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Alabama’s own Captain Marvel

If you watched Saturday morning television in the mid-1970s, you likely remember the CBS children’s series, “Shazam!” based on DC Comics’ Captain Marvel. In the series, a young boy traveled around the country in a motor home solving problems by uttering the word, “Shazam!” and turning into superhero Captain Marvel. The captain was played by Jackson Bostwick, who grew up in Montgomery, where his father was a neurosurgeon. He graduated from Lanier High School and studied pre-med at the University of Alabama, where he lettered in rifle before he decided to pursue an acting career in California. He earned an MFA in acting at the University of Southern California. His role on “Shazam!” in 1974-75 endeared him to many fans, who still enjoy seeing him at Comic-Cons around the country. He was gracious enough to answer a few questions for Alabama Living. – Lenore Vickrey

What was the hardest thing about playing Captain Marvel for the TV show? Getting into the costume? Staying in shape?

I didn’t have much of a problem with anything playing the Good Captain, other than a couple of the stunts (I did all my own stunts except one – wrestling with a lion). I kept in very good shape participating in judo and kick boxing. I did run my own dailies at the studio with no sound, just to watch how I carried myself and to make sure the costume was presented with as little wrinkles as possible. I never put my hands on my hips, as I felt this would be preaching to the kids, except in one scene when it demanded an authoritative presentation.

Why do superhero characters like yours have such an enduring popularity?

Captain Marvel was my favorite hero when I was growing up, along with The Lone Ranger, Tarzan, The Phantom, and Sgt. Preston of the Yukon. From the time of the Greek and Roman gods and heroes, to the biblical heroes, most everybody has a role model that they can identify with and dream about, even though they could never accomplish the feats of these icons. Superheroes, not just heroes, are the hardest to portray believably. If an actor can pull it off, a superhero can be very effective role model for generations to come.

Do you have a favorite, or most memorable episode of “Shazam!”?

“The Athlete” episode stands out as one. It is the one where I pulled off my best stunt. I had to, as Captain Marvel, pull the stunt lady, Patty Eldege, from a running horse as she galloped past me at full speed and I was running as fast I could alongside her. We did it, as with most of the show’s stunts, in one take. There were other good gags that were done during my time on the show, but this one stands out as my favorite.

What do you think of the new movies, “Shazam” and “Captain Marvel”?

I’m not a fan of what has been done to the classic icon, Captain Marvel. To me this is a spoof of the character, like Adam West did with Batman. Made him a buffoon. When is the last time you’ve seen a superhero talk about, or for that matter, even going to the bathroom? That’s Jim Carrey stuff. There will be an audience for it, yes, as there is an audience for “Sponge Bob, Squarepants,” but in no way is it the original Captain Marvel. C.C. Beck, a good friend of mine and the original artist of the Golden Age comic, is rolling over in his grave. He once told me “Jackson, the way you portrayed Captain Marvel is exactly the way I envisioned him to be.” Some people say it needed to be brought up to date. That’s like saying let’s bring the Bible up to date and modernize it. Or, let’s put a crayon mark on the Mona Lisa. All I can say is thank God they didn’t use the character’s real name.

Do you ever get back to Alabama?

I no longer have our family’s cabin on Lake Martin, but that is a place I go back to visit along with the graves of my mother and father in Montgomery.

Got any new projects in the works?

I’m mainly doing Comic-Cons (check out my appearances at jacksonbostwick.com) and enjoying meeting the fans. I’m also finishing up my book Myth, Magic, and a Mortal, along with wrapping up a movie I wrote, produced and directed called “Bloody Mary-Lite.”