Captain Marvel, the character invented by an independant publisher, using the name of one of the two titans of the comics industry, yet being sued for infringement by the other titan. Fawcett, the original publisher, has long since gone out of business, but the character is currently owned by DC (not as a result of the aforementioned law suit though), and the name is currently owned by Marvel. DC sued Fawcett, claiming that Captain Marvel was a rip of Superman, but lost the suit primarily because they had failed to get the copyright for the Superman newspaper comic. Much later, Fawcett went under and sold off most of their properties, with DC buying up the Captain Marvel related stuff, thus resolving the legal issue. …Except that while all that was going on, Marvel comics snuck in and created their own character with the same name. While DC is still allowed to use the name for the character himself, they are no longer allowed to use it for the title of the comic nor for any TV series, movie, etc. In it’s place, they decided to use the magic word which changes Captain Marvel into his superhero form, “SHAZAM”.
The rivalry between Captain Marvel and Superman extended beyond the comic pages. Captain Marvel was the first superhero to make it onto the silver screen, getting a series of serials before Superman did. This fact was largely DC’s fault. The serial which became Captain Marvel’s was originally intended to be Superman’s, but the deal fell through. Not only did CM get to the silver screen first, but he did it better. Captain Marvel used live-action special effects for his flying (a mannequin on strings), whereas Superman was not shown flying at all in some serials, and was merely animated in flight in others.
All of that is ancient history though, what I’m here to discuss todayis a tad more recent.
In the late 70s, Captain Marvel had a live-action TV series. I vaguely remember watching this show in reruns & loving it. It was paired up with The Secrets of Isis (a Wonder Woman copycat, based on Egyptian mythology) as The Shazam!/Isis Hour. As was often the case with such shows, it took a number of liberties with the basic plot & premise. The Shazam! TV series omitted the wizard as well as the Marvel Family (Captain Marvel’s sister Mary Marvel, his spinoff/sidekick Captain Marvel Jr, and Uncle Dudley), and it introduced a new character “Mentor” who was sort of a cross between the wizard & Uncle Dudley. It also made Billy Batson a teenager instead of a 10 year old, and had them driving around in an RV instead of living in a city.
After the live-action series ended, a cartoon was produced. This was more true to the comics, with the inclusion of the rest of the Marvel Family, the wizard, having them live in a city instead of traveling in an RV, and the oclusion of “Mentor”. It did however still have Billy Batson as a teenager instead of a 10 year old. This cartoon version of Captain Marvel is the one I remember the most (though sometimes my memories of it & the live action one would get intermixed). This show was likewise merged with another superhero based show to form an hour long show. This time it was combined with “Hero High” to form “The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam!”. As the name implies, Hero High was about a high school full of super powered kids. What’s not so obvious (unless you’ve seen the show) is that it was originally supposed to be based on Archie, but Filmation revamped it after their Archie contracts expired.
Both shows always confused me as a kid. I mean, the name of the shows were both “SHAZAM”, he says “shazam” to change, wouldn’t you expect his character’s name to also be “Shazam”? The fact that Captain Marvel Jr said “Captain Marvel” to change only added to the confusion. Of course, I now know that the naming issue was due primarily to Marvel comics getting the trademark to the Captain Marvel name.
Here’s the intro to the live action series:
..And here’s the first part of an episode of the cartoon series: