Why Marvel and DC both have Captain Marvels


This year we have seen Marvel’s trademarked ‘Captain Marvel’ come to cinema screens and blow people away. However, there has also been another movie release, which also happens to be called Captain Marvel. Of course, it’s not quite as obvious as that; you might recall the DC release ‘Shazam’ hitting the screens and making a decent impression on people. Well, Shazam is also called Captain Marvel, but how and why?

Why Marvel and DC both have Captain Marvels

Who has it first?

For most people, it would basically boil down to who had the name first, but it’s never as simple as that. The Captain Marvel alias didn’t belong to either DC or Marvel comics, instead of the character was created by another comic publishing company called Fawcett Comics. Captain Marvel was the alias of Billy Batson, and the word ‘Shazam’ originates as the word that allows his Marvel form to be released. DC Comics, at this time, felt like the character was too similar to their own Superman, and used lawsuits to prevent them from using the character in publications. So, while Marvel comics came after, it had been over a decade since the name had been used and, after all, Marvel trademarked the title when they were created.

What happened next?

Marvel created their own Captain Marvel, but the entire character and origins story was totally different from the one Fawcett comics had created. This worked in their favor, as it showed true originality and the use of an obsolete namesake now revived. The name, in the Marvel comics, was originally ‘Mar-Vell,’ a unique name for a Kree, extraterrestrial being. He helped humanity and soon bore the name Marvel as a result of mispronunciation. Obviously, this isn’t the Captain Marvel we know and love today, but that would quickly be put right. Captain Marvel wasn’t hugely popular, even if many of the stories were published. But it didn’t end there.

Why Marvel and DC both have Captain Marvels

All out war

DC acquired the other Captain Marvel, created by Fawcett Comics, and decided to run with the character. This time, they wouldn’t have to worry about lawsuits either. This raised a problem, as there would then be two rival comic publishers with a character of the same name. Marvel had trademarked the name, which meant that DC couldn’t directly call Shazam ‘Captain Marvel’, although they made direct references to the origin which caused quite the stir.

How did this settle?

After receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Marvel comics, DC had to stop using the name so obviously as a result of the trademark. This all eventually got straightened out when DC re-released Shazam in the new 52 and disregarded the Captain Marvel moniker entirely, giving the character his unique identity. Captain Marvel as we know her today was initially called Ms. Marvel, an alias for Carol Danvers, but in 2012 she took up the Captain Marvel mantel.

This does mean that Captain Marvel is no longer an official DC character, but the history remains as to why Shazam held the name; because he was genuinely the original to hold the title. But, as these things change, so do they, but it’s interesting that DC had the Shazam movie released in the same year as Captain Marvel; throwing some shade perhaps?