Shazam is a beloved super hero character from the Marvel Comics universe. He began life as Captain Marvel but eventually changed into Shazam. But did you know that once upon a time this beloved hero was actually part of a huge controversy and legal battle between Marvel Comics and DC Comics?
You won’t believe the insane history behind this superhero.
The Origins of Shazam
The character known as Shazam began his life as Captain Marvel. The first Captain Marvel comic was Whiz Comics #2 in February 1940. The character is the alter ego of a young boy named Billy Batson. The boy, when he speaks the word Shazam, is transformed into an adult super hero. The name Shazam is actually an anagram for six powerful immortal elders from ancient times. Those six heroes are S for Solomon, H for Hercules, A for Atlas, Z for Zeus, A for Achilles, and M for Mercury. These six elders also give Shazam his remarkable powers.
For most of the 1940s and into the 1950s, Shazam was the most popular comic book character of them all. By some accounts he was even more popular than the world famous Superman. But that all changed in 1953.
In 1953, Marvel Comics stopped publishing the Captain Marvel comic books, in part because of a lawsuit that was brought by rival comic book company, DC Comics. But what happened and why was DC suing Marvel over this beloved superhero?
The Lawsuit against Shazam
Throughout the 1940s Shazam was wildly popular. In one year the comic was able to sell over 14 million copies! Perhaps people loved this comic so much because it told the story of a small child overcoming his bullies and adversaries; kids and adults alike related to the story of the underdog who overcomes all challenges.
He became so popular that Marvel Comics was able to create and publish a whole bunch of spinoff characters. Some were sidekicks to Captain Marvel, and even got their own books! Captain Marvel Jr. was a sidekick teenager with superpowers, as well as Mary Marvel, a female kid superhero.
But while all this popularity was raging, a different battle was brewing in the background. Way back in 1941, DC Comics, then known as Detective Comics, sued Marvel Comics over the Shazam or Captain Marvel character. DC Comics claimed copyright infringement. They thought that Captain Marvel was too similar to their beloved character Superman. But what would the outcome be?
The lawsuit went on for many years and was a dirty, ugly fight. It took seven years in total for the lawyers on both sides to fight it out. And that was before they even got to court!
In 1948, the case finally got in front of a judge. The arguing was bitter and drawn out. The courts decided that Marvel had a right to publish their character, because DC didn’t have a strong enough argument. They fought it again and again in different courts, but couldn’t seem to come to a decision.
In the end, the two companies settled the issue out of court, and Marvel briefly stopped publishing the Captain Marvel comics in 1953. He came back later, but never with the same ferocious popularity that he had in the 1940s.