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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 08 April 2019 at 11:49am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Marc, it might be my flagging memory, but I don't recall if DC won that fight or if Fawcett just ran out of funds to keep the litigation going. They may have had to submit... and certainly DC got the characters anyhow... but I seem to vaguely recall that it was more of a draw going to DC.
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Matt Hawes
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Posted: 08 April 2019 at 11:54am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

That's the way I recall it, too, Eric. It was more that DC kept appealing and taking Fawcett to court, along with a comics market in decline after WWII that led Fawcett to cease publication of the comics line.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 08 April 2019 at 11:57am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

I think that’s pretty much how Steranko describes it in his HISTORY OF COMICS.
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Matt Hawes
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Posted: 08 April 2019 at 12:12pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

 Brian Hague wrote:
...
DC was not at fault for failing to guard the Captain Marvel copyright. It wasn't theirs to protect. Fawcett's owners still held the rights to character following their decision to stop publication and did not defend those rights going forward...

Trademarks and copyrights are two distinct things in law. You can't copyright a name, but you can trademark it. Fawcett retained the copyright to Captain Marvel until it sold the character and related properties to DC. What it lost was the trademark to the name "Captain Marvel" as a title for publication.  

DC can still use the name "Captain Marvel" for the character to this day, if not for the book or movie title. However, after nearly five decades of not being able to trademark the name, since Marvel has held the trademark since 1968, DC finally decided to go ahead and just call the character Shazam.

Copyrights have a specific shelf life. Trademarks are more of a "use it or lose it" situation.  Marvel lost its trademark to "The Champions" in the 1980s because it couldn't prove successfully in court that there were plans to use the title for a publication anytime soon. So, Hero Games (I think that was the gaming company), won the rights to the trademark.  These days, Marvel seems to have gotten back the trademark. 

And that brings up another thing: Once a copyright expires, the property enters the public domain. Trademarks expire,  but can be renewed even years later.

The reason Marvel published the Captain Marvel specials in the 1980s was to retain the trademark.  The publication trademarked doesn't have to be in constant publication, but there has to be intention of using it within a given period of time. 

One more thing about the original Captain Marvel and the arrangement between DC and Fawcett in the Seventies: As I understand it,  DC was originally licensing the character at that point, and didn't fully own the property until the Eighties. Does anyone here know the full scoop on that?

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John Byrne
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Posted: 08 April 2019 at 1:12pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

Remember the Generation Gap? There is perhaps no better example than when the middle aged guys at DC proudly proclaimed the return of Captain Marvel by publishing a series that could not have been LESS what the audience wanted had they tried.
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Adam Schulman
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Posted: 08 April 2019 at 4:20pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

The only version of Captain Marvel that Johns ever worked with was the post-Legends "naif-in-a-man's-body."

***

That's not what I remember at all from Johns' JSA issues with Captain Marvel.
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Rick Whiting
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Posted: 08 April 2019 at 4:51pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

That's not what I remember at all from Johns' JSA issues with Captain Marvel.

_______________________________


It was during Johns JSA run that he started introducing the idea that Captain Marvel was the superhero version of Tom Hank's character in the movie Big. If there was a case for why fans shouldn't become pros, Johns would be the prime example of why fans should not become pros.
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 08 April 2019 at 5:09pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

That's not what I remember at all from Johns' JSA issues with Captain Marvel.
_______________________________

It was during Johns JSA run that he started introducing the idea that Captain Marvel was the superhero version of Tom Hank's character in the movie Big. If there was a case for why fans shouldn't become pros, Johns would be the prime example of why fans should not become pros.

———

That’s not what I recall. From what I remember, Johns was following the cues in Ordway’s run where Billy and Captain Marvel were the same person, yes, but he had a more mature personality as Captain Marvel. The only instance where I recall where Billy’s youth was an issue was when Stargirl discovered Billy’s secret identity after an anti-magic field reverted him from Shazam in front of her. Stargirl and Billy were kind of dating, and the other JSA members noticed their chemistry while he was Captain Marvel. Either Jay Garrick or Alan Scott told him to knock it off because he thought he was too old for her.  But all the JSA members thought Captain Marvel was someone that looked his age and not a kid in adult’s body. That didn’t come until New 52.
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Eric Smearman
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Posted: 08 April 2019 at 7:36pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

"The world's mightiest mortal is just a kid at heart" was
the tagline for Roy Thomas' and Tom Mandrake's SHAZAM!:
THE NEW BEGINNING mini-series that came out after the
LEGENDS mini. Thomas started the whole "kid in an adult
hero's body" bit as far back as Captain Marvel's second
appearance in ALL-STAR SQUADRON. CM's been portrayed this
way ever since.

Edited by Eric Smearman on 09 April 2019 at 5:43pm
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Eric Smearman
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Posted: 08 April 2019 at 10:02pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

One thing you can definitely credit or blame Geoff Johns for is turning
Black Adam into an antihero. He’s DC’s Namor, now.
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Rick Whiting
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Posted: 09 April 2019 at 4:42pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

That’s not what I recall. From what I remember, Johns was following the cues in Ordway’s run where Billy and Captain Marvel were the same person, yes, but he had a more mature personality as Captain Marvel. The only instance where I recall where Billy’s youth was an issue was when Stargirl discovered Billy’s secret identity after an anti-magic field reverted him from Shazam in front of her. Stargirl and Billy were kind of dating, and the other JSA members noticed their chemistry while he was Captain Marvel. Either Jay Garrick or Alan Scott told him to knock it off because he thought he was too old for her. But all the JSA members thought Captain Marvel was someone that looked his age and not a kid in adult’s body. That didn’t come until New 52.

____________________________________


I was thinking about that time in JSA where Billy was explaining to (I think) Stargirl that when he is Captain Marvel he has all of his teenage thoughts and feelings swirling around in his head and mixed in with the Wisdom of Solomon (or something like that).
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Rick Whiting
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Posted: 09 April 2019 at 4:46pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

One thing you can definitely credit or blame Geoff Johns for is turning
Black Adam into an antihero. He’s DC’s Namor, now.

_______________________________


Very true. Johns turned Black Adam into a combo of Namor and Vegeta from DBZ.
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 09 April 2019 at 4:55pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply

I was thinking about that time in JSA where Billy was explaining to (I think) Stargirl that when he is Captain Marvel he has all of his teenage thoughts and feelings swirling around in his head and mixed in with the Wisdom of Solomon (or something like that)

———

There was a scene with Billy and Stargirl where he explained that he was desperate to pass a makeup test at school. He was left alone in the room, and he had the idea to change into Captain Marvel to use the Wisdom of Solomon to pass the the test. Once he changed, however, that same wisdom would not allow him to cheat, so he had to complete the exam as Billy. That’s the exact opposite of the superhero version of BIG. 
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 09 April 2019 at 4:56pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

Johns turned Black Adam into a combo of Namor and Vegeta from DBZ. 

——

This is a perfect description of Johns’ Black Adam.
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Rick Whiting
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Posted: 09 April 2019 at 6:34pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

There was a scene with Billy and Stargirl where he explained that he was desperate to pass a makeup test at school. He was left alone in the room, and he had the idea to change into Captain Marvel to use the Wisdom of Solomon to pass the the test. Once he changed, however, that same wisdom would not allow him to cheat, so he had to complete the exam as Billy. That’s the exact opposite of the superhero version of BIG.

______________________________________


True, but that scene certainly SEEMED to toy with the idea of him being the superhero version of Big (in a very subtle manner)

Edited by Rick Whiting on 09 April 2019 at 6:34pm
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Matt Hawes
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Posted: 09 April 2019 at 9:04pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

Here's a nice video detailing the history of the original Captain Marvel:







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Brian Hague
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Posted: 11 April 2019 at 10:02pm | IP Logged | 17 post reply

Ordway's "Power of Shazam" take on the character may have made him less of the child-like idiot of "Legends" and "Justice League Int'l," but it does not greatly resemble the original. Billy gaining the wisdom not to cheat on his test when he becomes Captain Marvel is admirable, but he is still Billy in both iterations. The separate personality and identity of Captain Marvel remains lost in the translation, in favor of him just being Billy (albeit a more moral version in this case, doing the character of Billy no favors.)

Many more fannish conceits clogged that title, such as Mary being beautiful in super-heroine form and plain in real life and the power being divided between the three primary Marvel Family members, making it less useful to have one come to the rescue of the others, since the transformation would then reduce the first one's power by half or even two-thirds. Back in the day, the Lieutenant Marvels shared only a fraction of Captain Marvel's power in a similar manner, but this is hardly an improvement when introduced into the Marvel Family proper.

So, no, Billy becoming wise enough not to cheat is not the "opposite" of BIG. It's just a slightly modified take on the idea. Billy is still Billy-in-a-grown-up-suit. The character of Captain Marvel himself is nowhere to be found in it.

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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 12 April 2019 at 7:29am | IP Logged | 18 post reply

Brian, another problem I had with PoS* was that Billy could Shazam up a different version of his uniform - in this case, a space suit, complete with an oxygen supply.

I'm one of those who thinks the really BIG guns should be able to survive in outer space for a considerable time, even if not indefinitely (e.g., Captain Marvel somehow trapped on the Moon might eventually die**... but he'd have no problem flying from Earth to Venus.) I know that Mr. Byrne went a different route with Superman, and of course, his character trumps my opinion.

*Say, that does make it hard to use the abbreviation to refer to it, doesn't it? I'll wager the All-Star Squadron had the same issue.

**I read once that Captain Marvel was the World's Mightiest Mortal because half his life was spent as the entirely mortal Billy Batson. This made me wonder if Billy, at the end of his life, said one last "Shazam!" and made Captain Marvel a kind of sort of were-zombie... and again, that's pushing the discussion too far. God, I'm old...
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John Byrne
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Posted: 12 April 2019 at 8:34am | IP Logged | 19 post reply

I read once that Captain Marvel was the World's Mightiest Mortal because half his life was spent as the entirely mortal Billy Batson. This made me wonder if Billy, at the end of his life, said one last "Shazam!" and made Captain Marvel a kind of sort of were-zombie... and again, that's pushing the discussion too far. God, I'm old...

••

One reason some of you might be happy there never was a GENERATIONS 4 is that I had considered going very DARK with Billy and Cap. Joining Billy as a middle-aged man, we would find he was using Captain Marvel more and more to escape from his dead end life, neglecting his wife and kids.

I shudder to think of it, now, but that's where DC was at the time. As Dave Gibbons once noted, "grim and gritty" had become GLUM.

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David Schmidt
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Posted: 12 April 2019 at 10:15am | IP Logged | 20 post reply

I'm not happy. Generations is one of my favorite books...
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Brennan Voboril
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Posted: 13 April 2019 at 11:28am | IP Logged | 21 post reply

'One reason some of you might be happy there never was a GENERATIONS 4 is that I had considered going very DARK with Billy and Cap. Joining Billy as a middle-aged man, we would find he was using Captain Marvel more and more to escape from his dead end life, neglecting his wife and kids."

Count me as someone who would have been very happy to see Generations 4.  I loved that series so much.  It so reminded me of the old Imaginary Tales I read as a boy.  Even though all comics are imaginary, something about seeing what happened to Superman etc. in those Silver Age books was so exciting! 
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Adam Schulman
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Posted: 13 April 2019 at 9:24pm | IP Logged | 22 post reply

One reason some of you might be happy there never was a GENERATIONS 4 is that I had considered going very DARK with Billy and Cap. Joining Billy as a middle-aged man, we would find he was using Captain Marvel more and more to escape from his dead end life, neglecting his wife and kids.

*** 

I think Frank Miller used a variation of this -- minus the wife and kids -- in DK2. JB -- did he get the idea from you?
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 14 April 2019 at 12:50am | IP Logged | 23 post reply

Robert Mayer's "Super Folks" features a villain who turns out to be the incestuous result of a sexual encounter between that world's equivalent of Billy and Mary when they were tied up together by a pervert. 

Alan Moore's unproduced "Twilight" proposal featured the various DC "families" forming royal houses to govern the Earth. The Marvel's House of Thunder is presided over by Billy who has married his sister Mary and had a daughter by her. He'll later find that she is having a Lancelot-Guinevere style affair with Freddy, precipitating the downfall of their "kingdom."

Of course, Moore's "Marvelman" is an apocalyptic take on a middle-aged Mickey Moran remembering his magic word and finding no time in his life for his wife or civilian identity any longer now that he has adventure and Miraclewoman to prod and coerce him into greater and greater feats of daring and social change.

Waid and Ross's "Kingdom Come" featured a brainwashed Billy Batson becoming Lex Luthor's mental broken henchman. Kyle Baker killed Billy off in the final issue of his Plastic Man series and in a commentary on the "Identity Crisis" tone of comics at the time, had the villains give Billy's body to Doctor Light so it could be raped, which the caption says "is kind of his super-power now."

Really, going "dark" with Billy and his compatriots is the least original thing one can do in comics this side of having someone call Superman a "boy scout." I know I always tremble at how groundbreaking it is when some cutting-edge wonk pulls that one... 


Edited by Brian Hague on 14 April 2019 at 12:54am
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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 14 April 2019 at 9:58am | IP Logged | 24 post reply

Brian H. - did you just reference "Super Folks" and the "Twilight" proposal? I thought I was the one who read these! Holy Tomato Herring!

I agree with you. Too many writers have thought variations of blackening the Captain Marvel character and story is their way of making a mark. I don't believe that Mr. Byrne could do a job that could touch these, because his story would be logical and clean, and even if he went dark, it would still be reasonable.

He was right. The Marvel Family needed to stay in their own universe. And DC did them no favors in the first dozen issues or so of "Shazam!" by dumbing down the stories. I understand why C.C. Beck bailed on the book.
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 14 April 2019 at 12:21pm | IP Logged | 25 post reply

Kurt Busiek has said that "Superfolks" changed his way of looking at super-heroes and enabled him to write "Astro City," "Secret Identity," and a number of his other most noted works. Mayer himself finds Pixar's "The Incredibles" to be much too close in concept. And of course the book is famously the basis of Grant Morrison's accusations of plagiarism against Alan Moore. Well, that and his own work as well.

I read Superfolks back in the mid-80's when a co-worker at the comic book warehouse where I worked recommended it. I'm afraid I remember very little about it except that the tone, while deconstructionist, is supposed to be humorous, based on a loser version of Superman coming out of retirement to take one more swing at crime-fighting. I still have a copy of it somewhere in my storage unit, I'm sure. 

But yes, given it's outlaw reputation among certain circles and publication back in 1977, making it one of the earliest attempts at strip-mining the genre, you'd think it'd be referenced more often than it is. It has come back into print a couple of times, I think, so it can't be that difficult to find. Checking Amazon, it is available there in paperback for about $15 and it's on Kindle for $8.

"Twilight of the Superheroes" is harder to come by. Fewer sites have copies of it up than used to, given DC's "cease and desist" letter to at least one of them. While audacious, and certainly a different take on super-heroes going dark, I wonder how it would have played out given that it was intended as a crossover and not a stand-alone piece like Watchmen or Kingdom Come. 

I agree that DC did the Captain Marvel concept no favors by making it a straight-up "kiddie" book in the 70's, having the heroes fight ice-cream themed villains and the like, but there were a few stories in there that seemed to capture the original spirit as well. I have distinct memories of being horrified and fascinated by the Sivana Family-headed monsters dreamed up out of a mythology book that Uncle Dudley was reading. I found mythological monsters to be as captivating as dinosaurs after that and read as much as I could about them afterwards. And even then, while I was initially taken aback by Don Newton's artistic approach to the series, I saw a great deal to like about it as well and was won over in time. The art styles of the Fawcett era were more diverse than they initially appeared and Newton's work seemed an elaboration on Mac Raboy's. 

Where DC really screwed up the the Marvels, unfortunately, was in incorporating them into it's larger continuity at all. Nearly all of the classic Golden Age characters were conceived independently of one another and designed to work in their own narrative milieus. While you could have them work together, ala' the Justice Society, even in those stories you can see that Dr. Fate's Lovecraftian adventures were an odd fit with even the Spectre's cosmic conflicts. And Wonder Woman was like nothing else entirely, as proven when Gardner Fox tried to write a chapter featuring the character, raising such objections from Marston that she never got another that he didn't write himself.* 

Plastic Man's world is not the world of the other super-heroes. Neither is Captain Marvel's. And no, that does not mean that the two of them can work and play together either. Captain Marvel can not investigate drug rings that operate out of mortuaries and smuggle the goods out, not in the coffins, but inside the corpses. Plas can. And did. These characters weren't created as individuals to be thrown together, higgledy-piggledy, into any mix-and-match arrangement that suits the company. They were created with entire worlds and points of view around them. DC wisely kept Superman and Batman apart for a good long time as well, since even those two had elements that separated them creatively.**

DC initially teamed Superman and Captain Marvel only on the cover of the first issue. In story, Superman was obliged to meet a Marvel copy, since the tone of the two concept did not align. Later, once the whole Earth-S thing tumbled everyone together into a laundry whites-with-colors-with-delicates-with-whatever melange, a story was done showing just how out of place Luthor felt, finding himself one that parallel world with talking tigers and wicked worms. 

Expunging everything that defined the character to bring him into Legends and the post-Crisis DC Universe proper made him just another super-joe among thousands, "necessitating" the childlike "hook" to separate him from the rabble. It was an element of the character that could survive the erasure of his entire context, the child becoming an adult super-hero, that, once badly mistranslated and distorted, could become it's own thing, and thus, define him to newer readers. Problem solved! 

And a good story featuring the character hasn't been written since.***

* He and his team, that is. Later, DC would give the book to Robert Kanigher, who wrote it in a similar vein to Marston until the death of original artist H.G. Peter when the training wheels really came off and the book went from fantastic and fetishtic to absolutely bonkers. 

** Yes, they appeared together in the JSA occasionally, but that was the JSA's bailiwick; to be the book where you could find everyone in the same story, regardless of their differences. It was not meant to imply that everyone crossed over into everyone's title whenever. It was only done there, in that one title. Yes, the readers can be forgiven for playing the "Implications Game" and expanding on the concept but the creators themselves, the professionals, knew not to go there with the characters, or to at least tread cautiously when doing so. 

*** It's notable that "Kingdom Come," the one most would cite to disprove that statement was specifically written out-of-continuity originally and done no favors when whipped and beaten to conform even to the new, lax "Hypertime" definition of continuity of the time that DC adhered to for about eight weeks.


Edited by Brian Hague on 14 April 2019 at 12:34pm
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