It’s been suspected for some time that Warner Bros. and DC Comics have bigger plans for adapting their superheroes than they’re letting on – plans set to become clear once Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theaters. But when the studio’s purported release schedule was leaked online, it packed one particular bombshell: it wouldn’t be a Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman film following just months behind the big screen team-up in 2016, but an unexpected magical heavyweight: Shazam.

The idea of Shazam being released effectively alongside Dawn of Justice is a startling one; but with undeniable appeal, and possessing one of the best stories in DC’s New 52 universe, the property has all the makings of a cinematic hit.  Even so, the hero formerly known as ‘Captain Marvel’ may not be as established as his “DC Trinity” colleagues.

Allow us to present you with 5 reasons why Shazam could be THE next big DC/WB movie franchise.

The Story

Aside from the hero’s iconic phrase (“Shazam!”), it’s safe to say that not much is widely known about Shazam’s backstory. With that in mind, DC’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns’ recent reboot (part of DC’s New 52) supplied a rough outline for what to expect from a live-action film. For starters, the hulking hero is actually fifteen-year-old Billy Batson, a street-tough Philadelphia orphan.

The boy soon finds himself summoned to a mysterious tomb known as ‘The Rock of Eternity,’ where a mysterious wizard warns him that a great threat has returned to the world. While Billy is far from perfect, he possesses the potential for heroism needed to be named the wizard’s champion: simply utter the phrase ‘Shazam,’ and a bolt of lightning transforms Billy into a magical, godlike hero.

With the role effectively split between a young boy and a grown man playing a young boy, this particular hero packs a twist that makes him one of a kind in a genre filled with familiar tropes (while also offering more wish fulfillment for young viewers than any other hero). The humor inherent in any big screen version of the ‘World’s Mightiest Mortal’ should be obvious, and how Billy uses his new powers is a story that could be taken in any number of directions.

The Characters

Casual audiences may think that a caped hero powered by magical lightning more than earns a spotlight all to himself – but despite having lost his own parents, Billy Batson is far from alone. In both the classic comics and the New 52, Billy is accompanied by his friends Mary and Freddy Freeman – with Johns’ reboot adding three more foster siblings to the group: Pedro, Eugene, and Darla.

With Shazam‘s obvious appeal to a younger audience, some might worry that the grim tone of WB’s approach to superheroes would be a poor fit. But the larger themes at play have the potential to be treated with respect and gravity (as adoption was in Man of Steel), and the ensemble cast of children spreads that potential farther, including minorities and women in a genre of film lacking both.

Then there is Black Adam, the former champion blessed with the powers of Shazam, and instant rival to Billy Batson (and his friends and family). Possessing the same abilities augmented by centuries of practice, Adam has become one of DC’s most established villains. So if Warner Bros. is in need of a magical baddie for their movie universe, Black Adam’s origin story kills two birds with one stone.

NEXT PAGE: The Top 3 Reasons Shazam Could Work…

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