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Shazam! The Golden Age of the World’s Mightiest Mortal

Author/designer Chip Kidd and photographer Geoff Spear ogle oodles of highly collectible "Marvel Family" merchandise.

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In his time – the 1940s and early 1950s – Captain Marvel was outselling Superman.

Captain Marvel's Magic Flute/From the collection of Harry Matetsky

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‘SHAZAM!!’

That’s the word young Billy Baston has to say to be transformed by a magic lightning bolt into the world’s mightiest mortal (and an grown-up too, I might add) Captain Marvel! As Captain Marvel, young Billy has the powers of –

Solomon – wisdom

Hercules – strength

Atlas – stamina

Zeus – power

Achilles – courage

Mercury – speed

Pretty neat, huh! What little kid wouldn’t be drawn to such a character? And like flies they were during the 1940s and early 1950s, outselling Superman by 14 million comic books a month. Besides the Captain, who appeared in three comics a month, there were comics with his sister Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., and even a funny animal character Hoppy, the Marvel Bunny.

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