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…”