Gangway for The Big Cheese, aka .... Shazam?

For those that have been following my thoughts and opinions, you already know how much I LOATHE the new DC Universe since its big revamp in September 2011, which I refer to as the DCnU. If you are not already aware of this, then I will tell you: I AM NOT A FAN OF THE DCnU! Getting the idea? Why, you may ask, do I show such disdain for it? It still has the characters more or less, right? It’s still DC, right? NO… It’s really not. I, and many other comic fans the world over, are continuity freaks. We don’t like change, even a little bit of change. Sure, it can be argued that a little change is good, so that things keep fresh and the stories never get stale. But if you take a fresh bag of ketchup chips, wipe off the ketchup powder, and add vinegar to it instead, are the chips still fresh? Sure, but do they taste good? Not if you like ketchup. Ketchup chips are no longer ketchup chips when you take away the things that make them ketchup, and add something else. DC is no longer DC when you strip it of some things that make it what it is, and add other things that it is not. It’s something else entirely.

Superman’s famous red underwear worn over his pants, the first members of the Justice League, the history of the Justice Society, Wonder Woman’s golden features. These are all things that matter (if only a little) to many fans, but have all been stripped away to make room for “new readers” and “boosted sales”. Today, another DC mainstay has fallen casualty to this senseless war on our treasured stories. Billy Batson, the keeper of the power of Shazam, will now OFFICIALLY be called Shazam, dropping the Captain Marvel name completely from here on out.

As he speaks the words Shazam, *POOF*, He now has a haircut...

For those of you not very familiar with the Captain, his is an interesting, albeit bewildering, history. Originally created by Fawcett Comics in 1939, Captain Marvel was actually a young boy named Billy Batson, powered by the magic power of the Wizard Shazam, so that when he speaks the Wizard’s name, he becomes Captain Marvel, a full grown adult with a full costume and lots of greats powers too boot. SHAZAM was actually an acronym that stood for the names of the heroes of which he gets his powers: Solomon (Wisdom), Hercules (Strength), Atlas (Stamina), Zeus (Power), Achilles (Courage), Mercury (Speed). Captain Marvel had a striking resemblance to another costumed hero created only a year before. Can you guess who? Tall, muscular, dark hair, can fly, has a cape, is super strong and super fast? If you guessed anything but Superman, then you should probably go pick up a comic book and start reading. It was this resemblance that led to ensuing legal battles and criticisms over the next 15 years, and eventually DC won their fight, taking Captain Marvel off the shelves.

Another 20 years later, they finally got around to using Captain Marvel in stories again, though on another earth to avoid confusion with Superman, but they’d been beaten to the punch. Marvel Comics, creeping up quickly in popularity in the interim, created their own Captain Marvel character, and was sure to trademark the name. So now, though DC could still use the name Captain Marvel for a character, it could not be the title of any of their books. DC got around this by simply calling the book Shazam, and most every books featuring Billy Batson since then has held the Shazam moniker in one form or another. In fact, Captain Marvel remained a relevant character throughout his entire stay with DC Comics, featuring in several stories outside his own, and showing up on many teams in the DC Universe as well. He even made the leap to television, having his own TV show, and several appearances on DC Animated works.

Click the image to see the entire Marvel Family, including Fat Marvel, and HillBilly Marvel!

But even through all this time, he’d always been called CAPTAIN MARVEL… There were rare instances where he held the Shazam name, for instance when he became the new Wizard for a short amount of time, but while wearing the Red and Gold, he was Captain Marvel, and members of his crew were referred to as the Marvel Family as well. Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., Uncle Marvel, Hoppy The Marvel Bunny. All Marvels in the end, with no mention of Shazam in their names. What will happen to these characters in this strange new DC universe is anyone’s guess, as even Captain Marvel… woops, I mean Shazam… has even been missing until now. With the upcoming release of “Curse of Shazam” we will be seeing a slightly different version of Billy Batson introduced, with a slightly different back story. Maybe he will be even better, maybe the story they will show will make sense to the name change, maybe they will sublty throw in the word “Marvel” whenever they can, just to give is glimpses of what was. One thing is for sure at this time, however, and that is the fact what we will not be seeing Captain Marvel.

Geoff Johns, the man credited with much of the changes that we’ve been seeing in the DCnU, has given a vague response to why the change is being made:

“”Well, there are a lot of reasons for the change,” “One is that everybody thinks he’s Shazam already, outside of comics. It’s also, for all sorts of reasons, calling him Shazam just made sense for us. And, you know, every comic book he’s in right now has Shazam on the cover.”

I’m sorry Mr. Johns, I didn’t realize we were now catering to people outside comics. Obviously, people that do not read comics and will not take the time to read comics to understand characters’ histories should be given priority, we wouldn’t want them to get confused. Please note my sarcasm, whether you agree with it or not. Want to know another character in literary fiction that most people (who did not read the book) get their name wrong ALL THE TIME? The Frankenstein monster… Who was created by Dr. Frankenstein, but is not itself called Frankenstein. Should we go back and change the monster’s name, because, you know, everyone already thinks its his name anyway? Rhetorical question, as the answer is simply a no.

Me... have... Identity... Crisis...

In any case, like it or hate it, we are losing a piece of a character today. What do you think? Is it a good idea to change the name? Should they have left well enough alone? Do you like the DCnU? Do you hate it? Leave some comments and let’s have a good old fashioned Comic Argument!

  1. Grover X. Spacenut says:

    Personally as a kid, I knew him as Shazam!, not capt. marvel, because marvel had a capt. Marvel already. Even my daughter reading some of my old comics calls it Shazam! I think this was an error by DC, and now they have no choice in the matter. Also the Marvel family is a bit much.

    • martelljt says:

      But that’s just the thing, Captain Marvel (Shazam) and his Marvel family have been around longer than the Captain Marvel from Marvel Comics. As a matter of fact, Captain Marvel (Shazam) has been around longer than Marvel Comics itself. Marvel came up in the 60s, whereas Captain marvel (Shazam) was putting stories out in the 30’s/40’s… Also, Marvel and DC have numerous characters that share names, but they haven’t battled it out over who gets to keep the rights to specific character names for them, right? The Enchantress for example. Captain Marvel in the Marvel universe is actually one of their weakest characters by far.

  2. JBroce says:

    Yeah I also was really enjoying the new green arrow series before the DCNU change. I cancelled that one from my pull list. Batman was another big change. I was hooked on 3 out of the 4 series. But the change in Batman has been really good in a different way. We FINALLY see Bruce with Damien, and the new nightwing series has been great. Batman has jumped up as my favorite title now, even with all the changes. I’m also glad Aquaman is getting a shot, and I hope that it builds him up as the major character his should be. I’ll be honest I was one of those people that thought his name was shazam for a long time when i was not into DC comics, and strictly a Marvel reader. It wasnt till Kingdom come till i found out how powerful he was, but once i dug in, i was really overwhelmed with the whole family thing. I think theyve overkilled ALOT of characters and watered them down to nothing with the extended familes. Flash, Superman, Captain Marvel, And even Batman (even though they did a really good job of distinguishing the different robins and giving them their own persona’s). I’ve always been a big spiderman fan and they overkilled him too with all the clones and spidergirls/womans running around.

    • martelljt says:

      You are right to a point. But keep in mind that the DCnU hasn’t actually changed anything for Batman really. The story pretty well kept going where the old universe left off before Flashpoint, so the Batman stories could just as easily have been in that old universe, with no reboot needed all around him.

      As for the overkill, that what I always loved about the books. Trying to keep it all straight in my head was a challenge, but a challenge I loved facing.

  3. SteveAsat says:

    The frankenstein in Frankenstein is just called “Frankenstein” because he IS a frankenstein, and he’s the only actual frankenstein in “Frankenstein”. Victor is a human and a dickhead, and if the novel were about him, it would be titled “Dickhead” or “Human”.

    So calling Billy Batson SHAZAM makes sense, since that’s what he technically IS, what with his alter-ego being an amalgam of deities identified by that acronym…which the Wizard WASN’T, so he hardly deserved the name in the first place.

    • martelljt says:

      I really don’t think you’ve ever read either book. Frankenstein is not an arbitrary name. It’s the Doctor’s actual family name. The monster was never called Frankenstein, he was called the Frankenstein Monster… as in Frankenstein’s Monster? As in the monster CREATED by Dr. Frankenstein. That is the difference. You can’t say someone doesn’t deserve their own name… That’s like saying you don’t deserve the name Steve even if that’s your legal name.

      And as for the Wizard, that actually is the Wizard’s name. His name is Shazam, and it always has been. It also happens to be what the acronym spells out. Superman gets his powers from the sun, should we call him Sol? or Sunny? Flash gets his powers from the Speed Force, should we call him Speed Force? Of course not. Where a characters’ powers come from have nothing to do with their name. And not all the names in the acronym are deities, just heroes. For example: Achilles, and Solomon.

      • SteveAsat says:

        This is where the habit of thinking in-universe can get you in trouble. Since the renaming of Cap is a corporate branding decision by DC Comics, we can fairly discuss it as an out-of-universe event with in-universe repercussions. As was, for instance, the emergence of “frankenstein” as a general term for a menace cobbled together out of dead parts. Nowadays, to call Victor’s creation a frankenstein is wholly appropriate, although Victor himself didn’t. And to call that ur-frankenstein “Frankenstein” is no stranger than calling the monster “Monster”, as many have done. And I think the implication of the name that he is a son of Victor Frankenstein is quite appropriate. (Plus it works better than “Adam”, since that name only serves Victor’s delusions of godhood.)

        As for the wizard not “deserving” the name Shazam, that’s an out-of-universe decision. If Billy Batson’s alter-ego is an amalgam of (yes) heroes and deities, HE best deserves the name. The wizard’s name should be Vlarem, since that was HIS magic word, back in the day. Choosing such goofy names for the family of heroes is respectful of their in-universe origins and behavior, which are distinct from the Flash and Superman. After all, without the magic word, Cap is just a Superman rip-off (or at least Learned Hand declared so in 1952).

        A Kryptonian named Solly would be pretty amusing, though….

    • Allen says:

      I’m sorry to be so direct, but you’re wrong. The monster is called simply “the Monster” or “Frankenstein’s Monster.” When Mary Shelley wrote the novel, she didn’t give the creature a name. Chapter 10, page 88 Barnes and Noble Edition, Victor refers to the monster as “The Wretch whom I had created,” Further down the page, he refers to him as “The Daemon.” In addressing him directly, Victor says “Devil, D you dare approach me?” Facing page 89, the monster refers to himself saying “Will no entreaties cause thee to turn a favourable eye upon they creature?” Later in the same sentence the creature says: “Believe me, Frankenstein: I ws benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity: but am I not alone, miserably alone?”

      When the creature attacks Victor’s son, the boy cries: “Monster! Ugly wretch!”

      Only when Hollywood got a hold of it did the name become associated with the creature. The monster was NEVER called Frankenstein in the novel.

      I know this because I read the novel for Victorian Lit, when I was preparing for my eventual entry into the PhD program in English.

      Prof. Allen

      • Allen says:

        and Huzzah! to Marel!

      • martelljt says:

        Well said. A common misconception, and giving me an idea for a future post. Allen, please follow the blog and when I get a chance to craft the one I am thinking of, you will receive props there for aiding in giving me the idea. You’ll know it when you see it, without a doubt.

  4. SilverHammerMan says:

    I think your point about the Frankenstein is kind of flawed given that everyone DOES call him Frankenstein. In adaptations he’s virtually always called Frankenstein. So citing Frankenstein really doesn’t help your position.

    My problem stems from the fact that I think Shazam is a garbage superhero name. I think they shoul;d just go with Captain Thunder, it still sounds superhero-y and there is precedence for calling him that, what with Flashpoint.

    I’m not sure I agree with your stance on DC’s attempts to bring in a broader audience, on the one hand, yes, they are alienating fans, but on the other, bringing in new readers is a good idea. The problem in my eyes is that they’re going about it all wrong, they haven’t eliminated excessive continuity so much as changed it. They didn’t make things any more accessible. For an example flawed thinking, “Shazam” is actually a great example: Instead of creating a fun, accessible all-ages book that actually has a chance at bringing in some new readers, DC is instead choosing to do a series of back-up stories a sub-par and just plain not compelling JLA book.

    DC: They’re kind of dumb.

    • martelljt says:

      I can see your point, but you’re not seeing it through to fruition. The issue isn’t that everyone calls him Frankenstein, or thinks of him as such, it’s that it isn’t really his name. The book will not be changed so that it coincides with people’s understanding of his name, especially not those of the people who’ve never read the book. Johns is saying one reason for going with Shazam is that most people, especially those that do not read comics, already think that’s his name. In the Frankenstein example, it would mean going back and changing the book, or any other adaptation of the original story, so that the Monster’s name was Frankenstein, and not that of the misguided doctor. Despite what the ignorant majority thinks of a book they’ve never read and the characters in it, there are already a loyal fan base around the current format, so why go against their opinion to appease those outside of it.

      I am definitely in agreement with you that they in no way have achieved their supposed mission to remove confusion and continuity errors and attract a new readership. If you’re going to reboot an entire Universe of stories and characters that’s been developing in its current state for almost thirty years, and has elements its been drawing on for almost eighty years, then do it completely. I don’t agree with any reboot, but that’s because I’m firmly invested in and enjoy the DCU post Crisis. But, if I was in favor of a reboot, I would not be in favor of rebooting some characters and origins and costume design and etc, but then not changing some other characters or their histories even the slightest. I think they further muddied the waters to something that many new readers do not enjoy, and old readers don’t really recognize. Good points though. Thanks for reading and giving your two cents!

  5. Yeah, count me as another reader really unhappy with this. For one thing, it’s just stupid. Do we really need a superhero who can’t say his own name? For another thing, it’s spitting in the eye of the people who love the character…although that’s nothing new. The last decent shot they gave the character was “First Thunder” and before that “The Power of Shazam”. Everything else they’ve tried to do with him has been horrible.

  6. Ron says:

    If he introduces himself won’t he change back to Billy?

    • martelljt says:

      Bad Guy w/ Gun: “Who…Who are you?”
      Shazam: “Hi, I’m Shazam–”
      *SHKERBOOMMMMM* (Lightning Strikes)
      Billy: “Oh crap…”
      Bad Guy shoots Billy… End of Shazam… Fade to Black…

  7. Rich says:

    Gotta heartily agree with the “New 52” disdain. My head exploded when I read the first issue of –I think they’re calling it “Firestorm” (not that it bears any resemblance to *either* of the men previously).
    My beef is that they have changed the *character*, not necessarily the uniform. Superman is barely recognizable. Firestorm is ridiculous. Iconic uniforms have changed in the past, not always for the worse (Spidey, Wonder Woman, you out there?)

  8. chris mccreesh says:

    First the new 52 has been fantastic . It’s a fresh start and an end a confusing , multiple earth , multiple universe . I’ve always been a fan of batman because in his books there was less of the “multiple” stuff . All of the different earths , A thousand different Flashes . It makes it almost impossible for new readers to jump on . As far as the new 52 , the titles I’ve read have been the most enjoyable DC reads in years . As far as Shazam goes , the character was handled well , for the fist time in years , in the Black Adam video . If they bring the character back they should lose the marvel family , the talking tiger , it’s kid stuff from a different generation . I only say this because of a more serious tone to the titles in the 52. The bald uncle , the family it’s just overkill. how many people were in that cave anyway ? I know the hardcore people will never see it this way but try I did and love the 52 without a talking tiger

    • Allen says:

      I’ll give you the talking tiger… that was overkill for me. I like the Bat Titles, and Men of War, although I hear that it’s slated for the chopping block. I’m also a fan of Aqua Man finally getting a decent shake, and there are others that I like, but I’m getting off track. All I really want is my old Green Arrow back. The crusty, radical, womanizing, lib that I came to know and love over the years. These radical changes are too much. Although, I read that there will be a new creative team after issue 7, so maybe there is a faint glimmer of hope.

    • SilverHammerMan says:

      You think it’s ending the confusing multiple Earth/Flashes crap? Say what you will about the old DCU, it was all one universe, the DCnU is actually bringing back the multiverse, another utterly misguided attempt by DC editorial to replicate the comics of their childhood. Ironically they’re doing the very opposite of streamlining things, they’re making it worse.
      I mean, the whole idea behind the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, at least from a business perspective was to get rid of the new reader unfriendly multiverse.
      Now I’m going to give you two examples, and you tell me which would be more confusing to a new reader:
      DClassic: This is the JSA, they’re a group of superheroes who assembled several decades ago to fight crime, and while they’ve gotten older, they’re still great heroes, even serving to inspire the JLA.
      DcnU: This is the JSA, they’re a group of superheroes who assembled years ago to fight crime on Earth-2, which is like Earth-1 but different because there’s a JSA instead of the JLA. The sometimes meet up with the JLA when they cross over between universes. Oh yeah, you know what the multiverse is right? Because it’s kind of important.

      Anyway, given you’re comments on the Marvel family: Be you straight trollin’?

  9. Allen says:

    ABSOLUTELY NOT a good thing! I’ll never forgive DC for that they have done to Green Arrow. I’ve been a fan since I first picked up a copy of the Brave and the Bold that featured him back in ’78. I feel betrayed, worse than that, I feel like they have killed off my favorite character again!!!

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