Once more popular than even Superman or Batman, Captain Marvel — aka Shazam — is one of the oldest and arguably most powerful superheroes in modern existence. Born in the pages of Fawcett Comics’ Whiz Comics #2 in 1940, Billy Batson has gone under several retcons through the years but his story has, essentially, stayed the same.
The orphaned Batson, selling newspapers to make some pocket change, is approached by the wizard Shazam, who grants him the powers of the “immortal elders” because he is pure of heart. Upon uttering the word “Shazam,” Billy Batson is turned into the adult superhero Captain Marvel, who has the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury.
Created by artist C.C. Beck and writer Bill Parker, Captain Marvel was so popular when he first arrived in the pages of Whiz Comics that they soon launched Captain Marvel Adventures, selling millions of comics in the process. But the character soon went through some tough times. In the early 1940s, DC Comics filed a lawsuit that claimed Captain Marvel was too similar to Superman. Eventually, the case was settled in 1953, with Fawcett settling with DC Comics.
The character lay dormant for almost 20 years before DC Comics editor-in-chief Carmine Infantino licensed the character in 1972 and ushered in a new age for Captain Marvel, who was rebranded as Shazam!.
So, where do you start if you’re interested in learning more about Captain Marvel, aka Shazam? Ahead of the Shazam! movie opening this week, SYFY WIRE picked a handful of Shazam comic book issues and arcs you should read to get a sense of who Billy Batson really is.