From the Department of Misinformation here at I.T.C.H. headquarters comes one of the strangest comic book origin stories ever told. In keeping with Internet protocol and common netiquette we will not cite any sources for these would-be facts.
It all starts with The Andy Griffith Show and a lovable mechanic named Gomer Pyle. Gomer was such a popular character they soon replaced him with his cousin Goober who went on to invent chocolate-covered peanuts, a sister to Raisinets.
Now out of work, Gomer finally joined the U.S. Marines but instead of serving in Viet Nam he got his own TV show called Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. It was never revealed what those initials stood for.
On the show, Gomer never reached a rank higher than private. How ironic that he should inspire a captain!
Gomer’s popular catchphrase was originally going to be “huzzah!” but there was already a Hanna-Barbera character on Go-Go Gophers who used that expression. So the writers invented the nonsense word “shazam” and it caught on like gangbusters! Soon it spread like wildflowers, as kids in schoolyards and on college campuses started saying “shazam!” during dodge ball and draft dodging, respectively.
“Shazam” and Gomer Pyle were inextricably linked. You couldn’t think of Gomer without thinking “shazam” and you couldn’t say “shazam” without thinking of Gomer. The show spawned all sorts of spin-offs like trading cards, flicker rings, record albums, and yes, comic books!
This did not go unnoticed by the powers that be at DC Comics. And when I say “powers” I don’t mean super powers, just regular powers. Like the ability to steal a catchphrase and get away with it!
The year was 1973 and DC was looking for a hit. They already had Superman, Batman and Spider-Man but they wanted something new. Especially a character that wasn’t something-man. Somebody suggested Captain America but he had already been created 32 years earlier. But “captain” made them think of the navy and that made them think of the marines. It wasn’t long before one of the big shots at DC thought of Gomer Pyle and his exclamation of “shazam.” A comic character was born!
A new super-dude wearing red tights and a cape, shouting “Shazam!” soon found its way to newsstands. If you could locate an original copy of this comic book it would be worth millions today.
Although the comic was called Shazam!, the character was known as Captain Marvel, a name they stole from Marvel Comics. This wasn’t the only unoriginal idea. They even drew Captain Marvel to resemble Gomer Pyle!
Most ironic of all, DC had the audacity to refer to this character with the stolen name and stolen catchphrase as The Original Captain Marvel. What’s original about it?
Of course, the first issue of Shazam! went down in history as the first comic book to be inspired by a sit-com catchphrase. (It wasn’t until years later that Charlton published Eat My Shorts Comics.)
To commemorate this historical event we have a song called — what else? — “Shazam.” Written to celebrate the 1,000th issue of the Shazam! comic book, it’s by Bert “Wheels” Weedon who was also known as The Fifth Beatle because he briefly replaced Ringo on guitar when the fab mop-top was sidelined with a broken leg after a motorcycle accident.
To hear this classic comics tune simply click the link below.
— DJ David B.