A tale of two Captains

Abhijeet Kini
Saturday, 6 April 2019

I caught a special screening of Shazam before the movie released this weekend and I absolutely loved it! Many would be aware that Shazam was called Captain Marvel right from the time he was created in 1940.

For long has there been a competitive edge between DC comics and Marvel, and the last decade has just added more fuel to the fire. Now, that edge has trickled down to the fans too. If the social media posts, forums, trolling and everything else in between is something to go by, it’s clear that the fans take the movie universes (MCU — Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DCEU — DC Extended Universe, which is now also known as World of DC) way too seriously! 

There used to be a time when movie reviews were read and forgotten. But now, it’s a way more complicated affair, what with name-dropping the review sites which have given the movies a thumbs up or a thumbs down, the box office collections, the directors helming these film, and so on. 

And 2019 gave the DC and Marvel fans something to research and fight out afresh...the two Captain Marvels (or would you grammatically say Captains Marvel?) onscreen. Well, plainly put, Marvel’s Captain Marvel and DC’s Shazam! 

I caught a special screening of Shazam before the movie released this weekend and I absolutely loved it! Many would be aware that Shazam was called Captain Marvel right from the time he was created in 1940. And then there’s Marvel’s Captain Marvel, who recently had her big screen debut. This has been the classic case of two separate entities, with two separate publishing powerhouses, having characters with the same name. Now if this isn’t battle worthy, what is? 

Copyright laws, competition, ownership are just some of the aspects which have given us this scenario. I’ll try and put this down the way I understand it. The original Captain Marvel first appeared in Whiz comics in 1940, and was a big hit! This was around the time that Superman had just made his comics debut in Action Comics #1, published by DC, two years before Captain Marvel, to be precise. DC noticed that Whiz’s character was kind of similar to Superman’s, and thus began a lawsuit which went on for years. Finally, Captain Marvel ended its run thanks to the legalities. That’s when Marvel comics, watching the proceedings on the sidelines, decided that they’re going to pick up the name for their own superhero (later to be heroine), and started running this series. 

DC saw this and said, ‘Hey! We want to run this character too, he was so popular before we ended his run!’ By now, Marvel had it going with their Captain Marvel, DC had no choice but to name its series Shazam, still being able to retain the character’s name — Captain Marvel, in the inside pages. The catch was they couldn’t use that name on any title! Oh boy! Finally, in 2012, DC rebooted the series and did away with name Captain Marvel altogether and called the character Shazam. 

Let’s look at how strong these two are. Marvel’s character is the strongest entity (well, almost) in that universe. After the movie released and the missing link between Avengers Infinity War and Endgame connected, we know that she is going to be a force to reckon with in the latter. And Shazam, in the DC universe, has not only been compared to the strengths and abilities of Superman himself, but has also at times come out stronger than him! So, uncannily, each Captain Marvel is the strongest in their respective universes! Talk about power!

I love any comic book movie, honestly. I may have my inclinations, but I wouldn’t diss the others. So, coming back to 2019 being the year where both competing Captains find their way to the big screens, it’s a good time to be a comics fan! When I saw Marvel’s version, I enjoyed the tinkered origin story, the major ’80s and ’90s throwbacks in it, the soundtrack used. When I saw Shazam, I loved the way they have woven in the concept of ‘family’ in it and it’s a touching yet funny tale. Both the movies were excellent!

A lot of hate does its rounds on social media against any superhero movie that releases, good or bad, and I personally think one must just be fortunate that we are in an age where all our favourite characters from the pages of comic books are finding their way into our reel/real world. 

(The writer is a comic creator, illustrator and animator)

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