Billy Batson “Captain Marvel” – California

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Billy Batson (Michael Gray) is a young man who has the ability to transform into the super hero Captain Marvel on the live-action CBS fantasy series SHAZAM! (1974-1977).

“Chosen from among all others by the immortal elders – SOLOMON, HERCULES, ATLAS, ZEUS, ACHILLES, MERCURY – Billy Batson and his mentor travel the highways and byways of the land on a never-ending mission: to right wrongs, to develop understanding, and to seek justice for all! In time of dire need, young Billy has been granted the power by the immortals to summon awesome forces at the utterance of a single word!…SHAZAM!…A word which transforms him, in a flash, into the mightiest of mortal beings, CAPTAIN MARVEL!”

Teenager Billy Batson and his Mentor (Les Tremayne), who was assigned by the immortal Elders to look after Billy, cruise the country in a 1973 Open Road Motorhome looking for adventure and seeking out folks in trouble.

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When Billy needs to transform into Captain Marvel, he speaks the word “SHAZAM!” and suddenly a crackling lightning bolt emerges from a stormy sky and transforms Billy to Captain Marvel. Repeating the word “Shazam!” changes Captain Marvel back into Billy.

The acronym SHAZAM represents the powers of the following immortal Elders:

S – Wisdom of Solomon
H – Strength of Hercules
A – Stamina of Atlas
Z – Power of Zeus
A – Courage of Achilles
M – Speed of Mercury

Billy and the Elders communicated via a strange device with flashing lights (the “Eterni-Phone”) located on the RV’s dashboard. To summon his ancient benefactors for guidance Billy recites the magical incantation, “O Elders, whose fate is strong and wise, appear before my eyes.” Suddenly he is transported before the images (animated) of the Elders (One Jewish and six Greek).

At the end of each episode Captain Marvel appeared to offer a message based on what happened on the episode. Captain Marvel: “He learned a valuable lesson that we can all share. Before we can like others, we must first like ourselves.” Then Captain Marvel said, “See you next week!” and flew off into the sky.

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NOTE: Premiering in 1939 for Fawcett’s Whiz Comics, Captain Marvel was created by artist C.C. Beck and writer Bill Parker. Fawcett Comics ceased official publication of the comic in 1953. In 1972, DC Comics acquired a license to publish Captain Marvel comics, but since Marvel Comics had their own copyrighted Captain Marvel character, DC put their Captain Marvel comics under the moniker Shazam!

In the original Captain Marvel comic book storyline (Whiz Comics #2 Feb. 1940), Billy Batson, a homeless 12-year-old newsboy is lead into an abandoned subway tunnel by a mysterious stranger who introduces Billy to an ancient wizard named Shazam.

The wizard chooses Billy to be a guardian of good and gives him a special power: Whenever he said the wizard’s name (which was an acronym for Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury), Billy would be transformed into the World’s Mightiest Mortal, Captain Marvel who would defend mankind from the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man (Pride, Envy, Greed, Anger, Sloth, Gluttony, and Lust).

Captain Marvel’s nemeses included Black Adam, Blaze, Chain Lightning, Mister Mind, Mister Atom, Mr. Who, Captain Nazi, Dr. Servana, Sibbac, and IBAC (a.k.a. “Stinky Printwhistle”) who derived his powers from the initials for I (Ivan the Terrible); B (Borgia the Poisoner); A (Attila the Hun); and C (Caligula, the Emperor).

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Tom Tyler played Captain Marvel in a 12-episode 1941 serial which is the very first superhero live-action show.

Actors Jackson Bostwick (1974-75) and John Davey (1975-76) played the role of CAPTAIN MARVEL on the CBS live-action TV Series.

LEGENDS OF THE SUPERHEROES (1978) featured Garrett Craig as Captain Marvel who appeared in a pair of low-budgeted live-action comedy specials, produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions.

Captain Marvel was resurrected for the NBC animated SHAZAM! cartoon (1981-1982), which ran as part of THE KID SUPER POWER HOUR WITH SHAZAM! with Captain Marvel voiced by Burr Middleton.

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From 1975 until the end of its run, the series aired as one-half of THE SHAZAM!/ISIS HOUR, featuring THE SECRETS OF ISIS as a companion program.

Shazam! was a popular catchphrase used by Mayberry, North Carolina mechanic Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors) on the CBS sitcoms THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW (1960-1968) and GOMER PYLE, USMC (1964-1969).

Billy Batson (aka, “Captain Marvel”)
c/o 1973 Open Road Motorhome
Along the Highways and Byways of the Land

The Adventures of Captain Marvel – Serial – 1941 (IMDB)
Shazam! – TV Series – 1974 (IMDB)
Shazam! – TV Cartoon – 2013 (IMDB)
Shazam! – Movie – 2019 (IMDB)
Shazam! – Cartoon Network – DC Nation Shorts (Video)
Shazam! – Transformations (Video)
Shazam! – The History (Video)
Shazam! – Intro) (Video)

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About

Born in Philadelphia, Jerome Alphonse Holst worked 30 years as a librarian. He has since retired and lives in Greensboro, North Carolina. Mr. Holst is also the author of the children’s books “Norman the Troll,” "Norman the Troll and the Haunted House," and "Gretchen and the Gremlins." In addition, he penned the fantasy novel “The Adventures of Glinda Gale,” a retelling of “The Wizard of Oz" and the reference text “The Encyclopedia of Movie and TV Insults.” .

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