, 2014. Shazam!, still a New Line Cinema production being released through Warner Bros, is being executive produced by Toby Emmerich. Screenwriter Darren Lenke, of Jack the Giant Slayer and Turbo, was hired to write the script. Emmerich told Entertainment Weekly in an interview that the film will have a tone unto itself separate from the concurrent Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice film; with a sense of fun and humor, but with real stakes and an anti-hero version of Black Adam. On October 15, 2014, Warner Bros. announced Shazam! for a 2019 release as the ninth installment of the DC Extended Universe. Actors Derek Theler and Alan Ritchson expressed interest in the role of Shazam.
In January 2017, DC and New Line Cinema announced that the Shazam! film would be developed as two films rather than one, adding a Black Adam solo film which will star Dwayne Johnson to its development schedule. As a result, neither Johnson nor Black Adam will appear in the first Shazam! film. In February, Henry Gayden announced that he is now writing the film, and in July, David F. Sandberg was confirmed as director of Shazam! On October 27, 2017, Zachary Levi was cast in the title role, and Asher Angel was cast as Billy Batson a week later on November 6. Later in November, Grace Fulton was cast as Mary Bromfield, while Mark Strong entered negotiations to play the film's main villain, Doctor Sivana. Strong would later confirm his casting in January 2018. In December, Jack Dylan Grazer was cast as Freddy Freeman, with Ian Chen as Eugene Choi, Jovan Armand as Pedro Peña, and Cooper Andrews as Victor Vázquez, the kids' foster father. In late December, Faithe Herman was cast as Darla Dudley, and her This Is Us co-star, Ron Cephas Jones, was cast as the Wizard Shazam a month later.
Shazam! began filming in Ontario, Canada, primarily at the Pinewood Toronto Studios, on January 29, 2018, with production continuing until May 2018. The film is scheduled to be released on April 5, 2019 by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Direct-to-video animated films
Captain Marvel's first appearance in Warner Bros. Animation's line of DC Universe Animated Original Movies direct-to-video films was a brief cameo in 2008's Justice League: The New Frontier. The character had a more substantial role in the 2009 animated film Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, based on a Superman/Batman comic book arc in which Marvel battles Superman under orders from United States President Lex Luthor. Captain Marvel was voiced by Corey Burton. An uncredited Rachael MacFarlane voiced Billy Batson.
An evil version of Captain Marvel, named "Captain Super", has a minor role in the 2010 animated film Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. One of the film's main villains, and Captain Super's superior, is Superwoman of the Crime Syndicate of the alternate universe Earth-3, who in this film is an evil counterpart of Mary Marvel.
Captain Marvel appears in a animated short film entitled Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, released on the DC Showcase Original Shorts Collection DVD compilation as part of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies, 2010. Jerry O'Connell returns from the Justice League Unlimited animated TV show as the voice of Captain Marvel, with Billy Batson voiced by Zach Callison.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, the 2013 animated adaptation of the alternate-universe comics story Flashpoint features Captain Thunder and the S! H! A! Z! A! M! kids as supporting characters. Pedro Peña and Billy Batson are voiced by Candi Milo and Jennifer Hale respectively, with Captain Thunder voiced by Steven Blum.
In 2014, the character – now renamed Shazam – appeared in the animated film Justice League: War. Zach Callison reprised his role as Billy Batson, and Shazam is voiced by Sean Astin. Billy is depicted as living in a foster home with Freddy (voiced by Georgie Kidder) and Darla (voiced by Kimberly Brooks). A fan of high school football star Vic Stone (aka Cyborg), Billy gets to work alongside his hero as Shazam to help the Justice League fight Darkseid. Shazam also appears in the sequel, Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015), voiced again by Sean Astin. He does not appear in the animated film Justice League vs. Teen Titans (2016), although his absence is mentioned by other Justice League members.
Captain Marvel first came to television in 1974. Filmation produced Shazam!, a live-action television show, which ran from 1974 to 1977 on CBS. From 1975 until the end of its run, it aired as one-half of The Shazam!/Isis Hour, featuring Filmation's own The Secrets of Isis as a companion program.
Instead of directly following the lead of the comics, the Shazam! TV show took a more indirect approach to the character: Billy Batson/Captain Marvel, accompanied by an older man known simply as Mentor (Les Tremayne), traveled in a motor home across the US, interacting with people in different towns in which they stopped to save the citizens from some form of danger or to help them combat some form of evil. With the wizard Shazam absent from this series, Billy received his powers and counsel directly from the six "immortal elders" represented in the "Shazam" name, who were depicted via animation: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. Shazam! starred Michael Gray as Billy Batson, with both Jackson Bostwick (season 1) and John Davey (seasons 2 and 3) as Captain Marvel. An adapted version of Isis, the heroine of The Secrets of Isis, was introduced into DC Comics in 2006 as Black Adam's wife in the weekly comic book series 52.
Shortly after the Shazam! show ended its network run, Captain Marvel (played by Garrett Craig) appeared as a character in a pair of low-budget, live-action comedy specials, produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions under the name Legends of the Superheroes in 1979. The specials also featured Howard Morris as Doctor Sivana, and Ruth Buzzi as Aunt Minerva, marking the first appearance of those characters in film or television. Although Captain Marvel did not appear in Hanna-Barbera's long-running concurrent Saturday morning cartoon series Super Friends (which featured many of the other DC superheroes), he did appear in some of the merchandise associated with the show.
Filmation revisited the character three years later for an animated Shazam! cartoon program, which ran on NBC from 1981 to 1982 as part of The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam! accompanied by Hero High Captain Marvel and Billy Batson were both voiced by Burr Middleton. The rest of the Marvel Family joined Captain Marvel on his adventures in this series, which were more similar to his comic-book adventures than the 1970s TV show. Dr. Sivana, Mr. Mind, Black Adam, and other familiar Captain Marvel foes appeared as enemies.
Captain Marvel and/or Billy Batson made brief "cameo" appearances in two 1990s TV series. Billy has a non-speaking cameo in the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Obsession", while live actors portraying Captain Marvel make "cameo" appearances in both a dream-sequence within an episode of The Drew Carey Show, and in the Beastie Boys' music video for "Alive".
Due to development of the Shazam! feature film at New Line Cinema, the rights to use the Shazam! characters in the DC animated universe series productions produced by Bruce Timm and/or Paul Dini were complicated by licensing issues. A planned Superman vs. Captain Marvel fight for the Kids' WB animated show Superman: The Animated Series circa 2000 went un-produced, as did a proposed Shazam! series for Cartoon Network pitched by Paul Dini and Alex Ross at about the same time.
Captain Marvel's first formal appearance in a DCAU production was as the main guest star character of the Justice League Unlimited episode "Clash", originally aired in 2005 on Cartoon Network. Captain Marvel was voiced by Jerry O'Connell, and Billy Batson by Shane Haboucha. In this episode, Captain Marvel joins the Justice League, but his positive opinions about supervillain Lex Luthor's apparent reform create a heavy strain on his relationship with Superman. This tension eventually leads to an all-out battle between Marvel and Superman.
Later, Captain Marvel made seven appearances in Cartoon Network's Batman: The Brave and the Bold series, which ran from 2010 to 2013. Captain Marvel voiced by Jeff Bennett and Billy Batson by Tara Strong. Two second-season episodes of Brave and the Bold are dedicated to Captain Marvel's world and supporting cast. "The Power of Shazam!" featured Captain Marvel/Billy Batson alongside the Sivana Family, Black Adam, the wizard Shazam, Aunt Minerva, and Mary Batson, while "The Malicious Mr. Mind" featured the Marvel Family (Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel, Jr.), Sivana, Mr. Mind, and the Monster Society of Evil.
Captain Marvel also appeared as a recurring character in the DC Comics-based series Young Justice, which ran on Cartoon Network from 2011 to 2013 and will return in 2019 on a DC-branded streaming app. Captain Marvel is voiced by Rob Lowe and later by Chad Lowe, while Billy Batson is voiced by Robert Ochoa. Depicted as a member of the Justice League, Marvel is introduced as the team's new "den mother" in the episode "Alpha Male" after Red Tornado's disappearance. At various times, he sometimes joins the teenage heroes of Young Justice on their missions. Billy is 10 years old in his season 1 appearances, and 15 in season 2 which takes place five years later.
Following the character's name change, Shazam, Billy Batson, and several of their supporting characters appear in three one-minute Shazam! DC Nation cartoon shorts produced in 2014 as interstitials for Cartoon Network's Saturday morning programming. Featuring designs inspired by the 1930s Fleischer Studios Popeye cartoons, the three shorts — "Courage", "Wisdom", and "Stamina" — feature Tara Strong reprising her role as the voice of Billy Batson and David Kaye voicing Shazam. Shazam! - Stamina was nominated for the 2015 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Class - Short Format Daytime Program.
Shazam appears as a recurring character in the current Cartoon Network animated TV series Justice League Action, which debuted in 2016. Shazam and Billy Batson are both voiced by Sean Astin. Billy Batson/Shazam first appears in "Classic Rock" where he is summoned by the Wizard to help fight Black Adam at the Rock of Eternity. In the episode "Abate and Switch," Batman brings Billy Batson to where the Justice League are fighting Black Adam and Brothers Djinn members Abnegazar, Rath, and Nyorlath. He also appears in the episode "Captain Bamboozled" with Uncle Dudley, voiced by Sean Astin's father John Astin.
Captain Marvel made his first official video game appearance as a playable character in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, played by Stephan Scalabrino and voiced by Kevin Delaney, for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 game consoles. In the story, Captain Marvel is among several DC superheroes teleported to the Mortal Kombat video game universe when the two universes merge, and characters from each franchise are forced to do battle. He also appears as a "jump-in" hero character in the Wii/Nintendo DS adaptations of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, voiced by Jeff Bennett.
Other appearances by Captain Marvel in console games available on multiple platforms included LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (voiced by Travis Willingham), and as a playable character in Infinite Crisis (voiced by Jerry O'Connell). He also appears in the online role-playing game DC Universe Online.
As Shazam, the hero appears as a playable fighter in Injustice: Gods Among Us, voiced by Joey Naber. The video game's story depicts Superman becoming a tyrant, with his own Regime of heroes against an Insurgency led by Batman. Shazam joins Superman's Regime, but ultimately turns against Superman and is murdered by him. His death eventually convinced Flash, then followed by Hal Jordan in the end of Regime. He is mentioned, but does not appear in, the sequel, Injustice 2.
Shazam reappears as a playable character in LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, where he is able to change into Billy Batson and back at will. This time, Shazam is instantly on the console versions without downloadable content.
Shazam appears as a playable character in DC Unchained.
In about 1943, a radio serial of Captain Marvel was briefly broadcast (possibly by either Mutual or NBC) initially with Burt Boyar as Billy Batson. According to Boyar's faint memories in a 2011 interview, the show was initially produced in New York but after about a month relocated to Chicago; no further details about the show or transcripts of it survived. Existence of the show was confirmed by historian Jim Harmon via recollections of old time radio fans who recalled hearing it during original broadcasts, plus locating period program listings.
In 1943, C. C. Beck and writer Rod Reed prepared seven sample installments of a comic strip, but syndicates expressed no interest in it. Reed suspected that the DC lawsuit was the syndicates' reason, for fear of becoming parties in the ongoing litigation.
Captain Marvel vs. Superman in fiction
Captain Marvel's adventures have contributed a number of elements to both comic book culture and pop culture in general. The most notable contribution is the regular use of Superman and Captain Marvel as adversaries in Modern Age comic book stories. The two are often portrayed as equally matched and, while Marvel does not possess Superman's heat vision, x-ray vision or breath powers, the magic-based nature of his own powers are a weakness for Superman.
The National Comics/Fawcett Comics rivalry was parodied in "Superduperman", a satirical comic book story by Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood in the fourth issue of Mad (April/May 1953). Superduperman, endowed with muscles on muscles, does battle with Captain Marbles, a Captain Marvel caricature. Marbles' magic word is "SHAZOOM", which stands for Strength, Health, Aptitude, Zeal, Ox (power of), Ox (power of another), and Money. In contrast to Captain Marvel's perceived innocence and goodness, Marbles is greedy and money-grubbing, and a master criminal. Superduperman defeats Marbles by tricking him into hitting himself.
While publishing its Shazam! revival in the 1970s, DC Comics published a story in Superman #276 (June 1974) featuring a battle between the Man of Steel and a thinly disguised version of Captain Marvel called Captain Thunder, a reference to the character's original name. He apparently battles against a Monster League, who cast a spell to make him evil, but Superman helps him break free. Two years later, Justice League of America #135–137 presented a story arc which featured the heroes of Earth-1, Earth-2, and Earth-S teaming together against their enemies. It is in this story that Superman and Captain Marvel first meet, albeit briefly. King Kull has caused Superman to go mad using red kryptonite, meaning he and Marvel battle, but Marvel restores his mind to normal with lightning.
In Shazam! #30 (1977), Dr. Sivana creates several steel creatures to destroy Pittsburgh's steel mills, after getting the idea from reading an issue of Action Comics. He finally creates a Superman robot made of a super-steel to destroy Captain Marvel. They both hit each other at the same moment, and the robot is destroyed.
Notable later Superman/Captain Marvel battles in DC Comics include All-New Collectors' Edition #C-58 (1978), All-Star Squadron #36–37 (1984), and Superman vol. 2, #102 (1995). The Superman/Captain Marvel battle depicted in Kingdom Come #4 (1996) serves as the climax of that miniseries, with Marvel having been brainwashed by Lex Luthor and Mister Mind to turn against the other heroes. The "Clash" episode of the DC-based animated TV series Justice League Unlimited, which includes Captain Marvel as a guest character, features a Superman/Captain Marvel fight as its centerpiece. By contrast, the depiction of the pair's first meeting in the Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder miniseries establishes them as firm friends and allies to the point of Superman volunteering to be Billy's mentor when he learns the boy's true age.
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I've always felt that it was this origin story and concept that made Captain Marvel instantly popular, to the point that it was outselling every comic on the stands for several years throughout the '40s.
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In 1953, the case was finally settled out of court when Fawcett agreed to quit using the Captain Marvel character(s) and pay DC the sum of $400,000.
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