Elvis Presley Based His Look On a DC Superhero (Yes, Really)

Superheroes inspire everyone, but one hero in the DC Comics Universe actually influenced the look of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘n Roll!

In 2019’s Shazam! Billy Batson’s foster brother Freddy Freeman is the ultimate superhero fanboy, collecting Batman’s Batarangs and constantly annoying Billy by talking about the heroes who inspire him. Later, Freddy gets a chance to live his dream when Billy shares his power with him, allowing Freddy to transform into a superpowered being himself.

What audiences may not know, however, is that Freddy Freeman actually has a very long history as a superhero in the comic books, appearing as far back as December 1941 in Whiz Comics #25 as the hero Captain Marvel Jr. Moreover, Freddy’s superhero persona has inspired many real-life people – including the legendary celebrity – Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll!

Who Is Captain Marvel Jr.?

In 1941, Fawcett Comics, the original publisher of the Shazam Captain Marvel comic books, decided to give Shazam (then going by the name “Captain Marvel”) a partner in Freddy Freeman, a disabled newsboy who was attacked by the evil Captain Nazi. Sharing his power with Freddy, Captain Marvel turned the boy into the super-powerful Captain Marvel Jr., “The World’s Mightiest Boy.” Unlike Billy Batson, Freddy did not age into an adult when he changed, making him Captain Marvel’s “kid sidekick” although Freddy was, in some continuities, older than Billy Batson.

Interestingly, since Captain Marvel – not the wizard Shazam – had granted Freddy his powers, Freddy had to shout the words, “Captain Marvel” to transform from disabled newsboy to superhero. This gave him the unique weakness of not being able to introduce himself as “Captain Marvel Jr.” since that would cause him to change back to Freddy Freeman. Freddy’s teenage superhero proved extremely popular, and soon he was starring in his own Captain Marvel Jr. comic books which were read by thousands of fans.

How Captain Marvel Jr. May Have Created Elvis Presley

One of these fans was Elvis Presley, who spent much of his childhood reading Captain Marvel Jr. comics. Elvis was so enamored with the young superhero that he styled his distinctive haircut and sideburns after Freddy Freeman’s own original dark-haired look (although he also stated he based his hairdo off of Tony Curtis). Moreover, once Elvis began performing on stage, many of his popular outfits appear based on Captain Marvel Jr.’s costume. The famous half-cape Elvis wore in his shows, for instance, greatly resembles the half-cape worn by both Captain Marvel/Shazam and Captain Marvel Jr. Elvis even dressed in blue outfits (dubbed “The Blue Owl”) that resembled Captain Marvel Jr.’s own blue outfit.

Elvis also used a lightning bolt symbol very similar to Captain Marvel Jr.’s emblem on his own “TCB” emblem. TCB, which stood for “Taking Care of Business,” a phrase that functioned as both Elvis’ personal mantra and the name of his band. Elvis wore several pieces of “TCB” jewelry, including a ring and a necklace, all fitted with the lightning bolt logo (which was taken to mean he’d be “taking care of business in a flash.” Some have speculated the lightning bolt was based on the insignia of Elvis’ battalion during his army days or even the insignia for the West Coast Mafia, but Captain Marvel Jr. could have also been an influence.

Certainly, Captain Marvel Jr. was a big part of Elvis’ early life. The King’s childhood collection of Captain Marvel Jr. comic books is still in the attic of his Graceland estate in Memphis. In addition, a recreation of his childhood room at Memphis Lauderdale Courts housing complex also showcases a copy of Captain Marvel Jr. #51 on his desk. Considering how superhero comic books were (and continue to be) a source of escapism for many children, particularly those who grew up poor like Elvis, it’s almost a given that Captain Marvel Jr. made some kind of lasting impression on Elvis Presley’s life.

How ELVIS Helped Re-Create Captain Marvel Jr.

As Elvis’ star rose, however, big changes were happening to Captain Marvel Jr. and the Marvel Family in the comic books. Although his comics were originally published by Fawcett Comics, all the Captain Marvel comics were eventually discontinued by Fawcett. In 1972, DC Comics bought the rights to the Marvel Family and began updating them for modern audiences.

In a curious metafictional twist, Captain Marvel Jr.’s new identity began to be linked with Elvis Presley. Although Freddy Freeman was first introduced when Elvis was only a boy, by the 1970s, more people knew about the King of Rock ‘n Roll than Captain Marvel Jr. As a result, comic book creators began including multiple homages to Elvis in later versions of Captain Marvel Jr.

The rebooted Freddy Freeman was re-established as a huge fan of Elvis Presley who modeled his hairstyle and looks after Elvis. Freddy also quotes Elvis at times, wears a lightning bolt necklace, and tends to wear “flame shirts” and “hot dice belt buckles” even in his civilian identity. In his latest incarnation, Freddy even mentioned to the Shazam Family that he wanted to be called “King Shazam,” in reference to his hero, the King of Rock ‘n Roll. Oddly enough, DC’s current version of Freddy Freeman is blonde (not dark-haired) and has a different hairstyle, but he still slips in plenty of Elvis references.

One of the stranger relationships in pop culture and comic books, Elvis Presley’s link to Captain Marvel Jr. has long been a source of interest for many comic book and Elvis Presley fans. Given that both superheroes and pop stars are often designed to inspire others, it seems oddly appropriate that Captain Marvel Jr. became an early role model for Elvis Presley – and that Elvis, in turn, would become a role model for the eternally young Captain Marvel Jr.

While the Freddy Freeman of the new DCEU Shazam! films appears to be more into superheroes than classic rock stars, it would be nice for the new Shazam movies to slip in some references to his love of Elvis. For a hero born of magic, there’s nothing more extraordinary than having such an intertwined relationship between the real and fictional worlds.

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