I was SOOOOOO disappointed when, halfway thfough my first run of DA:I
that I couldn’t romance Varricc. My dwarf inquisitor was so distraught
that only Blackwall could fill that lonely void, literally and
I promised @benito-cereno that I’d write this a while ago,
but it fell by the wayside until now. So, Benny, ::finger guns:: here’s one for
Who is Captain Marvel?
This is one of the questions which pretty much every writer
who has handled the original Captain Marvel over the last thirty-five years has
tackled in one way or another. Are Billy and Cap the same person, transformed
through magic? Are they different people who trade places with the utterance of
a magic word? Or are they something else?
The original Golden Age adventures seem to make it pretty
clear that Billy and Cap were separate people. They often refer to each other
in the third person; Cap will say something like “Now that Billy is safe …” and
Billy will say “I better call Captain Marvel” before bellowing his magic word,
Then again, lots of comic book superheroes refer to their
alter-ego in the third person. Superman and Clark Kent will often refer to each
other as distinct persons, as will Batman and Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man and Peter Parker, and so on – and we
know that those aren’t two distinct entities. It’s just a device for the reader’s
And the words “transformed” and “changed” are frequently used
to describe the effects of Shazam’s magic lightning – terms which seem to imply
a single individual altering his material condition, but which also might just
be short-hand for the effects of the magic word. So there’s evidence on both
Personally, I find that a lot of the charm of these Golden
Age superhero comics is how closely they hew to the internal, magical logic of
fairy tales. I personally don’t think you need
to make a distinction between Cap and Billy being the same person or Cap and
Billy merely switching places – it can be both.
Before I go any
further, let me offer a few caveats. First off, none of my conclusions from
here on out are strictly canon or in continuity. As far as I know, it may
directly contradict canon, for whatever that’s worth. This is a personal
interpretation, it works for me, and it’s
no threat to anything anyone else has written, assumed or chosen to believe.
Please feel free to have your own interpretation, which you should – everyone should. There should be as many
interpretations of a popular character as there are people who have connected
with that character. That’s rather the individual magic of storytelling ::and with those magic words, a cloud
of Neil Gaimans appears::.
Additionally, my extrapolation refers exclusively to the
original, Fawcett-published Captain Marvel and his adventures. I know that
recent writers who’ve tackled the character under the DC banner have addressed
some of these questions and characters – very expertly, in some cases – but they’re
not much in my mind when I think of the source material.
(That’s on accounta I believe that characters in later
incarnations are different characters from the source material. How is a
character with a different origin, personality, costume, supporting cast,
publisher and creators meant to be the same character as the original,
particularly when the current adventures are taking place almost four
generations later than the debut stories? And in new media, at that? Even
Morrison/Quitely’s and Parker/Shaner’s tonally spot-on homages strike me as new
incarnations rather than continuations of the original characters, but your
mileage might vary and I digress …)
What We Talk About
When We Talk About Shazam
So the thing about Billy and Cap is that they’re unique in
Marvel Family lore – no one else has a Captain Marvel as their alter-ego.
Mary Batson becomes Mary Marvel, not significantly different
from her civilian self, but gifted with super-powers. Freddy Freeman becomes
Captain Marvel Jr, the same fella he was before but bereft of his crippling
injuries and gifted with super-powers. Even Cap’s immediate predecessor as the
wizard’s champion, the villainous Black Adam, only ever became a super-powered
version of himself. None of them ever became a distinctly, visibly different
The only members of the Marvel Family who experience a
distinct physical change such as Cap’s are the Lieutenant Marvels – three boys
born on the same day as Billy Batson and also named Billy Batson, all of whom
acquired the power of Shazam through what amounts to a bureaucratic oversight. The
Lieutenants transform into what are clearly the adult forms of their real
selves, although I don’t recall them ever referring to the pre- and post-Shazam
forms as distinct people. So there’s a pivotal distinction.
It is worth mentioning that Billy and Cap resemble each
other to the degree that you might assume that Cap is, at least, an idealized
image of what Billy might look like as an adult. As it is, they look so similar
that they could be brothers – much like the Lieutenants, but with the added
element of at least occasionally seeming to be different people.
It’s fairly evident that Cap and Billy share a relationship
which is unique among the other assorted members of the Marvel Family – and that
it persists no matter the incarnation of Billy and Cap.
One of my favorite old Captain Marvel stories involves Billy
and Cap travelling a thousand years into the future and meeting their direct (and identical) descendants – BilBat and CapMarv (In the future, you see, society moves so quickly that we
speak exclusively in abbreviations, which is obvs p.ludicrous lol).
Like their contemporary
counterparts, the 30th century World’s Mightiest Mortal and his juvenile
alter ego resemble one another and speak of one another as separate people, but
are also “transformed” and “changed” by the magic lightning.
As long as it’s Billy and Cap, whatever the incarnation, there’s something different about Billy’s relationship
with the power of Shazam … but what is it?
Now who is this guy?
One figure which has remained shrouded in mystery throughout
the golden age run of the Marvel Family books is the shadowy figure which lures
Billy into the magic subway car, depositing the boy in the hall of the mighty
Obviously, this figure is some entity, shade or spirit in the
service of Shazam, but who? And why? He goes as far as to accompany Billy to
the immediate presence of the Wizard before he unceremoniously disappears
between panels, effectively vanishing forever without further explanation.
Personally, I think the shadowy
figure is Captain Marvel. This is what Captain Marvel is without Billy’s
imagination and courageous spirit to give him form and direction, without Billy’s
wit to give him a personality, and without Billy’s presence to give him a
likeness. The shadowy figure is some immaterial revenant in the service of the
Wizard, embodying the contract and the power Shazam has wrangled from six great
heroes and gods of history, just waiting to be put into service.
There’s only one of these shadowy figures (that we’ve ever
seen), so only Billy – Shazam’s current champion – gets him. Everyone else gets
what Teth-Adam had, powers and vitality in their existing form. The Lieutenants,
by the aforementioned bureaucratic error, get the cosmetic appearance of Cap’s
unique form, but not the specifics.
So Cap and Billy are different people, and are transformed
back and forth as well. Fairy tale logic, works just fine to my mind.
But who is Captain
I have another favorite story from the era, The Son of
Shazam. A clever magician uses stage magic to convince Captain Marvel that he
is “Shazam Jr,” and orders the World’s Mightiest Mortal to go about on all
sorts of money-making errands for him. At one point, Cap – riddled with
suspicion over the atypically greedy antics of the alleged offspring of his
kind and generous master – flies to the Rock of Eternity. There, he asks the
old Wizard if Shazam has a son, and Shazam replies that he does. Cap flies off
before hearing the full reply.
In the final panel of the story, the spirit of the Wizard
clarifies the information – “You are my son, Captain Marvel!”
Now, obviously, this was meant to be read as an expression
of paternal affection. Or … could Captain Marvel – which is to say, the shadowy
figure which served Shazam, the formless shade who brought Billy to the Wizard
and then was transformed himself into Captain Marvel – actually be the old
Wizard’s immediate offspring? Was Shazam speaking literally?
I like to imagine this version of the story (even though
this particular element is assembled from whole cloth) because it has a
mythological and fairy tale feel to it. Shazam has a son, a brave and noble son
who serves his father faithfully. His son is, at some point, killed – by treachery?
In defense of right? In some sort of noble sacrifice? It’ll be good, whatever
it was – and the powerful wizard is left with only his memories.
So Shazam descends to the afterlife to see his son one last
time – possibly to rescue him from eternity. He meets, on his journeys, six
gods and heroes of legend. He bargains with each of these mighty figures for
some boon to give his son back the qualities he possessed in life; great
courage, great stamina, fleetness and strength, wisdom and righteous power.
But, even though he acquires these boons, he neglects to
secure the return of his son’s physical body. It never occurs to him, or he
fails a vital challenge, or perhaps the acquisition of a new physical form is
the greatest of the Wizard’s seven labors, and takes centuries.
In the interim, his son attends to him only as a phantom, a shadow
of his former self. This leads Shazam on a quest covering millennia in hopes of
finding a new champion who embodies all the virtues needed to give his son life
And then, with one magic word, there’s Billy Batson, and the
rest is history.
So that’s my take on it, I find it a nice, neat, poignant
little narrative which ties up a loose end or two. Your mileage, as I said
earlier, is very much welcome to vary. Hope you liked it, Benito ::kisses
fingers, points them to heaven:: you’re partying with the angels now, dude!
by the way uhmm, sore? At all?”
M: “Am I sore?”
M: “Well, after my panel with Jared, yeah.”
*audience cheers M: “I’m sorry, you were talking about the bike riding.” J: “No
no, I was actually talking about what just happened.” *points at backstage and grins
*Misha ignores and quickly proceeds to talk about the mishalecki panel and the bicycling instead
Why is no one talking about Jensen’s response!?!
What is he refering to?
Mega congratulations to our own @saunterleftside, who has spent the last several months taking an EMT course. He passed the class with flying colors, passed his national exam last night, and he is CERTIFIED as an EMT!
Although we will continue to attempt a policy of not breaking ourselves *ahem. shifty eyes* (look, I said attempt) we are delighted to have someone on staff who can properly assess altered consciousness, manage profuse bleeding, bandage an impalement for transport, splint a fracture, immobilize someone to a backboard, and perform CPR.
But mostly we’re proud of him! Congratulations, DK!