An Oral History of CAPTAIN MARVEL: Secret SHAZAM

An Oral History of CAPTAIN MARVEL

Recently at Newsarama, we did a look back at the history of the original Captain Marvel that explored the many different incarnations of the character. People seemed to like it. Well, we got some interesting feedback after the series ran about some versions of Captain Marvel that you never saw…by some very famous names.

Belgium is known for awesome beers, chocolates and more importantly, waffles. But did you know that in the 1950s, they got to see some very unique Captain Marvel Jr. stories by a future international comics legend.


Here’s what a fan wrote in:



“In the early 50's some Belgian publisher had the rights over Captain Marvel Jr., so they decided to publish new, nonexistent material, for a French-speaking audience.


“The writer was the daughter of the publisher and had no previous knowledge of Captain Marvel history, nor writing.

“The artist for the only story to be published was done by Albert Uderzo (still called Al Uderzo at the time) of Asterix fame (he did other non-hum our books like Tanguy et laverdure ... )

“The magazine in which it was published was called Bravo (one page per week, lasted 16 weeks).

“(They) did not know of Captain Marvel history either...the origin of Freddy Freeman is completely rewritten…and some villain which may resemble Dr Sivana is called Satano”

You can get a look at Uderzo’s Captain Marvel Jr. on this site, just scroll down. It’s in French, so if you’re bilingual…



Another person who wrote in was a comics legend himself – Jim Starlin, who first made a splash with his work on the “other” Captain Marvel, the cosmic hero Mar-Vell at Marvel Comics. This run kicked off a career that continued through such books as Warlock, Dreadstar and The Infinity Gauntlet, not to mention Marvel’s first graphic novel, The Death of Captain Marvel, where Starlin chronicled the Kree super-soldier’s last days.




But did you know that Starlin almost wrote and illustrated a tale with the original Captain Marvel just a few years ago? Here’s the story in his own words, along with some exclusive art…


“Thought you might like to see a version of DC's Captain Marvel that I was supposed to do but it got shot down once the movie actually went into production. My Captain Marvel was too different from the original.





“They were supposedly going into preproduction when my series was canceled. Remember reading about it somewhere online. Attached is the rest of the pages that were drawn or partially drawn. The empty panels on the first page were to be filled with images of Captain Marvel drawn by different artists from C.C, Beck to Al Weiss.


“As far as I got with the plot was that Billy and Captain Marvel got separated and were trying to figure out why. They meet a new wizard at the end, named Coriolis. Yes, I used the name later in the Bizarro series in Strange Adventures. The wizard was to inform them that their reality had been ruptured during the Crisis on Multiple Earths. Yes, I later used this concept in the Hawkman one-shot that never went anywhere. DC decided to kill off Hawkman instead.







“I got paid for the pencils and inks on this job but not for the coloring, for reasons that were never explained. That's about all there is to tell.”


One of the pieces of original artwork that got the biggest response in our series was the rendition of Captain Marvel by the late great Mike Wieringo. A number of fans and pros expressed regret that Mike never got to do a Captain Marvel series…but it turns out he came pretty close.

Here’s Peter Krause, artist of the series The Power of Shazam!



“Mike was supposed to draw Power of Shazam! - so he did have the assignment at one time. He left to draw something else - I don't know if that was Fantastic Four with Mark Waid, but it might have been. DC scrambled after that, and I got the job.


“Somewhere in my archives, I have a copy of the book DC used to send out to retailers - telling them of upcoming series. There's a promo piece of art there - Captain Marvel penciled by Mike and inked by Jerry Ordway.”

Here’s a copy of that piece, courtesy of Jerry Ordway. Based on talks with Ordway and Mark Waid, we’ve determined that the book Mike decided to do instead was likely his run on The Sensational Spider-Man at Marvel with Todd Dezago, which led to their creator-owned book Tellos a few years later. So this wound up being a good choice for Mike, and we still have this piece to remind us of what could have been.

And there’s one more Captain Marvel piece that’s…a bit different than others. Don Newton is considered by many to be one of the best modern Captain Marvel artists. In 1983, Newton and Roy Thomas collaborated on a proposed new Captain Marvel series that would have featured the first black member of the Marvel Family!

The character would have been a revised version of “Captain Thunder,” the Captain Marvel analogue who battled Superman in a memorable 1970s story. Like that version, this Captain Thunder would have the name of “Willie Fawcett,” a tribute to the man behind the company that launched the original character.

The proposal didn’t go through, and Roy Thomas says he doesn’t remember much else about it. He and Newton would collaborate again on Infinity Inc., though this would prove to be Newton’s last work, with only a single issue (#11) published before his tragic death from a heart attack at age 49. We have this design left as a hint of what could have been.

There were a couple of different attempts at reviving Captain Marvel between Shazam!: The New Beginning in 1987 and The Power of Shazam in 1994. One version, Shazam!: Word of Power by editor Michael Eury, would have revealed the talking tiger Tawky Tawny was actually Billy Batson’s father, mutated into a tiger-man by Dr. Sivana!



Another would have been done by John Byrne, who had revised Superman for the modern age with The Man of Steel a few years earlier. Byrne’s take would have put Billy and Mary Batson on the mean streets of Fawcett City, a realistic urban environment where Captain Marvel would bring some much-needed hope.


Billy and Mary would be working for a Fagin-like version of Uncle Dudley, whose Artful Dodger was a rough kid named “Adam Black” (do the math). The Wizard Shazam’s powers would first be given to Adam, and Billy would be empowered to correct the wizard’s mistake.





Unfortunately, Byrne ran into conflicts with DC – he wanted to start over from scratch around the same time DC wanted to feature Captain Marvel in the War of the Gods crossover. So the idea was scrapped, and Byrne moved on to other projects. But a few pages of his proposed series remain, and we present them to you here. You can read more about this proposal in Alter Ego #12 from TwoMorrows.


So those are some Captain Marvel stories you never saw – and we’re sure there’s going to be plenty of great new ones in the future. Shazam!

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