Yes, when it comes to comic books, I’m a super geeky fan with deep knowledge of the “lore” behind the characters. That’s not the case with everyone though. There are plenty of “casual” fans out there. They’ve seen some movies, maybe a cartoon, or played the odd video game. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. We’re all a casual fan of something. You could just about fill the Grand Canyon with everything I don’t know or understand about anime. So, this is for the casual comic book fans out there. I’ve noticed that certain characters tend to confuse and frustrate the casuals when presented with things that don’t match what they’ve seen in a movie, cartoon, video game, or whatever. Well, let this geek elite untangle the riddle of these puzzling characters.
1. CAPTAIN MARVEL
Captain Marvel? I thought his name was Shazam. I thought Captain Marvel was a woman. Of course Captain Marvel is a MARVEL character! Duh! No, Captain Marvel belongs to DC Comics! Confused yet? Those are just a few of the things I hear among casual fans when the name “Captain Marvel” is brought up. Let me clear things up.
This guy is the original Captain Marvel:
He first appeared in Whiz Comics #2 way back in 1940, and he didn’t belong to either Marvel or DC Comics at the time. He belonged to another comic book company called Whiz Comics. Oh, and he was popular. REALLY popular. I guess kids really connected with the idea of a child named Billy Batson being able to shout a magic word (Shazam!) and transforming into the heroic Captain Marvel (Yes, Captain Marvel was his name. Shazam was the magic word he shouted.) Captain Marvel was pretty much the only character of the World War II era that gave DC Comics’s Superman a run for his money in those days. So much so, that DC Comics eventually sued Whiz Comics, claiming that Captain Marvel was perhaps a little too similar to their boy Superman. Time passed, legal pressures mounted, and Whiz Comics eventually folded. Ironically, DC Comics ended up purchasing and becoming the owner of Captain Marvel, a character they had worked long and hard to shut down.
Now here’s where things get weird. Because of all the legal shenanigans, the copyright for the NAME Captain Marvel had lapsed. And guess who snatched it up? That’s right! MARVEL Comics! And it didn’t take Marvel long to create their very own Captain Marvel.
Marvel’s Captain Marvel debuted in Marvel Super-Heroes #12 in 1967. He was an alien space warrior named Mar-Vell. So, what happened to the other Captain Marvel? Well, DC Comics could still use the character and they could even still call him Captain Marvel, but they couldn’t market and promote the character using that name because Marvel Comics now owned it, so they had to find creative ways to do so. As a result, the magic word “Shazam” began to appear in some form on comic book covers and merchandise packaging to the point that Shazam became synonymous with DC’s Captain Marvel.
Meanwhile Marvel’s Captain Marvel was successful enough that Marvel spun off a female version of the character in 1977 when U.S. Air Force officer Carol Danvers gained superpowers and became Ms. Marvel.
Then in 1982, Marvel Comics up and killed their Captain Marvel leaving Ms. Marvel to carry on his legacy.
In 2012, Carol Danvers finally dropped the name Ms. Marvel and officially took up the title of Captain Marvel. Around the same time, DC Comics decided to drop the name Captain Marvel altogether and now it simply calls its guy Shazam seeing as how that’s what a lot of casual fans thought of him as anyway.
Both of these characters will be starring in their own respective movies in 2019 with Brie Larson cast as the Carol Danvers Captain Marvel for Marvel Studios and Zachary Levi taking on the role of Shazam for DC Films.
2. NICK FURY
When casual fans see the guy pictured above referred to as Nick Fury this is often followed by some serious head scratching and even sometimes outrage. Isn’t Nick Fury a black guy!? Samuel L. Jackson plays him in all those movies! First off all, yes, the guy above IS Nick Fury. He’s the original Nick Fury who has been appearing in Marvel Comics since 1963.
He even had a TV movie starring David Hasselhoff in 1998.
But here’s the thing. Comic books have long played with the concept of the “Multiverse.” The idea being that there are other universes separate and apart from the main one. On those other universes are other versions of characters who are similar in some ways and different in others.
In the Marvel “Multiverse,” one of those other universes is called the “Ultimate Universe.” When the Ultimate Universe debuted its version of Nick Fury in 2001 they made him a black man. They even purposefully made him to look like a certain Hollywood actor.
Yes, several years BEFORE the movies Ultimate Universe Nick Fury was designed to look like actor Samuel L. Jackson.
When Marvel Studios made a live action movie version of Nick Fury a few years later, that was the version they went with. Surprise, surprise, they naturally cast Samuel L. Jackson for the role.
With the huge success of the movies, Marvel Comics has even readjusted their original universe to more closely resemble the movie one. The original Nick Fury has moved on to a more cosmic level role leaving his mixed-race son Nick Fury, Jr. to take his place. Not surprisingly, his son looks a lot like Samuel L. Jackson and even managed to lose an eye just like dear old dad.
3. GREEN LANTERN
When the Green Lantern movie dropped in 2011, a number of casual fans were surprised to see Ryan Reynolds (a white dude) in the role. For some reason they were under the impression that Green Lantern was a black guy.
The reason for that is that for casual fans of a certain age their first real exposure to Green Lantern came from the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons that were on TV from 2001-2006 which featured John Stewart, an African-American former U.S. Marine, in the role of Green Lantern.
Here’s the thing about Green Lantern. There are A LOT of them. An entire Green Lantern Corps in fact. There are literally thousands of Green Lanterns all across the universe from a wide variety of alien species. A few of them have even been human. The first human to be made a member of the Green Lantern Corps was Hal Jordan who first appeared in comics in 1959. That’s the one Ryan Reynolds played in the movie. In 1971, John Stewart was tapped to be a back-up Green Lantern to Hal Jordan. John is the Green Lantern who appeared in the cartoon. Both Hal Jordan and John Stewart have long and distinguished histories as Green Lanterns in the comics, and they aren’t even the only humans to bear the name, but they are the most recognized. The word is that we will get a new Green Lantern movie in 2020 that will feature BOTH Hal Jordan and John Stewart as partners in kind of a buddy space cop type movie. Hopefully, that will clear up much of the confusion surrounding the question of Green Lantern’s identity.
4. IRON FIST
Until recently, I doubt your average casual fan knew much of anything about Iron Fist beyond maybe his name, what he looked like, and that he is some kind of martial artist even though he has been around since 1974. If you look at him in full costume, you can’t really tell much about who he is beneath the yellow mask.
Then in 2017, Marvel and Netflix launched the Iron Fist series. Suddenly, the Internet became flooded with stuff about making Iron Fist Asian. Why? Well, different reasons were given: diversity, inclusion, cultural appropriation, and probably the worst reason of all having something to do with well, if the guy knows kung fu, he must be Asian, right? Anyway, long story short. Iron Fist isn’t Asian, and he never was. Iron Fist is Danny Rand. Danny was a white kid who survived a plane crash in the Himalayas that killed both his parents. Danny then stumbled upon a mystical hidden city called K’un-Lun where he was raised and taught martial arts. Danny eventually arose to be the city’s champion and gained mystical powers by defeating a dragon. So what’s the problem with Danny being a white guy in the show then? Well, I think because there was a movement to change Iron Fist to Asian for the show, some casual fans came under the mistaken impression that Iron Fist was Asian in the comics, which meant that they were changing him into a white guy in the show.
It’s also possible that casual fans were mixing up Iron Fist with an entirely different Marvel character who is Asian.
Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu is Asian and one of Marvel Comics’s foremost martial arts based characters. He would also be a welcome addition to Iron Fist season two. Are you listening Marvel and Netflix?
It was recently announced by Marvel Comics that Colossus and Shadowcat, one of the X-Men’s most beloved couples will be getting married in the pages of an X-Men comic in 2018. If you read the comments section of just about any website that posted this news, you would have seen that numerous comments or questions all had something to do with Colossus being gay.
First of all, Colossus (Peter Rasputin) has been a mainstay of X-Men comics since 1975. He has only ever been depicted as a straight man with Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde) being his primary love interest. Now, remember that stuff about the “Multiverse” that we talked about with Nick Fury? Well, that same separate universe where Nick Fury looked like Samuel L. Jackson also had its own version of Colossus. In that universe’s version, the writers chose to make Colossus a homosexual man. That decision, however, had no affect on the original Colossus in the main Marvel Universe. He is still the same character he has always been and will soon be tying the knot with Ms. Kitty Pryde. So, why the confusion? Probably somewhere along the way, casual fans saw or read something about Colossus being gay because that kind of thing usually makes headlines. Then when it was announced that Colossus was marrying a woman, confusion followed. Hopefully this clears things up.
Are there other characters that confuse and bug you? Mention them in the comments, and maybe we can clear those up too!