Regarding “Shazam, Formerly Called Captain Marvel…”

There’s something that’s been on mind for a while, but only now felt compelled to write about it after I saw the latest article begin with that exact phrase, one that is used by virtually every major - even many minor - comic book news site.

Why is it on my mind?

Because pretty soon, it’ll be time for comic book news sites to change it to something more accurate (which I’ll put at the bottom of this), and more importantly, because it’s never been true.

DC never took an existing Captain Marvel and changed his name.

What they actually did was they created an entirely new and separate character in the New 52 and named him Shazam. This version is the one that was more or less carried through the succeeding eras following the New 52, Rebirth, Infinite Frontier, and now the current Dawn of DC era (a little about the latter later).

That’s this guy:

Meanwhile, the preceding main versions of Captain Marvel are still called Captain Marvel. They never had their names changed.

Moreover, they still exist and they’re still canon. They live on their own respective Earths. We know this to be the case following Dark Crisis #7.

For example, the original Captain Marvel, the one created by Fawcett Publications and as revived by DC Comics during their pre-Crisis era, still lives on Earth-S:

As I mentioned above, he is still called Captain Marvel. Like so:

Likewise, the post-Crisis version of Captain Marvel still lives on New Earth. He is still called Captain Marvel. Again, neither of these versions of the character were taken and had their names changed to Shazam.

Earth-0 Shazam, meanwhile, has never actually gone by Captain Marvel, at least as an official name.

Disclaimer: Following Death Metal, Earth-0 Shazam (as well as others) seems to remember the history and lives of his predecessors, and probably knows that they have gone by Captain Marvel…

A note: There are some fans who believe that all of the characters in DC’s history were merged into one, making them all one and the same because of Death Metal, meaning that they’d argue that Earth-0 Shazam once went as Captain Marvel, but as comics such as Infinite Frontier #5 proved, DC’s different Earths and their respective heroes are all separate and distinct from one another, so Earth-0 Shazam and post-Crisis Captain Marvel cannot possibly be or have been one and the same.

Now that we are officially in the Dawn of DC era, guess what?

Earth-0 Shazam is now going to be called The Captain.

Even though the law is on DC’s side as far as being able to call him Captain Marvel, and even though DC still continues to use the Captain Marvel moniker here and there (like they’ve done as recently as 2021)…

… they are still afraid of a lawsuit from Marvel Comics, so Mark Waid came up with a workaround for the name. Lazarus Planet has basically rearranged how magic works in the DC universe. Earth-0 Billy can no longer say, “Shazam!” without changing.

Previously, Earth-0 Billy and Shazam could say his name without transforming. He’d only transformed if he intended to — or by meeting some other criteria (according to whatever writier played with the rules).

All of that is to say that this is an actual name change. That’s right, Earth-0 Shazam, unlike his pre-Crisis and post-Crisis predecessors, had his name changed.

Which brings me to the phrase that articles will now need to start start with for the Earth-0 version:

“The Captain, formerly called Shazam…”


My brain hurts, but I think I get it!

Thanks for the info @CaptainMarvelology!! Seriously interesting stuff! I’ve really gotta read more of The Captain. And Captain Marvel. Because they’re different. Hence the article.

You’ve broken me lol


You’re welcome!

Sadly, before the advent of New 52 Shazam, it used to be really simple to explain the Captain Marvel name.

Now, it’s really, really complicated.


That pretty much just sums up New 52 lol


You knew this reaction image was coming, right?


I did not, but I should’ve


Very nicely written, but expecting journalist today, even those who have an actual degree, is expecting far too much from people who often don’t even bother to spend 20 minutes on a browser search, much less 20 minutes on even Wikipedia on the things that even they themselves believe they should take seriously, so they aren’t going to bother to do so with Billy or any other comic book character.


To be fair, even on Wikipedia, the section about the New 52 creation says it was a name change. The stuff that I wrote above is not something you’d easily find anywhere, even on Google.


Very well written. I agree but would add two points.

  1. I think some of the confusion is the result of The Trial Of SHAZAM storyline where Billy is chosen to take the place of the wizard Shazam. Even though he went by Marvel during this time period, I have met people who assumed that the mantel and title of Shazam were passed together. Especially since CMJ activated his powers by saying Shazam during this time instead of Captain Marvel.

  2. Essentially, to the common public who don’t go into the multiverse, he has swapped names. The character from comics they know who is a kid named Billy Batson who speaks a magic word to transform into a super-powered adult, the kid who fights silly villains and gives lessons in family, was going by one thing, and is now going by something else. They don’t know this is a different character and I don’t think they would see the distinction of it was explained. “Batman has rebooted but is still called Batman, why is Capt. Marvel now called Shazam?” For the record, I disagree to an extent (more below) but I can understand the confusion. Also for the record, when Batman first appeared he was called the bat-man.

Now, I will say that Shazam was and is a stupid name for Billy. He, or a character based off of him, never should have been called, or have been implied to be named that. He can’t say his own name? What is everyone else called? The Captain sounds cool though and I’m all for it being the new normal.


I wouldn’t mind if he was just Shazam but that would mean someone else is referred to Captain Marvel. I would say Mary would take that name but I also am fond of Mary Marvel mantle so I would just call Freddy Freeman Captain Marvel.

Not only would it tied to a thematic relevance with Freddy once being Captain Marvel in Trial of Shazam, but more importantly Freddy wouldn’t have to be called Captain Marvel jr or CM2(God CM2 :grimacing:)

Just seriously imagine how cute it would be in the new 52 with Freddy giving billy the name Captain Marvel early on but later Billy who accepts the mantle and power of Shazam, saying “that would mean someone got to be the one with the cool superhero name.” Looking at a enthusiastic Freddy who gets excited to be called Captain Marvel.

As for Darla, Pedro and Eugene. Just call them Lieutenants or for something less militaristic, go with something simple. Marvels!

DC editorial are seriously cowards on this topic, thinking just naming your characters with Marvel would mean Marvel Comics would sue.


Those are some contributing factors as to the confusion, but comic book journalists bear a great burden of the responsibility. It is their job to be informed and provide the correct information to their readers. Much of the confusion about the character is directly because of them.