When one thinks of superpowered ladies, they might think about Supergirl, Ms. Marvel, Batgirl, Storm, or many others. But there was a woman to take the spotlight before many of these other ladies were even conceived – Mary Marvel.
Mary Marvel, the alter-ego of Mary Batson (the twin sister of Billy Batson/Captain Marvel) was created by Otto Binder and Marc Swayze; Binder would also go on to create Supergirl for DC Comics. She made her debut in Fawcett Comics’ Captain Marvel Adventures #18 in 1942, a year after the debut of Captain Marvel, Jr. Mary Batson is originally introduced as Mary Broomfield, a girl who learns she’s the long-lost twin of Billy Batson.
As infants, Billy and Mary were separated after being orphaned. After Billy is informed of Mary’s whereabouts, he soon has to transform into Captain Marvel in order to save her. Mary later learns that by saying the magic word “Shazam!,” she too can transform into a superpowered version of herself, and ends up having to save Captain Marvel and Captain Marvel, Jr.
The Marvel Family series of comics ended publication in 1953 and the characters, Mary included, weren’t seen for years due to the ongoing lawsuit between Fawcett Comics and National/DC Comics. However, the characters were licensed by DC and were introduced to the DC universe in a new series called Shazam! in 1972. In order to bridge the gap between their last appearance and their resurgence, it was explained that the Marvel family had been put into suspended animation for 20 years, along with, accidentally, their antagonists and much of the supporting cast. The Marvels made occasional appearances in World’s Finest and Adventure Comics in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but with the rebooted origin of Captain Marvel after 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, Mary disappeared.
However, she resurfaced in 1994 in the graphic novel The Power of Shazam!, and was then fully reintroduced into the DC universe. Since then, she has battled alongside her brother against the likes of Black Adam and other DC villains on a fairly consistent basis.
As a member of the Marvel Family, Mary has the same powers as her brother: superhuman strength, near-invulnerability, flight, magic lightning, and so on. For a period of time, during the Countdown to Final Crisis period, she gained the powers of Black Adam after losing her Shazam abilities. In DC’s New 52 line she has her classic powers back.
Though she might not have been quite as consistently seen as Supergirl or Batgirl, Mary Marvel’s impact as the first female “spin-off” of a successful male lead has been seen throughout comics ever since her 1942 debut.