Let’s Talk Comic – The Life of Captain Marvel

Rob Lamberti


A new Captain Marvel movie flies into theatres in November called Marvels. It brings together Carol Davers, played by Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau and Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan. Disney+ introduced Kahnas Ms. Marvel.

The character has a long-convoluted history and path to this point with Marvel’s 33rd superhero movie. It begins as a non-Marvel character, Captain Marvel, aka the Big Red Cheese, published by Fawcett. 

Artist C.C. Beck and writer Bill Parker created the original Big Guy that first appeared in Whiz 2 in 1940. Billy Batson was the little boy who’d yell “Shazam,” and the magic began. Captain Marvel and related characters appeared in numerous comics and movie serials.


Sales were tremendous for Fawcett. He was like Superman, except that his alter ego was a kid. But Clark Kent and National Periodicals were lurking in the wings, annoyed that Captain Marvel was beating up Superman on the newsstands by a lot. 

A legal battle began in 1941 for breach of copyright. The courts finally ruled in DC’s favour in 1953, and the Cheese was last seen in November of that year. Captain Marvel vanished for a while until the character’s name hit the public domain in 1966. It was taken by M.F. Enterprises, run by Myron Fass. This short-lived forgettable version of four issues in 1966 and ’67 was an alien android that split into pieces while yelling split and then reattached by saying xam.

Over at Marvel, publisher Martin Goodman offered Fass $6,000 for the rights to the name. Fass refused, so artist Gene Colan and writer-editor Stan Lee developed a character with the name of Goodman. An angry Fass sued in 1967.

Marvel’s creation made Mar-vell a member of the Kree Imperial Fleet, which first appeared in the silver age series Marvel Super-Heroes 12, a 25-cent, 68-page comic published in December 1967. Marvel threatened to countersue, claiming Fass — who had a history of swiping ideas and names — infringed on Marvel, that it owned the rights to the word Marvel and its related uses, including Captain Marvel. It’s believed some money flowed from Marvel to M.F. Enterprises to end the dispute.

Meanwhile, DC Comics purchased the rights to the Fawcett character but couldn’t call the original character Captain Marvel because Marvel Comics owned the trademark. Thus, in a cloud of smoke Shazam! was born in 1973. They brought C.C. Beck back as the artist for much of the 35-issue series. 

Mar-vell would undergo several changes, getting a 58-issue comic title starting in May 1968. This version of Captain Marvel would end in Marvel’s second graphic novel, The Death of Captain Marvel, in 1982 by Jim Starlin. A moving tale where Captain Marvel dies of cancer that he acquired while in a battle in the comic run Captain Marvel 34.

The graphic novel was one of the first modern-era comic books to be issued subsequent printings. Careful buying the book as the second and third prints are about a quarter the value of the first print edition. The first edition indicia will not identify the printing, while the others will.


This Captain Marvel would not return to comics, a rarity in the business.


Carol Danvers, the current Captain Marvel, is a character created by writer-editor Roy Thomas and artist Colan, and first appeared as a U.S. Air Force officer in Marvel Super-Heroes 13 in 1968. Her path to becoming the character began in 1977 when she appeared as Ms. Marvel when her DNA fused with Mar-Vell’s in an explosion.

There’s a dark story involving Ms. Marvel in the 1980s beginning in Avengers 200 and will be passed over. The character weaved its way through numerous titles, became other characters, including Warbird, and joined the Avengers in the 1990s. She left the Avengers, and she returned to the Avengers, and she did this and did that. Marvel put the character into numerous complicated storylines. The movie origin of Danvers’ Captain Marvel is greatly simplified compared to what happened to her in the comics.

It was in July 2012 that she became Captain Marvel and rejoined the Avengers. 

The first movie grossed more than $153.4 million on the opening weekend in 2019 and amassed $1.13 billion worldwide. The second film, which will have three women leading actors, is expected to open anywhere between $72 million to $95 million in box office earnings, a significant drop from the first movie, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Super-hero movie fatigue, anyone?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *