Who is Captain Marvel?

Over at the Captain Comics Web site, a group of us have been talking about Captain Marvel.
You might not know Captain Marvel by name, but you’re sure to know how he activates his power: He says “Shazam!” and he gets zapped by a lightning bolt, changing from Billy Batson, a normal boy, to a grown adult full of super-powers.
His superpowers are derived from the acronym his name makes:

  • S: Solomon grants Billy his immense wisdom
  • H: Hercules grants Billy great strength
  • A: Atlas grants Billy infinite stanima
  • Z: Zeus grants Billy his thunderous power
  • A: Achilles grants Billy astounding courage
  • M: Mercury grants Billy amazing speed

Most fans are perfectly fine with all these powers. They are immensely undefined though, and time and time again, it’s Captain Marvel’s demeanor that causes most fans to angst.
You see since the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” more than 20 years ago, Captain Marvel was sucked into the mainstream DC Comics Universe, where, for all intents and purposes he’s a carbon copy of Superman.
So, writers began to change him — namely they make him a bit of a dope and they make him a bit naive. They theorize that though Captain Marvel has the body of an adult (a super-powered adult, that is), he still has the mind of a child.
This causes many writers to assume he’s uneducated, foolhardy and easily bamboozled.
But fans, and I suppose some writers too, say this is wrong. See, Captain Marvel has the “wisdom of Solomon,” which should allow him to avoid many of the pitfalls he encounters.
I agree with this basic statement, but only on the surface level.
Wisdom, after all, has nothing to do with being intelligent.
Wisdom has nothing to do with being emotionally mature.
Instead, wisdom is about intuition. Wisdom is about knowing what’s right and wrong.
And that, I feel, is the key to writing Captain Marvel.
He’s a kid who can sense what “the right thing to do” is, but he struggles with finding the practical solution to his dilemmas.


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