James Gunn, in his ongoing effort to bring peace between the warring tribes of comic book fans, has tweeted a defense of Shazam actor Zachary Levi.
Levi, who was announced to be playing a DC Extended Universe superhero last Friday, October 27, has been referring to his character as “the original Captain Marvel.” Some fans of Marvel Comics’ character of the same name have taken that as a subtle jab at them, as though he was calling their preferred captain less legitimate.
Enter Gunn, a Marvel director who has become extremely successful turning the relatively minor Guardians of the Galaxy property into two mega-hit films and mainstays of Marvel TV adaptations. He has lately been speaking up for fans of the two companies to put aside their differences, and for that cause, gave his own opinion about Levi’s comments on Twitter.
“Fan sites: @ZacharyLevi calling Shazam ‘the original Captain Marvel’ is not throwing shade at Marvel. He IS the original Captain Marvel,” he wrote.
The issue is a complicated one that draws on a lot of comic book history. The short version: Levi’s “original Captain Marvel,” Billy Batson, was created in 1941 by the now defunct Fawcett Comics, and purchased by DC Comics in 1972. In the meantime, however, the rights to the name had expired, and Marvel Comics snatched them up. Since then there have been several Marvel characters using the title, most recently Carol Danvers.
DC Comics is still allowed to call the Billy Batson character “Captain Marvel,” as long as they do not use the name in advertisements. It is unclear at this time if Levi will be called that in his film, but in any event, his comments could easily be taken as an attempt at clarification rather than an attempted insult.