How Elvis Presley borrowed his iconic style straight from comic books

Auteur filmmaker Baz Luhrmann is known for his music-driven movies based on everything from Romeo and Juliet (opens in new tab) to The Great Gatsby (opens in new tab). But the trailer for his latest film, a highly-stylized biopic about the life of Elvis Presley, veers into a different pop culture phenomenon with a scene highlighting the surprising connections between Elvis’ iconic style and one of the most popular superheroes of his childhood in the ’40s and ’50s: Captain Marvel, Jr.

Here’s the trailer, with the particular scene in question shown at the 0:19 second marker (and in the screenshot portion of the image above):

During his rise to fame, Elvis became well-known not just for his soulful rock and roll crooning and highly scandalous (for the era) dance moves, but for his outlandish outfits and coiffed rockabilly haircut – which he, by his own admission, styled after his favorite superhero, Captain Marvel, Jr.

Captain Marvel, Jr. is, as his name implies, the original superhero alter ego of Freddie Freeman, the childhood friend of Billy Batson/SHAZAM! (whose original superhero name was Captain Marvel) who shares a portion of Billy’s powers, as seen in the recent SHAZAM! movie. And as with modern franchises, Captain Marvel, Jr. had his own spin-off title from his mentor’s core series.

Elvis patterned his immediately recognizable pompadour after the style worn by Captain Marvel, Jr. in his original Golden Age days, while also incorporating elements of Captain Marvel, Jr.’s costume, such as his fringed half-cape, into his own stage outfits – especially an iconic outfit he wore in the late ’70s that’s been nicknamed the ‘Blue Owl.’ Here’s a white variation, as seen on the 1972 live album cover ‘As Performed at Madison Square Garden.’

'As Recorded at Madison Square Garden' album cover

‘As Recorded at Madison Square Garden’ album cover (Image credit: RCA Records)

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Meanwhile, those with a bit of Elvis trivia under their belts will also undoubtedly be familiar with his ‘Takin’ Care of Business/TCB’ lightning bolt logo, which was in turn inspired by Captain Marvel, Jr.’s own SHAZAM! lightning bolt symbol.

The influence between ‘The King’ and Captain Marvel, Jr. also flowed back into comic books in later decades, with modern stories making reference to Captain Marvel, Jr. as a dedicated Elvis fan who, in turn, has modeled some of his own personal style after Elvis – a textbook example of life imitating art imitating life, forming the basis of some of the most enduring elements of music and fiction as a result of Elvis’ wider legacy.

Elvis’ love for Captain Marvel, Jr. is so key to his stage presence and style that his own childhood collection of Captain Marvel, Jr. comics, preserved lovingly into his adulthood, have been on display in his Memphis, Tennessee estate Graceland, now a museum of his life and career, since his 1977 death. In particular, the issue Captain Marvel, Jr. #51 is prominently displayed on Elvis’ childhood desk as a symbol of the character’s formative influence on Presley’s life and style.

Captain Marvel, Jr. #51 cover

(Image credit: DC)

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Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, which stars Austin Butler as Elvis Presley, is due for release in June. Incidentally, the film is distributed by DC parent company Warner Bros., who also have a SHAZAM! sequel titled Fury of the Gods in the works for a 2023 release – and yes, Freddie Freeman is in it too.

The best place to hunt for rare back issues of Captain Marvel, Jr. is at your local comic shop.

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