80 Years of The Hollywood Reporter
The most glamorous and memorable moments from a storied history.
If Hollywood's blockbuster superheroes have a forefather, it's Captain Marvel. Introduced to the comic book world in 1939 by Fawcett Publications, the mild-mannered Billy Batson, a radio news reporter, could turn into a flying, bulletproof persona with a dramatic shout of "Shazam!" The Captain was the first of his empowered and costumed brotherhood to be translated from print to film, even if the 1941 screen version, played by Tom Tyler, wasn't anywhere near as ripped as Ryan Reynolds or Henry Cavill. Republic Pictures spent $135,553 to film a dozen 15- to 30-minute "chapter films," as they were referred to in The Hollywood Reporter. They could have been filmed for less if, as THR mentions, "cloudy skies" had not briefly halted production. Plot elements of Adventures of Captain Marvel included an archeological expedition that finds a magical optical relic/weapon; a masked, power-mad criminal mastermind named Scorpion scheming to possess it; and our hero Billy, who, granted the "Shazam!" power by a wizard, fights to ensure that this doesn't happen. One power the wizard couldn't give the Captain was over litigation. National Comics (now DC) claimed Captain Marvel was a copyright infringement on Superman. Although National's lawsuit didn't prevent the serial from being released, the companies were in court from 1940 to 1953 over the issue. The litigation only ended when Fawcett stopped publishing comics. DC, now part of Time Warner, went on to acquire the Captain Marvel rights in 1972.
William Witney, the serial's director, testified in depositions that both Superman and Captain Marvel were derivatives of Popeye.
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