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Before Superman Could Fight Captain Marvel, He Had To Face This Guy

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Before Superman Could Fight Captain Marvel, He Had To Face This Guy

This is “Just Like the Time Before,” a feature where I examine instances from comic book history where comic book creators did early versions of later, notable comic book characters and plot ideas. Essentially, the “test runs” for later, more famous characters and stories.

The suggestion for this installment came from my reader Sam H.!

In 1938, Superman debuted in Action Comics #1 and he became a sensation, becoming the first superhero to get his own comic book series rather than splitting time in an anthology…

Imitators popped up constantly, and one of the most prominent ones was Captain Marvel, who debuted in 1940’s Whiz Comics #2…

My buddy, Nick Perks, longtime Line it is Drawn artist, once did a hilarious bit for an old edition of Line it is Drawn making fun of the similarities between the characters…

In any event, Captain Marvel soon became super popular, and was in fact MORE popular than Superman for a large stretch of the 1940s. DC Comics (then National Comics) sued Fawcett Comics over the character, claiming copyright infringment and the whole thing was in the courts for YEARS. Eventually, it seemed like National Comics had essentially won, but really, comic book sales were down, so Fawcett Comics just agreed to stop making Captain Marvel comic books in 1953.

Years went by, and Marvel Comics actually got their own Captain Marvel (and the trademark to the name, which is why Captain Marvel’s comic books have since had to use his famous magic word, “Shazam,” as the title of the comic book. Eventually, DC just re-named the character Shazam).

DC was interested in bringing Captain Marvel back and since they were the only ones who could publish Captain Marvel comic books without getting sued by, well, them, Fawcett agreed to license the character to DC Comics in 1973.

However, DC believed, for whatever reason, that the key to the characters working was that they exist in their own universe, so they were in their own comic books universe with an art style like the Golden Age Captain Marvel (his original artist, C.C. Beck, even drew the comic books!) (it was nice of Superman to show up for the cover of the first issue, at least).

Eventually, in 1976, during one of the annual Justice League/Justice Society crossovers, the Fawcett heroes also joined the fray and Superman and Captain Marvel fought for the first time…

There was even a special treasury edition comic devoted just to the two fighting…

Eventually, DC worked out a deal with Fawcett to just outright BUY the character, and he was integrated into the DC Universe officially (instead of being in his own universe and occasionally visiting) in Legends…

So that was how Captain Marvel came to be part of the DC Universe. However, did you know that there was a time when DC wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to have the two heroes interact? So they decided, instead, to do a sort of “test run” on the idea soon after DC started doing Shazam comics? If not, then do we have a story for you…

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