April 19, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case File #141: Captain Marvel Jr.

The boy hero who helped inspire the King of Rock'n'Roll hasn't been seen much lately.

Captain Marvel, the original Fawcett character who is not named Shazam, had a lot of sidekicks.  He had the three Lieutenant Marvels, his sister Mary Marvel, his powerless Uncle Marvel, and even an anthropomorphic rabbit named the Marvel Bunny.

But he also had Captain Marvel Jr.  That character was a favorite of Elvis Presley, and for some reason hasn’t been seen much since the New 52 started.

All things being equal, Captain Marvel Jr’s lack of recent appearances does make some sense.  DC finally decided to change the name of the longtime Captain Marvel to Shazam (a name I will not use) because of copyright issues involving Marvel’s version of the character with the same name.  It’s complicated and probably something Ryan could explain, but I find such talk dull at the best of times, so I’m just going to keep referring to that character as “Captain Marvel” as much as possible.

At any rate, Captain Marvel had some sidekicks in the Golden Age that occassionally popped up to help out in the form of the three Lieutenant Marvels, but his editor wanted something more, a sidekick they could spin-off into his own adventures.  Enter Freddy Freeman, a lame (as in physically) newspaper boy and friend to Billy Batson.  The basic concept for Billy was by saying a magic word he gained tremendous powers and transformed into an adult.  Freddy would, due to Billy “sharing” the power, also transform into a superpowered being, but he would remain roughly his regular age and have the same powers as his hero Captain Marvel.  And what word would the newly named Captain Marvel Junior utter to change back and forth?  Not “Shazam”.  That was taken.  No, he would say the name of his hero, “Captain Marvel”.

That basically meant he was unable to say his own superhero name.

On the other hand, he also was the only Marvel family member who got to dress in a different color scheme.

That Elvis thing, by the way, is the truth.  The King loved Captain Marvel Jr., even dying his blonde hair to black and modeling his distinctive hair cut after the comic book hero.

These days, it means Captain Marvel Junior occasionally makes an Elvis reference.

Now, the thing is, not every member of the Marvel family got out as much as the founder, Captain Marvel (not Shazam…Shazam was the wizard).  But Captain Marvel Jr. got out a fair amount of time, even renaming himself CM3 to be able to refer to himself as, well, something.  He’d join the Teen Titans, hang out with the Young Justice group, and a host of others, even at one point becoming the main Captain Marvel.

Yes, after the Infinite Crisis, the wizard Shazam was killed by a rampaging Spectre, after the Wrath of God had gotten it into his head to eliminate all magical beings for some reason.  That meant Billy got promoted to “wizard,” Mary got promoted to “forgotten so she’s evil now,” and Freddy went on a quest to become the new Captain Marvel.  That lasted until someone decided they wanted Billy back in that role.  And then the New 52 happened.

Where is Freddy now?  Well, we’re squarely in the era where, for legals reasons (probably), DC calls their version Shazam.  So, what name would Freddy or the others go by?  Hard to say.  Billy gained the power, and while living with a foster family that included Freddy, shared the power with the other kids to create a new Marvel Family, with Freddy in the familiar blue color.

Apparently, Freddy requested his name be “King Shazam”.

So, that’s another Elvis reference, right?

My guess is until DC figures out this whole “Shazam Family” thing, we won’t see much of any Shazam-empowered hero other than Billy Batson.

His hero name is not Shazam.