The Marvel Family is a group of fictional characters, a team of superheroes in the Fawcett Comics and DC Comics universes. Created in 1942 by writers Otto Binder and Ed Herron, and Fawcett artists C. C. Beck, Mac Raboy, and Marc Swayze, the team is an extension of Fawcett's Captain Marvel franchise, and includes Marvel's sister Mary Marvel, their friend Captain Marvel Jr., and, at various times, a number of other characters as well.
Because Marvel Comics trademarked their own Captain Marvel comic book during the interim between the demise of the Fawcett Comics Captain Marvel comics in 1953 and DC's revival in 1972, DC Comics is today unable to promote and market their Captain Marvel/Marvel Family properties under those names. Since 1972, DC has instead used the trademark Shazam! for their comic book titles with the Marvel Family characters, and the name under which they market and promote the characters. When referring to the Marvel Family on comic book covers or various merchandise, they are by this legal necessity called the "Shazam Family".
The Marvel Family was established in 1942 after the introductions of Captain Marvel's partners the Lieutenant Marvels (Whiz Comics #21, September 1941), Captain Marvel Jr. (Whiz Comics #25, December 1941) and Mary Marvel (Captain Marvel Adventures #18, December 1942). With Junior and Mary's additions to his adventures, Captain Marvel became the first superhero to have a team of sidekicks who share his powers, abilities, and appearance; a concept later adapted for heroes such as Superman and Aquaman, among others.
The members of the Marvel Family appeared both separately and together in many of Fawcett's comic book series, including Whiz Comics, Wow Comics, Master Comics, Captain Marvel Adventures, Captain Marvel Jr., Mary Marvel, and The Marvel Family. By the late 1940s, Marvel Family comics were among the most popular in the industry, and the Marvel Family had expanded to include both non-superpowered characters (Uncle Marvel and Freckles Marvel) and even funny animals (Hoppy the Marvel Bunny). By 1953, all of these books had ceased publication, due to Superman publisher DC Comics' lawsuit against Fawcett.
In 1972, DC licensed the rights to the Marvel Family characters, and began publishing them in a comic series titled Shazam!. Fawcett sold DC the rights to the characters in 1980, by which time Shazam! had been cancelled, and the Marvels had been relegated the back-up feature of World's Finest Comics, and, later, Adventure Comics. DC retconned Captain Marvel in 1986 with their Legends miniseries, establishing him as a solo hero without a team. Writer/artist Jerry Ordway resurrected the Marvel Family in 1995 with his Power of Shazam! series, establishing the team as being made up solely of Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel, Jr. Following several attempts at relaunching the Shazam! franchise during the mid-2000s, the Marvel Family was temporarily dissolved by writers Geoff Johns and Jerry Ordway in Justice Society of America (third series) #25, with only Captain Marvel Jr., now known as Shazam, retaining his powers, but from another source. DC Comics has announced plans to relaunch the Shazam! franchise in 2010. In the interim, Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel continue to appear in Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!, an all-ages comic book series published under DC's youth-oriented Johnny DC line.
Marvel Family members
- Captain Marvel: the "World's Mightiest Mortal", Captain Marvel is the superpowered alter-ego of young Billy Batson, who speaks the name of the wizard Shazam to become a red-and-gold clad adult superhero. Billy has the powers of Solomon (wisdom), Hercules (strength), Atlas (stamina), Zeus (power), Achilles (courage), and Mercury (speed); and served as the wizard Shazam's champion and herald. Billy chose to share his powers with his sister Mary and his friend Freddy Freeman, creating the Marvel Family. Outside of the Marvel Family, Captain Marvel served briefly as a member of both the Justice League International and the Justice Society of America. In the 2006-2008 Trials of Shazam! mini-series, Billy briefly took over the wizard Shazam's role as the caretaker of the Rock of Eternity under the name Marvel, who appeared identical to Captain Marvel with a white costume, a hooded cape, and long white hair. During a Marvel Family-related story in Justice Society of America (third series) #23-25, Billy has his powers stolen from him by his nemesis Black Adam and his wife Isis. He is turned into Black Billy by Mary, but Shazam then takes his powers away and banishes him to Earth.
- Mary Marvel: Billy's once-lost twin sister Mary Batson (adopted as Mary Bromfield), who found she could say the magic word "SHAZAM!" and become a female Marvel. The Golden Age Mary Marvel remained a teenager after saying her magic word, with a yellow on red short sleeve and skirt costume, while the modern version is transformed into an adult like her brother, with a yellow on white costume replacing her yellow on red one after a few years. During the run of The Power of Shazam! series, Mary shared the title of "Captain Marvel" with Billy. During the 2007 and 2008 limited series Countdown to Final Crisis and Final Crisis, Mary Marvel lost her powers and gained the powers of Marvel Family foe Black Adam, and later slid into villainy, wearing black-leather costumes while working for Darkseid and possessed by the New God Desaad. Finally she was turned back by Freddy and seemed sorry. The Golden Age Mary Marvel had a different set of patrons from Captain Marvel who contributed to her powers. They were Selene (grace), Hippolyte (strength), Ariadne (skill), Zephyrus (swiftness), Aurora (beauty) and Minerva (wisdom). She later used Adam's powers again and abducted the powerless Billy, but was stripped of her powers by the wizard Shazam in Justice Society of America (third series) #25.
- Captain Marvel Jr.: Billy's friend and classmate Freddy Freeman, attacked and left for dead by supervillain Captain Nazi, was given the power to become a Marvel to save his life. Whenever he speaks Captain Marvel's name, Freddy becomes a teenage version of Captain Marvel with a yellow on blue costume. This created the odd problem that he could not identify himself without changing back to his regular form. The modern-day Freddy at one time went by the alias CM3 (short for "Captain Marvel Three", "CM1" being Billy and "CM2" being Mary) so that he could identify himself without transforming. He was a member of the Teen Titans during the late 1990s and later the Outsiders in the early 2000s. In current continuity, after the 2006-2008 Trials of Shazam! mini-series, Freddy has undergone trials to earn his position as the power of Shazam's new champion and herald under the name Shazam. As Shazam, Freddy wears a red costume similar to the one worn by Captain Marvel but his powers do not derive from the wizard of the same name, but from the gods, meaning Shazam says he will go after him for stealing his name.
- The Lieutenant Marvels: Three other boys named "Billy Batson" (nicknamed "Tall Billy", "Fat Billy", and "Hill Billy" — the latter because he was from the Appalachia — to differentiate themselves from "Real Billy", Captain Marvel) who learned that, because they also were named Billy Batson, they could draw on the power of Shazam. They vowed only to use their power if asked by Captain Marvel, and only if all three were to say the magic word, "SHAZAM!", in unison. This was first demonstrated when they were all captured by Doctor Sivana, and they said it over a buzzsaw's sound. They have not appeared in Marvel Family stories since Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985, except for a scene in The Trials of Shazam! #2 where they briefly appeared only to lose their powers.
These members of the Marvel Family appear in stories set in the future.
- Thunder: The star of The Power of Shazam! 1996 Annual, Thunder is the super-powered alter-ego of a young girl from the planet Binderaan, circa 9,000 A.D. (when she finds herself in the 30th century, she exclaims that she's 6,000 years in the past), named CeCe Beck (or Beck for short). An aged Captain Marvel serves as the girl's mentor the same way Shazam served as his mentor. Whenever Beck speaks the magic words "Captain Marvel", she is transformed into Thunder, an adult super-heroine. After being lost in the timestream, Thunder briefly teamed up with the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 30th Century. The names "CeCe Beck" and "Binderaan" are tributes to the original artist and most prolific writer of Captain Marvel from Fawcett Publications.
- Tanist: A teenaged male Marvel who appeared in The Power of Shazam! #1,000,000 (November 1998, part of the DC One Million event). A poor native of the planet Mercury in the 853rd century, young Tanist and his mother find something that they think will make them rich, only to have it stolen by a wealthier claim-jumper. His mother is killed and the crippled Tanist finds that he has discovered a passage to the Rock of Eternity, where he meets the aged Captain Marvel, who grants the boy superpowers to save his life as he had done for Freddy Freeman/Captain Marvel Jr.
Black Marvel Family members
|Black Marvel Family
Isis, Black Adam, and Osiris, from Countdown #41 (July 18, 2007). Art by Dan Jurgens.
||52 #23 (October 11, 2006, first joint-appearance of Black Adam, Isis, and Osiris)
||Otto Binder, C. C. Beck, Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Grant Morrison
||Royal Palace, Kahndaq
The Black Marvel Family, a variant of the Marvel Family concept with Captain Marvel's former archvillain Black Adam as the central focus, was introduced in the pages of the weekly DC comic book 52.
- Black Adam - An older Egyptian renegade protégé of the wizard Shazam, who was the first to be granted superpowers by the wizard. Adam eventually grew to abuse his power, and became a tyrant. Shazam returned to punish Adam with either exile to the furthest Star in the Universe (in the original Fawcett Comics) or death (in the modern DC Comics). He returns to Earth (or life) after Shazam appoints Captain Marvel his new successor, and was soon established as Captain Marvel's most powerful foe in physical abilities. He only made one Golden Age appearance, dying when turning back as he became his true age, making him a skeleton. However Sivana later used a machine to bring him back to life. In later DC continuity, Black Adam joined the Justice Society of America, claiming to have reformed after helping them against the new Injustice Society. Adam eventually turned on the Justice Society, wanting to be a hero on his own terms. He later forcefully overthrew the tyrannical government of his old homeland of Khandaq with several other superbeings despite the objections of the JSA, appointing himself ruler after the military dictator who ruled it formerly was killed. The JSA finally agreed to let him rule the country, if he remained in Khandaq. Adam was one of the main characters in DC's 52 weekly maxi-series, which followed his attempts to establish himself as a hero, which lead him to create a "Marvel Family" of his own, which included his superpowered wife Isis and his own "Captain Marvel Jr.", Osiris, the crippled brother of Isis with whom he shared his divine powers.
- Isis - The superheroine Isis was originally created for live-action television to star in Filmation's The Secrets of Isis TV show, a sister series for Filmation's adaptation of Shazam!. Isis teamed up with Captain Marvel on occasion in both television and comics, and briefly starred in a licensed DC comic book in the late 1970s. In 2006, DC Comics created a new, unrelated Isis and introduced her into the DC Universe. This Isis is the alter-ego of Adrianna Tomaz, originally a slave from Egypt offered to Black Adam by the terrorist group Intergang as a token to curry his favor. Although Adam dealt harshly with the slavers and kills one of them, Adrianna becomes Adam's love interest and made him a more merciful figure, and was granted a special amulet that allowed her to become the avatar of the Egyptian goddess. Adam later proposed with an amulet that once belonged to Cleopatra, and they were married by Captain Marvel. In Week 44 Isis was killed by diseases given to her by the Horseman Pestilence. At the end of the Black Adam: The Dark Age mini-series she was resurrected by Felix Faust. However, the ordeal of her death, and many months spent as a brainwashed slave, routinely abused by Faust, left her much colder and ruthless than before, making her even less merciful than her husband, and prepared to wipe out all life on Earth. Shazam takes her power and turns her into a statue.
- Osiris - The teenaged Osiris is Amon Tomaz, Adrianna's lost brother who was enslaved by Intergang while his sister, with the help of her husband, Black Adam, and the Question and Renee Montoya, searched for him. Eventually, Amon was rescued, only to be found permanently crippled by a savage beating from his slavers for attempting to escape, and was beyond being healed by Isis' powers. In response, Black Adam attempted another solution, by transferring a portion of his powers to Amon and telling the boy to say his name. When Amon did, he was immediately struck with magic lightning and became Osiris, similar to how Captain Marvel Jr. was granted his powers from Captain Marvel. After several months of adventuring, including a stint with the Teen Titans, Osiris was murdered by his trusted companion, Sobek the talking crocodile, revealed to be the Horseman of Famine, after deciding to turn back as he believed his power was evil and was causing misery to Khandaq. During the 2009-2010 crossover event Blackest Night, Osiris was resurrected alongside other heroes, and was later resurrected as a White Lantern, for the purpose of releasing Isis, for which he joins the New Titans.
- Sobek - Sobek is an intelligent humanoid crocodile, created and abandoned by the Sivanas, who befriends the Black Marvel family during the 52 maxi-series after escaping from his cage during a charity dinner the Black Marvels are having with Mrs Sivana. Despite his monstrous appearance, the character is portrayed as timid, meek, and good-natured. However, his appearance doesn't help the Black Marvel Family, as the media assumes a talking crocodile must be an evil monster. The fear and misunderstanding surrounding him, not to mention the more obvious talking animal aspect of his character, make him the Black Marvel Family's analogue to Tawky Tawny, a talking animal friend of the Marvel Family who, despite his appearance, was widely beloved and accepted. Sobek reveals a more horrifying side in 52 Week 43, when he convinced a distraught Osiris to change into his mortal form, then suddenly killed and devoured him. Sobek was revealed in Week 44 to be the Fourth Horseman, Famine. He appeared to have been killed by Black Adam both in self-defense and revenge, but reappears in the 52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen mini-series.
Marvel Family allies
The cover of Whiz Comics #59, featuring most of the Golden Age Marvel Family and supporting cast.
- The Wizard Shazam - Although he is killed as prophesied after giving Billy the power to become Captain Marvel, Shazam's spirit remains as the vigilant caretaker of the Rock of Eternity. His power varies in different stories. In current continuity, Shazam does not die after granting Billy his powers, and was a much more active character than he was during the Golden Age Marvel Family adventures. He attained godhood after the 1998 Genesis crossover, and was ultimately defeated and destroyed by The Spectre in the 2005 Day of Vengeance miniseries after he is convinced to destroy magic. Shazam was sent to the Rock of Finality, a Netherworld realm where he was imprisoned in stone. He was later revived in the recent issues of "Justice Society of America" due to Black Adam giving his power up.
- Uncle Dudley/Uncle Marvel - During the Golden Age, an old man named Dudley (who was clearly modeled after W. C. Fields) claimed that he was not only a relative of the Marvels but also a Marvel himself, although neither was true. Regardless, the Marvels took a liking to him and decided to humor his pretense, and "Uncle" Dudley became Uncle Marvel, the Marvel Family's manager. He'd make his "transformation" along with one or more of the others, but not by magic; rather, by quickly removing his break-away garments (under the cover of lightning that the real Marvel(s) called down) to reveal his homemade Marvel costume underneath. He explained his lack of superpowers by claiming he suffered from "shazambago". His niece Freckles Marvel was an irregular companion of Mary Marvel's in her Golden Age solo adventures. In modern continuity, Dudley H. Dudley is simply a janitor at Billy's school who finds himself involved in the Marvel Family's adventures, although in one story he was temporarily given superpowers by Shazam's ally Ibis the Invincible to help round up the escaped Seven Deadly Enemies of Man.
- Mister Tawky Tawny - A humanoid sapient tiger who, in Golden Age continuity, wishes to live among the humans in civilization instead of in the wild or the zoo. As such, he is typically dressed in a tweed business suit and usually carries himself in a formal dignified manner. The modern-day Tawky Tawny was a stuffed tiger doll who was animated by Lord Satanus to assist the Marvel Family in their battle against Satanus's sister Blaze. He describes himself as a "pooka" (Púca), which is a magical creature from Celtic mythology. He only appeared as an animate being to Billy, Mary and later Dudley, (much in the same way that Hobbes only appears sentient to Calvin in Calvin and Hobbes). Mister Tawky Tawny was made permanently real by the power of Ibis the Invincible. In Trials of Shazam! #10 (2008), Tawny reveals that the Tenth Age of Magic has given him the ability to change into a giant sabre-toothed tiger. In the 2008/2009 Final Crisis miniseries, Tawny teamed up with Freddy Freeman to help stop the then-evil Mary Marvel. He battled and killed a tiger form of Darkseid's son Kalibak, gaining control over the tiger army he once commanded. In the variant continuity in the miniseries, Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil, and its ongoing follow up series, Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam, Tawny is a benevolent shapeshifter who prefers to become a tiger when appropriate. As he is a close associate to the wizard Shazam, he has partially access to his magic, which Doctor Sivana exploited as part of a scheme to defeat the Marvels. When Mister Mind secretly took control of Billy's Captain Marvel form, Tawny help bring Billy to the Wizard Shazam to find an answer to his Marvel form's inexplicable anti-social behaviour. When the heroes realized the truth, they inadvertently created a doppelganger of Captain Marvel with Mind in control while Billy was able to transform into a version under his. In the resulting battle, Tawny was struck while transitioning between forms and he was left fixed as a humanoid tiger. Although he is distressed by this development, the Batsons insisted he remain with them and now he stands as their adult guardian, at least to their landlady, but his strange appearance is creating awkward questions and situations. In the Flashpoint (comics) event he is the last of the great striped tigers of Khandaq and most people see him as a house cat. He is also transformed by the lightning.
- Beautia and Magnificus Sivana - Dr. Sivana's beautiful adult daughter Beautia shared her father's passion for world domination until meeting, and falling for, Captain Marvel. She has an unrequited crush on the shy Captain, not realizing that he is actually only a young boy. Her brother Magnificus is also generally depicted as a Marvel Family ally, although in his only Golden Age appearance, Magnificus was super-strong and fought Captain Marvel hand-to-hand.
- Mr. Sterling Morris - The president of WHIZ radio and Billy's employer.
- Miss Wormwood - In modern-era comics, Billy's schoolteacher (and later principal), presented as the typical "mean teacher" stereotype. She is named after Calvin's schoolteacher in Bill Watterson's comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.
- Cissie Sommerly - Billy's girlfriend in Golden Age continuity.
- Nick and Nora Bromfield - In modern continuity, Mary Batson's adoptive parents, who adopted her through illegal means after their maid, Sarah Primm, brought the child to them (Primm saved Mary from her kidnapper, Primm's brother Theo Adam). Nora Bromfield was a cousin of Billy and Mary's mother, but chose not to tell Mary about her real family. The Bromfields would eventually gain the rights to legally adopt both Mary and Billy, giving the children a traditional family structure again. The couple was named after Nick and Nora Charles of the Thin Man film series.
- "Muscles" McGinnis - The antagonist of a story included in Captain Marvel Adventures #3 (1941), the toughest gangster of the city possessing enormous strength "Muscles" McGinnis promises to go straight after being defeated by Captain Marvel when he tries to take over Whiz Radio Station, as he feels the side opposing crime is much stronger. The character was reintroduced as a recurring supporting character in the Power of Shazam! series of the 1990s, in which "Muscles" had indeed reformed to become an undercover cop and a frequent ally of Captain Marvel.
- Kid Eternity - In DC's pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity, Kid Eternity ("Christopher "Kit" Freeman) was the long-lost brother of Freddy Freeman/Captain Marvel Jr. (a retcon made because both characters shared the same surname, even though each was originally created for and published by a different comic book company: Fawcett Comics for Captain Marvel, Jr., and Quality Comics for Kid Eternity). A resurrected boy with the power to summon deceased figures from eternity to aid him in battling evil after he died 75 years before his time, Kid Eternity often joined forces with the Marvels in early-1980s Shazam! adventures from World's Finest Comics.
Minor characters from other stories
- The Quints Only appearing in Mary Marvel #8. The five children of Mrs Crane, Mary's neighbour. They consist of four boys and one girl. They are called Johnny, Lonny, Ronny, Donny, and Bonny. They cause trouble for Mary by their mischief-making activities. Mary tries to read them fairy stories as their Governess. First they climb on a tree but the branch breaks. Mary stops them breaking their necks by transforming and Bonny lands on her back. Then she falls asleep while reading another one. The children make the bath overflow and nearly cause a fire in the cellar. Mary Marvel decides to spank them, but is stopped from corporal punishment by Bonny getting many cats in the house. Mary gets them out then turns back. The kids start playing Cowboys and Indians. They tell Mary she is their prisoner and tie her to a tree. They tell Mary they have to gag her too. Bonny then says they can have un now their governess is all tied up. They go to play in a bull field. Mary realises she fell into their trap. But she realises the gag is very loose, maybe she can shake it off. Meanwhile the kids are chased by a bull. Meanwhile Mary has shaken her gag off and transforms. She defeats the bull and soon after their Mother comes back. Mary doesn't want to watch them again and goes to have a rest.
- Tim Boyfriend of girl called Judy, likes to photograph things. Judy jealous of Mary Marvel. When two crooks try to rob a group of people and Mary stops one, Judy tries to stop the other, but is held hostage. Tim takes a photograph of the car. Judy's cat Kitzel leads Tim to the cave where the crooks are. Howeve he is caught by one. Both Tim and Judy are bound hand and foot in the cave. Two dynamite are lit to dispose of the two. However Kitzel gets into the cave and pulls at a knot, freeing Judy's hands. One dynamite goes off, burying all of Tim except his head under rocks. She tries to free him, even though the other dynamite is about to go off. Mary sees the crooks car, but they have changed the number plate. However she realises in the photo the license plate is dirty and the other one is clean. She stops the car and sees Kitzel's eyes inside the cave. She is able to throw the other dynamite away before it goes off.
New Earth 5 from 52 Week 52, art breakdowns by Keith Giffen.
In the final issue of 52, a new Multiverse is revealed, originally consisting of 52 identical realities. Among the parallel realities shown is one designated "Earth-5". As a result of Mister Mind "eating" aspects of this reality, it takes on visual aspects similar to the pre-Crisis Earth-S, including the Marvel Family characters. The names of the characters are not mentioned in the panel in which they appear, but characters visually similar to the Marvel Family appear. There is also an alternative version of Green Lantern Hal Jordan that also exist on Earth-5 along the Marvel Family.
Based on comments by DC writer Grant Morrison, this alternate universe is not the pre-Crisis Earth-S.
- In Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Superwoman is the head of three stylized "Made-Men" after her own costume, fellow low levels criminals (Each head of the Crime Syndicate, Ultraman, Owlman has teams of several cronies). She augmented her powers to these 3 men, who resemble Captain Marvel, Uncle Dudley Marvel, and Captain Marvel, Jr.. They are called "Captain Super", "Uncle Super", and "Captain Super, Jr."