I understand the Marvel bullpen wasn’t thrilled about publisher Martin Goodman’s idea of appropriating the name of a legendary Fawcett Comics superhero in 1968, but Roy Thomas and Gene Colan made the best of it with a radical approach.
“Captain Marvel” wasn’t a hero at all, but an alien spy and saboteur misidentified and posing as a superhero. This villain-evolves-into-hero dramatic dynamic would be used effectively again in such titles as Thunderbolts and Superior Spider-Man.
However, random changes in writer, artist and direction made the title seem like a lame afterthought, at least until issue 17 in July 1969, when Thomas teamed with Gil Kane — then at the height of his powers — to revamp the character into what became an affectionate wink at the original 1940s superhero.
Mar-Vell’s green-and-white alien battle armor was traded for the red and yellow of the Shazam shouter’s original costume. They gave Mar-Vell the wish-fulfilling power of pure flight, and restored one of the most powerful elements of the fantasy — that of a boy instantly transformed into a superman. Here, the “boy” was Rick Jones, a teenager who’d been knocking around the Marvel universe from the beginning, who “traded atoms” with Captain Marvel by clashing his wrist bands.
“Kane's long, lanky, powerful figures are in constant motion, and his action sequences are mind-boggling (to say the least),” Lloyd Smith noted. “Plus, he gets to draw Captain America (okay, so it’s rarely really Cap, but still...), some Avengers, and the Hulk.”