Shazam is set to be released April 5, 2019. But the question remains: will its protagonist be named “Shazam” or his more traditional moniker, Captain Marvel?
Part of the problem? Marvel has their own hero called “Captain Marvel,” and her film is coming out less than a month earlier, on March 8.
A comic book history lesson: in 1941, Fawcett Comics created a young boy named Billy Batson, who could transform into the adult superhero Captain Marvel by shouting “Shazam!,” the name of the wizard who gave him this power. His comics, called Captain Marvel and variants thereof, made him one of the biggest superheroes of the Golden Age of Comic Books.
Long story short, DC Comics bought the character, but by then the copyright on the name had expired, and a newer company, Marvel Comics, snatched it up. Several Marvel characters have since borne the name, including the upcoming film’s protagonist, Carol Danvers.
This does not mean that DC Comics can’t call their own hero “Captain Marvel,” however; it simply means that they cannot advertise him that way. As such, DC has traditionally titled their comic books “Shazam,” after the magic word Billy shouts, while Billy’s alter ego continues to be called “Captain Marvel” within the story.
That changed in 2011 with the “New 52” initiative, however, where his hero form is also called “Shazam.” That said, many changes to the character from the New 52 were disliked by fans, who generally seem to prefer his more lighthearted “Captain Marvel” title.
What he will be called in the new movie is still a mystery, as so far official materials have used both names. At this point is may be be up to director David F. Sandberg, who is already bracing for backlash.