As a summer storm made its way through Fawcett City, Billy Batson was inside his home, along with his sister Mary Batson and his best friend Freddy Freeman. All huddled in front of the television with a big bowl of freshly popped popcorn, the three were watching The Uncle Dudley Show on WHIZ-TV, the station where Billy worked as a newscaster.
The Uncle Dudley Show was a locally produced children’s show featuring Uncle Dudley, the lovable fraud who had befriended the trio many years ago and knew of their dual identity as the Marvel Family. Early on, he had helped the kids on many of their adventures as Uncle Marvel, though he himself did not have the powers of Shazam, and on more than one occasion he had saved the day.
The typical show featured Uncle Dudley, dressed in tails and a top hat, doing a monologue, performing assorted magic tricks with his lovely assistants, talking with the occasional guest star, and, of course, showing lots of cartoons. Normally, he’d end the week with a super-special magic trick. This was where Dudley’s special assistant came in: Caitlin O’Malley.
The seventeen-year-old Cait had a special friendship with the Marvels, especially Billy Batson, whom she had first met one year earlier not long after she’d arrived in New York City from her native Ireland. On that day in June, the old wizard Shazam had summoned Captain Marvel Junior to find her in order to magically heal Billy, who had been kept in the hellish realm of Blaze for four months. When Cait had managed to convince a reluctant Billy to say the old wizard’s name for the first time in months, Cait could only do so only by promising to say the name along with him. And then, thanks to an accident of fate, when Billy was transformed into Captain Marvel, Cait was also transformed by the magic lightning into a Marvel herself. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Mary Marvel: To Fly Again.]
Caitlin’s new identity as a Marvel was never revealed to the public. Instead, she was kept as a secret weapon, trusted with the Marvel Family’s secret identities, and she rarely ever used the power of Shazam except in certain circumstances. Those circumstances did not come often for the simple fact that Cait did not need her own version of the power of Shazam to overcome most foes that she met. As a white witch, Cait was not only a gifted healer but could perform genuine magic as well. As Captain Marvel pointed out, her Wiccan abilities were a valuable asset to justice.
This was proven soon afterward during a fight between Captain Marvel and Ibac that August. She had happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the villainous Ibac grabbed Caitlin and tried to take her as a hostage, not even realizing she had a connection to the Marvels. But when Cait managed to speak, she uttered not the word that would grant her the power of Shazam, but a spell that she had already prepared, causing Ibac to be unable to see her anymore. A smashing uppercut from her friend Captain Marvel to the villain’s jaw then ended the threat.
A few days later, while looking around for an apartment for rent in neighboring Fawcett City, Cait dropped by Billy’s workplace for a quick visit. Instead, she walked into a robbery attempt at the WHIZ-TV studio by a gang led by the infamous Aunt Minerva. Before he could transform into Captain Marvel, Billy had been captured and promptly tied and gagged by the thugs. Caitlin, having snuck in unseen, was able to turn off all the lights and the power to the building. During the confusion, she managed to free the gag from Billy’s mouth, allowing him to shout out a single word.
There was a flash of lightning and a loud roar of thunder, and where Billy Batson had once been, there now stood Captain Marvel. He took care of the crooks and even snagged Aunt Minerva, but being the gentleman he was, he couldn’t hit her. Fortunately, Caitlin didn’t have such a limitation, and she knocked the older woman down flat.
Despite having being a member of the Marvel Family for a couple of months now, she still didn’t have an official hero name like the rest of her friends. So Captain Marvel brought Caitlin for a visit with the wizard Shazam, who finally gave her a new heroic name for whenever she used her Marvel Family powers: Lady Marvel.
Although Billy and Cait became good friends, there was never any hint of romance between them, except at the beginning, when things were confused after Cait had healed Billy, and the two grew close. But the fact was that Caitlin thought of all her fellow Marvels as her brothers and sister, while Billy was still very much in love with his longtime girlfriend, Cissie Sommerly. After the initial awkward stage, the two settled into an easy friendship.
Meanwhile, Uncle Dudley asked her to be a part of the new TV show he had just begun developing at the time, and she soon settled in as his assistant while continuing to go to school and getting to know the Marvel Family a bit more.
But the fact that she was their secret weapon still didn’t prevent her from being kidnapped along with the rest of the Marvel Family by the Black Adam Family in September. (*) After that seminal event, Caitlin rarely ever participated in cases with the Marvel Family as Lady Marvel, and she even missed out on their Christmas get-together, since she was visiting family in Ireland at the time. (*) Nevertheless, she still continued on as planned with The Uncle Dudley Show.
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Challenge of Shazam, Chapter 3: You Can’t Always Get What You Want and The Marvel Family: A Marvel Family Christmas.]
While the children and the television audience thought that Uncle Dudley was a great magician — which he was as far as the sleight-of-hand stuff went — it was that weekly stupendous trick that Cait, using a bit of her true magic, would truly pull off. However, on this particular night, Uncle Dudley would not do the spectacular trick, for there was no Caitlin for some unknown reason.
“Please accept my apologies for not doing the show’s weekly special trick,” Uncle Dudley said as the credits began scrolling across the screen. “My assistant is not present today, but I’ll make it up with an extra-special one next week. Thanks for tuning in everyone, and have a marvelous weekend!”
Billy looked puzzled. “Hmm… I wonder what happened to Cait?”
“She might be home ill or something,” suggested Freddy.
Mary wondered. “Well, now that I think about it, it’s been quite a while since I’ve talked to her. Of course, I’ve been away at college until now.”
Billy picked up the phone and dialed a number. The phone began to ring once, twice, then six times, and finally ten times, but there was still no answer. “No one answered at her home. Now I’m a little worried,” said Billy. He then called WHIZ-TV. “Uncle Dudley, please.”
Soon, the older man picked up the phone. “Billy, my boy. Great show tonight, though I wasn’t able to do my fantastic finish. The kids still loved it.”
“That’s why I was calling, Unc. Do you know why Cait didn’t show up?”
Uncle Dudley answered back, “I’m afraid not. We tried to reach her, but no one answered the phone. She also didn’t appear the last two shows. We showed repeats from past shows, but it’s a wonder that she even shows up for that one segment.”
“Holy moley! I wasn’t aware of this. Thanks, Unc. I’ll keep you informed on what I can find out.” And Billy hung up the phone.
“What’s wrong, brother?” asked Mary as she saw a worried look on Billy’s face.
“Cait hasn’t been around for a while. Now I’m very worried.”