Now be honest. When I say Captain Marvel, who do you think of? Is it of the woman seen above? Or is it maybe of a guy who, when he speaks the magic word SHAZAM!, transforms from young Billy Batson into earth’s mightiest mortal, Captain Marvel?
If you grew up anytime before the early 80s, then you likely think of Captain Marvel as being the superhero who gets his powers by uttering the word “SHAZAM!,” at which point a bolt of lightning comes out of the sky to transform Billy Batson from a kid, or a young man depending on the version you remember. When he finished saving the world, he would utter the word again to transform back into Billy Batson.
Created by Fawcett Comics in the late 1930s as a response to Superman, this version of Captain Marvel outsold Superman comics in the 40s. He even beat Superman to the big screen in 1941. But DC Comics sued Fawcett for copyright infringement, which eventually led to the comic series ending in 1953.
If you grew up anytime after the early 80s, then you may not know the superhero mentioned above as Captain Marvel. Instead, your mind may go to any number of people who have held the title Captain Marvel since Marvel Comics trademarked the name in the mid 60s. Since 2012, the title of Captain Marvel has been held by Carol Danvers, who was once known as Ms. Marvel.
It is the Carol Danvers version of Captain Marvel that is getting made and will hit theaters on March 8, 2019. That means the Marvel Cinematic Universe has just over two-and-a-half years to get people to understand which Captain Marvel will be hitting the screens.
While Marvel Comics’ has published the Captain Marvel series off and on since 1967, Carol Danvers has only held the role since 2012, though her origins in Marvel Comics date back to 1968. And while Carol Danvers has been extremely popular in the comic book role, how many people who don’t read comics know who she is?
That’s the problem the Marvel Cinematic Universe had better realize they are facing. While current comic book fans may know that Carol Danvers is Captain Marvel, older people are going to think it’s the Shazam version they grew up with. Furthermore, younger people who don’t read comics won’t have any clue who Captain Marvel is either. After all, she’s not exactly a household name like Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman.
If they are smart, the people behind the MCU will introduce this version of Captain Marvel in at least one Avengers movie before her solo movie comes out. In fact, it would be best if she hits two mainstream MCU movies before her solo movie. That would give many people a chance to see and understand who Carol Danvers is.
Otherwise, the MCU may have their first movie failure on their hands. If that happens, many people will point to the fact that it was a female-led superhero movie and will say the movie-going audience is sexist for not going to see it.
Failure of this movie will have nothing to do with it being female-led. Instead, its failure will be because 1) too many people didn’t understand why a boy named Billy Batson wasn’t mentioned in the trailers, and 2) too many people have no clue who Captain Marvel, much less Carol Danvers, is.