Are Shazam! and Captain Marvel the Same Person?

With Captain Marvel premiering in less than a month and DC announcing Shazam!, set to premiere later this year, there’s been a lot of confusion lurking abound regarding these two major comic book characters. While Shazam! belongs to the DC Universe and Captain Marvel (as the name so appropriately alludes) belongs to the Marvel Universe, this hasn’t always been the case.

These two characters have an overlapping history involving copyright laws and trademarks. Though an intergalactic battle – in which both characters fought and their powers were permanently fused – would be drastically more captivating, the true story is a bit less fantastical.

Brie Larson
Brie Larson | Photo by Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Back in the 1950s, Fawcett Comics created the character Captain Marvel and began releasing graphic novels under the title. However, DC sued Fawcett Comics stating that the character infringed on DC’s Superman copyright, according to ComicsAlliance. The two characters overlapped in terms of superhuman ability to an extent deemed imitational.

Though Fawcett Comics got tired of paying for court proceedings and eventually opted to cease publication of Captain Marvel, the court ruled that DC had not done enough to uphold its copyright. Thus, once Fawcett stopped publishing the series, Marvel Comics stepped in and trademarked the Captain Marvel name, according to ComicsAlliance. Marvel was starting to blossom in the comics sphere; thus, it was a smart move for the publication to snag anything with “Marvel” in the title.

Years later, DC brought back the Fawcett character (which they had licensed); however, DC couldn’t release the series under the title Captain Marvel because Marvel Comics trademarked it, so out came Shazam!.

While Marvel had no particular intentions of releasing a comic book under the name Captain Marvel, copyright laws expire. Meaning, if Marvel fails to release works under this title for too long, DC can start publishing under the Captain Marvel name, according to ComicsAlliance.

However, while that explains the overlap between the two characters, it’s important to note how each character is different, in terms of how they came to be and the powers they possess.

Who is Captain Marvel in the Marvel Comics?

Captain Marvel, soon to be portrayed by Brie Larson in the upcoming movie, initially went by the name Ms. Marvel. Also known as Carol Danvers, the name “Marvel” pays tribute to the Kree warrior responsible for giving her her powers, Mar-Vell, according to ComicBooks.

Captain Marvel possesses a human/Kree physiology that makes her resistant to most poisons. She also possesses superhuman strength, physical durability, elevated endurance, and a “seventh sense” that allows her to see upcoming terrible events.

Who is Shazam! in the DC Comics?

Shazam! is also technically a “Captain Marvel” character since DC owned the character after the copyright proceedings ended with Fawcett Comics. However, the DC character was never released under his rightful title because Marvel trademarked it before the publication got the chance. So, when asking, “who is Shazam!?”, you’re really asking, “Who was the Captain Marvel character in the original Fawcett series?”

To answer the question above, Captain Marvel in the Fawcett Comics would utter the word “Shazam!” to transform into his superhuman self; thus, DC couldn’t see a more apropos name to indicate to fans that the character was the same man they remembered from the Fawcett series.

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Shazam is an acronym for Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. These are the individuals whom Captain Marvel’s powers, from the Fawcett series, are said to derive from.

To boil it down, the guy in red and gold with a lightning bolt across his chest is Shazam!, or the original Captain Marvel from the Fawcett series now used by the DC Universe. If you see a girl named Captain Marvel, she’s from the Marvel Comics.