Picture Elvis in your head. Does the hip-swiveling, teenage heartthrob of the 1950s who is crooning “Hound Dog” come to mind? Or are you thinking of Elvis, circa the 1970s, in bedazzled, caped jumpsuits? Either way, images of a jet black pompadour and the signature lightning bolt insignia are likely to pop up, right?
As it turns out, there are a lot of Elvis fans out there who believe the King of Rock and Roll’s signature image was largely influenced by the comic book hero, Captain Marvel, Jr., who also had a black pompadour, lighting bolt on his chest and wore a cape!
Lending credence to this theory is an exhibit at the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum in Tupelo, Mississippi, the singer’s hometown.
According to the museum, Elvis was young boy when his father went to prison for forging a check. Vernon Presley served eight months in prison, and, during that time, the Presley family lost their house.
Without having much spending money growing up, Elvis crafted his own toys, like rubber band guns made from tire inner tubes. He also played marbles and read comic books, like many kids of his era.
His favorite character, according to the museum, was Freddy Freeman, a shy newsboy with a physical disability who transforms into Captain Marvel, Jr. The DC Comics character, as seen below, has hair that looks an awful lot like Elvis’!
“It’s possible that Elvis assumed his signature hair style, cape and ‘TCB’ lighting bolt from his early influence,” according to the exhibit.
Also, later in life and during his acceptance speech for the Ten Outstanding Young Men award, Elvis said: “When I was a child, ladies and gentlemen, I was a dreamer. I read comic books, and I was the hero of the comic book.” (Hat tip to Robert Dye, photography archivist at Graceland for pointing that out to me!)
Here’s a look at the signature lightning bolt on the singer’s own private jet, which, again, calls to mind the young superhero:
The Tupelo Visitors Center has some fun with the idea that Elvis’ muse was Captain Marvel, Jr.: Visitors can read about Elvis’ childhood via giant comic books. Here, you’ll also learn the stunning fact that Elvis was actually a natural blond.
Do you think he dyed his hair to me more like his favorite hero?
Of course, if you’re an Elvis fan, there’s plenty more to explore in Tupelo. The Elvis Driving Tour includes several stops, including the Mud Creek Swimming Hole where Elvis skinny-dipped, Johnnie’s Drive-In (you can order a hamburger and sit in the “Elvis” booth) and the Tupelo Hardware Store where Elvis bought his first guitar.
The hip, Southern city also has five Elvis murals, which are perfect for posing in front of and doing your best Elvis impression!