Fawcet Comics' Captain Marvel origin of his name, the "Captain" part

Yes, I know that after lawsuits in the last century Fawcett comics’ Captain Marvel became the property of DC comics but DC lost the rights for the name so it became Shazam!

Marvel’s Captain Marvel :slight_smile: reason for her having the code name of Captain Marvel was that the original Mar-vel was an extraterrestrial captain who died and was a mentor to the new Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers)

Carol adopted the codename Captain Marvel as a tribute to her fallen friend and mentor. Her prominence has also grown exponentially, and Captain Marvel is now the most popular heroine in the world.

Now, back to the Big Red Cheese, in the original comics it was the old wizard who gave him the name of Captain Marvel, but my question is:

Was it ever explained in the comics or series why the wizard gave Billy Batson the title of “Captain”?

Was the wizard referring to an ancient Greek army captain who had that title in the old times?

As far as I know, this isn’t quite right. DC sued Fawcett over Captain Marvel, but Fawcett chose to shut down their entire comics division c. 1953. In 1972 or thereabouts Fawcett licensed the long-moribund character to DC (which fully acquired the rights in 1991). By that time, Marvel Comics also had its own character named Captain Marvel, and after some legal wrangling, DC and Marvel worked out an arrangement. Both companies could use a character named Captain Marvel, but only Marvel Comics could use that name in titles, of comic books or derivative properties. DC used Captain Marvel’s magic word, “Shazam”, in the titles of its comics and other projects like the 1970s live action series, but the character’s name was always Captain Marvel. Up until a decade or so ago, that is, when DC finally gave into public confusion over the character’s name and just started officially calling him Shazam. As far as I know, though, they still have the legal rights to the character name (although Marvel Comics was careful to always have an actively published character named Captain Marvel to maintain their rights, so maybe DC has forfeited their rights by default by not maintaining it, but that’s murky at best).

As far as I know, at least in the original Fawcett run, no. It was just a name. “Captain Whatever” was a relatively common Golden Age name formula that just sounded cool. In the first Captain Marvel story, in Whiz Comics #2, the wizard Shazam just tells Billy Batson to say his name to turn into the world’s mightiest mortal, Captain Marvel. There’s nothing even approaching any sort of explanation or origin for the name.

If you count pulp fiction, Captain Marvel probably isn’t even among the first 20 heroes to have that “rank”. By 1940 Captain Whatever was a trope and just another substitute for Super that wouldn’t sic DC lawyers on a publisher.

To be fair, he then immediately says “Captain Marvel, I salute you” when tasking him with this or that duty.

Originally his name was Captain Thunder, but the folks at Fawcett Publications couldn’t trademark the name because it was already in use. So they changed it to Captain Marvelous, but that seemed too long so it was truncated to Captain Marvel. That’s the real-life origin of the name.

Also, the “Captain” part of the name was in homage to Captain Billy, the nickname of Wilford H. Fawcett, the founder of Fawcett Publications. (The name Billy Batson was another homage.) DC Comics has a character named Captain Thunder whose alter ego is William Fawcett, as a nod to the creation of Captain Marvel.

I don’t think the “Captain” title is ever explained in-universe, unlike the acronym SHAZAM. In fact, even the “Marvel” part isn’t explained. I think it’s just a nickname; “Captain” is implying his authority and superiority as a fighter of evil (as it frequently is with other superheroes), and “Marvel” is a reference to the amazing powers he has in that fight.

For further reference, check out this page that lists a number of characters from the Marvel universe (Marvel Comics, not Fawcett’s Captain). There is a lot. Some, like Captain America, actually have the name as a military rank, but most don’t.

I also don’t think every single hero or villain with “Doctor” in their name has an actual doctorate from an accredited institution. (Most of those probably do, but not all of them.)

Marvel’s Captain Marvel was specifically created to legally lock down that name because, well, “Marvel”! There were five years or so in the late 60s when Marvel created no new title characters EXCEPT Captain Marvel. That was a legal decision, not a creative one.

I’m a little confused as to what point you’re trying to make here. Maybe I wasn’t clear in my first reply? I was agreeing with @GIGObuster that the wizard gave Captain Marvel his name, but as far as I know, the wizard never explains the name or its origins or why the World’s Mightiest Mortal is known as “Captain Marvel” - he apparently just is.

This is the answer to 99% of the questions people ask about old comic book characters.

I bet the wizard just thought it sounded neat.

You said there was nothing even approaching any sort of explanation, which I agree sounds about right; I’d just quibble that Shazam talking about saluting the captain when explaining what his duty involves is — I dunno, a tenth of a percent in that direction instead of zero? Maybe a hundredth? Almost nothing instead of nothing?

That, and “A wizard did it” (cf. the origin of Captain Marvel’s powers).

Even that’s a retcon. The Ultimates version of the character was an actual Army Captain, but in the original Golden Age comics, “Captain America” was just a code name, and Steve Rogers was a lowly Private.

My understanding was that Steve and Bucky were Privates, but Captain America had that rank in his military endeavors; the military treated Steve Rogers and Captain America as separate entities (which also helped hide his identity). But it has been a while since I read those comics. I have a collection of old Cap comics in a hard-bound book somewhere.

Ah, I see what you’re saying. Maybe? I don’t think so, though. He says “I salute you”, but doesn’t render any sort of actual salute, and makes no reference to any sort of military hierarchy. And if the Wizard were making a military salute to a captain, that would make him the Captain’s inferior, which he clearly isn’t. Captain Marvel himself responds, “Yes, sire”. I think “I salute you” just seemed like a properly formal and somewhat archaic salutation to the writer, and wasn’t intended to have anything to do with “Captain” as a rank.

I could be wrong - I’m far from an expert in that era of comics - but my understanding is that Captain America had no formal position in the Army. I don’t think the original comics were very clear, but he seemed to be more of a freelance counter-intelligence agent than an Army officer. I don’t think he ever actually commanded troops in the original stories, did he? (Beyond the standard heroic, “Follow me, boys!” type thing).

The only one stronger than he is he. Hee hee hee!

Certainly not at first. The FBI was his first boss. Steve Rogers used his position as a private in the army to root out Nazis trying to sabotage domestic military installations. Kind of like how Clark Kent used his job at a newspaper to keep abreast of crime. BTW, Captain America received his “rank” from a wizard (scientist) too:

One of the absolute best things about 40s comics is that in the 40s there was no fanwanking.

Just don’t make the same mistake I did. A man fell out of his seat puking at a movie theater and I yelled “Is there a doctor in the house?”

This guy said he was Dr. Düme (not sure of spelling, but he sounded East European), and suddenly that poor sick guy was lifted up and snapped in two.

But, hey, rest of the movie was uninterrupted…

Shego: Huh, pretty impressive for a college reject.
Dr. Drakken: Hey! College dropout, Shego. They let me in, I let myself out.