With Captain Marvel making her big screen debut, there’s been a lot of talk about Carol Danvers (played by Brie Larson) as the titular hero. She might be one of the most famous of Marvel Comic characters to take on the mantle, but she’s far from the only one. In fact, not every Captain Marvel even hails from Marvel Comics and Carol didn’t officially take on the name until 2012!
The original Captain Marvel was actually created by Fawcett Comics. National Comics (which would eventually become DC) thought the character was too similar to their Superman and took legal action. Years later, DC became the owner of the character, but Marvel Comics wanted the name Captain Marvel for themselves. As a result, all three publishers, as well as a few others, have characters who use the name.
For Marvel Comics, many of those characters are tied to story-lines involving a Kree spy infiltrating Earth. For DC Comics, many of those characters are tied to Billy Batson and his foster family. Each publisher created their own Marvel family, as it were. Of course, with so many comic books exploring alternate timelines, there are also a few surprising Captain Marvels who don’t belong to either family.
With all of that in mind, we’ve rounded up all of the Captain Marvels we could find to bring you 20 Characters Named Captain Marvel (That Aren’t Carol Danvers).
The original Marvel Comics version of the character, Mar-vell was a Kree spy. Sent to Earth to evaluate the planet, Mar-Vell came to admire human beings and live among them.
When Mar-Vell was introduced to readers, he took on the human guise of a scientist working for NASA. Only in battle did he change back to his Kree form, trying to blend in with the inhabitants of Earth. He became the superhero Captain Marvel as he tried to help the planet he’d grown to love so much, using devices called nega bands to activate his powers.
It’s this version of Captain Marvel that fought in the massive Kree-Skrull War, had Carol Danvers as an ally, and eventually inspired her to become a superhero as well.
The very first Captain Marvel came to the page through Fawcett Comics, though DC eventually gained the rights to the character. He was a hero who used the body of a teenage boy named Billy Batson to save the day.
Billy gained power by using the word “Shazam,” which transformed him into Captain Marvel. The two were actually distinct personalities, with Billy calling on Captain Marvel to perform heroic deeds. Billy eventually shared his power with several of his foster family members, expanding his heroic Marvel Family.
Eventually, after disputes with Marvel Comics, DC stopped using the title Captain Marvel, instead sticking with the hero’s catchphrase. Billy Batson provides the inspiration for the Warner Brothers live action movie Shazam.
Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe know Janet Van Dyne as mother to Hope and wife to original Ant-Man Hank Pym. Likewise, Janet was the original Wasp in the comics, not to mention a founding member of the Avengers. An alternate timeline saw her as a different hero.
In a version of the Marvel comic book universe that spun out of Age of Ultron, a time traveling Wolverine wanted to stop Ultron before the artificial intelligence was ever created. He sought to stop an apocalyptic future for the planet. To do that, Wolverine ended Hank Pym’s life, preventing him from creating Ultron. The timeline changed drastically, resulting in Janet taking on the mantle of Captain Marvel instead of the Wasp.
Miller & Son reprinted Fawcett’s Captain Marvel comics in the United Kingdom. They had nearly two dozen issues released when they hit a snag. When National Comics beat Fawcett Comics in their lawsuit over the character’s similarities to Superman, the UK based company found themselves without American comics to use as a base. They had to change their strategy beginning with issue #25.
The publisher changed Captain Marvel to Marvelman. Likewise, his sidekicks also changed. No longer was Billy’s foster sister Mary known as Mary Marvel in their pages. She became a young boy named Kid Marvelman. The publisher ran stories featuring their adaptations of the characters until 1963. In the 80s, the character was revived, but with another name change: Miracleman.
As his name might suggest, Genis-Vell is the son of Marvel’s original Captain, Mar-Vell. Genis-Vell took an interesting journey to his father’s title.
The young Kree was genetically engineered using Mar-Vell’s DNA to carry on his family’s legacy. He was artificially aged, so his maturity level wasn’t exactly where one would expect if they interacted with him. Genis-Vell also didn’t exactly have the same values as his father, though he wanted to do good in his father’s name.
He frequently ended up on the opposite end of the conflicts compared to the heroes readers knew, leading to many viewing him as a villain. Eventually, Genis-Vell lost out on the title of Captain Marvel. His sister decided she wanted it for herself, thinking she could preserve the legacy better.
In recent years, readers saw DC Comics crossover with the Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, and even Looney Tunes characters. The Marvel and DC comic book universes might not cross over much these days, but they certainly used to.
One of those crossovers created a whole new universe. In it, existing characters in each universe combined to create new heroes and villains. For example, the Riddler and the Kingpin were combined to create the Big Question. DC’s Captain Marvel was combined with the Marvel comic book version to create the aptly named Captain Marvel.
This version of the character had the original green and white color scheme of Marvel’s version of the character, but the lightning bolt insignia of DC’s, giving the hero an interesting new look.
In Marvel Comics, some series take place in alternate universes, giving fans a look at familiar characters in a whole new way. The Ultimate Universe launched lines of X-Men, Avengers, and more that gave readers new story-lines and relationships for the characters.
In the Ultimate Universe, the normal continuity’s Mar-Vell became a renegade Kree named Mahr Vell instead. He was originally supposed to simply observe the state of Earth as it was annihilated by another villain. Instead, he grew to love Earth, dated that universe’s Carol Danvers, and began helping the planet.
Captain Marvel isn’t his formal name, but arises because his human friends can’t pronounce his name correctly. In fact, Carol never pronounces his name correctly at all. Only Falcon and Thor were able to do it.
While Marvel Comics enjoyed seeing many different characters take on the Captain Marvel mantle, the same wasn’t true for DC Comics. Instead, DC often had different versions of Billy Batson in new universes.
One of those existed in the alternate timeline of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. In its sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, an older version of Captain Marvel existed, one who was able to exist independently of Billy Batson. He admitted Billy was long gone before using his own lightning to destroy himself as well while stone crumbled down around him.
Kingdom Come also saw Billy as a puppet of super-villain Lex Luthor. The Elseworld’s story Superman: Distant Fires saw a Billy obsessed with Wonder Woman, and driven insane by his hatred of Clark Kent’s relationship with her.
The daughter of Marvel’s Mar-Vell, Phyla-Vell’s existence is a complicated one. She didn’t actually exist in the original timeline. Instead, she was “born” when her brother Genis-Vell destroyed the universe, and then rewrote it. His interference actually brought his mother back to life, creating a new sister for him.
Phyla-Vell found her brother as an incompetent Captain Marvel, deciding he “tarnished” their father’s good name. She took on the mantle instead. Of course, she also has a litany of other code names in the comics, like Quasar and Martyr.
While indulging in heroics, she was a Guardians of the Galaxy member engaged in a romantic relationship with Moondragon. When she turned more villainous though, her soul wound up trapped in the Soul Stone following a confrontation.
DC Comics has an alternative universe series of books referred to as Elseworlds. The books act similarly to Marvel’s “What If” line, exploring how different decisions change the outcome of events, altering whole timelines. One such Elseworld volume was Elseworlds Finest: Supergirl and Batgirl. The title was a play on World’s Finest, a classic DC story. In the volume were a few familiar characters in new guises.
We don’t know much about this particular version of Captain Marvel. What we do know is that he was newer to the job. In a flashback, the Captain Marvel with the Justice Society looked the same as the main continuity. This new Captain Marvel was an African American man with no hair.
Readers didn’t even get the chance to learn his real name!
Every time the Skrulls, a race of shape-shifting aliens in Marvel Comics, come to Earth, they attempt to insert sleeper agents as major heroes. One such sleeper agent became Captain Marvel.
Khn’nr had the original Mar-Vell’s DNA infused with his own. That altered his appearance so that he looked exactly like the hero. Skrull technology gave him his own version of nega bands to imitate Captain Marvel’s power as well.
Unfortunately for Khn’nr, the mental conditioning and DNA combination worked a little too well on him. Mar-Vell’s personality effectively took over, and he fully believed himself to be the real Captain Marvel. That resulted in others believing Mar-Vell had been resurrected. It also resulted in Khn’nr fighting against his own people when they attempted to invade Earth.
In the 1960s, a brand new Captain Marvel emerged in comic books released by M.F. Enterprises Comics. This version had no relation to either the Marvel or DC comic book characters.
Captain Marvel was an alien android who could split his appendages from his body. His alter ego was a professor by the name of Roger Winkle. Roger had a young boy he took on as his ward named Billy Baxton. The duo set out to protect the planet.
Legal issues meant that the series didn’t last very long. With characters like Billy Batson, writers at DC could see the similarities to their own property. Some of the villains were even named after existing DC and Marvel characters. The series was cancelled after only four issues.
For a time, Noh-Varr was known as Marvel Boy in Marvel Comics. A young Kree soldier, he was shot down and captured by S.H.I.E.L.D.
Unfortunately for Noh-Varr, his legacy is one of manipulation. The Kree army manipulated him into fighting their battles. When he was shot down by S.H.I.E.L.D., Maria Hill also manipulated him into working for her.
The Secret Invasion storyline saw him encounter the previous Captain Marvel Khn’nr. Khn’nr asked Noh-Varr to take his place and help the world as Captain Marvel. He did, but he did so under the Dark Avengers working for Norman Osborn, where he was further manipulated.
Eventually, Noh-Varr took on the new mantle Protector and became the Kree protector of the Earth.
In DC’s Justice League: Generation Lost, fans got a glimpse at an alternate future for the set of heroes. That alternate future included a new Captain Marvel.
While we don’t know much about her, we do know her name was Sahar Shazeen, and she didn’t solely rely on her strength and affinity for lightning in battle. Instead, she wielded a pair of swords as well as being an incredibly competent fighter.
Unfortunately for Sahar, she and her Justice League teammates found themselves eliminated by an army of OMACs (Omni Mind And Community.) Perhaps, one day, she’ll find her place in the main continuity as part of the Captain Marvel (or Shazam) mythology for DC Comics.
Marvel Comic writers created a series of stories that imagined the ends for popular characters and their teams. One of those was the Fantastic Four. Their six issue mini series flashed forward to show what the future was like without them.
That future saw quite a few changes to the superheroes in the rest of the Marvel universe. One big change was Captain Marvel. The hero became the heroine Ayesha. Ayesha is not typically a hero in the comics.
Also known as Kismet, she’s the female equivalent of Adam Warlock. Movie fans saw her painted gold in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It’s quite a big change for the character to become Captain Marvel in a possible future.
Introduced as Billy Batson’s friend (and a rescue of Captain Marvel’s) in the original Fawcett series, Freddy’s relationship to the main character has changed over the years. Instead of a newsboy met by chance, the newer comics see Freddy as Billy’s foster brother. (That relationship continues in the upcoming Shazam movie.)
Over the years, Freddy has made a statement as a sidekick to Captain Marvel as well. When Billy shared his own power with his new friend, Freddy was able to become Captain Marvel Junior. Unlike Billy, Freddy stayed as his teen self when using the power.
In an alternate timeline, Freddy didn’t just get the junior title though. He actually was Captain Marvel. Perhaps fans will see a similar power sharing in the upcoming DCEU movie.
Marvel has a universe called the Cancerverse. In it, the superheroes have claimed the ultimate victory by defeating Death in all its forms. Unfortunately, that also means life grows and expands unchecked, creating dangers and overcrowded space.
It’s in that universe that fans can find Lord Mar-Vell. A very different take on the Captain Marvel we knew, this one is an unabashed villain. In addition to having a darker edge than most of his Marvel counterparts, he also helps the beings called the Many Angled Ones.
The Many Angled Ones were always kept at bay by Death. When Lord Mar-Vell allied with them, he helped to destroy the avatar of Death in the Cancerverse, allowing them free reign.
As the Marvel Comics versions of Captain Marvel became more popular, DC had writers develop plans to revamp the series a few times. In the 1980s, Jerry Ordway, Don Newton, and Roy Thomas had an idea to do just that.
They proposed an African American version of Billy Batson, though they wanted to change his name to Willie Fawcett. The name would provide a nod to a 1974 Superman story, but also give an homage to Captain Marvel creator Fawcett Comics. It would also involve a name change. Captain Marvel would be no more. Instead, he’d go by the name Captain Thunder.
Unfortunately, that particular revamp didn’t see the light of day. It did provide the basis for the changes that would come to the DC universe as part of the Flashpoint story and New 52 era of comics.
These three, technically, never go by the name Captain Marvel. That’s largely because they were part of a massive revamp of the mythology during the DC Comics Flashpoint storyline. Flashpoint saw the entire universe change when the Flash traveled to the past and changed just one small detail.
As a result, these three characters, along with original Captain Marvel characters Billy Batson, Freddy Freeman, and Mary Batson work together to create the larger than life superhero Captain Thunder. Each of the six characters brought a unique attribute from SHAZAM. Eugene had the wisdom of Solomon, Pedro had the strength of Hercules, Mary the stamina of Atlas, Freddy the power of Zeus, Billy the courage of Achilles, and Darla the speed of Mercury.
They combined the ideas of the original Captain Marvel series with the 80s attempt at an update.
The second person to take on the Captain Marvel mantle for Marvel Comics was a woman from New Orleans. Monica Rambeau used the name for decades, but she’s had a lot of superhero code-names since.
Originally a police officer, Monica was exposed to “cosmic rays,” which is what gave her the power to absorb and convert energy into a new force. She chose the name Captain Marvel after Mar-Vell lost his life. When she gave the name to Genis-Vell in good faith so he could continue his father’s work, she took on the name Photon. (She also later took on the name Pulsar and the name Spectrum.)
Monica was an active Captain Marvel, taking on Genis-Vell herself when he went bad, joining the Avengers, and even becoming leader of the team.
Did you recognize all of these Captain Marvels? If so, who do you think made the best Captain Marvel of the bunch? Let us know in the comments.