At San Diego Comic-Con, Warner Bros. Studios released their first trailer for the highly anticipated SHAZAM! movie. The plot tells of the DC Comics character Shazam’s origin story and introduces the character to the DC Extended Universe. The film, starring Zachary Levi as the titular character and Asher Angel as the young Billy Batson, releases on April 5, 2019. Here, we will take a look at Shazam’s history and speculate on what will see from the film adaptation based on the New 52 comic.

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Brief History

We start at the very beginning with Shazam’s comic book stint. Shazam is not an original character of DC Comics; instead, Shazam began in 1940 as a property of Fawcett Comics, a competing publisher of DC Comics. Under Fawcett Comics, the character was known as Captain Marvel. However, in 1953 Fawcett ceased the publication of Captain Marvel due to a copyright infringement suit against them from DC Comics.

DC Comics contended that the character was just a copy of Superman. Later, DC acquired all rights to Captain Marvel and the affiliated characters. DC Comics ran into their own legal troubles with the character since Marvel Comics have a trademark on the name “Captain Marvel.” Due to the dispute, DC Comics decided to change the name of the character and thus Shazam was born.

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The New 52 SHAZAM!

Though the character originates from the 1940s, the movie is actually based on a recent origin story. In 2011, DC Comics relaunched their entire comic book lineup with a brand new number one issues and storylines. However, there is no relaunch for Shazam in his own series. Rather, his origin story is told as a backup story in the New 52 JUSTICE LEAGUE. Shazam’s origin spans from JUSTICE LEAGUE #7 to JUSTICE LEAGUE #21 with full issues dedicated to the character in JUSTICE LEAGUE #21 and a special annual issue JUSTICE LEAGUE #0.

shazam
Courtesy of DC Comics

Written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Gary Frank, the New 52 version of Shazam’s origin story is a fantastic choice for modern day movies. Johns’ resume features a few of his comic book storylines adapted to the screen.

For example, the critically acclaimed first season of FLASH on The CW is based on Johns’ six-issue take on Barry Allen in THE FLASH: REBIRTH. Also, Johns’ work GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH is the basis for the lesser-received GREEN LANTERN movie, starring Ryan Reynolds.

Billy Batson & His Family

The trailer begins the same way the comic book does for fifteen-year-old Billy Batson. A foster couple, with a social worker present, interviews Billy. The trailer very quickly shows the foster parents and Billy’s social worker, but the scene much more telling of Billy’s character in the comic. In the comic, Billy pretends to be a kind young man to convince the Vasquez couple to foster him. After the couple agrees to do so and leave, Billy immediately refers to them idiots behind their backs. He is much more unpleasant than the trailer shows.

The film may downplay this trait to grow some sympathy for the character. However, his character development may need it and it may be part of why the comic is so intriguing. On the other hand, Billy Batson does have some redeeming qualities. A clip from the trailer that showcases one of these qualities is the clip with fellow foster child Freddy being bullied. As in the comic and movie, Billy beats up the bullies who are picking on Freddy and the other foster brothers and sister, which shows off his protective and heroic side.

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The Rock Of Eternity & The Wizard

After Billy defends his foster family from the bullies, he is chased into a subway car. This is a huge inciting incident in both the movie and comic. This is the moment where Billy is sent to the Rock of Eternity and introduced to Wizard. The Wizard is the keeper of the power of Shazam and has been looking for a new champion to give the power to. He needs a champion to be the one to stand against the evil magic and supernatural in the world.

There seems to be a couple of differences between the movie and film here. First, the reason the Wizard chooses Billy may be different. In the comics, the Wizards decided on Billy via necessity. Black Adam is released (more on him later) and the Wizard needs a hero since he himself is too weak to fight him.

It’s reasonable that the film will keep the reasoning, but change the villain, but only time will tell. Second, the other magical elements may not be in the movie either. There are several magical beings in the Rock of Eternity, such as a magic mirror names Francesca, which may not be touched upon for a number of reasons.

shazam
Courtesy of DC Comics

Shazam’s Powers & Abilities Explained

As the trailer depicts, Freddy and Billy discover that Shazam is bulletproof while stopping a convenience store robbery. This part is similar to the comic as Shazam keep running into trouble and unveils a new power in his encounters. However, the movie seems to show off his powers in a different fashion.

The trailer goes with a hilarious montage of Shazam testing the limits of this powers. The montage is useful but does not offer a full explanation of the power of Shazam. Therefore, here is a rundown of what SHAZAM truly means.

  • S stands for Solomon’s wisdom. As the story goes, King Solomon is blessed with supernatural wisdom. Thus, Shazam has superhuman clairvoyance and awareness, allowing him access to great knowledge such as languages, history, and hypnosis.
  • H is for Hercules’ strength. Hercules is known for his superhuman strength. So Shazam is strong, really strong. But, Shazam may not be as strong a Superman.
  • A represents Atlas’s stamina. Atlas is the titan who holds up the sky for eternity. Therefore, his endurance must be incredible. This lets Shazam fight for long periods of time and he doesn’t even have to eat, sleep, or breathe.
  • Z stands for Zeus’s power. This is probably Shazam’s most defining power. Shazam harnesses Zeus’ lightning and transforms Billy into the hulking form. He can also use the lightning as a weapon. Beyond the lightning, Zeus’ power ties to Shazam’s magical abilities. It protects against magic and creates spells.
  • A, the second one, represents Achilles’ courage. In THE ILLIAD, Achilles is the Greek hero and central character. Like Achilles, Shazam is invulnerable (including his heel) and possesses great bravery.
  • M is for Mercury’s speed. Mercury is a Roman God. Shazam is able to channel Mercury’s speed. This also allows for Shazam to fly.

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Villains: Doctor Sivana, Black Adam, & The Seven Deadly Sins

The SHAZAM! comic offers several villains throughout the origin story. First, enters Doctor Sivana. Not much about Sivana’s back-story is told here, but we do know he is fascinated with magic. He believes that magic exists and is hell-bent on finding it. Not only that, but he believes that magic can do what science has not been able: save his family. He goes on to find, release, and serve Black Adam. Sivana will play a bigger role in the film than the comic as has been decided to make Dr. Sivana the big bad, played by Mark Strong.

shazam
Courtesy of DC Comics

In the comic, Black Adam is the real big bad. After he leaves captivity, he seeks the Wizard and Shazam to kill them. Essentially, Black Adam wants to be the only champion and to not share the power with anyone. There is a rich back-story that sees Black Adam as mortal living thousands of years ago as a slave, receiving powers, and declaring the end of tyranny. It’s too bad we probably won’t see much of Black Adam if at all.

We know Dwayne Johnson will play the character and it seems that Warner Bros. wants to save Black Adam for his own movie. Hopefully, there is a teaser for this villain. The Seven Deadly Sins do not play a big role in the comic. The Wizard and Black Adam captured the group, comprised of Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Gluttony, Pride, Lust and Greed, long ago. In the comic, Black Adam releases them to help him find Shazam.

It will be interesting if the Seven Deadly Sins play a role in the movie even though we don’t see them at all in the trailer. However, it wouldn’t be a loss as their involvement doesn’t seem all that necessary.

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Final Thoughts on SHAZAM!

When I heard of a SHAZAM! movie being made, I was extremely excited. SHAZAM! is the most surprising storyline to come out of the New 52, especially when it is only in the back of the JUSTICE LEAGUE issues. The story is great, but without Black Adam as the main antagonist, it may suffer from the lack of an iconic villain. Hopefully, the plot does not lose a step with a different main bad guy.

Also, I would love to see the movie tie to the DC Extended Universe and the Justice League beyond what we see in the trailer. All we witness is a Batarang and a few newspapers with headlines that indicate that the Justice League exist in the world of SHAZAM!

SHAZAM! releases April 5th, 2019!

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