A long time ago, in ages past; before the DCEU “Worlds of DC” and the MCU, during the dawn of superhero movies; there was The Adventures Of Captain Marvel. In 1941, among great heroes such as Zorro and Flash Gordon, Captain Marvel a.k.a. Shazam was one of the first superheros ever put to the silver screen. It’s been eighty years since then and with the release of the new Shazam! trailer, let’s have a look at the origins of this beloved DC character and see how it could play into the upcoming movie.
Captain Marvel/Ms. Marvel Confusion
Not to be confused with the Captain Marvel from Marvel comics, Shazam was carrying the name way before Carol Danvers ever used it. In 1939 Fawcett comics published The Adventures of Captain Marvel, a Superman-like hero with the heart of a child. Later DC bought Fawcett comics and integrated Captain Marvel and other heroes into their universe. It wasn’t until 1961 when Marvel comics trademarked the name “Captain Marvel” for the promotional material of Ms. Marvel, later Captain Marvel. So within the DC Universe they had a character named Captain Marvel that they could no longer advertise on the cover of their comics as such. To get around this they published it under the title of “Shazam!”.
William “Billy” Batson (portrayed by Asher Angel in the upcoming movie), was born to C.C. and Marylin Batson who were archaeologists that instilled within him high standards and a sense of right and wrong. They provided a loving environment for Billy to grow up in. Tragically, they were killed by their assistant, during an archaeological dig. Billy was then orphaned and shuffled from foster home to foster home in Fawcett City. Originally Billy was portrayed as having a heart of gold, always sticking up for the little guy (including himself). Alternatively, with the New 52 reboot, Billy is portrayed as a troubled young man who, though having good intentions, is a trouble maker (it seems that the new movie is leaning on this story-line). Either way, all the injustice in Billie’s life was noticed by the great wizard Shazam.
One day Billy finds himself in trouble and hops on a subway in order to escape. The train starts to cascade down the tunnels at incredibly high speeds. Lightning starts sparking from the subway car and he finds himself transported to the Rock of Eternity. Sitting atop a throne is a man with a lightening symbol across his chest (pictured above). He claims that he is the wizard Shazam and wishes to bestow his powers onto a worthy soul. After countless attempts on others, he finds that the true spirit of justice and righteousness is in the soul of children. The Wizard explains that the powers of Shazam is a compilation of the powers held by various legends:
- Solomon’s Wisdom
- Hercules’ Strength
- Atlas’ Stamina
- Zeus’ Power
- Achilles’ Courage
- Mercury’s Speed
The Wizard bestows Billy with the ability to summon the powers of Shazam and become Captain Marvel. All he must do is say the word “Shazam!” and he is instantly struck by lightning. He then turns from a 10 year old boy to a fully grown superhero (portrayed by Zachary Levi). Not only does he have the attributes of Shazam, but he has the power of flight, ancient magic and the power to summon bolts of lightening at his command. With the spirit of a child and the power of a man he becomes “Earth’s Mightiest Mortal.”
Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (played by Mark Strong) was a respected man in the world of science. However, when science could no longer save his family he turned to magic. He scoured the globe looking for the tomb of Black Adam. Upon finding it in Iraq, he opened the tomb and unleashed the forgotten evil. Magical energy lashed out upon Dr. Sivana striking his eye, giving it the ability to see magic. He eventually began to do Black Adam’s bidding.
One of the toughest adversaries of the Shazam and the Justice League is Black Adam. Before Billy had held the powers of the Shazam, they were granted to a man named Teth Adam (played by Dwayne Johnson in an upcoming film). Teth Adam was a power hungry man and used the wizards boon for evil. He became corrupt and the wizard Shazam sealed him away until Doctor Sivana resurrected him and unleashed him upon the world. His hatred for the wizard Shazam knows no bounds and he loathes Billy for possessing the wizards powers as a mere child.
The Shazam Family
In the New 52, before gaining his powers, Billy is adopted into the Vasquez family. Originally Billy hated the fact that he had to be adopted by this family when he knew he could live just as easily on his own but he would soon grow to love them. His foster siblings consist of five other children: Mary, Pedro, Eugene, Darla, and Freddie (who we see in the trailer played by Jack Dylan Grazer). Later, in order to escape a fight with Black Adam, Billy turned back into a child and to a local zoo where his siblings found him. At that moment they were transported to the Rock of Eternity where Billy received more instruction. After this encounter with Black Adam, they found that Billy can temporarily share the powers of Shazam with his family, creating the Marvel Family as seen in the original comics. It’s a cool idea, and all of these children are going to be in this movie, but whether or not we see them suit up as the Marvel family remains to be seen.
Shazam has become a much loved part of the DC Universe. It’s exciting to see that he is getting another live action treatment and it looks to be a very accurate portrayal of what we’ve seen in the New 52. Shazam encapsulates what it is to be a superhero, to have an unironic sense of right and wrong seen through the eyes of a ten year old kid.
- THE NEW 52 SHAZAM!
- SHAZAM The Monster Society of Evil
- The Power of SHAZAM
- The Trials of SHAZAM
- SHAZAM: The New Beginning