When this superhero was first introduced in Fawcett Comics in 1939, he went by the name of Captain Marvel. The comic starred Billy Batson, a homeless 12-year-old newsboy with a pure heart. One day a mysterious green-cloaked man asked Billy to follow him to an empty subway car. The man revealed himself as the wizard Shazam and he viewed Billy as a worthy successor. By saying the word Shazam, lightning would strike Billy and transform him into the adult hero Captain Marvel. The transformation gave Captain Marvel the power of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury.

Shazam
Photo Courtesy of http://www.marvelfamily.com/faq/

Captain Marvel’s run with Fawcett Comics ended in 1953 due to a lawsuit by DC Comics. One of the reasons for the lawsuit was because DC Comics felt that the character was similar to their main superhero Superman. It’s worth mentioning that during the 1940s, the CAPTAIN MARVEL comics outsold SUPERMAN comics. This was probably another reason why DC Comics was suing Fawcett Comics.

Eventually, Captain Marvel and his supporting characters were licensed to DC Comics in 1972. Captain Marvel could now be fully integrated into the DC Universe, but with a catch. DC Comics was not able to name the comic CAPTAIN MARVEL due to Marvel Comics having their own comic with the same name. To work around this, DC Comics named the comic SHAZAM but kept the hero’s name as Captain Marvel. It wasn’t until the NEW 52 in 2011 that DC Comics decided to change the name of Captain Marvel to Shazam.

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Flash forward to present day. Warner Bros. Pictures is planning on releasing a SHAZAM movie in April 2019. Whether you’re a long-time fan of SHAZAM or just want to know more about this upcoming movie, ComicsVerse has got you covered.

Leading Man and Boy

The unique aspect about Shazam is the fact that he’s a child inside the body of an adult. So, when it came to casting for this character, Warner Bros. needed to look for two actors. One to play the child Billy Batson and another to play the adult version of Shazam.

Shazam
Photo courtesy of http://azjewishlife.com/asher-angel-following-his-dream-from-desert-stages-to-disney/

Disney Channel star Asher Angel will play Billy Batson. The 15-year-old actor is most famous for his role as Jonah Beck on the show Andi Mack. On the show, he plays the crush of the main girl Andi Mack. Based on his performance on the show, he plays a genuinely kind person who goes out of his way to help those he cares about, which is the perfect personality for Billy Batson. His other roles include Jasper on Nickelodeon’s Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn and Ryan Wolf on Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.

Shazam
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jim Smeal/BEI/REX Shutterstock (4959185cv)
Zachary Levi
NBC Universal Press Tour, Los Angeles, America – 13 Aug 2015

Actor Zachery Levi will play the hero Shazam. The role Levi is most famous for is NBC’s Chuck. On the show, Levi plays Chuck Bartowski, a computer nerd in a dead-end job who inadvertently downloads critical government secrets into his brain. The show featured plenty of action and pop culture references relating to spies. Levi himself has superb comedic timing on the show and perfectly portrays the quintessential nerd. This personality type is perfect for the man-child that Levi will have to portray as Shazam.

5 Reasons Zachary Levi is the Perfect Shazam!

This isn’t the first time Zachery Levi will portray a superhero. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Levi played Fandral, one of the Warriors Three who fights alongside Thor. Levi also voiced the character Flynn Rider in the popular Disney film Tangled. The range of Levi’s characters shows him as either a swash-buckling hero or a huge nerd. These two personality types are needed to accurately play as Shazam.

The SHAZAM Family

Shazam
Photo courtesy of DC comics.

Over the years, Billy has acquired a family to help him in his fight against evil. Based on the casting for the SHAZAM movie, it seems that the film is mixing elements from the NEW 52. Let’s start with the two longest supporting characters apart of the Shazam family; Mary Batson/Bromfield and Freddy Freeman.

Mary Batson/Bromfield a.k.a Mary Marvel

Shazam
Photo of Grace Fulton courtesy of IMDB. Photo of Mary Marvel courtesy of DC comics.

Now, in the comics, Mary has either been Billy’s long-lost twin sister or adopted older sister. Since the actress cast to play Mary is six years older than Asher Angel, they’re going with the older, adopted sister route from the NEW 52. ANNABELLE: CREATION star Grace Fulton will play the role of Mary. In the comics, Mary ends up becoming a superhero with an adult alter-ego like her brother. It is unlikely that the first SHAZAM movie will have Mary or any of the other members of the Shazam family be superheroes, but their inclusion allows for the DC Extended Universe to use their superhero alter-egos later down the line.

Freddy Freeman a.k.a Captain Marvel Jr.

Shazam
Photo of Jack Dylan Grazer courtesy of www.justjared.com. Photo of Captain Marvel Jr. courtesy of DC comics.

As for Freddy Freeman, in the original Golden Age of Comics he was the best friend and classmate to Billy Batson. He was a superhero like Billy and Mary, however, he was unique from the other two. One reason being that Freddy drew his power from Billy’s adult alter-ego and not the wizard Shazam. Another reason that made Freddy unique was that he did not have an adult alter-ego when he became a superhero, rather he remained a teenager as Captain Marvel Jr. He also suffered an accident that paralyzed him. When he transformed into Captain Marvel Jr., he gained the ability to walk again. If Warner Bros. decides to incorporate Freddy’s paralysis into the film, it could give them an excellent opportunity to provide the disabled population with some representation.

Child Actors: The Trend of Young Casting

Freddy’s personality has changed throughout the years. Freddy has been a trusted friend and confidant for Billy. In other incarnations, he’s a thief who has a crush on Billy’s sister Mary. The actor cast in the role of Freddy Freeman is Jack Dylan Grazer. His most notable role is the germaphobe Eddie Kaspbrak in the hit blockbuster IT. Grazer proved to be a phenomenal actor in that film, so I am confident that whichever Freddy the film decides to portray him as, Grazer will do a fantastic job.

The Extended Shazam Family

Shazam
Photo courtesy of NBC.

Next is Darla, one of the youngest members of the foster family that adopts Billy in the NEW 52. In the comics, she is the one who is most excited to welcome Billy into their family. Her personality is mostly the wide-eyed, energetic little girl who always tries to look on the bright side. Faithe Herman will play the role of Darla. Her most notable role is on the hit NBC TV show This Is Us as Annie Pearson. Faithe Herman will just have to play up the excitable part and she will be a perfect Darla.

Shazam
Photo courtesy of IMDB

Then there’s Eugene Choi, a bookish intellectual who adores science and is apart of Billy’s foster family in the NEW 52. He will be played by Ian Chen, who plays as Evan Huang on ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat. On the show, he plays the youngest, yet most mature and intelligent member of the Huang children. This casting choice is spot on. Ian will no doubt own this role like he does with the Evan Huang character.

JUSTICE LEAGUE Panel at ACE Comic Con 2017

Shazam
Photo courtesy of IMDB.

Finally, there’s Pedro Peña, the shy, overweight member of Billy’s foster family in the NEW 52. Jovan Armand will play the role of Pedro in the film. The longest role Armand has played is as Troy on ABC’s The Middle. In that show, Troy is a friend of Brick, the youngest member of the Hick family. However, Armand’s role as Diego in the short film CHUB is what convinces me that he is the right choice for Pedro. In that short film, Diego is an overweight boy whose bike is stolen. He eventually overcomes his passive nature and gets the confidence to stand up for himself. That is a similar character arc that Pedro goes through in the comics.

The Villain – Doctor Thaddeus Sivana

Shazam
Photo courtesy of IMDB. Photo of Doctor Sivana courtesy of DC comic.

Doctor Sivana is Shazam’s greatest and oldest enemy. Dating back to the Golden Age of comics, Doctor Sivana was an evil yet brilliant scientist who initially wanted to help society. However, big businesses and corporations blocked all his ideas. He was so discouraged he traveled to Venus to make a name for himself (things were sillier back then). Once DC Comics got the rights to Sivana, they consistently tried to reinvent him over the years. He has gone from evil scientist, CEO of his own company, to even Billy Batson’s step-uncle.

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Whatever the SHAZAM film writers have in mind for their theatrical version of Doctor Sivana, the rumored casting choice of British actor Mark Strong is talented enough to pull it off. Mark Strong is no stranger to playing in comic book superhero movies. This past year he was in the sequel film KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE as Merlin, a guide/aide to the protagonist. However, Mark Strong’s strongest roles are when he plays a villain, such as playing the villainous Frank D’Amico, a crime lord in the movie KICK-ASS. He is also famous for playing the DC villain Sinestro in 2011’s GREEN LANTERN film. While that movie was bad, Mark Strong’s performance is that film’s saving grace from being completely terrible. Hopefully, Strong’s next attempt as a DC villain goes better this time.

No Black Adam

Shazam
Photo courtesy of www.indiewire.com. Photo of Black Adam courtesy of DC comics

Even though Dwayne Johnson was one of the first actors to be cast for the DCEU, he will not be making his debut in the Shazam movie. Instead, Warner Bros. is planning to set up Johnson’s Black Adam in another DCEU film, most likely SUICIDE SQUAD. The follow-up movie for SHAZAM will most likely feature Black Adam as the main antagonist so fans can be at ease in knowing that these two titans will eventually clash.

The Screenplay and Director

Darren Lemke and Henry Gayden are writing the screenplay for the film. Lemke primarily has written for animated movies aimed at kids, with films like TURBO and SHREK FOREVER AFTER. Gayden’s most recognizable screenplay that he has written is 2014’s EARTH TO ECHO, the sci-fi adventure that mixes elements from E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL and STAND BY ME. The SHAZAM film will mostly focus on the childhood angle based on the previous work of the writers. However, the director for SHAZAM has a résumé that features films with an entirely different tone.

Why Tone is NOT the Problem in DC Movies

David F. Sandberg will be the director for SHAZAM. Sandberg has directed a variety of short films and two theatrical movies: LIGHTS OUT and ANNABELLE: CREATION. Looking through the films he has directed, it’s clear that Sandberg has an affinity for horror movies. Looking at both the director and the writers for SHAZAM, it becomes more of a challenge to determine the tone. Will it go the horror route or be geared towards children? Will the two conflicting tones meet somewhere in the middle?

Summing Everything Up

Despite the reputation the DCEU has received lately due to the recent films, SHAZAM is shaping up to be hit movie. It has a cast with a plethora of talent for a hero whose concept is so unique to the superhero genre. It’s the story of a kid who gets turned into an adult with superpowers! It’s hard not to get excited to see how this film plays out.

Even though the writers and director have resumes with conflicting tones, this could prove to make SHAZAM even more exceptional in its approach. I love SHAZAM and the more news I hear about the film, the more excited I am for the movie coming in April 2019!

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