With the recent release of Marvel Comics’ new Captain Marvel title and the announcement that the original Cap will be going by Shazam, I’ve been thinking about superhero naming conventions.  In recent years, Marvel has been notorious for having multiple versions of the same character name floating around (right now, there’s a non-Peter-Parker version of Spider-Man in the Dark Avengers, there’s Miles Morales over in the Ultimate universe, and half a dozen alternate universal versions, such as 1601 Peter Parquagh), while DC’s multiple realities made discussions of WHICH Green Lantern had come out as gay akin to an Abbot & Costello routine.  (“Who’s on first?”  “Guy Gardner!”)

The MS-QOTD (prounced “Zeh-hoo-tee”) always kind of had a crush on Isis, asking:
Should iconic names be “retired” like jersey numbers, or is it fair play to have six active Captains Marvel?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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9 Comments

  1. TaZ
    July 25, 2012 at 11:43 am — Reply

    I’ll repeat my opinion that I posted on the review of the Marvel “Captain Marvel” title. If it’s not related to saying or using the word “Shazam” it’s not Captain Marvel. I did not like the “Power of Shazam” series when Billy, Mary and Freddy all three were “Captain Marvel I, II and III” because it sounded more like a masked team of luchadors. Marvel should have left the Kree Mar-Vell alone and not used the appearance of the composite Mar-Vell during the Avengers romp on Hala with the Phoenix Force as a reason for Carol Danvers to finally take on the name after all these years as “Ms. Marvel”. Unless it’s a legacy hero (such as The Winter Solider’s turn as Captain America) then a character name should be retired. The “dark” thing has worn out as well. Bring back the Thunderbolts.

  2. Kevin Flythe
    July 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm — Reply

    Regarding DC and Marvel both having a character with the same name, doesn’t bother me one bit. But what about the question you really seem to be asking, multiple characters in the same shared universe having the same name? Well, in the case of Green Lantern, there’s an established corps, so it’s common knowledge that there are multiple “Green Lanterns” just as there are multiple soldiers in an army, so that’s fine. Marvel has been pretty annoying with that stuff lately, particularly with the hulk family. We’re honestly going to have an on-going title called “Red She-Hulk”? And at least she’s red. What about Lyra? She and Jennifer are both just “She-Hulk”. As for Hulk and Red Hulk, they were distinguished by the titles of their magazines. I don’t read either, though, so I don’t know if characters called the red hulk “Red Hulk,” “Hulk,” or “Rulk” in-universe. Bucky Cap being Captain America was fine, because there was only one Cap at the time, same as Dick being Batman, at least up until Bruce came back, then it just got weird.

    So, where do I stand? Unless the superhero name refers to membership in a group (like GL Corps), they should be retired, EXCEPT in cases where the name is not being used by the original (or current guy/gal) because they’re retired, dead, or otherwise incapacitated, and use of the name serves the story.

  3. July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm — Reply

    I’m perfectly fine with multiple heroes using the same name with the one caveat that there should only be ONE character CURRENTLY using each name per universe. Only the names of deceased or retired heroes should be up for grabs.

    Miles becoming the new Ultimate Spider-man after Peter’s passing is great, Ms. Marvel “graduating” into Captain Marvel is even better. But having two different characters with the same hero name active at the same time in the same universe becomes a complicated and confusing mess (not counting the occasional ‘old guy meets new guy’ story or other special events where it makes sense for there to be two of them for a short period of time).

    The one exception to this is Green Lantern. A big part of the GL mythos is that there are tons of GLs, so it never bothered me to have a handful on Earth.

    • B.V.K.
      July 25, 2012 at 5:13 pm — Reply

      Seconded

    • Georgedubya
      July 25, 2012 at 6:52 pm — Reply

      I think you and Kevin really summed up everything I have to say about the issue.

  4. Oldcomicfan
    July 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm — Reply

    My opinion is that if a hero is gone (and, leaving all gimmicks aside, the only reason for getting rid of a character should be lack of sales, in which case WHY would you want to bring the dud back again?) the name and character should be retired. I’ve been reading superhero comics off and on since the 1960s – before the days of multi-verses and Earth 2’s, and if somebody wanted to tell a story out of continuity, they just did an “imaginary tale” – which is pretty funny because they are all “imaginary tales”. There’s a reason most of the golden age heroes except for Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel (the original) are no longer around. They didn’t sell well enough to continue support a monthly book. So why would a comic company want to dilute their resources by bringing back old characters that didn’t sell in the first place?

    • July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm — Reply

      the only reason for getting rid of a character should be lack of sales, in which case WHY would you want to bring the dud back again?

      One might point out that Uncanny X-Men was cancelled in 1970 due to lack of sales…

  5. DudeX
    July 25, 2012 at 7:32 pm — Reply

    Don’t forget, DC also had three Flashes running around, too. It doesn’t really matter to me as long as I’m able to distinguish between the different ones. Of course, using different synonyms wouldn’t hurt either.

    Side note: Remember when the CFL had two teams both named the Roughriders, weren’t the Wildcats available?

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