Reign of the Supermen #53: Superman as Captain Marvel

Source: Superman/Batman #5 (2004)
Type: The real dealIt had to happen some day, and it did in the first Superman/Batman story. Clark dresses up as Captain Marvel to fool his enemies. Lightning, phone booths, it's all the same right?

Nope.

Why don't I consider Captain Marvel to be a Superman analog? There's no question that Captain Marvel né Thunder is an early rip-off of Superman. Both are strongmen with a colorful costume who fight crime with similar powers. And in both cases, their secret identities are journalists - Clark Kent the traditionalist at his newspaper job, and Billy Batson looking towards the future at WHIZ radio. The similarities end there however. Though Captain Thunder was obviously created in response to Superman's popularity and thus LOOKS the same, the details are very different. Captain Marvel isn't a stranger from another world, and though that in itself is not enough of a change to strike him off the list of analogs, the fact that his own premise is iconic enough to have spawned its OWN analogs is what informs my opinion.

Captain Marvel's central concept is one of wish fulfillment. A young boy calls out a magic word and becomes a super-powered adult able to face all his fears. Since his creation, there have been many heroes who substitute their presence for a young mortal, from Marvel's own Captain Marvel and the UK's Marvelman to the likes of Ninjak and more recently, Thunderstrike (isn't Thor's in fact closer to Captain Marvel than is Superman?). Throw in a wizard, Harry Potter's magic train, and the deadly sins standing guard, and you have a fairy tale origin that completely deviates from Superman's science fiction roots.

Eventually, it was Superman who was copying off someone else's book - true flight, a Junior version (Captain Marvel Jr./Superboy) and a young girl sidekick (Mary Marvel/Supergirl). To be kind, let's call it all cross-pollination.

So Superman can dress up as the Big Red Cheese, but there can only be one true heir to Shazam's magic lightning bolt (well, actually there are lots of heirs, but you know what I mean).

2 comments:

Bill D. said...

Yes. Definitely.

The Big Red Cheese may dress himself up in Man of Steel trappings, but that's just because that's what was popular at the time. He has way more in common with Harry Potter than Superman!

Siskoid said...

You mean with Tim Hunter, don't you?

 

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