Captain Marvel, looking typically cosmic. Artist: Gil Kane.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1967
Creators: Stan Lee (writer) and Gene Colan (artist)
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Comic book publisher Martin Goodman was no respecter of the property rights of his defunct colleagues. In 1964, he appropriated the name of a superhero published in the '40s by Lev Gleason, and …

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… brought out his own version of Daredevil. A couple of years later, he introduced an outright copy of a '50s western character published by Magazine Enterprises, Ghost Rider. It wasn't until late 1967, possibly prompted by a smaller publisher's attempt to do the same, that he finally got around to stealing the name of one of the most prominent comics heroes of all time, Captain Marvel. And this delay was odd, because the name of Goodman's company was (and remains) Marvel Comics.

Be that as it may, this Captain Marvel debuted in Marvel Super-Heroes #12 (December, 1967), in a story written by Stan Lee and drawn by Gene Colan. A few months later, as part of a general expansion of the company's line, Cap got his own title, and Marvel Super-Heroes became a try-out magazine, like DC's Showcase.

That December 1967 story told of a young officer of the Kree (an alien race that had previously encountered The Fantastic Four) named Captain Mar-Vell, who was on Earth as part of a military mission. Using his own name (but spelled differently), he masqueraded as an Earth superhero while furthering his Kree agenda. But he quickly developed greater sympathy for humans than for his own species, resulting in his ouster from the Kree military and exile from their territory.

The character didn't make a great hit with readers, and was published on a monthly basis for only two years. His comic came out only sporadically from 1969-'72, during which time he was revamped from the ground up. He exchanged his green and white Kree uniform for a spiffy red and blue number, and became intimately linked with Rick Jones (a former associate of The Hulk and Captain America) in a way strongly reminiscent of Billy Batson's relationship with his own Captain Marvel.

That didn't last either. In fact, Marvel didn't seem to quite know what to do with him — but they did put his comic out every other month through most of the 1970s, if only to maintain their trademark on his name (as their arch-rival, DC, had revived the original version). They even launched a spin-off, Ms. Marvel, in 1977. One version that made a hit with critics was done in the middle of the decade by writer/artist Jim Starlin (who later created Dreadstar), but nothing would make readers flock to him. As of his 62nd issue (May, 1979), the publisher pulled the plug. Apparently, they figured putting him in The Avengers or The Defenders (he was in both at one time or another) would suffice to keep their trademark current.

In 1982, they inaugurated a series of graphic novels, and needed a big event to kick it off — so they killed Captain Marvel. The Death of Captain Marvel (Marvel Graphic Novel #1) went through three printings, which was almost unheard-of for a comic book of that time.

Within months, there was a new Captain Marvel flitting around the Marvel Universe. And in the mid-1990s, when that one wasn't working, the company introduced yet another. Whether they can make a success of a character with that name or not, they apparently don't intend to turn loose of that trademark.


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Text ©2000-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.