As Fawcett’s Captain Marvel continued to grow in popularity over the 1940s, his cast of characters grew along with it, well past the core Marvel Family of Cap, Captain Marvel Junior and Mary Marvel. Here are a few other very frequently appearing friends of the Big Red Cheese:
Among the first were the Three Lieutenant Marvels, first appearing in WHIZ COMICS #21 in April 1942.
Here’s the idea: with Billy Batson now something of a celebrity thanks to his job as a radio reporter for WHIZ, the radio station holds a promotion where they bring in other kids named Billy Batson from around the country to meet their famous counterpart. Arriving are “Fat Billy” Batson from Brooklyn, “Tall Billy” Batson from the West Coast, and “Hill Billy” Batson from the South. Naturally, when Dr. Sivana sends henchgoons to kidnap Billy Batson, they mistakenly kidnap the three visiting Billys instead, and when the sound of Billy’s cry of “Shazam!” is drowned out by an approaching buzzsaw, the three other Billy’s lend their voices to his, leading to four bolts of lightning striking, and the first appearance of the Three Lieutenant Marvels!
The Lieutenants appeared off and on through the Fawcett run, and were revived along with the rest of the Marvel Family when DC acquired the franchise, until finally being wiped away with much of DC’s history during the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Making his debut only a year later was Uncle Marvel, otherwise known as “Uncle Dudley,” a onetime con man and fraud who tried to convince Mary Marvel and the others that he was their long-lost uncle in the hopes of becoming their manager and making a profit.
Thanks to their possessing the wisdom of Solomon, they saw right through his ruse but humored him, realizing he was at heart a good man, and over time he became a trusted member of the Marvel Family, even fighting alongside them in his own Marvel uniform even though he had no powers, and would often beg from fighting, claiming his “Shazam-bago” was acting up.
Finally, there was Captain Marvel’s best friend, Mr. Tawny, a talking tiger that the Big Red Cheese first encountered in December 1947.
A civilized tiger, Mr. Tawny had been given a serum as a cub that gave him the ability to talk, and tiring of life in the jungle, decided to move to the United States and join the society of man. While the city folk were terrified of him at first, Captain Marvel helped Mr. Tawny acclimate and even got him a job as a tour guide at the city museum, and soon Mr. Tawny was a dapper, beloved tiger about town, who often found himself drawn into Captain Marvel’s adventures, usually against his better judgment.
Although not everybody lived living around a tiger, which was just the kind of rabid anti-tigerism that Captain Marvel couldn’t stand.
Mr. Tawny was also revived by DC in the early ‘70s, was wiped away in the Crisis, and has remained a part of the Shazam mythos in every incarnation since. Including, it seems, the upcoming feature film. Take a close look at the clasps of Captain Marvel’s cape:
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