It seems very ironic that Shazam! and Captain Marvel both arrive in theaters in 2019. Shazam! features the DC Comics superhero commonly known as Captain Marvel, which has some fans still a bit confused as to why the movie didn't use the character's longtime name.
When comedian Andy Richter pointed out on Twitter that he thought Captain Marvel and Shazam were the same person, Shazam! director David F. Sandberg responded.
Richter started it off with a simple question: "I thought Captain Marvel and Shazam were the same person. Thought Capt M said Shazam to become Capt M?"
Sandberg's response was perfect: "Because of old trademark shenanigans Shazam now gets the power to say Shazam and turn into Shazam from a wizard named Shazam."
To catch everyone up to date, DC Comics version of Captain Marvel was around first. He was actually around way before DC Comics even gained the rights to the character. C.C. Beck and Bill Parker created him in 1939 for Fawcett Comics, and his early comics even outsold Superman's. However, Fawcett stopped publishing Captain Marvel comic books in 1953.
In 1972, DC Comics licensed the character and brought him back. The publisher finally acquired the rights to Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family by 1991. However, Marvel also had a character at that time named Captain Marvel, and that brought about trademark issues.
Marvel Comics introduced Mar-Vell in 1967's Marvel Super-Heroes #12, by Stan Lee and Gene Colan, and he soon got his own comic book titled Captain Marvel. That was during the time where the original Captain Marvel from Fawcett Comics was dormant, so Marvel jumped on it. Since no one was using Captain Marvel as a trademark, Marvel gained the rights to it.
However, despite this, DC Comics could still call their character Captain Marvel in the pages of the comics. It was only the title of the books -- and the movies and TV shows -- that could not have the character's official name listed. In the '70s, the hero's Saturday morning cartoon was called The Shazam!/Isis Hour, so this is nothing new.
Now, Marvel Comics has the rights to the title Captain Marvel, and DC Comics had to change their book's title to Shazam! This leads us to the present day, where two characters that have used the name Captain Marvel get their own movie, but only Marvel has the rights to use it as a title while DC Comics is using their trademarked Shazam!
Of course, as Sandberg admits, it is confusing. The wizard is named Shazam, not the actual hero of the story. But that is what happens when trademark issues come up between two rivals as heated as Marvel Comics and DC Comics.
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Captain Marvel arrives on March 8. Directed by David F. Sandberg, Shazam! arrives April 5.