I must admit to being somewhat confused by the name Captain Marvel, as it would make sense for it to be used by Marvel Comics, and indeed it is at this point. The original Captain Marvel, however, was created for Fawcett Comics back when Marvel didn’t yet have that name as a company (although “Marvel Comics” was the name of one of their titles). The Captain was Billy Batson, a boy who could transform himself into a grown man with superpowers by saying a magic word.
It was basically tailor-made for little kids who dreamed of being superheroes. His long-lost twin sister Mary also started fighting crime as Mary Marvel, and there was a Captain Marvel Jr. who actually wasn’t related to the other two.
Some years later, DC Comics filed a lawsuit, claiming that the character was a rip-off of Superman. While their powers were similar, I believe the Captain started flying back when Kal-El was still just jumping really high. Anyway, the title was put on hiatus, and Marvel Comics registered it as a trademark for their own character, an alien agent of the interstellar Kree Empire who became a defender of Earth. His real name was Mar-Vell.
I’m not sure why they found it necessary to use an already-existing name for a superhero, but they were hardly the first to do so. In 1972, DC bought the rights to the original Fawcett character and brought his adventures back into publication. Since Marvel owned the trademark, however, they changed the name of the book to Shazam!, the magic word that Billy said to turn into the Captain and back, as well as the name of the wizard who granted him his powers.
In more recent years, DC has lessened the confusion by just calling the character himself Shazam, although that apparently means he isn’t able to say his own name without turning back into Billy.
Marvel Comics later killed off Mar-Vell, but the Captain Marvel name lived on. Most recently, it’s been used for Carol Danvers, a test pilot who was caught in an explosion with Mar-Vell.
Somehow this resulted in his DNA being fused with hers, giving her superpowers.
She originally went by Ms. Marvel, and I mentioned in an earlier post how Rogue absorbed her powers and memories.
In 2012, she took on the mantle of Captain Marvel at the advice of Captain America. I read a few collected editions of the recent Captain Marvel title, which sees Carol traveling back in time to her own past, combating the alien who was largely responsible for the explosion that granted her powers, punching dinosaurs, dealing with a brain lesion that causes her to lose memories when she flies, and meeting with the Guardians of the Galaxy in outer space. She’s presented as a Star Wars fan, although I don’t know whether this was the case before Disney bought both properties. Apparently the next collected volume that I haven’t yet read explains that her cat Chewie is actually an egg-laying alien, although Rocket Raccoon has actually already figured it out. As far as interesting references go, Monica Rambeau (who also used the name Captain Marvel for a while) at one point refers to a robot as “Nick Chopper,” the Tin Woodman’s real name that’s never mentioned in the MGM film. I guess it could be a reference to Wicked instead of the original Oz books, but still, it’s pretty cool. I understand that Carol will be protagonist of the upcoming Captain Marvel movie, scheduled for release in 2018.
The Ms. Marvel name is now being used by Kamala Khan, a teenage Pakistani-American girl living in Jersey City who comes from a strict family. She’s a nerdy character who doesn’t feel she really fits in with either the modern world or her family’s traditionalism. When exposed to the Terrigen Mist that can restore or enhance inborn powers, she gains the ability to shift shape and expand and contract parts of her body. She is also able to heal at an accelerated rate, but only when she’s in her normal form, which necessitates her wearing a disguise. It’s later revealed that her powers are the result of her having Inhuman ancestry. While the series doesn’t make it entirely clear what Inhumans are, they’re the descendants of people who were granted superhuman abilities by the Kree. She’s a fan of the Avengers, and writes fan-fiction, which must be considerably weirder when it’s about actual people who exist. Yes, I know there is plenty of real-people fanfic, but I still think it’s kind of bizarre. Kamala calls herself Ms. Marvel after her hero, and fights a rather absurd villain known as the Inventor who is basically an attempted clone of Thomas Edison that was accidentally mixed with a cockatiel. She teams up with Wolverine and the cool giant teleporting dog-creature Lockjaw, battles Loki at the Valentine’s Day Dance, and finds out that her first crush is actually a rebel Inhuman.
It’s interesting that Loki is actually trying to protect people during his appearance, he still uses nasty, underhanded methods. Adrian Alphona’s art includes a lot of jokes that might not be obvious at first glance, and there’s a good amount of humor in the series, yet it addresses more serious issues as well. She’s been favorably compared to the early Peter Parker, a teenager dealing with both the normal difficulties of growing up and with supervillains.
As far as I know, there’s no connection between any of the characters to take on the Captain or Ms. Marvel moniker and Professor Marvel from the MGM Wizard of Oz.
Or, for that matter, with Prince Marvel from The Enchanted Island of Yew. Since he/she didn’t appear in The Road to Oz like many other non-Oz L. Frank Baum characters did, I don’t think he/she’s shown up in a comic book yet.