By triumphantly shouting the magical word “Shazam!” Billy Batson is transformed from an ordinary child into Earth’s Mightiest Mortal: Captain Marvel. Endowed with the the powers and strengths of six divine characters, Captain Marvel taps into the adolescent fantasies of wanting to grow up, and wanting to save the world. As such Captain Marvel was the most popular superhero of the 1940s, outselling even Superman. Due to a lawsuit between DC Comics and Fawcett Comics the adventures of Billy Batson were kept from being published for the better part of two decades, until the character was incorporated into the Larger DC universe. Though Captain Marvel has been rebooted a few times, each with varying degrees of success, The Mightiest Mortal has failed to achieve the same level of popularity he enjoyed in the 1940’s. The primary reason is that Captain Marvel is geared to a younger audience, and comics have become largely for a late teenaged to adult audience. Personally, I think that Captain Marvel is a wonderful property with a cute backstory, and a great potential for appeal. It just hasn’t been utilized in the proper way.
The Harry Potter Franchise is one of the most popular cultural phenomenons of the last few decades. At its core it shares many common elements with Captain Marvel. Both feature an orphan child, who is introduced to a world of magic and adventure. Both children’s pure hearts are what helps them triumph over the ruthless evil force that threatening the world. Harry Potter isn’t the only franchise that features this formula. The Narnia Series, The Golden Compass series, The Percy Jackson books, The Inheritance novels, and heck even the Hunger Games trilogy to a lesser extent all take elements of this archetypal hero’s journey and makes it accessible to children in a long novel form. As pieces of young adult fiction, these adventure stories are very marketable. A tween can read these books for a school report. Parents always feel comfortable buying books for their children for holidays. Moreover not every child reads comics or even likes them. A far larger percentage will read high fantasy novels. DC comics would be smart to do this with Captain Marvel. He its better suited to a younger audience than the average comic book. By developing him into a long form novel instead of a comic book it would build a franchise parallel to the mainstream continuity. It would attract a fresh generation of readers and draw them into other comic properties as they grow older. On top of it all Captain Marvel would make fun piece of contemporary urban fantasy.