SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Infinity Countdown Prime #1 by Gerry Duggan and Mike Deodato Jr., on sale now.
It just isn't a Marvel Comics cosmic event if it doesn't feature Captain Marvel. Or a few of them – even if one of them isn't actually a Marvel character.
Marvel's latest such event hasn't officially begun yet, but Infinity Countdown Prime #1, the storyline's prologue one-shot, lays out the background of the much-coveted Infinity Stones, and those who would possess them. One of them, the Reality Stone, is shown to have been found by Captain Marvel – aka, Carol Danvers. Another Reality Stone is located by Captain Marvel – aka, Monica Rambeau. Yet another is discovered by the original Captain Marvel – aka, Mar-Vell.
But is that really the original Captain Marvel? No – there is another.
Right there, in the panel next to Mar-Vell, is a partial image of another familiar looking Captain Marvel, albeit with some color trickery. That's right, it appears that the true original Captain Marvel – now called Shazam – has found an Infinity Stone of his own.
The colors have been changed to protect the innocent, but there's no mistaking that layered bath towel cape, that forearm-long wristband, and that large-cuffed boot. That's Billy Batson after uttering the magic word "Shazam!"
The spread transitions from the most recent Captain to the very first, and yes, Fawcett Comics' Cap was the first – even Marvel is saying so. The color alterations are a probable barrier against any potential lawsuits – something that both Marvel and DC Comics have plenty of history with regarding the character's name. It's probably no coincidence either that the blue costume evokes another character from the original Marvel family – Freddy Freeman, the one-time Captain Marvel Jr.
Of course, the legal story regarding the Captain Marvel moniker is legendary, and fascinating. DC (then National Comics) had sued Fawcett back in 1951, claiming Fawcett's Captain Marvel infringed on DC's own flagship character, Superman. This eventually led to Fawcett's demise, and DC's later procurement of the rights to the very character they claimed copied their own some 20 years later.
As the Big Red Cheese sat dormant in legal limbo, Marvel swooped in and snagged the name for a brand-new character of their own in 1967. This eventually left DC unable to use the name for the character they forced into cancellation and later resurrected.
The character's name has since been a longstanding point of contention between the Big Two; Marvel even killed off Mar-Vell in 1982, leaving DC with a ray of hope that it might someday reclaim the name. Of course, Marvel then gave the title to Monica Rambeau later that very same year.
Some saw the reuse of the name as a spiteful move, just as some might see Marvel's not-so-subtle cameo of the character in this issue as a thumb to the nose at DC, though it's most certainly simply a fun nod to the Distinguished Competition.
One thing the Reality Stone can't change, though, is this reality. Captain Marvel will likely forever remain a part of the Marvel family – that is, the Marvel Comics family.