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So Why Isn't This Once-Mighty Super-Guy More Famous?

Who is this guy?: We're willing to bet a lot of you will get it wrong. DC Comics hide caption

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DC Comics

See that smiley red goober over there on the right? For almost a decade, his was the best-selling comic book in the country. During World War II, this guy was outselling Superman back when that really meant something: Millions of Americans thrilled to his monthly adventures.

He's starred in his own movie serial, his own cheesy Saturday morning kids' show, and he helped usher in the modern era of corporations suing one another silly over copyright infringement.

Pop quiz: What's his name?

A. The Flash
B. Shazam
C. Lightning Man
D. Captain Marvel
E. Marvelman

Hint: The rookie mistake is to confuse the guy's name with his catchphrase. Don't worry, though. Lots of folk do that, and it's understandable. I mean, Lord knows I never referred to the "Git R'Done" guy as anything but Git R'Done Guy. Not that it came up much.

But there's a reason this hero's name doesn't spring to mind as easily as that of Superman, Spider-Man and Batman, even though it really should.

After the jump: His real name, his troubled past and why it's taken until now for modern comic book creators to figure out what to do with him.

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A. The Flash?
Nope. Good effort, though. You got confused by the costume's scarlet/lightning motif.

B. Shazam?
Bzzzt. But you're in good company. This is the aforementioned rookie mistake — "Shazam!" is the magic word that young Billy Batson shouts to call down the magic lightning that transforms him into ....