How One WWI Veteran’s Struggle to Adjust After Army Service Led to the Birth of ‘Shazam!’
By Chad Garland
via the Military.com web site
The hit Warner Bros. superhero film “Shazam!” is based on a character whose origins begin with an Army veteran’s little-known struggle a century ago to adjust to life after war.
The world’s mightiest mortal — a character so much like Superman that his only real weakness was copyright law — was introduced by Fawcett Publications as Captain Marvel, the alter ego of kid reporter Billy Batson, in a comic published from 1940 to 1953.
But before the fictional captain, there was Captain Billy, a real-life former soldier and newspaper reporter whose racy, pocket-sized humor magazine for World War I veterans shocked 1920s America and launched a publishing empire spanning magazines, comics and paperbacks.
One of his sons, who inherited the business, took credit for creating the comic book hero, who may have been a subtle homage to the Depression-era publishing magnate.
Born Wilford Hamilton Fawcett, Captain Billy would go from a struggling veteran to “one of Minneapolis’ lustiest characters” after WWI, remembered as “an adventurer [who] packed a lifetime of thrills into his 57 years,” the Minneapolis Tribune would say in a 1940 obituary, though he wasn’t quite 55 when he died.
Some elements of Fawcett’s early life story appear to have been embellished over the years, said Britt Aamodt, who researched him for her book “Superheroes, Strip Artists, & Talking Animals: Minnesota’s Contemporary Cartoonists.” Like other notable men of his day, he could spin a good tale.
A military veteran herself, Aamodt was drawn to Fawcett’s story partly by his efforts to adjust to civilian life after the military — twice. He served as a teenager in the early 1900s and again in his 30s during WWI.
Read the entire article on the Military.com web site.
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