The Future Is Here
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The Captain Marvel/Ms. Marvel/Shazam Clusterf*ck Explained

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As a fake mailman living in the future, sometimes it’s funny to me what you people in 2013 freak out about. Ben Affleck as Batman? He actually ends up being okay. Not great, but definitely better than Kilmer or Clooney. But man, you guys are going to completely lose your shit in 20 years when Kim and Kanye’s kid North West gets the part.


Chris M.:

Can we call her Miss Marvel for the movies, please?

I know, I know. She's a Captain now. I don't want to take that away from her. I don't want to imply she's "just a Miss", and I really want to see a movie with her in it. We need some Superheroine movies, some good Superheroine movies. Movies that take the characters seriously and don't try and Megan Fox it up.

But please, for the love of Shazam and Captain America, don't call her Captain Marvel. We've had a Captain Marvel since the '30s. We have a Captain already on the Avengers team, and I really want this to work if they're smart enough to do it.


Can we call her Ms. (not Miss) Marvel for the movies? We can. Should we? No. Will Marvel call her that when and if she ever making it to the movie-verse? Probably not.

Obviously, you’re a Captain Marvel/Shazam fan, and I understand your consternation that a Marvel Comics character has absconded with the name of another hero who’s been around for 80 years. But here’s the main problem: Everyone else knows him as Shazam. Okay, there is a certain portion of comics fans — I would say way less than half, of which you are clearly one — that feels like Billy Batson is the One True Captain Marvel, but the rest of the general populace literally thinks the character’s name is Shazam anyways.


It’s all because of the rights issues, and mainly because how Marvel Comics has the rights to the name Captain Marvel. Fawcett, publishers of the original Captain Marvel/Shazam comics, stopped making them in the ‘50s. In the ‘60s, Marvel Comics trademarked the name Captain Marvel for their own Kree alien superhero, which meant when DC licensed the Fawcett characters in 1972, they had the Fawcett character named Captain Marvel, but couldn’t call the comic Captain Marvel, so they used his transformation cry “Shazam!” for the title.

This extended to other media as well — DC could not promote the character as Captain Marvel anywhere, even though the character’s named was Captain Marvel. So when Billy Batson made his TV debut in 1974, his show was titled Shazam (okay, The Shazam/Isis Hour, but you get the point).

That’s 40+ years of marketing the character as Shazam, and that’s how he’s known to pretty much everybody. Hell, even DC finally gave up when they did the New 52 and finally just renamed the character Shazam, just to cut down on the confusion, and I think it was a smart move. Point is, if even DC calls him Shazam now, he’s Shazam. This battle is lost.

Which brings us to Marvel’s Carol Danvers, and whether she should be called Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel in her movie debut. I have to go with Captain, because 1) that’s her name now, 2) she was originally named Ms. Marvel to differentiate her from the original Kree Captain Marvel and the Kree Captain Marvel isn’t part of the cinematic universe, and 3) calling her “Ms.” just seems kind of condescending. I mean, it was standard procedure when the character was introduced in 1968, and then the name stuck. But to introduce Carol Danvers to the cinematic universe in 2015 or later and then for everyone to call her Ms. Marvel just seems weird to me, for all the reasons above. Calling her Captain Marvel in the comics was a long time coming, but it was overdue, and there’s no reason to start her out as Ms. in the movies.


If it makes you feel any better, I’d bet $100 that if/when she makes her movie debut everyone calls her “Carol” 90% of the time anyways (and then Tony Stark calls her “Ms. Marvel” at one point just to be annoying).


Completely Screwed

Ken P.:

If the doctor were to threaten me with his sonic screwdriver, what is the worst thing he could do to me? If I had a pacemaker, I guess he could kill me instantly. I suppose he could cause the phone in my pocket to explode (possibly damaging my junk). Any ideas?


Here’s the thing: the Sonic Screwdriver can do pretty much anything. Anything. It can open security doors, sink ships, re-attach barbed wire, overload sensors, and even on occasion drive in screws. The one limitation it seems to have — and this is pretty recent, given that the Tenth Doctor said it in “The Doctor’s Daughter” — is that the sonic screwdriver cannot hurt or kill living beings, but whether that means it could or couldn’t destroy an internal machine, like a pacemaker, that's keeping you alive is up for debate. Common sense would dictate that the sonic screwdriver couldn’t possibly be able to determine whether stopping a machine like a pacemaker or cellphone could hurt someone, but once you try and start applying common sense to Doctor Who it all goes to hell.

Here’s my take: The sonic screwdriver can do anything the plot needs it to, and more importantly, it also can’t do anything the plot needs it not to do. Are you an asshole and it’s the end of the episode, meaning the conflict needs to be over? The sonic screwdriver will find a way to screw you.


(That awesome art is by K.K. Jordan, by the way.)


Cold and Lonely

Andy H-D:

I am loving the new show Siberia; I think it has been the best show on television this summer. It directly targets our internet-using demographic, and it has survived through at least eight episodes. It must be doing well enough in the ratings; you don't get to hold onto a primetime slot if you don't get they eyeballs. How is there not an enormous online fan community? How do some shows have twenty great fan sites and blogs and podcasts and forums after their third episode, and another show like Siberia - targeting the same audience and apparently succeeding - doesn't have a single one?


Well, I can tell you part of the problem is that until I received this mail I had never even heard of the show before, and I’m pretty much paid to know shit like this. Now, that may make me terrible at my job, but I assure you that I watch a ridiculous amount of TV, a fair amount of it on NBC, and I haven’t seen a single promo for the faux reality supernatural suspense show, nor seen it advertised anywhere on the internet, or seen the copious TV blogs mention it. I think it’s safe to say that NBC is not promoting it, and it’s just kind of lost in the wilderness of summer TV (which is a pretty apt metaphor for the show, really).

Unfortunately, eight episodes in the summer doesn’t necessarily mean that its getting good ratings; summer is where TV networks dump off shows to die, such as my beloved Zero Hour. Moreover, NBC is just terrible, and very few of their shows get decent ratings even during the fall and spring, so it’s much more likely that NBC simply doesn’t have anything else to fill that timeslot with. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure if Siberia were getting any kind of notable ratings, NBC would be pimping the hell out of it.


For the rest of you: Siberia is a fictional show about 16 people who get dropped off in Siberia thinking they’re going to be part of a reality show, but instead discover they genuinely need to survive the harsh conditions and weather and the mysterious, supernatural force that seems to be stalking them. Now that I’ve heard about it, it sounds good to me, but I have my doubts we’ll be getting a season 2.


One Man’s Junk

Tech Recycle Guy:

Dear Mr. Postman,

You've seen lots of fantastic tech from the TARDIS to whatever the folks from "Eureka" come up with this week. But let's face it. Technology wears down or gets replaced by something better or our heroes lack spare parts to fix their gadgets. Yet it seems wasteful to just chuck, say, a really trashed KITT into the junkyard and walk away.

So what favorite bit of hypothetically trashed or outdated fantastic tech would you salvage for repurposing...and what would you repurpose it into? (Note: No fair grabbing a somewhat usable plasma cannon to blow road-hogging SUVs off the streets.)


I gotta go with any mecha or power armor. Besides looking and being completely awesome, it would make delivering the mail in post-apocalyptic America so much easier — quicker deliveries, and more protection on the road. I’d make a big-ass mailman hat and mail bag for it to wear, too. And I could devote all that time I’d save to my other hobbies, such as hanging out with Tom Petty and having casual sex with Olivia Williams.


Disc Drive

Mitchell W.:

Hey Mr. Postman,

I'm not sure how much you may know about ultimate Frisbee, But I was thinking about it the other day, and there needs to be 7 people on the field for each team. Who do you think would be the starting 7 heroes and starting 7 villains? I've always though Cap would have to be one with his ability to throw round objects. I would assume abilities/powers may be used.


Well, now I know ultimate Frisbee teams have seven players, so that’s more than I knew yesterday. Captain America is obviously the leader, but I’d stack it with Cap’s associates — The Winter Soldier, U.S. Agent, basically anyone who specializes in throwing discs at things. Then Hawkeye, whose ability to aim anything would be super useful. After that, I’m not sure — maybe a few fliers like Captain Marvel in order to broaden the field (hey, if she hovers in the air when she has the Frisbee, it’s not against the rules, is it?) and Thor, or maybe the Hulk in case I need to through a Frisbee through somebody? I’m not sure.

As for the bad guys, I’d just pick all the members of the Wrecking Crew, who I’d have beat the heroes with crowbars, steal the Frisbee, and run away. This was a ridiculous question, and that you very much for asking it.


A Tale of Two Everything

John T.:

I don't know if you've been asked about this but I wouldn't be surprised if you have. DC seem to not be able to get their head around bringing the DCU to the big screen whereas Marvel seems to know exactly what they're doing. At the same time, DC's animated universe (both films and shows) have been/are absolutely great and willing to take on some of the more "unique" aspects of comics (i.e. alternate universes,the multiverse, different people taking up a hero's mantle etc etc). I know marvel have been making more forays into animated shows recently but I've not been blown away.

For me, so far: DC animated universe> Marvel's animated universe, Marvel cinematic universe> DC cinematic universe.

How come WB/DC haven't learnt any lessons from their animated side of things?

How come Marvel, whose characters are probably better suited for cartoons etc, still haven't had run away success in this field?

And where do you see each of them going with their animated properties in the future?

P.s. I wish they'd bring back Young Justice :(

I don’t know.

I honestly have no idea. DC is the bigger mystery, because besides having a long and incredible history of making awesome animated TV shows, they’ve also been making those direct-to-DVD movies. Not all of them are great, but there are ones like Wonder Woman and Batman: Under the Red Hood that are legitimately great. I’ve often said that if DC/WB just filmed a live-action, shot-for-shot remake of the Wonder Woman animated movie, that’s literally all they’d need to start the franchise.


I think the thing is that while DC controls their animation department, it’s really Warner Bros. who controls the DC movies, and these people 1) don’t know anything about comics, 2) don’t care anything about comics, and 3) never listen to anything anyone at DC says because they think they know better. Occasionally they luck out and hire someone like Chris Nolan to take on Batman, but mostly they just fuck up and then blame it on DC as if it’s their fault WB okayed a shitty Green Lantern script. I think they think that making a movie for fans and for mass audiences is somehow mutually exclusive, and thus we get these dumbed-down, Superhero 101 versions of the characters, and they often lose what made them appealing to comic readers in the first place. Meanwhile, Marvel is staying true to the characters but making them accessible to mass audiences at the same time, so the fans get what they want, and mass audiences see what attracted all the fans in the first place.

Meanwhile, Marvel… they’ve had a long, bad run but between Spectacular Spider-Man and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, I don’t think we can say they suck at cartoons anymore. And, to my infinite discomfort, while I find Avengers Assemble, Ultimate Spider-Man and Hulk and the Agents of SMASH to be merely okay, I’m 95% they’re doing well in the ratings with kids, waaaaaay more than the “good” cartoons I mentioned previously.


I don’t think Marvel is as worried about older fans for their current cartoons, which may suck for us but is totally understandable, and is almost certainly successful. I’d love for Marvel to make a cartoon that appealed to kids and adults simultaneously, like DC’s ‘90s animated TV series did (or like Marvel's live-action movies, for that matter), but until kids stop watching what they’re making, they have absolutely no reason to do so.

P.S. — Me too.

Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!