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Cap Loves NY
Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Immediately after being charged with tracking down Rodney Stark, Billy Batson flies from New York City to Greenland.
One of the more popular comic book urban legends in Captain Marvel's lore was that although he was based in a big city, which was assumed to be New York, it remained unnamed during the Fawcett run of stories.

In fact, I speculated in Fun Fact #11 that Cap was a New Yorker without having any real proof.

That's certainly not the case, any more, as Captain Marvel's homebase was nailed down as early as Whiz Comics #7. In the lead story, "Captain Marvel and the Squadron of Doom!," there are no fewer than three references to Billy Batson and Captain Marvel being citizens of New York City. In the story, Billy boards a freighter that is set to sail to the North Pole on a scientific expedition. When the wealthy young sportsman, Rodney Stark,

Rodney Stark recognizes Billy Batson from their encounter in New York City!
catches Billy on board, he kicks him overboard — dumping him into the drink. At no point does the story say that Billy left his home town to find and board the freighter. As the story continues, six months have passed when the president of Amalgamated Broadcasting, Sterling Morris, charges his young newscaster to find out why six army planes were stolen and their pilots killed in the same region as Starks expedition.

Billy, apparently an accomplished pilot at age ten, flies non-stop to Greenland from New York City — on his own! When Billy encounters Stark, Stark recognizes Billy from New York! After foiling Stark's plan, Captain Marvel flies homeward and shouts "Shazam!" while the Empire State Building is seen below. It seems that Billy survived the fall from that height (or perhaps Cap's momentum carried him to safety) because Billy is alive and well in the next panel.

Captain Marvel flies past one of America's most recognizable landmarks — the Empire State Building, as he changes back to Billy in his home town!
So, in a single story, three panels confirm that Billy's hometown, as well as the headquarters of Amalgamated Broadcasting, and, ultimately, the location of Radio Station W.H.I.Z. were smack-dab in the good ol' Big Apple!

When DC Comics picked up the licensing rights to Captain Marvel, they also placed Captain Marvel in New York City, but didn't indicate as such until "The Man Who Wasn't!," in Shazam! #5. In the story, a leprechaun mentions in passing that he hadn't visited Captain Marvel's city "since 1626, when the Indians sold it to Peter Minuit for 60 guilders!" What did Peter Minuit buy for 60 guilders? The island of Manhattan, known around the wrold as New York City. And in the second story, "The World's Toughest Guy," as Billy is going door-to-door to collect old newspapers for recycling, artist C.C. Beck drew the likenesses of Archie and Edith Bunker from the popular TV show, All in The Family, as two of the people he meets. Writer Elliot Maggin, has the Archie Bunker look-a-like refer to wife as Edith. Why is this important? Because the TV show was set in the Astoria section of Queens, one of New York City's five boroughs. So while the city wasn't explicitly named in the early issues of Shazam!, it was still clear that it was the City that Newver Sleeps!

When E. Nelson Bridwell took over as the lead writer in SHAZAM! #25, he firmly set Cap's adventures in New York City by having Whitey Murphy and Billy Batson cover a story in Central Park. In the next issue, as Billy is walking to work, he changes into Cap to help with a traffic jam caused by Dr. Sivana. The wiley scientist had removed half of the Brooklyn Bridge!

Bridwell finally came out and explicitly named Cap's hometown in the one page "Great Superman Captain Marvel Match Up" from All New Collectors' Edition C-58 (1978), where he lists Cap's home base as New York City. Writer Gerry Conway also places Cap in New York City in the second chapter of "When Earths Collide" from the same issue!

So if there was ever any doubt, it's clear that before the Crisis On Infinite Earths moved Captain Marvel to Fawcett City, he was once and always a New Yorker.

Shazam! Fun Fact Text

One of the minor controversies of Captain Marvel's history was what city he hailed from!

While it has been generally accepted that the city was unnamed, but assumed to be New York — Whiz Comics #7 leaves no doubt!

In no less than three panels — Captain Marvel, Billy Batson, and Radio Station W.H.I.Z. were squarely placed in the Big Apple!

Captain Marvel flew over the New York City skyline in Whiz Comics #7 (Aug 1940)