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Warren Scott
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Posted: 24 November 2017 at 9:19pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

An issue came up over in the Movies section while discussing the new Captain Marvel movie, and I'm interested in hearing everyone's thoughts.
Does Billy Batson become Captain Marvel (as established in the 80s DC Comics) or are Billy and Cap really two people? Was it ever made clear in the Fawcett comics?
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Matt Hawes
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Posted: 24 November 2017 at 9:55pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Well, I'm more in the camp that believes Captain Marvel is just a magical transformation of Billy Batson, and that the two are not distinct individuals, with Billy vanishing for a period and CM taking his place.

But, one thing that annoys me with some writers is that Billy isn't necessarily just a kid in an adult's body. Some writers have him acting childish as Captain Marvel. This disregards that one of the attributes the wizard Shazam bestowed upon Billy when Billy transforms is that he gets the wisdom of Solomon. While in that adult state, Billy is intellectually an adult as well as physically. Otherwise, how could he have that wisdom at his disposal and still act as a kid. When he becomes Billy again, he loses that wisdom.

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Paul Gibney
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Posted: 24 November 2017 at 9:57pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

While I always thought of them as one, there are several indications that they are really two people. There was a story where they were fighting each other; they bought each other Christmas presents, and have had conversations between them, as well. In one story, someone ELSE became Captain Marvel, and Billy and Cap met. That said, they also share memories and feelings, so the answer is probably somewhere in between. However, on average, they were probably originally intended as separate people.
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Jean-Francois Joutel
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Posted: 24 November 2017 at 10:01pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Most of the DC stories of the Captain Marvel family depict Cap as an adult version of Bill Batson. The original Fawcett comics never made it blatant, but Captain Marvel fans knew they were different people.  I think the confusion might have been that Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr were the same between their secret identities and their heroic personas, so Billy should be the same.

A notable exception to DC's version was Jeff Smith's excellent mini-series Shazam: the Monster Society of Evil. In that series, it is clear that Billy and Cap are different and distinct characters.


Edited by Jean-Francois Joutel on 24 November 2017 at 10:03pm
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James Woodcock
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Posted: 25 November 2017 at 12:36am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

I thought they were the same person but with different attributes. As mentioned above, give me the wisdom of Solomon and I may act a bit differently. Legends (which I have just re-read) makes this very clear.

The U.K. analogue, marvelman, when written by you know who, took the other path. Both are interesting and valid character directions. But I don’t think that Captain Marvel should be altered because of Marvelman.
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Marc M. Woolman
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Posted: 25 November 2017 at 12:56am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

The original comics played it both ways,
with issues where the lighting struck
other people and now they turn into
(Billy's) Captain Marvel, and issues where
Billy wants to be an adult and do adult
things such as taking a woman out on a
date, so he does this as Captain Marvel.

I think this is one of those comic book
questions that should never be answered,
however, when DC turned the character into
Tom Hanks' Big, they misunderstood that
the fundamental conceipt of Captain Marvel
is that with a magic word, a child becomes
an adult, a very competent adult, in body
AND mind. This is the basic childhood
fantasy of "I wish I was a grown-up".

As mentioned in this thread, Captain
Marvel had a distinct personality all his
own, (whether he was a grown-up Billy with
the wisdom of Solomon, or actually someone
else) he was not a child's brain and lack
of adult/life experiences inside of a
grown-up body.

Edited by Marc M. Woolman on 25 November 2017 at 1:06am
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Richard Stevens
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Posted: 25 November 2017 at 7:52am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

I think whichever side you come down on, the only way “Captain Marvel acts like a goofy child” works is if the plot involves a problem with the transformation.
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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 25 November 2017 at 10:27am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

My feeling is that Captain Marvel and Billy Batson are the same entity, at two different ages. If you allow that I was the same person at 14 as I am at 56, then it's the same person. If you say that I am two very different entities, then it's different people - although not entirely. My judgment is that they are the same person - just at different ages.

I think it's worth a look at Mary, Freddie, Fat, Hill, Tall, and Hoppy to see that they did NOT change ages; in fact, they seemed to be the same people entirely.
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Tim Cousar
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Posted: 25 November 2017 at 10:54am | IP Logged | 9 post reply

In one Golden Age story, Billy whispered "Shazam," and an astral form of Captain Marvel appeared to converse with him.
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Jeremy Simington
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Posted: 25 November 2017 at 1:27pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

Does anyone know (from reputable sources) what Bill Parker & C.C. Beck's original intention was?  Based on what others have posted above, it sounds like even in the early days of the character, there wasn't consistency.

My personal preference is that Captain Marvel is grown-up Billy who is a wise adult but has constant optimism, a complete lack of cynicism, and always has fun being Captain Marvel.
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Bob Simko
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Posted: 25 November 2017 at 7:34pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

From what I've read of the original stories, it strikes me as akin to different
Doctors...same at the core, but a lot of different "window dressing" between
the 2. As mentioned, there were stories of Billy and Cap switching back and
forth to exchange Christmas presents.
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 25 November 2017 at 8:04pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

This topic is fingernails on the chalkboard to me. 

If the original creators had come up with an idea so idiotically simplistic as "Billy is Cap and Cap is Billy," the comics would have been written that way. Granted, "Cap's just Billy" is easier to understand and I know how comic fans like their stuff really, really direct and laid out for them, following the most elementary applications of "if this, then that," but this particular line of reductive reasoning strips the very concept of Captain Marvel of everything magical about him. Every damn thing.

Had the creators gone with something so elementary, we'd have had years and years of what we've been getting since fans-turned-pro like Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway began demolition on the character back in the Eighties and Nineties, Billy-as-Cap would simply say, "I've got to get back to the station before Mr. Morris notices I'm missing" or "Wow. What a beautiful girl! But in this body, she doesn't know I'm only ten!" 

And, in general, the characters did not speak that way. Captain Marvel would instead say, "Billy's expected back at the station. Got to wrap this up quickly." The two spoke of one another differently. They could be made to mistrust one another under certain circumstances. They bought Christmas gifts for each other and were surprised by what one bought the other. Two different people.

"Billy-as-Cap" is an asinine overwriting of the character's history that everyone today seems completely comfortable with, in part because it differentiates the character from Superman. They also bend themselves into knots over the inevitable question of "If Billy isn't Cap, then who is?" Jerry Ordway flipped himself inside-out over that one so badly that he gave us an answer (Billy's dead father) AND went with the "Billy-as-Cap" concept as well. 

"Oh, yeah?? Well, then what about the rest of the Marvel Family??" They're different people as well, for the most part, with the templates for the magically created beings more closely resembling the originals than Cap does. While there are discrepancies, for the most part, Mary and Freddy refer to their secret identities in the third person as well and not as "I." It's not "thank heavens I changed in time!" It's almost always, "Holy Moley! That was a close one for Mary!"

Captain Marvel is a magical champion created in part from the childlike idealism, good heart, and physical reality of Billy Batson. The two are intrinsically linked to one another. If one dies, so does the other. Overthink leads to Miracleman's Q-Space and such, but at least that model preserves the notion that the two are different beings, even if Miracleman is essentially a perfected version of Mike Moran. Mike doesn't know what Miracleman does, nor does Miracleman know what Mike is doing. They are not the same guy switching clothes and appearances in a flash of lightning as Captain Marvel has been portrayed since the god-awful "New Beginning" mini-series lo these many moons ago. 

Remember that one? Where Uncle Ebeneezer may as well be Sivana because, well, no one actually knows TWO awful old men in their lives. Y'know what else we can reduce? The number of heroes the concept has, from two down to one. Just Billy. In a grown-up Captain Marvel suit. Like the Ultraverse character Prime, but not as gooey.

I'm so tired of the "Billy with wisdom would act differently" bosh as well. When did we get so comfortable with looking down on these characters? Billy is no dummy. In fact, he gets Cap out of a number of scrapes back in the Golden Age. He also doesn't require the courage of Achilles to leap into danger or put himself at risk for others. Cap is part Billy and part Achilles. And part Solomon. All of them had something to contribute. But we don't see Captain Marvel flashing back to that time he had to threaten to chop a baby in half. Cap is magical. He's not just Billy grown-up or with a couple of bells and whistles added. 


Here's what C.C. Beck thinks Billy looks like grown-up. Kurt Schaffenberger once showed what he thought Cap looked like as a kid. (Not Billy.) But whatta these clowns know, right? Right! They were never fans! Not like we were! We got a much simpler answer these days, and we're stickin' with it! See here, this "Kingdom Come" book by fans-turned-pro Mark Waid and Alex Ross? Pure fanboy magic! Love the whole skeevy Billy, evil Cap mind-control stuff! And look!! Billy looks juuuuust like Cap. Isn't it so much simpler that way? Don't we all feel better now with an easy answer?

Gail Simone recently indulged her inner troll on FB by putting forth the very clear, obvious fact that Cyclops has heat vision. There were lots and lots of panels to back her up. Her fanbase was more than delighted to pitch in. Here's Scott setting the grass on fire. Here's Scott melting the ice off Warren's wing. Here's Scott lighting the frickin' candles on a birthday cake. What fun! Haha! Whatta laugh on all the anal-retentives out there who think any of this stuff matters! It's all been gotten wrong so often that we can form entire schools of debate on the matter, with tons of evidence to back up the "wrong" argument as readily as the "right" one. Pfah! As if right or wrong mattered to anyone in comics! Haha! That Gail! What. A. Card.

DC long ago scrapped the original concept of Captain Marvel in the holy crusade of making him "interesting" and "different from Superman" by first turning him into a glandularly-challenged naif with his thumb up his butt and nowadays an edgy teen with edgy teen issues dealing with his teenage edginess in an edgy teenaged way ("Hey, are we interesting yet?" No. But keep at it. Who knows? Maybe the next re-imagining will get you there. Or the next.)

Doesn't matter, I know. Most everyone here is convinced of the simplest throughline for the concept. Everyone's happy with getting it wrong. And hey, Hollywood's about to chime in on the matter with their big, new re-imagining of the character with a lead actor who could believably play the kid-in-a-grown-up-suit role just fine. What could be more high-concept and lowbrow at the same time than, "He's Superman! But a kid dressing up to play Superman! For real! And they all treat him like a grown-up! He really IS a grown-up super-hero! And a kid at the same time!!" What a hoot it's going to be, no doubt, no doubt. Oh, the wacky hijinx that will ensue. Maybe they'll even throw in a nod to the "dancing on the keyboard" sequence from Big. Or the fortune-telling machine. Ho ho. What a guaranteed knee-slapper it's all going to be... 


Edited by Brian Hague on 25 November 2017 at 8:16pm
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 25 November 2017 at 8:35pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply

...the very best rants always come from Brian!
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Marc M. Woolman
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Posted: 25 November 2017 at 9:13pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

Loved every word of that rant.
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David Miller
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Posted: 25 November 2017 at 10:50pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

The ambiguity in the CC Beck and Otto Binder comics is complex and engaging, the exploration of identity worthy of Jorge Luis Borges. Not bad for children's entertainment.
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Eric Jansen
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Posted: 26 November 2017 at 2:32am | IP Logged | 16 post reply

"Is Captain Marvel two people or one?"

Yes!

Edited by Eric Jansen on 26 November 2017 at 2:33am
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Wallace Sellars
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Posted: 26 November 2017 at 2:56pm | IP Logged | 17 post reply

What Brian said...
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Wallace Sellars
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Posted: 26 November 2017 at 3:00pm | IP Logged | 18 post reply

Oh, and I know I've said before that I enjoyed some of what Jerry Ordway did
with Captain Marvel.

"Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself; I am large, I contain
multitudes."
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Don Zomberg
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Posted: 27 November 2017 at 7:02am | IP Logged | 19 post reply

Jerry Ordway

Captain Forest Gump
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John Byrne

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Joined: 11 May 2005
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Posted: 27 November 2017 at 7:18am | IP Logged | 20 post reply

Gail Simone recently indulged her inner troll on FB by putting forth the very clear, obvious fact that Cyclops has heat vision. There were lots and lots of panels to back her up. Her fanbase was more than delighted to pitch in. Here's Scott setting the grass on fire. Here's Scott melting the ice off Warren's wing. Here's Scott lighting the frickin' candles on a birthday cake. What fun! Haha! Whatta laugh on all the anal-retentives out there who think any of this stuff matters! It's all been gotten wrong so often that we can form entire schools of debate on the matter, with tons of evidence to back up the "wrong" argument as readily as the "right" one. Pfah! As if right or wrong mattered to anyone in comics! Haha! That Gail! What. A. Card.

••

One of my least favorite things about some fans is when they seek out one or two instance of a character's powers being used incorrectly to "prove" that's how the powers actually work.

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Ted Downum
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Posted: 27 November 2017 at 8:28am | IP Logged | 21 post reply

Brian Hague: "When did we get so comfortable with looking down on these characters?"

*****

I'm not sure if I wish I knew the answer to that question, Brian, or if I'm happier not knowing.
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John Byrne

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Posted: 27 November 2017 at 10:00am | IP Logged | 22 post reply

It starts not at a specific date ("Back in '73....") but at an age, the age at which addicted fanboys begin to realize they have aged out of the ideal target audience, but remained in deep denial.

When I started in The Biz, the bulk of the audience was still kids. I saw them at cons. Ten, eleven, twelve years old. Often accompanied by a parent or profoundly bored older brother. And in those groups of kids, enthusiasm ran high. Questions asked were along the lines of "Who's stronger, the Thing or the Hulk?" Questions about storylines. About how I did my job.

But, year by year, the questions change. I'd sign a book and find myself being asked "Will this be worth more, now?" (Usually I'd say no, somebody wrote on it.) Then there were questions about sales, sell-thru, page rates. Was I "jealous" that Todd McFarlane made more than me?

All questions that should be of no concern to a true fan: a READER.

But I was watching the fans get older, too. Twenty-somethings started to replace the kids. And such kids as remained began to be more and more hollow-eyed zombies stumbling from table to table, bags of comics clutched to their chest, seeking to "score".

The older ones kept getting older. Soon, the tides of fandom washing (I wish!) by my table started to look like the PARENTS of those bored older brothers of yore. And more and more their tone became disparaging. They sounded like drug addicts who could "quit and time."

But didn't.

Oh, don't get me wrong! There were still moments. Joyous flashes, even among the older fans, of the sheer love of the form that had brought me in all those years ago. But around those, the glum miasma that eventually drove me away from cons altogether.

(One last note: if you are offended by what I have written here, before you race off to declare "Byrne hates the fans!", pause a moment to consider that your offense might spring from recognizing yourself in my words.)

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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 27 November 2017 at 10:23am | IP Logged | 23 post reply

When I started in The Biz, the bulk of the audience was still kids. I saw them at cons. Ten, eleven, twelve years old. Often accompanied by a parent or profoundly bored older brother. And in those groups of kids, enthusiasm ran high. Questions asked were along the lines of "Who's stronger, the Thing or the Hulk?" Questions about storylines. About how I did my job.

***

These are the conversations I love having at comic cons.

True, I probably get on people's nerves. From me, it's the likes of "Could Juggernaut beat Destroyer?" or "Would Dormammu's magic work against Galactus?" I also ask questions such as, "Do you think this crossover would work?"

When I've asked such things, the enthusiasm from comic professionals has been high. They are silly fanboy questions, I know, but my enthusiasm is high (and when is Marvel going to give me Juggernaut VS Destroyer?). But I am sure they prefer it to questions about page rates, the value of a comic, etc.
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John Byrne

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Posted: 27 November 2017 at 10:38am | IP Logged | 24 post reply

Robbie, round these parts "fanboy" is used in its original form, to mean someone who is too over-the-top for even the most hardcore fans.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 27 November 2017 at 10:53am | IP Logged | 25 post reply

Yes, you're right. 

If I were a professional, I'd tire very quickly of questions about page rates or what a comic is worth.
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