When did Captain Marvel become a woman?

Ask your grandparents and you will learn that the first Captain Marvel was the alter ego of a troubled teenage boy, orphan Billy Batson, who could transform into an adult superhero by speaking the magic word “SHAZAM!”

The female Captain Marvel who stars in a self-titled movie released in March is Carol Danvers, a U.S. Air Force pilot who gained superpowers when a device created by the alien character Mar-Vell exploded.

The first Captain Marvel was created in 1939 by C.C. Beck, an artist working with writer Bill Parker. Fawcett Comics had commissioned the character to compete with National Comics/DC Comics’ Superman. He acquired his powers from an ancient wizard.

His debut in Fawcett’s Whiz Comics was in February 1940. His new movie “Shazam!” - starring Zachary Levi - will hit the theaters April 5.

Produced by New Line Cinema, it is intended to be the seventh installment in the DC Extended Universe.

The female superhero made her debut as Ms. Marvel in Marvel Super-Heroes No. 13 in March 1968. She had a self-titled series in the 1970s and later became associated with the superhero teams The Avengers and The X-Men.

Danvers, played by Brie Larson, will reprise her role in “Avengers: Endgame,” which will be released on April 26.

How did there come to be two very different Captain Marvels?

It’s complicated.

National Comics Publications – one of the companies that would later become DC Comics – sued Fawcett Publications for copyright infringement, claiming that Captain Marvel was a copy of Superman.

In the early 1950s, after years of litigation, Fawcett reached a settlement with DC in which it agreed to discontinue its comic book line.

Marvel Comics introduced its own female Captain Marvel, and the male Captain Marvel was rebranded as Shazam to avoid trademark issues.

DC Comics acquired publishing rights for Captain Marvel and the entire Marvel family from Fawcett in 1972 and revived the comic book character the following year. Beck returned as the artist. But he left after 10 issues due to “creative differences” regarding plot lines.

By 1991, DC had all rights to the characters and integrated them into its DC Universe. But Marvel Comics had a trademark for the name Captain Marvel for its female superhero.

In 2012, DC Comics rebooted the franchise as part of its New 52 relaunch, but because of Marvel’s trademark and ongoing conflicts over that name, DC used the trademark Shazam and later officially gave that name to its character.