DC’s 1984 CAPTAIN THUNDER: Dig the Great CAPTAIN MARVEL Who Never Was

Feast your eyes on this vibrant nugget of comics history…


Captain Marvel has had a fascinating history at DC Comics. With nearly every new iteration of the DC Universe, the World’s Mightiest Mortal gets re-invented for a new age of readers. One of these re-imaginings was announced in the comics press but never saw the light of day except for a brief blurb and a small, yet exciting, black-and-white illustration.

The March 9, 1984, issue of The Comics Buyer’s Guide heralded an up-and-coming, brand-new character, Captain Thunder, on its cover — resplendent in a very familiar uniform. For those of you not in the know, Captain Thunder was Fawcett Publications’ proposed name for the original Captain Marvel prior to his debut release in Whiz Comics #2 in 1940. Fawcett changed his name to Captain Marvel prior to publication and the rest is history.

The blurb featured a wonderful illustration by Don Newton and Jerry Ordway and revealed Roy Thomas as the writer. This new character was to be a retooling of Captain Marvel with a name that could be used on the cover of a comic. The name, Captain Marvel, was prohibited due to Marvel Comics’ trademark of the name.

This also would have been the first attempt by Roy Thomas to give the World’s Mightiest Mortal his alter ego Billy Batson’s mind in his transformed state — a full four years before the release of the Tom Hanks film Big, which the modern day Captain Marvel/Shazam has been consistently compared to. The other change would have been to switch the character’s race to Black. Pretty exciting stuff for early 1984.

In the opening text page of 1987’s Shazam: The New Beginning #1, Thomas revealed that this new Captain Thunder was to be introduced as an Earth-One superhero. Again, exciting stuff — but it didn’t happen. I remember my excitement clearly — and disappointment when this new Big Red Cheese never came to be.


In any event, I colored the image back in the ’90s but wanted to give it another shot, so I tried to imagine what a house ad for a new Captain Thunder would look like in ’84. Clearly, I had to use the wonderful Don Newton and Jerry Ordway illustration. So I researched some DC house ads and ended up using a Star Trek one as my guide.

So transport yourself back to 1984 and imagine reading an issue of, say, Batman, and coming across the house ad below.



— 13 MIGHTY MOMENTS in the 50-Year History of SHAZAM! at DC Comics. Click here.

— Imagine If DC’s 1970s SHAZAM! Comic Went All in On the TV Show. Click here.

A 10-year-old Walt Grogan fell in love with the Big Red Cheese thanks to essays written by Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson in the paperback edition of All in Color for a Dime, released in 1970 and bought for him by his father off a paperback spinner rack in a liquor store on the South Side of Chicago. Walt runs The Marvel Family Web Facebook page devoted to all incarnations of the Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel and blogs about Captain Marvel at shazamshistorama.com.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Walt, great article. Love the imaginary ad!

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  2. Great job as always Walt! I was always fascinated by this Captain Thunder. It’s a shame he never saw the light of day. What a creative team! Superman had met a version of Captain Thunder in the 70s, but he was a homage to Captain Marvel, and was white and had a different origin and symbol. I really wish DC had just renamed all versions of Captain Marvel as Captain Thunder back then, and we could have left all this name nonsense in the dust.

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  3. I absolutely adore your colors, Walt, for the print ad for Captain Thunder that never was.

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  4. Don Newton with Jerry Ordway would’ve been printing money for me back then. Don, now there was a gentleman we lost WAY TOO SOON.

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