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Shazam Finally Gets A Superhero Name That Makes Sense

Contains spoilers for "Shazam!" #1

Shazam is back to starring in his own series from DC Comics, and the first issue features him getting a new name that makes sense. In "Shazam" #1, readers catch up with Billy Batson, who's working on balancing his large responsibilities as a hero and his maturity while trying to give Freddy Freeman his powers back after he was stripped of them during the "Lazarus Planet" event. Billy saves several people, but with magic on the fritz, he loses control of himself while the cameras are watching. Something possesses the hero, and he momentarily snaps, angrily saying that everyone should be thankful he would dirty his hands to save them.

Billy's struggles are coming amid a name change for Shazam within the comics. Earlier in the issue, he reveals the Shazam family is calling him "the Captain," which is actually much more fitting and less confusing. But Billy isn't a fan of his new nickname and its backstory, putting him in a difficult spot as he's forced to adjust to it. And with the hero also going by Shazam in the DC Extended Universe films, more recent fans might have trouble buying into his new name as well.

Shazam is referred to as the Captain, and he doesn't like it

In "Shazam!" #1, Billy is visited by Freddy, aka Shazam Jr., who greets the hero with "Cap'n," and Billy immediately tells him to knock it off. The comic then flashes back to a mission with the Shazam family, where the hero reveals they've given him a new name. Since he can't say "Shazam" without transforming between a powerful hero with godlike powers and his human form, they've decided to refer to him as "the Captain."

Shazam reveals that Freddy and Mary Marvel came up with the nickname after an incident at sea that the hero is clearly embarrassed by. He admits he is annoyed by his new name and feels mocked by them using it, but unfortunately, it has caught on. However, even he recognizes it makes more sense than being called "Shazam" since he can say "Captain" without anything happening to him.

Still, Billy desperately wants his family to stop referring to him by that name, so don't expect him to warm up to it anytime soon. On the other hand, it brilliantly ties into Shazam's comic book origins and former Captain Marvel moniker.

Shazam's new name honors his storied history

Long before DC Comics acquired the rights to the hero currently known as Shazam, Fawcett Comics debuted him as Captain Marvel in 1940. However, Fawcett went out of business in the early 1950s after DC Comics sued the rival company for copyright infringement, believing the hero too closely resembled Superman.

In 1991, DC purchased the rights to use all of Fawcett's characters, including Captain Marvel, and rebranded the hero as Shazam, the word he uses to transform. Now, the reason behind this name change is also due to copyright: In between this time, Marvel Comics had created its own hero named Captain Marvel.

Since then, Captain Marvel has become an important superhero for Marvel, with multiple characters using the moniker. The most recognizable, of course, is Carol Danvers, who picked up the mantle in the early 2010s. She still uses the name in the comics and has been adapted to live action in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where she will next appear in "The Marvels."

The Captain is an attempt to move on from Shazam

"Shazam!" writer Mark Waid explained in an interview with "The Comics Cube" that he always thinks of Shazam as Captain Marvel, regardless of what he's currently known as. Considering Waid is an expert on comic book history and lore and a big fan of the Golden Age of comics, it's no surprise he prefers the old name.

"I'll just call him 'Captain Marvel.' We don't call him 'Captain Marvel' in the book, but I will never not be able to call him 'Captain Marvel' when I'm just relaxed. So in the book, he's just called 'the Captain,' and that is the other kids' name for him," Waid said in the interview. "In the same way that 'the Doctor' sticks when it's Doctor Who. He doesn't go around calling himself 'the Captain,' but when people ask him point-blank, he's got to say something."

While it might be odd to see the hero not be referred to as "Shazam," especially when it's also the title of the comic book he's starring in, Waid seems to want to move on from the current name as much as he can, which makes "the Captain" a solid placeholder replacement. So although Billy Batson isn't on board with being called the Captain, he might not have much choice in the matter. Time will tell if "the Captain" sticks.

"Shazam!" #1 by Waid, Dan Mora, Alejandro Sánchez, and Troy Peteri from DC Comics is available in comic book stores and online retailers now.