Ever since Billy Baston first shouted the magic word “Shazam!” when he first appeared back in 1939's Whiz Comics #2, his alter ego has spent decades fighting crime and defending Earth against all forms of evil. Originally known as Captain Marvel, and now called Shazam, no matter what name he uses, he’s enjoyed plenty of unforgettable comic covers. Here are 7 of the most memorable…
Captain Marvel Adventures #18
Make way for Mary Marvel! 1942’s Captain Marvel Adventures #18 saw the Marvel Family add an extra member, and her arrival was announced with a gorgeous cover by Captain Marvel's co-creator, artist C.C. Beck. Most Golden Age comic covers were drawn in the same style as their interior stories, but this issue’s painted cover is like the front of a storybook. Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr, and newcomer Mary Marvel are illustrated with the charm and personality that typified the years in which their adventures were published by Fawcett Comics.
Captain Marvel Adventures #82
During his Fawcett Comics run, Captain Marvel was known for his offbeat adventures filled with a world of colorful characters. The cover for 1948’s Captain Marvel Adventures #82 (illustrated by C.C. Beck) is a great example. There’s not a super-villain in sight, but the image is still one of the most memorable from Captain Marvel’s Golden Age. The Big Red Cheese and his anthropomorphic tiger friend Tawky Tawny are strolling down the sidewalk without a care in the world, little realizing the shock they’re giving to bystanders. The duo passes a newsstand featuring stacks of comics, among them the same one the reader is holding. Talking tigers wearing a loud sports coat plus infinite comic covers within comic covers? That's just another day for Captain Marvel and his friends...
In 1973, Billy Batson finally made his way to DC Comics after twenty years spent in suspended ainimation. His arrival was commemorated with the Bronze Age's Shazam #1 (illustrated by C.C. Beck, Nick Cardy, and Murphy Anderson). After their early years as rivals on the newsstands, Superman and Captain Marvel appeared on the cover of the same comic book for the first time. For fans of both characters, seeing Superman welcome Captain Marvel to the DC Universe was something special. It was also refreshing to see Captain Marvel return in his original design.
In 1986, the limited series Legends migrated Captain Marvel into the main, post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Universe after he had been previously relegated to the alternate world of Earth-S. In a world overrun with heroes, the cover for Legends #5 (drawn by John Byrne) showed readers that Captain Marvel still stands out from the rest. Surrounded by the empty costumes of his fallen allies, Captain Marvel stand courageously, ready to take on any evil that comes his way. Byrne draws a face that’s poised for action and ready for whatever lies ahead on his heroic journey.
The Power of Shazam #1
In 1995, writer-artist Jerry Ordway launched a new series called The Power of Shazam, which chronicled the next phase of Billy Batson’s adventures. Ordway not only wrote the comic, but illustrated many of its most memorable covers, including The Power of Shazam #1. As Billy calls upon the power of the wizard Shazam to transform him into Captain Marvel, Ordway’s staging, colors, and detail are, well, magical. Although Billy’s transformation isn’t new, Ordway makes readers feel like they’re seeing it for the first time. Not a bad way to kick off a new series.
The Power of Shazam #29
By 1997, superhero stories were a lot more serious than they had been in the Golden Age, but the cover for The Power of Shazam #29 (cover by Jerry Ordway) managed to bring that sense of fun back. Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, an anthropomorphic rabbit from the Fawcett era, found himself being pulled out of Captain Marvel’s hat. The image is funny, thanks to the way Ordway contrasts Captain Marvel’s shocked reaction with Hoppy’s blasé expression. Bringing Hoppy into the present was a great way to celebrate Captain Marvel’s past while creating one of the funniest covers of 1990s.
Shazam: Power of Hope
In 2000, DC Comics published an oversized one-shot called Shazam!: Power of Hope, featuring illustrations by Alex Ross, one of the most celebrated comic book artists of our time. Ross, who co-wrote the book with Paul Dini, captured the soul of Captain Marvel on the book’s vibrant cover. Though the image is just a close-up of Captain Marvel’s face, Ross was able to convey so much of his majesty, optimism, and strength. Even if someone has never read a Captain Marvel story, that simple cover image tells them everything they need to know about the Big Red Cheese.