Captain Marvel, also known as Shazam (/ʃəˈzæm/), is a fictional superhero appearing in publications by American publisher 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. The character battles an extensive rogues’ gallery, primarily archenemies Dr. Sivana, Black Adam, and Mister Mind.
Based on book selling points, 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, Adventures of Captain Marvel, with Tom Tyler as Captain Marvel and Frank Coghlan, Jr. as Billy Batson.
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, Fawcett sold the character rights to DC, which by 1991 had acquired all rights to the entire family of 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 other characters named “Captain Marvel” owned by Marvel Comics, DC has branded and marketed the character using the trademark Shazam! since his 1972 reintroduction. This led many to assume that “Shazam!” was the character’s name, and DC even named a version “Shazam!” when relaunching its comic book properties in 2011, (however, this name only applies to that specific universe’s version; all other versions are still called Captain Marvel) with his associates known as the “Shazam Family”.
The character has been featured in two television series adaptations by Filmation: one live action 1970s series with actors Jackson Bostwick and John Davey portraying the character, and one animated 1980s series. The 2019 New Line Cinema/Warner Bros. film Shazam! is part of the DC Extended Universe, with Zachary Levi portraying the title role and Asher Angel as Billy Batson.
The character 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.”