Clockwise from top: Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., Uncle Dudley Marvel, Mary Marvel. Artist: Pete Costanza.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Fawcett Publications
First Appeared: 1945
Creators: Otto Binder (writer) and C.C. Beck (artist)
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Dozens and dozens of comic book series, mini-series and oneshots have titles that begin with the word "Marvel". The vast majority are published by …

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Marvel Comics, naming comics after itself as a form of self-promotion. In fact, only two located in that section of an alphabetical listing were put out by anyone else: the short-lived Marvels of Science (first comic book published by Charlton), and this one, Fawcett Publications' Marvel Family, a team series starring Captain Marvel and his spin-offs.

And Captain Marvel had quite a few spin-offs. Two of them, Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel, had comics of their own. Ones that didn't included Uncle Marvel and three Lieutenants Marvel. All (plus Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, who wasn't really part of the gang) were established characters before the Marvel Family series opened.

The Lieutenants were the very first ancillary Marvels, having debuted in Whiz Comics #21 (September, 1941), pre-dating Junior by three months. They were just a bunch of guys who happened to have the same name as the orphan boy to whom Shazam the Wizard had given the Captain Marvel power, Billy Batson. In a story probably (tho not certainly) written by Otto Binder (Space Cabby, Fatman the Human Flying Saucer) and definitely drawn by C.C. Beck (Bulletman, Ibis the Invincible), they learned Billy's secret identity by reading Whiz Comics (not much of a secret, eh?) and reasoned that if this other Billy Batson had the power, maybe they did too. And in fact, they found that if they all said "Shazam!" simultaneously, they did. They were distinguished from one another by the nicknames Tall Billy (from Texas), Fat Billy (from Brooklyn) and Hill Billy (from Arkansas).

Uncle Marvel was the last of them to appear. He first showed up in Wow Comics #18 (October, 1943). He claimed to be Mary's (and therefore Billy's) uncle, Dudley Batson, and to have the same power by virtue of the family connection. Whenever he had to demonstrate it, he'd claim his "shazambago" was acting up. Mary, Billy and the rest never called him on it because he was a likeable old guy and they didn't want to embarrass him. His first story was written and drawn by Mary's regular team, Binder and artist Marc Swayze.

Cap, Junior, Mary and Dudley all got together in Marvel Family #1, dated December, 1945, to take on the menace of Black Adam (an earlier Shazam-sponsored hero, who had gone bad). The Lieutenants joined them in the second issue, which came out six months later. It wasn't exactly The Justice Society of America, or even The Seven Soldiers of Victory, but the seven Marvels did manage to defeat the world-threatening menace of Dr. Sivana.

The Lieutenants were dropped from the cast almost immediately, but Uncle Dudley continued to turn up sporadically during the first few years. Eventually, tho, it boiled down to the three "real" superheroes, Cap, Junior and Mary.

As a three-person team, The Marvel Family long outlasted the majority of 1940s costumed crime-fighters. Their final issue, which also happened to be the very last superhero comic book published by Fawcett, was dated January, 1954.

Two decades later, Captain Marvel and his related characters were acquired by DC Comics. Since 1973, DC has published them off-and-on. When they happen to be in print, team-ups of The Marvel Family are usually part of the mix.


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Text ©2004-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Fawcett Publications.