While it's not the biggest name out of DC’s roster of comic book heroes, the Shazam! movie is proving to be highly anticipated. The first impressive footage was released at 2018s Comic-Conn, showing a very different kind of DCEU superhero. Suddenly, even those unfamiliar with the character were eager to see more.
The story follows Billy Batson, a young orphan who is able to summon the power of ancient gods and transform into a superhero. With the film fast-approaching, now seems like the perfect time to delve into the character, his history, and what we can expect from his first live-action adventure. So before you head to the theaters, here’s what you need to know about Shazam.
10 The Original Captain Marvel
Brie Larson isn’t the only Captain Marvel coming to the big screen this year. Long before he was called Shazam, this character went by Captain Marvel in his first appearance back in 1939. However, the character went out of publication for several years and by the time he returned, Marvel Comics had their own Captain Marvel, so the name Shazam was adopted.
It’s funny that after all these years, both these characters would be making their film debuts a month apart. But don’t expect anyone to refer to this character as Captain Marvel in the film.
9 He Was Not Originally Owned By DC
Despite being touted as the latest member of the DCEU, that is not where the creation of this character started. After the success of Superman, other publications were eager to create their own superhero. Captain Marvel was Fawcett Comics’ answer to the Man of Steel.
However, Captain Marvel might have been a bit too close to Superman for DC’s liking and they sued Fawcett for copyright infringement. After that, Fawcett put the character on the shelf until it was bought by–you guessed it–DC Comics. Apparently, they don’t mind a Superman copycat as long as he’s not with the competition.
8 He Outsold Superman
Shazam might seem like an obscure character to getting his own film, but that wasn’t always the case. Though he was created as a sort of reaction to Superman, Captain Marvel comics actually proved more popular for a time, outselling Superman. This might explain why DC was so eager to get Captain Marvel out of comic book stores.
It’s interesting to see how Superman became such an icon while Shazam only achieved a B-list status. The lawsuit, years in exile, and name changed surely played a factor. Still, it’s interesting that something about this character’s story resonated with audiences even more than his iconic counterpart.
7 'Shazam' Actually Means Something
With the name Captain Marvel taken from them, DC had the unenviable task of trying to make Shazam a name that audiences wouldn’t just laugh at. In fact, the trailer for the new movie even poked fun at this easy target. But as silly as it sounds, "Shazam" does have an actual meaning.
"Shazam" represent the six immortal gods that give the hero his powers: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. When Billy Batson says this word, he is transformed in Shazam. It might not make the name any less ridiculous but at least it has a purpose.
6 The Shazam Family
The "superhero family" seems like a tell-tale sign in comic books that the writers have run out of ideas. Even heroes like Superman and Batman have had unnecessary sidekicks thrust upon them. Indeed, Shazam was another victim of the trend.
Along with Billy Batson as Captain Marvel, there was Mary Marvel (Billy’s long-lost twin sister), Captain Marvel Jr. (Billy’s friend, Freddy Freeman), Uncle Marvel, among others. While several of these characters do appear in the new film, don’t expect them to be gaining any superpowers – yet.
5 Long Road To The Big Screen
Fans of the Shazam will remember the character has had a tough time getting to the big screen. Talks started in the early 2000s. Several writers, directors, and actors linked to the project over the years, such as William Goldman, Peter Segal, and Dwayne Johnson. Each time, however, the project hit a wall.
Today, studios seem eager to greenlight anything comic book related, but it’s not hard to see why this film hadn’t gotten made until now. With a relatively unknown property and a kid-friendly story, it took the current golden age of comic book movies to give Warner Bros the confidence to go forward.
4 The Dark And Gritty Version
One of the main reasons the Peter Segal version of the movie never got off the ground was due to the success of The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan’s Batman films were all comic book fans could talk about and Warner Brothers wanted more of the same.
The studio demanded the film be reworked as a dark and gritty take on the character to match Nolan’s vision of Batman. Thankfully, the filmmakers saw that not all comic book characters fit that kind of tone and they left the project. The dark and gritty trend faded away and now the character is free to embrace his lighter tone.
3 Black Adam Is Saved For The Sequel
One name that remained attached to this project for years was Dwayne Johnson. Back when he was just on his way to taking over the box office, Johnson was attached to either the Shazam role or that of his arch-nemesis Black Adam. Johnson actually left it to his fans to decide and they opted for the villain.
Though still attached to that role, it was decided Black Adam would be saved for a future role. It has been rumored that a solo Black Adam movie could happen as well, or perhaps he would pop up as a Justice League villain, but that remains to be seen.
2 Zachary Levi’s Transformation
Zachary Levi was announced for the titular role back in 2017, some casting that surprised many. Though he hovered around the genre in roles like Fandral in the Thor sequels and even auditioned for Star Lord, Levi didn’t quite fit the bill as a muscular superhero.
Much like Chris Pratt with his Guardians of the Galaxy role, Levi put in the work and packed on the muscle for the role. He transformed into a bodybuilder thanks to months of intense training. Though the suit helps, it’s obvious Levi is taking his role of superhero very seriously.
1 Justice League Membership
Though he has yet to appear in the DCEU, one of the biggest questions surrounding Shazam is whether he’ll one day join the rest of the universe’s heroes. In the comics, Shazam was an ally to these heroes and eventually became a member of Justice League International.
While there was talk of a Superman cameo in the film, it appears as though this will remain a true solo film. Still, it’s not hard to imagine Shazam joining the team if a Justice League sequel does happen; he could prove to be one of the prominent DC characters going forward.