The Lieutenant Marvels

aka the "Squadron of Justice"

Created by

History

Captain Marvel and his Lieutenant Marvels are a 'Squadron of Justice.' From Whiz Comics #21 (1941); art by C. C. Beck.
The cover of Whiz Comics #21 (1941) proclaimed a "Squadron of Justice," though that name was not used inside. Art by C. C. Beck.
The Lieutenants at home. From Whiz Comics #29 (1942); art by C. C. Beck.
Sivana tries becoming the "Anti-Marvel" in order to take the whole family out at once. From The Marvel Family #2 (1946); art by C. C. Beck.

The Lieutenant Marvels were a group of three deputy Caps whose appearance predated even Captain Marvel Jr. These sidekicks appeared about a dozen more times, making them a classic part of Captain Marvel lore. The three of them have made a handful of DC Comics appearances as well, mostly as cameos. In their first appearance, the cover of Whiz Comics #21 (Sept. 5, 1941), they were dubbed the 'Captain Marvel's Squadron of Justice,' although that term was not used anywhere else.

The lads who would become the Lieutenant Marvels were three young men from across the country — and all named Billy Batson. While reading Captain Marvel's comic book adventures they happened to wonder if saying "Shazam" would work for them as well. They all went to see their namesake at WHIZ radio. Each was nicknamed for their character: "Tall" Billy came from the Texas, "Fat" Billy from Brooklyn, and "Hill" Billy from Apalachia.

Billy said his magic word tp prove he was indeed as the comic books portrayed him: he became Captain Marvel. But he cautioned them against saying "Shazam!" Meanwhile Sivana, Herr Geyer and Captain Death plotted to end Captain Marvel for good. They mistakenly kidnapped Billy's new friends, and finally "real" Billy himself. They were set to be sawed to death and only together could they produce sufficient volume to make the magic word ring out. All four were transformed into super-heroes! After mopping up the villains, they agreed to keep their identities a secret, and to only use the magic word in unison. (Whiz Comics #21)

No effort was spent on explaining how these boys could (other than sharing Billy's name) summon the magic power of Shazam.

Billy invited his new friends back to visit just as Sivana hatched another plot to kidnap his nemesis. His henchmen grabbed the Lieutenenats but as before, they escaped their bonds by crying "Shazam!" in unison with "real" Billy. They also freed Sivana's rebel daughter, Beautia, who was tickled by the idea of even more Captain Marvels over which to fawn. (Captain Marvel Adventures #4)

Beautia gave Cap a tip in order to prevent violence at the upcoming Pan-American Olympic Meet. He called upon his friends to take up separate posts at the games. In order to synchronize their transformations, they agreed to speak the magic word at precisely the same hour. (Whiz Comics #29)

When America entered the war, Billy discovered that his new writer, Anton Stogg, was working for the enemy. Stogg framed Billy by rewriting his broadcasts to include secret code. Billy was arrested for treason and the Lieutenants came charging to his defense. To get there more quickly, both Tall Billy and Hill Billy transformed into Marvels — independently. (This proved that they did not need to speak the word in unison, as previously suggested.) The boys averted another attack at sea and garnered thanks from the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover himself! (Whiz Comics #34)

During an afternoon picnic, the four of them witnessed a plan crash. The dying pilot managed to utter some vague coordinates, so they split up to check out the possibilities. All four Billys were all captured and sentenced to death: In Canada, Fat Billy ran afoul of Indians; in Russia, Tall Billy met unfriendly rebels; Hill Billy was captured by Nazis in South America. Meanwhile in the Antarctic, Real Billy was ambushed by a mystery woman in black. They were set to die all at the same time — a fortuitous coincidence, as it was the same time they'd agreed to transform into Captain Marvel. Having all encountered danger, they were not sure which was the situation the pilot was concerned with. (Whiz Comics #40)

"Unlce" Dudley Marvel invited the entire Marvel Family to a first-ever "reunion" (it was actually the first time the whole crew had gathered together). The event was crashed by Sivana, who disguised himself as "Aunt Minnie Marvel," and tried to poison them all. They spoiled his plans by transforming into Marvels before drinking the tainted tea. (The Marvel Family #2)

Billy received invitations for Captain Marvel to attend "World-wide Captain Marvel Days" in four separate cities around the globe. Sivana plotted to sabotage all the events using his new, super-fast Instantaneous Rocket Ship. The Lieutenants divided and conquered. (Captain Marvel Adventures #71)

After this adventure the central Marvel Family had grown sufficiently popular. And in 1947 Cap's supporting cast grew to include Mister Tawky Tawny, a frequent guest star.

DC Lieutenants

The Lieutenants return at DC. From Shazam! #30 (1977); art by Kurt Schaffenberger.
The whole Marvel Family comes together to squash the new Monster Society of Evil. From World's Finest Comics #267 (1981); art by Don Newton and Bob Smith.
The heroes of Earth-5. From The Multiversity Guidebook (2105); art by Cameron Stewart.

When the Fawcett characters were revived by DC in the pages of Shazam!, the Lieutenant Marvels made several trivial appearances. Aside from a mention in the "Shazam and Family" article of Shazam! #2 (Apr. 1973), Shazam! #8 (Dec. 1973) reprinted the Lieutenants' tale from Captain Marvel Adventures #71, and the Lieutenants were mentioned again in issue #12 (May/June 1974), in a two-page spread titled "Billy Batson's Family Album." Billy wrote: "There are three other Billy Batsons who are friends of mine: Fat Billy from Brooklyn, Tall Billy from Texas, and Hill Billy from the South. They have the SHAZAM powers too, and can turn into the 3 Lieutenant Marvels."

Shazam! #14 (Sept./Oct. 1974) presented a "Shazam Trivia Quiz" which asked readers to distinguish between the three Lieutenants and their homes.

The three Billys made their first legitimate DC appearance in Shazam! #30 (July/Aug. 1977). Sivana escaped from prison and sabotaged a steel mill. A worker was thrown into a vat of metal and emerged as the steel-plated Joe Magarac — named for the spirit of an American folk hero. This Magarac was actually a villain with a robot brain made by Sivana. He manufactured a menagerie of steel creatures and even a steel Superman, and Captain Marvel needed to recruit all the Marvels for help. They appared to have grown a bit older, and Hill Billy had moved to Nashville to pursue a music career.

Whem an all-new Monster Society of Evil emerged, Billy was summoned by the wizard, who warned that only the combined might of the Marvel Family would triumph. Captain Marvel rounded up Fat Billy, who was preparing for a football game; Hill Billy was performing in Nashville; and Tall Billy was at home on his ranch. (The story asserts that they must say the magic word in unison.) Each engaged a different villain: Mary Marvel took on Oggar; Junior with Black Adam; Hill Marvel with Sivana; Fat Marvel with Ibac; Tall Marvel with Kull; Cap with Mister Atom. And together they located their leader, Mister Mind. (World's Finest Comics #267)

The Lieutenants and Dudley were on-hand during the great Crisis, helping to save people from the shadow demons of the Anti-Monitor. (Crisis on Infinite Earths #12)

The three were again canonized into the Marvel Family by their inclusion in the entry from Who's Who #14 (Apr. 1986, see art at the top of the page).

Post-Crisis

After the Crisis, there was only one unified timeline. The Marvel Family was folded into the same continuity as the rest of DC's characters, and completely rebooted. The longest running Shazam series in this era was Jerry Ordway's Power of Shazam! (1995). The Lieutenants made no appearances in it.

Their only true post-Crisis appearance was a one-panel cameo in The Trials of Shazam #2 (Nov. 2006). The story took place after the death of Shazam (Infinite Crisis #1), and the magic in the DC universe had been flipped on its head. It was said that all those who'd possessed the wizard's powers were affected, and one panel showed the Lieutenant Marvels.

After Infinite Crisis, DC's multiverse was reestablished; there were 52 Earths. While the post-Crisis Marvel Family remained on Earth-0, there weas now also an Earth-5, which resembled the old Earth-S, home of the Marvel Family. Captain Marvel from Earth-5 appeared in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D #1 (Oct. 2008).

Grant Morrison further defined the new multiverse in The Multiversity Guidebook #1 (Mar. 2015). The entry for Earth-5 displays an illustration of the entire Marvel Family including Uncle Marvel, the Lieutenants, and Mr. Tawky Tawny.

» FIRST APPEARANCE:
  • Whiz Comics #21 (Sept. 5, 1941)
  • Together with the entire Marvel Family: Marvel Family #2 (June 1946)
  • DC, Pre-Crisis: Shazam! #12 (May/June 1974)
  • Post-Crisis: Trials of Shazam #2 (Nov. 2006)

Appearances + References

» FEATURED APPEARANCES:  

Fawcett:

  • Captain Marvel Adventures #4 (Oct. 1941)
  • Whiz Comics #29 (Apr. 1942)
  • Whiz Comics #34 (Sept. 1942)
  • Whiz Comics #40 (Feb. 1943)
  • The Marvel Family #2 (June 1946)
  • Captain Marvel Adventures #71 (April 1947, reprinted in Shazam! #8)

DC, Pre-Crisis:

  • Shazam! #12, 14, 30
  • World's Finest Comics #267
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths #12
  • Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #14

DC, Post-Crisis:

  • Trials of Shazam #2 (Nov. 2006)
  • The Multiversity Guidebook #1 (Mar. 2015)

» SERIES:

None

» SEE ALSO:

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